Wilco @ Prospect Park, July 23rd 2012

The phrase “Dad Rock” has become glued to Wilco in recent years. If you know someone’s dad, possibly your own, who fancies themselves not on the cutting edge of music, but close enough to see over the cliff and realize they don’t want to hang out down there, they probably like Wilco.

It’s accurate. Their music is not too controversial, it’s not face punchingly loud, and there are some nice little melodies in there without sounding watered down. Dads and hipsters approaching and over 30, enjoy them some Wilco. Call the music what you want, personally, I am a Tweedy Enthusiast.The band is on a little New York run this week, and we attended the opening night at Prospect Park. I’m not going to give you a full show rundown, but I would like to discuss a crowd incident we witnessed which brought the whole concept together.

Prospect-Park-Bandshell

Prospect park is a lovely venue, plenty of lawn space, even when it’s crowded, its not unbearable. You get there early, stake out a spot, maybe eat some turkey avocado sandwiches from Union Market. Compare tote bags with the crowd around you, stuff like that. We got an atypical spot at the front of the lawn, figuring everyone would just stand up when the show started, we don’t need to picnic for hours on a Monday evening. We were right. You know who wasn’t right? The forty something dad who perched in front of us about 1 foot from the concrete walkway.

While the opener Lee Fields was on, we were enjoying the aforementioned sandwiches, having a wonderful evening. Suddenly, out of the the crowd walked said dad, lets call him Dennis. Let’s imagine his wife calls him Den. Dennis stood there nervously, trying to guard a space that was way too big for one person, on a highly traffic-ed piece of lawn real estate. He asked us “do you think people will stand when the band goes on?” We said “Yep!” he said “Ok!” all was well. He waited there for about an our. Equally as suddenly, a mom and two kids emerge from the crowd, looking flustered, carrying lawn chairs. Immediately we knew, something was off. Lets call her Denise.

This dialog is scripted, buy conveys the emotions we witnessed. Dennis is D1, Denise is D2

D2: This is the spot you picked?? We can’t see anything!
D1: Denise, people are just gonna stand as soon as the band starts, it’ll be fine!
D2: Den, we brought lawn chairs, we have organic locally sourced corn salsa from Union Market, how are we going to set up the table I special ordered from Pottery Barn with this location?
(Denise then starts pacing around, looking for another spot. Its 7:45pm, the show started at 7 and the place is packed, she is clearly not happy)

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At this point, Denise took 2 chairs and set them up about 10 feet away, near some garbage cans. Dennis walked over to discuss some more, at which point, they clearly noticed our group laughing at them. I would like to tell you we felt bad, but that was not the case. You can’t be showing up at an outdoor general admission show 15 minutes before the headliner goes on and expect to have a leisurely family picnic, complete with flax seed gluten free pita and chipotle hummus. We also had some fantastic beers in the 90 degree 100% humidity weather.

To his credit, Dennis was just out to have a good time. His heart was in the right place, his execution was just all wrong. The path 1 foot in front of their spot, is the only path to get through the park, there’s no way around it. He spent a good portion of the night shooing people off from his spot…a futile effort. We on the other hand were very grateful for Dennis and his lawn chairs, which provided the perfect boundary to prevent people from stepping on our blanket.

Jeff Tweedy & Cleetus from the Red Heel Monkey Shelter

So Dennis, if you happen to read this, like that queen of evil from the Glen Hansard Housingworks show, may I propose a few points of advice:

1. Reserved Seats If you’re going to show up with a bunch of people right before a band goes on, and would like to have some semblance of order, have reserved seats. Skip the general admission show if you’re going to arrive in shifts. Especially if the latter shift contains more people. They play theaters more often than these park things. If you want the musical experience, tailor it to your group.

2. Show Selection Or, if you’re after the outdoor concert experience, just don’t go to a super popular show! You’re a dad who likes to rock, who do you think all the other dads in the area are going to want to see? Wilco occupies a special space, since a few youngsters also like them….like the Khaki Pants Dudes drinking Jack Daniels from the bottle while chain smoking behind you. Pick your family shows wisely! Let’s look at the Celebrate Brooklyn calendar right now….Saturday Aug 11th, Lyle Lovett and his band. There you go! Just go to that one, the crowd won’t get rowdy, and you’ll be able to stake out a nice civil spot on the lawn. Sure he’s not the same as Wilco, but Denise isn’t going to criticize your poor choice in lawn space!

3. Travel Light Again, if you want to show up right before….travel light! Half your night was ruined because of your lawn chairs. Sure it made our night better, but you gotta look out for yourself! Had your whole group just stood in any of the smaller open spaces nearby not able to fit 4 lawn chairs….you would have been fine! You also would have avoided the argument with Denise, and the shame of being laughed at by several groups around you.

I am aware that it is not easy to attend shows with an entire family, and I commend your effort. But if you want to rock out with all the other dads and rapidly aging hipsters of Brooklyn, you might need to adapt your routine slightly.

As for the show? The music was great. The stage setup looked like something out of Peter Pan or Where The Wild Things Are, mixed with the lighting storm going on in the distance behind the stage. We’ll discuss more music soon.