Seeing America One Concert at a Time
Is it crazy to fly halfway around the world and go to every Paramore show playing in the US and Canada? Or is it just a great way to see America?
If your names are Laura and Renee and you’re from Australia, the answer is pretty easy. They aren’t even from the same towns and three years ago, they didn’t know each other. But in October 2010, Laura and Renee chanced to be waiting in line together before a Paramore show in Adelaide, Australia. And they got to talking: Wouldn’t it be wonderful, beyond just seeing Paramore for a handful of shows that week in Australia, if they could follow the band around their next tour across the United States?
This idea of an intense country tour might sound a bit fanciful to you. But if you are any kind of Paramore fan, this idea totally sensible. In fact, three other fans in the same line heard the idea, and signed on, too. The five formed the Aussie Paravan Crew, and vowed to save their money, go to America, buy a van and travel around the US on the very next US tour.
Then, drama. Not too long after, brothers Josh and Zac Farro (lead guitarist/co-songwriter and drummer respectively) decided to leave the band in a wrenching breakup that left everyone wondering not only when there’d be another US tour, but whether the band would even survive.
Well, Paramore is still a band, bigtime, with a strong new album that’s reached #1 on Billboard and with a US tour in full force. Their three friends had to drop out of the touring idea for various reasons, but Laura and Renee stuck to it, abandoning the van idea as impractical but instead flying or taking public transit to the different cities. They saved their money and borrowed some more to make it, and are happily touring to almost the entire tour, doing a lot of the dates with Tony from the US (also doing pretty much the whole show), and a few legs with other fans.
That’s Laura above, interviewed in San Francisco. And here are a couple of their pictures from the tour:
The really are getting to see the road!
And meeting the band…
Who are really appreciative!
Vans Warped Tour. So good. So close.
The most amazing sign language interpreter ever at a Paramore show, about :16 in. Singer is Brandon Kazen Maddox.
From the show at The Warfield San Francisco on May 4th, 2013.
Parents, this sort of thing is another reason you should go with your kids to lots of concerts!
First, I should probably tell you that I have been to hundreds of concerts ranging from Leonard Bernstein’s classical Young People’s Concerts in the 1960s (yes, I met him!) to Earth, Wind & Fire and Lou Rawls; to The Who; to Billy Joel; Elton John; Sting; Paramore; Crosby, Stills & Nash; James Taylor; My Chemical Romance and Testament. Not to mention the legendary Tony Bennett.
Concert crowds vary, but I have found no nicer fans than those at Panic! at this Disco shows.
Now, I know Panic! at the Disco as a band name makes it sound like there is come crazed Trammps’ Disco Inferno or Bee Gees Saturday Nigh Fever action happening… but nothing could be further from reality: Actually, this band is better known for their sophisticated lyrics, catchy melodies and singer Brendon Urie’s amazing voice.
Here are 7 reasons Panic! at the Disco is one of most chill bands around:
1. Their songs are absolutely beautiful. Sample Always here, as sung by Brendon Urie:
2. They cover great old songs. At a show I was at, they did Kansas’ Carry on My Wayward Son, and here’s a Springsteen number they performed in New York’s Central Park recently:
3. They’re in a Diet Coke commercial for goodness’ sake. The world’s #1 brand loves Panic! at the Disco — what could be more wholesome?
4. Actually, they’re in three (3) Diet Coke Commercials. Here are two more:
“Proud sponsor of all those lights on.” What could be more magical?
5. The fans at the shows are really nice. Panic! fans are really into their music, and treat their fellow fans like family. So even though they have “Panic!” in the name, there’s not much panicking happening at your typical Panic! at the Disco show. Here’s a picture of a typical show (notice no crowd surfing or other hooliganism happening).
(That’s me under the green arrow. Everyone was super nice at this show in San Francisco. We met a lot of nice people during the show including many older fans and parents. Brendon said from the stage that the crowd was “diverse” by which I think he meant age ranges and ethnicities. The band really seemed to enjoy the SF audience.)
