What: a Jukebox The Ghost concert
Where: Salt Lake City
Where, specifically: The Complex
When: March 13, 2019
When, specifically: March 13, 2019 7:30-10pm
Who: me (Seth) and Shawn
Who, specifically: Shawn William Western aka Billy West, the Kramer to my Seinfeld (though friendship wise he’s more like George), the Will Ferrell to my Luke Wilson, the Will Ferrell to my Mark Whalberg, the John C. Reilly to my Will Ferrell, the Woody to my Buzz Lightyear, the Bullwinkle to my Rocky, the Starsky to my Hutch, the Vince Vaughn to my Jon Favreau, etc. To be perfectly clear, I’m not trying to describe him as my sidekick, but my typically very much taller, very curly-headed friend.
I first heard Jukebox The Ghost sometime in my first year of law school. They released an album following my first year, and I weirdly took to them. It wasn’t my usual thing, but I was digging it. Shawn discovered them sometime after me and similarly took to them. So, when we saw they were coming to town, we thought, why not? Oh how naive. Ignorance is bliss until the veil of ignorance is shattered like fragile glass.
Now, if you know nothing about Jukebox The Ghost, there are a couple things you should know: There is a certain theatricality to their music. They’re kind of a bunch of music nerds, and they look the part. And some of their music sounds as if it could be in a musical, and I’ll go even as far to say that it would make a great musical. A future project for another time.
We arrived late. When we walked in, we didn’t know what to expect. Each of us had friends or acquaintances that liked their music but we didn’t know who their typical fan base was, or anything else about the show. Boy were we in for the surprise of a lifetime.
It was like we had walked into an another dimension. Actually I think walking into another dimension or alternate reality would have been more expected that what we stumbled into. It would have for sure been more explainable. And it definitely would have been cooler. No what we walked into was much stranger than that. When we walked into that concert venue it was as if we had inadvertently walked into a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, not having any idea the eccentricity of the show. Except instead of Tim Curry in fishnets it was a bunch of nerdy looking white dudes. I think one was even wearing jeans and had a skinny tie while another unironically wore a fedora. The picture above shows that combined into one dude, but I swear there were two distinct individuals. Also, just so you know, Jason Mraz isn’t in this band. If he were, the fedora would have been more excusable. And instead of the audience being in costume prepared to throw toast, it was mostly a bunch of equally nerdy looking teens to college-aged youths (youths!), predominantly consisting of women with a few closeted boys thrown into the mix (also wearing fedoras - not trying to shame just trying to show the vibe). I think we would’ve felt like we belonged more had we accidentally showed up to a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show not knowing what it was and dressed like Michael Douglas in Wall Street (the original, not the one with Shia LaBeouf).
Another comparison for you, just in case the Rocky Horror Picture Show didn’t illustrate it well enough. I have a good friend (who shall go unnamed here) that when I asked her if she enjoyed La La Land, she hesitated and then was like yeah… it was okay. I was flabbergasted. La la land is wonderful, and if you didn’t like the ending, then we probably don’t agree on anything else movie-related. *Sigh*… it’s like I’m dealing with a bunch of amateurs here.
But this friend was no amateur. To put it in context, this friend of mine is one of the biggest music lovers I know. And she’s a huge romantic. She had to have enjoyed the movie (side note: was also madly - madly probably a bit of an exaggeration - in love with this girl at the time). I was desperate to give her a second chance. I had to ask some follow up questions.
“Wait, why?” I asked, trying not to show the fear in my voice.
“Well,” she began. The suspense was too much. The next words to come out of her mouth could forever alter our future together, as well as the future of our three children: Mark, Jackson, and Tiffany (would never name my kids that). “We accidentally got tickets to a singalong showing so we couldn’t really enjoy or even hear the movie during the musical numbers over everyone seeing.
Phew! Disaster adverted (though we would tragically not end up together, and she is happily married to another man today). I would’ve hated her singalong misadventure myself. It sounded like my worst nightmare. Until I experienced my own nearly two and a half years later.
Again, I cannot overstate (but most definitely am) that this concert was a wild scene. There was a bear in a tutu on stage riding a unicycle (there was no bear in a tutu on stage riding a unicycle) and a trapeze artist swinging from the rafters (there was no trapeze artist swinging from the rafters). These would have been much more welcome to our reality because then I would have at least known exactly what I had witnessed.
We felt like we bigger outsiders than C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio (another quick aside: I know everyone knows he looked a lot younger than he was in the 80s but he was 21 when they filmed that movie. He looks 12). I can only imagine how Shawn felt as he stood a head taller than everyone else.
As previously dictated, it was like everyone was in on the joke except us. Every single goddamn person in there was singing every note to every goddamn song with the enthusiasm and passion of Philip Seymour Hoffman in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar. And they were doing it to very succinct choreography. Again, I over embellish. But I swear I saw someone unironically doing the Napoleon Dynamite dance/evolution of dance dance. There was what looked to be a very husky 16 year old girl wearing jeans and a my little pony T-shirt *belting* every word with tears of what I can only assume to be joy streaming down her face (again, not shaming, just trying to paint a picture). By the end of the night, there were salt stains on the floor.
Now this I do know to be true: with the exception of maybe the parents who had brought their kids to the concert, we definitely knew the lyrics to their music the least and sang along to the songs with the least amount of enthusiasm. I came to a realization that night: I really like jukebox the ghost’s music but by no means am I even in the top 50%, maybe even top 90%, of Jukebox the Ghost fans.
Nevertheless, I loved the show. Sure, it turns out that the reason I loved it so much was more because of the people watching rather than the concert itself but doesn’t it really make a difference?
I’m sure there’s some bigger takeaway that I should probably be looking for here. Like the importance of a band to find their vibe, their voice and with it their audience, even if it’s niche, and own it. But I don’t have the energy or brain power to sort through all of that right now. At the end of the day, I am on the fence of whether or not I would ever want to go to another show of theirs. It might truly be one of those once in a lifetime experience.
So, come here often?