Column: Fan makes it ”˜One of These Nights’ from hell

By SCOTT SAALMAN

SOMEWHERE OVER LOUISVILLE — My buddy Rick and I sat in balcony seating, Row S — the S, I guess, standing for stratosphere. We were seated so high in the sold-out KFC Yum! Center that I halfway expected our ushers to be Tibetan Sherpas.

Yes, I was a willing ticket-buying inhabitant of the proverbial nosebleed section, a mountain climber’s equivalent of entering “into thin air,” giving me a bird’s-eye view of the Eagles, a band I have loved since the 1970s.

I was there to experience “a peaceful, easy feeling,” but instead I was overwhelmed by “an anarchic anxious feeling” because of the witchy woman behind me just to my left.

After each song, she released an obnoxious, blood-curdling sound as subtle as a pterodactyl’s screech. It was an ear-splitting, borderline banshee scream, incomparable in decibel level to any vocalization from the other 17,499 fans — individually or collectively. Just my luck, Ticketmaster assigned her a Row T ticket.

I assumed her hellish high pitch would hoarsen by intermission. But it didn’t. Not after “Tequila Sunrise,” “The Best of My Love,” “Lyin’ Eyes” nor “One of These Nights.”

Her shriek was like someone trying to sound out a bad row of tiles on a Scrabble rack, a consonant-less, vowel-only vocalization:  “AAOOOOOIIIIUUUUUUEEE.”

This, dear reader, is likely the first sound you hear upon entering hell.

I dreaded each song’s last note. During final verses I bent forward to place my head between my knees, as if in a tornado drill, while cupping my left ear with my left hand, toilet-plunger tight, in anticipation of her dreaded demonstration of song approval. By the final song of the first set, “Take It to the Limit,” I was taken to the limits of my own sanity.

At intermission, she and her male companion descended the steep steps, holding onto the handrail for dear life and disappeared into the synthetic-pot-scented cloud drift below. The boyfriend was terribly out of shape, and to our dismay, he wore sweatpants, which meant exposing us to the disturbing image of the stretched waist of his pants dropping to his knees while he descended the steps without bothering to hitch his pants to the proper socially acceptable level, giving us a full-moon view forever burned in our tortured memory banks — gravity at its cruelest. I felt ashamed to be human.

When the couple returned for the second set, I turned around, squeezed the woman’s fleshy knee, and pleaded, “I will give you $20 if you don’t make that sound you’ve been making. I’m serious. You can clap, shout a bit, but for the love of God, just don’t do that sound you do.”

She seemed surprised that a total stranger would publicly chastise her. The ensuing belligerent glint in her eye unnerved me a bit, as if I might go home to find a pet rabbit boiling in a pot. I imagined the squeak of a hamster wheel spinning in her brain as she formulated her next course of action. Still, confronting her seemed to work, for she remained quiet following “Wasted Time.” Victorious, I relaxed while Joe Walsh sang “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” But when the song ended, it happened: “AAOOOOOIIIIUUUUUUEEE.” Even Joe glanced up our way near the peak of Mount Yum, startled.

I turned and shouted, “I’m serious. Please stop. You are ruining the experience for us. I am half deaf, not because of the Eagles, but because of you!”

She replied, “That’s like you asking everyone in here to be quiet.”

“No, it’s not. I’m just asking you to shut up,” I said.

“I paid $100 for this seat. I am here to have a $**# good time. I am going to let everyone know I’m havin’ a $**# good time,” she replied, elbowing her boyfriend. “Ain’t that right?”

“That’s right,” he said.

“But she keeps the rest of us from having a $**# good time,” I shouted at him. “$**#.”

Timothy B. Schmit started singing “I Can’t Tell You Why,” shutting us all up until the tone-deaf twosome started singing along with unsurprisingly disastrous results, ruining the song — their duet being the second sound you hear upon entering hell.

“Way to go. You just added fuel to the fire,” Rick said.

He was right. She then let loose with the mother of all “AAOOOOOIIIIUUUUUUEEE” sounds when the song ended.

“Ya havin’ a $**# good time?” sweat pants guy said.

“I’m havin’ a $**# good time.”

“Good. You should be havin’ a $**# good time.”

“I’m havin’ a hundred dollars’ worth of a $**# good time.”

“Let everyone know you’re havin’ a $**# good time.”

“AAOOOOOIIIIUUUUUUEEE.”

Repeat performances of this dialogue, obviously dedicated to me, followed each song for the rest of the concert, from the 15th, “New Kid in Town,” to the 27th (and final encore), “Desperado.” I was having a $**# bad time.

While the Eagles had the potential to put on a dream show, the couple behind me turned it nightmarish. Even now I suffer from the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder. I still hear that banshee’s shriek followed by the bullying dialogue. I recall Joe Walsh singing “Life’s Been Good,” but that was the opposite of my own outlook on life at that point, and Glen Frey’s “Take it Easy” was lost on me, for by then I was “Already Gone.”

The public is invited to a Will Read (and sing) For Food performance at Kimball International Corporate Headquarters Auditorium, 1600 Royal Street, at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. Admission is a monetary or canned good donation for Community Food Bank.




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