6. They are really nice guys. I was at that SF show with my wife and family and I got to meet them. The whole band is really, really nice. They adore and respect their fans and watch out for them. They even posed for a picture with me. How nice is that?:
7. A Panic! at the Disco show is just plain magical. They’re great performers, and as you can see in the pictures below, the shows light up with enchantment.
Photos from Martin Hardee:
Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith:
Spencer and Brendon:
Photos from Gil Riego from SF Weekly (used by permission of Gil):
Several of you have asked me about The Warfield Theatre, which is a 2,250 seat venue in the heart of San Francisco. It’s one of my favorites. The best things:
- The venue attracts great bands
- Good sound, well mixed
- Even the upstairs is nice with a lot of elbow room
- A friendly experienced staff who seem to be true music fans
- Good bars and really good food brought in from next door
- It has a storied history, and was pretty much the official theatre of The Grateful Dead.
The marginal things:
- Well, the neighborhood is a bit sketch.
Founded in 1922(!)
The Warffield is named after a famous stage actor from San Francisco, and opened in 1922 at the Loew’s Warfield. The neighborhood has changed a bit in the ensuing years, but The Warfield remains steady and strong right there in the middle of Market street:
The Warfield has hosted everything from twenties era Jazz greats to tons of Rock and Metal shows, and for a while was regarded as pretty much the official theatre of The Grateful Dead. They have a bunch of interesting pictures inside like this one of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia:
Indeed, if there is a famous person you can name in Rock or Jazz history, they have probably played the Warfield.
Ownership of The Warfield has passed through numerous hands, and today it is owned and managed by the entertainment company AEG, which owns several other famous venues including the Satples Center in LA.
Outside and the Neighborhood
There’s this one thing: While I love The Warfield, is definitely not in the high rent district.
In fact, the somewhat seedy neighborhood is my only footnote to friends when describing this venue. The Warfield is located at the intersection of the Tenderloin and SOMA in San Francisco — what some reviewers have described as “bum city.” Yes, you’ll definitely see winos and homeless people in the adjacent area. And, just to add extra color, there’s a “Gentleman’s Club” right next door. But, the good news is that fans lining up for a show outnumber any seedy characters by about 500-to-1 and I have never myself felt threatened or that I’m in a dangerous area. You will make friends with fellow fans and won’t even notice any eccentric locals.
From these pictures of folks lined up for a show, you can see there are a lot of fans in a line that stretches down the block and into the distance:
Don’t worry about the sketch street; your fan friends will take care of you.
Once inside, you are in for an amazing show. It’s a venue designed for performances, and I have seen some great ones there.
Inside the door, The Warfield is a meandering set up with various staircases to the balconies upstairs and entrance to the very large General Admission (GA) area.
There’s pretty good food, and at least six bars inside (see below), so you’ll never want for refreshment. When you come in, there’s a food counter where you can order hotdogs and sandwiches (brought in from a neighboring restaurant, so they’re better than you’d expect) and beer, etc.
Further down the main internal promenade is a grand staricase to upstairs, and merch tables are usually set up at the base of these stairs. GA is to the doors to the left as you come in.
Here’s a picture of the merch tables under the stairs. It’s compact but convenient:
This seat map shows an overview of the options inside The Warfield. The main thing to remember is that if you want to be up close and don’t mind standing, you just want General Admission (GA) tickets; if you want a seat the best option is upstairs and the Warfield web site will automatically get you the best seat available.
The GA Area
The GA area for The Warfield is pretty big, and that’s because there are actually four GA areas: The main pit (which is small), a landing above (generally my favorite place, because it’s eye-level from the stage and finally a third and fourth level behind which also have pretty good views and acoustics.
The pit is pretty small, as you can see from this picture taken from the very back of the pit at a Dream Theater Show:
It’s an intimate experience, and you won’t have much elbow room. But you’ll be closer to the band. To give you a better idea of the layout, here’s a side picture of the pit and first landing, not popuated, from a Jason Mraz soundcheck (photo credit Kurt Rogers SF Gate):
This picture by Gil Regio from right up front gives you an idea of the expanse of The Warfield first level and GA.
