This past weekend was one of those perfect NYC summer weekends – hot but not humid with a cool breeze at night. Since I had to be at Jones Beach for the show I decided to head out early and spend some time at the beach. It’s an easy ride on the LIRR and then a bus that takes you to the West and East Bathhouses and Central Mall. The East Bathhouse is closest to the theater. I knew the Jones Beach bus didn’t run out of the venue but I’d remembered in years past taking one of a long line of buses back to the LIRR station (it’s all highway so you can’t walk from the train station to the beach) and wasn’t worried about getting home. This was a mistake and I’ll talk about this later.
The waves were as tall as me and the riptide was very very strong. You couldn’t go very far out because of the riptide so the waves were breaking on top of everyone but it was still a lot of fun. I figured the food in the venue would be very expensive so instead I went for the relatively inexpensive food at the beach concession.
You could see the theater from the beach. It was short walk under the highway and around the bay.
They’ve renovated since I was last there and there are lots of concessions and they’ve added to the theater so that there’s a whole new level of cheap seats. Inside the venue but outside the theater The Dirty Touch were playing a mix of originals and grunge covers.
The Jones Beach Theater is one of the most beautiful venues you’ll ever see. If I recall correctly the stage used to float in the bay and there was a moat separating it from the audience. Now the stage is all one part of the theater. Sitting up on top you can look out over the bay and all the way to the ocean where I’d been hanging out earlier.
By the time I’d settled into my seat Coheed and Cambria were already on stage. There weren’t many people in their seats yet but among many of those who were, they were very into the band. There was an older couple in front of me with their son. The son looked to be college age or older so I was wondering why he was there with his parents. Even if he was HS age, why where they there? The father seemed to be into the music but the mother looked bored and angry. The son knew the words to every song. And when the band’s set ended that family left. Didn’t even stay to see the headliner.
Their music is progressive rock/hard rock/heavy metal and according to Wikipedia all of Coheed and Cambria’s records are concept albums based on a science fiction story (The Amory Wars) written by lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez and the story has also been turned into comic books and a novel. The band is based in NY and other members are guitarist Travis Stever, bassist Michael Todd, and drummer Chris Pennie. Todd was arrested the next night in Boston for robbing a pharmacist with a bomb threat and grabbing a bunch of Oxycontin. He got into a cab and was headed towards the gig when the cops stopped him. This was more rock and roll then anything I heard on stage.
As you know, I’m not a big fan of prog rock. I’m even less of a fan of science fiction. That didn’t much matter because I wasn’t paying attention to the words anyway. At some points it was heavy metal at its most trite (not the cookie monster growl but the high vocals) and the band never seemed to engage with the audience. The backdrop was a puzzler.
After a short set-up, and some time spent vacuuming the rug that was rolled out onto the stage, Soundgarden took the stage at 8:45pm. Known as a grunge band, Soundgarden is really a rock band – they get hard enough to be metal and cerebral enough to be alternative but it’s really rock and roll. They were the first grunge band to be signed to a major label (1988) but didn’t become successful until grunge became nationally popular (1991). The band broke up in 1997, reunited last year, and have been touring and recording a new album. Chris Cornell (lead singer/guitar) announced that we would only be hearing the old songs because the new songs weren’t ready to be played yet but the old songs were what the audience wanted to hear. Guitarist Kim Thayil doesn’t look very different (he always looked older than the rest) and he is still one of the most amazing guitarists you will ever hear. Cornell’s hair and beard are longer than they were when I saw him on the Scream tour two years ago but he’s just as sexy and his voice is just as powerful. I did hear some strain and missed notes but his falsetto was spot on. There was a ton of echo on his voice – not only when he sang but when he spoke. That was weird. Drummer Matt Cameron is back – he joined Pearl Jam after Soundgarden’s break-up and now is playing with both bands. He is the only member that Cornell introduced – that was before Cameron’s solo. Bassist Ben Shepherd seems to be the only member who looks like he’s aged a bit. There were screens on either side of the stage so we got close-ups of each of guys.
For “Hunted Down” Cornell walked into the audience and sang in the middle of the crowd. Someone had a sign that said, “The night is ours. We can stay as long as we want. Let’s stay.” Cornell seemed to be blown away by this sentiment and repeated it several times during the night.
As good as the music was, as fun as the nostalgia was, as tight as the band was, and as excited as the audience was, there seemed to be something missing. Cornell’s charisma was on the low end – I don’t know if it’s been the constant touring but he seemed a little tired. His voice needed some rest. And there was no interaction among the band members. None. I’ve never seen Soundgarden live before, so maybe this is how it’s always been. Or maybe this is something they’re doing more for the money than for love. I don’t know. But despite that they still put on one of the best shows you’ll ever see.
Now for the very not good part of my evening. When I got to the parking lot I didn’t see any buses. I walked back to the exit and asked one of the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater employees. He told me there weren’t any more buses and I’d have to take a cab to the railroad. There is no taxi stand in the theater parking lot. There was one cop car and the two officers inside told everyone to stand on the curb behind their car to get a cab. So a few of us formed a line. And then we looked across the lot and there was a crowd of people gathered by the parking lot entrance trying to grab any taxi that came in. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A cab would drive in and a swarm of people would attack it. All of us on the ‘real’ line moved towards the crowd. One woman called the company listed on the side of one of the cabs and I called another. We told them to send all available cars to Jones Beach. The two young cops watched and told us we were pretty much out of luck even though we were standing in the correct place. Isn’t this your job – to control the crowd? Finally I saw one calling for reinforcements. Then the cops were telling everyone to get on the curb so the cabs could get through. Except each car would have a crowd around it as soon as it entered and that left a line of cabs not able to get in. So the cops didn’t stop the people on the end of the line – if they had there would have been a long line of cabs in front of us and then the cops could have let us in five at a time into each cab.
The show ended between 10:45pm and 11:00pm. I missed the 11:22 but did get a cab in time to catch the 12:22 out of Freeport. It’s supposed to be an $8 ride but we were charged $13 each and really couldn’t complain because at least we were in a cab.
Whose fault is this? The venue had our money for the tickets and the $6.50 20-ounce bottles of water so they didn’t care. The county stopped nighttime bus service because of budget cuts. This was not the first show of the summer yet the cops were totally unprepared.
How can this be fixed? If you live in NYC and you want to see a show in Jones Beach, don’t. Boycott the venue and write them a letter telling them why. See the band at another local venue. And spread the word. If they want our money then they need to treat us with respect. I’m writing letters to Nikon, Jones Beach Theater, the Nassau County supervisor, and the local police. And to the MTA to complain that when the 12:22 arrived they had closed half the train. So a platform full of people had to run to the front end of the train to get inside. If there’s a concert at Jones Beach they should be prepared for a crowd going back to NYC. Or run an extra train like they do when there’s a game at Yankee Stadium or Citifield.
The nighttime buses could be chartered by Nikon to take customers back to the LIRR station. Or when we purchase a ticket, give us the option to be charged for a $5 round-trip bus ticket. There’s a money-making venture for Nassau County and the venue in there somewhere. And a great night of music wouldn’t have to be ruined because of a lack of buses.
By Carene Lydia Lopez