7.04.2005 ||> The '8' stands for the hundreds of thousands of people
The Live 8 concert has been on the tongues of everyone in Philadelphia for weeks. Most of the people I know have said that they were going out of the city for it, and that it would be crazy to go. Ergo, I am crazy because I went on Saturday. Dragging long-suffering Nathan along with me, we stood from about noon until 5pm watching... well, screens because of many factors. So, for all of you who were too afraid or too far away to go to this massive event, I've so kindly decided to summarize the whole thing.
The first good thing was that there were not as many people as expected. Newspapers and organizers kept saying that a million people would be there. There were a lot of people, but from what I saw there was maybe half that or 2/3 of the number expected. Which is good, because people get in a herd mentality and a million would be more like lemmings than something brighter. It meant that we got pretty close to the stage, a lot closer than we had expected. Also, very few of the people were very drunk or stoned. I was expecting more drunk people and was pleasantly surprised that there weren't. Except, of course when the Dave Matthews Band came on. Then we suddenly smelled pot everywhere.
It was also free, which was possibly the best thing it had going for it. There were also medics all around and lots of available food. My blood sugar plummeted at one point and while I'm sure on a normal day I'd say the Chinese food was crap, it tasted so good while I was scarfing it down.
The acts were very cool. Will Smith actually performed, which I didn't think he would and he was great. Bon Jovi was awesome: he started out with his alternate version of "Living on a Prayer" which I like just as much as the original. In fact all the live acts were people who were good onstage. I may have not liked all the songs in particular, but overall the music was good, and none of the performances seemed lip synched or anything. I was really expecting Alicia Keys to lip synch, since she did that at the Super Bowl, but I don't think she did.
There were less than expected that showed up, the city was cleared away, and yet, there still weren't any trash cans or places to sit down. There was also no enforcement when people chose alternative spots to recline on. We saw rows of people sitting on the porta-potties until they caved in and were unusable. There weren't enough toilets to begin with, so when people started destroying them, there should have been more police to help out. The only time I saw police, they were all huddled together eating pretzels or standing by a streetlight telling people they couldn't pass. In fact, when there was a girl who threw up and passed out in the garbage, I had to walk a quarter of a mile to find anyone who could help her.
The stage was so low that there were some people I talked to later who were in the front who still couldn't see it. Also, there was a huge statue in front of the stage. No really, there was a huge statue in front of the stage. Who does that? So when anyone would perform, these guys in front of us would stand on the benches despite the fact that they were about 7 feet tall to begin with. Perhaps capitalizing on the fact that only about a hundred people there could actually see the acts, AOL or whoever decided that instead of showing the acts on the huge screens we could all see, they would show commercials or "light shows" reminiscent of Windows Media Player. Nothing like pissing off 700,000 people by denying them the show they came to see, right?
The last thing I didn't like was that the message about Africa kept getting cut out. When Natalie Portman came on to talk (bald-headed), it was like they shut off her mike. All of the songs were so loud, but I couldn't understand anything anyone was saying. I was not that far from the stage either (although far enough for the statue to be a problem) so I should have been able to. There were also environmentalists, jesus freaks, bush haters and other groups competing for so much attention that it was easy to get sidetracked. I think it should have been one message and one only.
The only really ugly thing I saw was the transport issue. SEPTA, the transit authority, delayed the trains home and switched the tracks at the end of the day when everyone wanted to get home. So there was a crowd of sunburnt, tired concertgoers trying to get on the train. That's not the ugly part. The ugly part was a bunch of 20 year old college kids who decided to save seats for their friends on the train. Who the hell does that? There were people much older than them who had been standing all day and none of them bothered to get up. I will never understand how kids here can be so rude. It was just ugly.
And so that was the concert. Overall, a good time, but not the best concert I've ever been to.