By the way, if you have a balcony ticket they probably won’t let you into the GA area, and vice-versa. Also, there is really not seating on the ground floor except for a small VIP area at the very back, which is not where you want to be anyway.
First of all, it’s worth saying that the sound upstairs is great, and the view from the balcony is pretty awesome. Here’s the view from a Lamb Of God show about 10 rows up in the upper loge:
And, here’s what the balcony set up is like. Unlike some older theatres, it isn’t too cavernous so even if you have way back seats the sound is pretty good.
The Warfield has great sound and the mixing has always been excellent at the shows I’ve been to. Here’s a pic I took of the sound board before a show, and you can also see some of the GA area:
Drinks and Bars
I lose count, but there have got to be at least six bars inside The Warfield. There are a least four in the main GA area, a very nice bar upstairs, and a place to get beer and soda near the entrance.
There are also drink waiters and waitresses that will bring you things. Yay for that. They are great, and it means you don’t have to move from your cherished spot.
As I mentioned, there’s a food counter as you come in. You’ll place an order, have a seat on the nearby bench and they’ll call you a few minutes later when it’s ready. The food is from a next door restaurant called Showdogs, and here’s a sampling of what they have:
- 49′er All Beef Dog: our mustard, our sauerkraut, pickle
- Field Roast Veggie Dog: house coleslaw, our mustard, pickle
- Chicken Curry Dog: apple chutney, our mustard, arugula, pickle
- Maple Bacon Dog: our mustard, arugula, pickle
- Pickled Hot Link: black river blue cheese, arugula, pickle
- Chili Cheese Dog: house made natural chili, organic cheddar, pickle
- BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich: house coleslaw, BBQ sauce, pickle
- Meatloaf Sandwich: house coleslaw, BBQ sauce, pickle
- Sausage Plate: 2 dogs, house sauerkraut, potato salad, pickle
- BBQ Hot Wings: Blue Cheese Sauce, pickle
- House Potato Salad
- House Sweet and Sour Spicy Slaw
- All Natural Beef Chili
- Cheese Popcorn
- Kettle Chips
It’s San Francisco, so street parking isn’t great. But, there’s a pretty good parking lot right behind (and actually underneath)The Warfield on Turk street. If you’re coming from the south, the best way to get to that is to take Taylor street past Market and hang a left at Turk:
To give you a better idea in pictures, here’s a side shot of The Warfield building.
Basically, turn right on Turk, and prepare to make a quick right turn into the driveway as soon as you see these pretty murals on your right.
More Parking: You can also go to the huge 5th and Mission garage a few blocks away. (Late at night I recommend walking with friends there, as you’re in a big city. But in a post-show concert crowd you’re fine.)
San Francisco Muni stops right there in the same black, and the BART Powell or Civic Center stations are just a couple of blocks away.
Things to Bring
- Concert ear plugs (in case it gets loud OR the woman next to you likes to make ear-piercing hog-call style whistles)
- A coat or sweater for after the show (it gets cold in the city)
- Binoculars (if you are sitting in the upper balcony)
- A small camera
Note that videotaping with a small camera or iPhone seems mostly to be OK at The Warfield., as long as you’re not disturbing the other fans.
Today, you will see lots of fans for a popular show arriving many hours early to be the first in line. Apparently it’s a grand tradition: Here’s a picture of a guy waiting for the opening of the first show of 1935’s Gone With The Wind:
The Warfiled main web site
Google Maps’ Street View of The Warfield
Wikipedia Entry for The Warfield
Historical photos from the San Francisco Library historical photos:
Panic! At The Disco:
(Credit: Gil Regio)
Bay to Breakers kick-off:
The way that guy jumps from the balcony (and the Dylan tie-in)*
*Why your family should love MCR.
The way Gerard sings “Whoa-kay” in that one part*
*Why your family should love MCR so much.
That Guitar solo in Dead.*
*Why your family should love MCR so much.