The first time I saw The Shins perform was in a tacky white-walled, marble floored house in the Hollywood Hills. It was one of those typical places that never had real furniture in it and was built for the sole purpose of hosting parties with alcohol sponsorship and formal invitations. The band was set up in the corner of a medium-sized living room and played on to a group of bored, drunk, apathetic party goers, most of whom were outside by the bar. It was a shame, really. I stood watching the headlights of cars drive up the hill wondering how strange my life was and praying I would never forget this moment.
That was about three years ago. Tonight I went to see them at the Palladium in Hollywood for a much larger audience, and a largely more enthusiastic one. Per my “Cheap Ass Code of Ethics” I refuse to park in a parking lot near the venue and instead opt for a free spot a few dark blocks down El Centro. As I cross the street to the theater a man wearing what looked like a backstage pass around his neck asks me if I wanted a ticket. As a matter of fact I did! What good luck, I think. This man is just going to give me a ticket! “Let’s go down this way,” he says. I am agreeable, of course, believing that this man is going to get me in backstage and for free. “This way” turns out to be the wrong way, leading me down the opposite side of the entrance. When he asks if I can just pay him the full price of what he paid, I slow my pace a wee bit.
“I only have twenty-five dollars.”
“These are forty-eight dollar tickets.”
“Well, I’m sorry. I don’t have the cash.”
“There’s an ATM nearby.”
We are close to a security guard by the backstage gate when I decide that this guy’s probably scamming me or going to chop me into little pieces or both. I hand him back the “ticket” he gave me in good faith and tell him I am going to just meet some friends around the front instead. He inexplicably turns on his heel and starts walking back the way we came, not taking back the piece of paper and not looking me in the eye.
“How much money do you have?”
“Twenty-five dollars.”
“Whatever, I’ll just take that.”
“No, it’s okay, really.”
I notice that this gentleman has crazy eyes that I had not intelligently researched earlier. He storms ahead of me, cell phone now drawn to his ear. I hear him say something like, “What am I doing wrong?” loudly. I freely interpret this as a failure as a kidnapper and not as a scalper. When the aforementioned weirdo gets far enough away I decide to make my move past him. Before I do, I ask two young boys if they’ll fake being my friends for a block and a half to avoid this whack job (I point to my potential murderer). I employed this very same tactic back in 2002 when walking home by myself in New York at 3 in the morning after denying a ride from my Turkish friends. En route I was visually raped by a homeless man in a tan trench coat who I discovered was jacking himself off while watching me trot down 10th Street. I noticed this at about the same time he slurred, “Yeah, you’re lookin’ aren’t ya.”
We arrive at the entrance unscathed and I thank them for their faux friendship. I buy a ticket at the box office for $38, which I find pretty steep for a show these days, but it’s possible I’ve pirated some music off this band at some point so it’s time to give back to the arts if you know what I mean.
As the band gets underway I remember that they were actually pretty boring to watch live. The lead singer lacks lead singer charisma and when the other band members pick up the slack it leaves you a little confused. Most of the mojo comes from the keyboardist. His body language is like that of a flirty, self-aware teenage girl and from this angle he looks like the guitar-wielding comedian Nick Thune who I awkwardly flirted with once having seen him perform at the Laugh Factory. The best line I could come up with was, “Umm, I think you’re like funny.” Needless to say nothing materialized that night at Hyde.
Seeing The Shins is a lot like reading all of the Harry Potter books and then subjecting yourself to the silver screen adaptation: no matter how much money they spend on CGI, nothing will compare with the power of your imagination. These guys have gray hair and wives, they make a Mother’s Day shout out, they are not rock stars, they are just nice boys who grew up and kept making music. Most of the songs come and go without incident, none of their live renditions powerful enough to replace memories previously formed by their albums. There are a few exceptions, including a sexed up version of “Sea Legs” that they’ve infused with a jazzy, almost bow-chica-wow-wow porno vibe.
I jump around a bit, sway from side to side, get bored, type notes on my cell phone, bounce around some more. There are a few pockets of people I move around: an ogre in a picnic table shirt that doesn’t know his own size, the group of three “intellectuals” analyzing the nuances of the song transitions, and two sorority girls who jumped up and down like they were at a Bob Sinclair concert. By the end of the set I am standing behind the sound station watching the bass and treble levels move up and down on the screen of an iBook, the smell of bacon wrapped hot dogs pouring in from Sunset Boulevard.


2 thoughts on “

  1. Brett says:

    come see the kills with me…quite the opposite of boring…and yeah…that was our party…the one w/ the shins…i didn’t even go up to the house.

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