I am not a huge concert goer but I do thoroughly enjoy good music as well as putting myself into situations I will likely never be in again. A Radiohead concert in Buenos Aires seemed to fit the bill. I really had no expectations going into this and in fact was prepared to fly solo up until a few weeks ago when I found out that an ex classmate of mine also had tickets.
I arrived at Adam’s house around 3pm with my ticket in hand and a classic looking outfit of light blue and white including a light blue head band to hold back the burgeoning hair. We made some quick calculations in the bus guide and determined that we would need to take bus 59 down Libertadores to get to Club Ciudad which was on the complete other side of the city. Truth be told it is impossible to make “quick calculations” in the Guia T bus guide. Buenos Aires is absolutely enormous and buses (colectivos) are the main source of transportation for most of the city. The Guia T is a small pocket book that is the definitive guide to tell you how to go wherever you need to go in the city by bus. However, unless you have 34 fingers to keep track of pages, a magnifying glass, a chalk board with green chalk, and several friends hovering over you suggesting alternative routes or methods of transportation, it can be very difficult.
We decided to head to the Alamo figuring the high ticket cost ($100 us) would promote a large foreigner gathering and the alamo is supposedly for the foreigner. We found no one but ourselves but happily drank our 4 liter bucket of beer and chatted with the owner who taught us about directTV ambassadorships and the way to make money was to rob the keg trucks since they only operate in cash. We also learned that the extremely young (18) bar tender was being agitated by the noise making device that was placed outside to keep teenagers away. I refrained from making any comparisons to dog whistles to this somewhat attractive bar maid.
After 4 liters of beer it was decided to abandon our sober preparations and use the subte which would leave us with a 12 block walk afterwards. This will also be my route to the Argentina game this Saturday. Enroute we purchased another liter of beer each and Adam purchased a small glass flask of whisky. We had heard there would be no booze sold in the stadium (which turned out to be true) and he reasoned with me that if he turned sober half way through a concert he was liable to run go haywire and start screaming curse words in his newly learned language to the argenteenagers. He told me that he would put it in his shoe to which I replied that he should get two flasks so his wierd looking gait would be equalized. He only bought one.
We joined the growing herd of people obviously taking the same route as we were. On the way, while Adam urinated, I made friends with an Uruguayan who was kind enough to share his Mate with us which could not have been better at this time and place. He did not have tickets but enjoyed being among the crowds and chatting to people like us. At the same time he was g to purchase a ticket which was definitely not going to be mine. I shook his hand, kissed his cheek, thanked him for his kindness, and wished him luck in life.
I did not bring my camera as it said not to bring cameras on the ticket as well as the fact I had heard stories of the recent Manu Chao concert where everyone left the place with their underwear missing and cameras on display in the shops across the street before the show was done. Although I did have my phone on me that did have a camera on it. Adam had followed suit but was also sporting a gnarley cerebral palsy limp as we walked through security which turned out to be a bunch of drunk locals wearing yellow jackets. Unfortunately for Adam, the walk to the concert area was maybe 300 yards and his absurd walking posture was getting worse by the moment. He pleaded to stop but I convinced him it would not be a good idea at this point of time since no one else was stopping and there really isn’t any better way to draw attention to yourself than to act like a severely handicapped person and then fall down or require assistance only to have your helpers realize you are sneaking in $2 whisky. In hindsight I wish I had brought the camera and I am sure Adam wished he had listened to my advice to get two flasks.
The venue was a giant flat field with a main stage far in front and 5 big screens dotted around. We had met up with a few of Adams friends and decided to plop ourselves far in the back in front of one of the screens as the front had filled up already. There were two openeing bands but we had missed the first. The second was Kraftwerk which I had heard of from Cochella. I arrived to their song called “Tour de France” which basically is some sort of promo they did for the Tour and it brought my excitement to a new level. I was transfixed to the screen and was at a loss for words. I realized then that at some point I needed to improve my cycling to the point that I could race in that race.
Adam foolishly decides he needs to go to the bathroom. That was the last I saw of him until after the show. I remained with his friends for the rest of Kraftwerk and then we decided Adam was a lost cause and decided to head in further to get closer. I thought this was a bad idea as we had claimed a great spot in front of this screen but in the end it was the right decision as the entire place would soon fill to ludicrously above fire code capacity levels. The three of us followed each other through the crowd battling to move forward. We would take turns being in the lead trying to pry through couples and groups with a leading shoulder and a goofy smile on your face which was supposed to explain to the people you were harassing that you knew what you were doing was ridiculous but I guess I am going to just try and go forward anyways. Every now and then you would hit a jam and could not move any more and you could just feel the hatred of the people around you who were thinking “who the fuck is this guy making my 10 inch square of personal space now only 8 inches?” The argentines are very comfortable with touching and being in close quarters and this crowd proved it. You could see multiple streams of through ways through the masses trying to worm their way closer. I caught site of a train of guys guarding a group of girls moving forward with some speed and decided to ditch Adam’s friends knowing that a lone crowd sneaker is much more effective. At that point I decided that I was goin front row. It took me almost three quarters of the show but I made it to within 15 feet of the the front rails and it was all worth it. My hands were locked in front of my chest and my movement was dictated by the collective conscious of the mob. Every now and then there would be a strong heave from the back and I do remember thinking that I might not make it out of this. Fortunately for me I tend to be taller than many people in this country and at 15 feet, I could make eye contact with the band and make sure my completely soaked arm pits were smashing into the face of some guy to my right. The heat in this type of crowd is incredible and was likely the motivation for the energy theory that is in the Matrix movies. Everyone was completely soaked as well and it was all sweat, I hope. After 20 minutes you just don’t care.
The stage reminded me of a reverse Bellagio fountains. They had these hanging crystals above the stage that would change colors with the music. Amazingly effective. It made me wonder what bands are out there that have musicians as well as visual artists in the band because the visuals were as tantalizing as the music.
The music itself was second to none! They played every song you would want to hear from Radiohead and the Argentines knew every one of them. My friend Pat was explaining to me when he was at the Obama inauguration, he was overwhelmed with the feeling that everyone there was concentrating on the same thing and haveing the same wavelength of thought amongst millions of people. I have also heard this from a muslim guy I met on a Barcelona beach one night who made the same point with reference to every muslim on earth pointing in the same direction and praying every day. Well, although on a smaller scale, it feels amazing to be in a heaving crowd who are all focusing and thinking and singing the same thing. Gives you the chills.
There must have been at least 20 guitars and all were used, each tuned in some magical way that made every song sound better than you knew it from the recordings. Thom Yorke is obviously an impressive musician and demonstrated his prowess on a piano, guitar, and bass. At one point I saw a guitar being played with a violin bow which was expertly done. At one point they also did this really cool thing where Yorke would sing something and they would somehow instantly record and then mix that over and over, I think someone told me this is a Chaos … (something). But it sounded great and was being done using the pedals as one of the guys was on his knees playing the pedals with his hands. These guys are experts at what they do and there was no doubting that.
After 4 intense encore sessions that were initiated by some enthusiastic chanting, the show was over. The crowd calmly left the stadium and we walked for about 45 minutes until we found an available taxi. There might be 50,000 cabs in this city and none of them think to go to the stadium, especially the stadium that is far away, to make some good cash. I really liked Radiohead before this concert but now they are top on my list.Thank you Quilmes, although how retarded are you not to serve beer at your own concert? Now some videos for your viewing pleasure…
And there are many more on youtube of course!!