Yesterday as I was dundering around town in the car I grew weary of hearing about Syria, Iran sanctions, and rigid congressional idealogues on NPR and started flipping around the regular radio stations. The DJ on one of our seemingly-ubiquitous classic rock stations said something about "TSO Tuesday" where they were giving away tickets to tonight's Trans Siberian Orchestra concert. It reminded me of a tale of many moons ago.....(cue weird harp music and a fuzzy, twisting screen as time warps backward)
Some years ago we went to a fall fundraiser for Splore, a great organization in SLC that takes disabled folks on outdoor adventures and that our great friend Tricia was driving. As with any nonprofit fundraisers there was an auction, and one of the things that came up was a dinner at a local restaurant and 4 tickets to something called the "Trans Siberian Orchestra". Ash was pretty keen: "That sounds cool! I bet it's a bunch of monks in saffron robes singing songs from Kazakhstan or something." Sure, whatever, I'm in. We didn't care too much; it was a fundraiser after all, we were going to donate money anyway, and we always prefer to get an "experience" in lieu of stuff at those events. Little did we know.....
Some amount of time then passed and then my calendar pops up reminding us of the concert that weekend. I took a closer look at the tickets and saw that it was in the Ford Theater at the E-center; the E-center is a big concert venue, so we figured that the Ford Theater was some smaller "room" off the main arena. We were a bit chagrined to realize that our tickets were for a matinee, since it was good skiing that day, and while we were out we talked about blowing off the concert and continuing to ski. But we had the tickets, we ski a lot, it could be a good cultural experience, and we had invited some friends to join us, so we left untracked powder for others and headed for the E-center.
Our first clue that something might not be quite what we expected was when we were pulling off the exit to go to the E-center and the traffic was quite backed up, and the traffic continued all the way into the parking lot. "Huh. Must be some other big event going on in the main part of the E-center today?" We walked in and asked the ticket taker "Where's the Ford Theater?" She gave us a blank look and just gestured behind her. We walked in and realized that the little side-room Ford Theater was actually the huge arena, and we were streaming in with all 20,000 of our fellow TSO fans, and the stage was huge. Whoa, this is not quite what we were expecting.
As it turns out, we had great seats; on the floor, only 20 or so rows back. We waited expectantly, and soon enough the lights dropped, and......OMG.....there they were, Trans Siberian Orchestra! The smoke machines started blasting, the lights and lasers started arcing and flashing, and as a couple of rockers leapt onto the stage and started wailing on their guitars I realized that all the huge Van Halen, Def Leppard, Who, Stones, Styx, and Poison concerts I had ever seen were about to be upstaged! It was a very impressive visual and audio barrage with guitar slayin' that would make Tommy Lee blush with envy. Wait a minute! What about the monks in their saffron robes singing cool traditional songs from their homeland? Ash and I looked at each other in amazement; apparently we should have done about 2 minutes of research on this TSO thing on the interweb before we committed to it.
Now don't get me wrong, I am an old school rocker, as is Ash, and since this show we've also hit up Def Leppard and spent many road trip hours keeping ourselves awake singing along with classic rock, so I'm totally good on some good hair metal with the requisite visuals. But after a bit of this suddenly it toned down, and a lone spotlight shone on a James Earl Jones wannabe, who started intoning in a deep, sonorous voice about Christmas and its deep meanings and such, and it actually went on for quite a while. Which was apparently a good lead in to more serious rockin', which recommenced. And then back to Darth Vader again. And yet more rockin. Weird!
To add to the weirdness, there was the audience. Usually when there's some sick rock n rollin like that going on people are kind of loosing it in a music-fired frenzy; but literally everyone stayed in their seats - even on the floor - and clapped politely at the appropriate times. It was so odd to not really hear screams from the audience as the ferocious guitar solos ended after long, drawn out finales (followed by more sermonizing), just (admittedly, enthusiastic) clapping.
We stuck it out for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, and then decided that it was time to roll. As we got up to leave, we felt quite conspicuous because - as noted above - we were the only people in the crowd of 20,000 to be standing, and since it was clear that we were grabbing our coats and leaving, our fellow fans gave us these looks that seemed to say "where are you going? IT'S TSO!!!" We felt like we were escaping.
I don't know..... clearly the Trans Siberian Orchestra resonates with some folks; tonight's show is at the Energy Solutions arena downtown, which I think is about 50% bigger than the E-center, and it'll be packed as people will undoubtedly go on their annual pilgrimage to get the full meal TSO experience that apparently is known and loved. And good on them. But needless to say, as I listened to the classic rock station yesterday, I wasn't grabbing my phone to call in for the free tickets!