Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jack White |The Blunderbuss Tour | The Wiltern, Los Angeles CA | May 30 & May 31 2012

I flew to Los Angeles last week to catch Jack White in concert.  When I mentioned to people in LA that I came from Texas, their typical response was, “Just for this?”  I say, what do you mean “Just?”  That  $250 plane ticket was money well spent for an unforgettable experience.

Jack White's sold out show at the Wiltern, Los Angeles.
Allow me to bring you up to speed.   Jack White recently released his first solo album, Blunderbuss.  If you know me at all, you already know that I have been a fan since around 2003 and in my eyes Jack can pretty much do no wrong.  I even wrote a review of the new album before I heard it in it’s entirely, and it received five stars from me, of course. 

Jack is best known for his work in the White Stripes.  My obsession love for Jack might have begun with the White Stripes, but it doesn’t end there.  Not even close.  After the White Stripes, but before Blunderbuss, there were a couple of albums with the Raconteurs, then a couple with the Dead Weather.   Jack has done collaborations with everyone from Wanda Jackson, Detroit rapper Black Milk, Loretta Lynn, and then we can never forget (as much as we may wish to) Insane Clown Posse.  The list of collaborations goes on and on.

Last year when the White Stripes officially announced their break-up, the entire red and white swirl community felt their collective heart break.  It was hard to believe that Jack and Meg were now in the past, that there would never be a new album, a new tour or even a new song.  Almost a year later, the pain was eased a little bit when Jack announced the news of his first ever solo album and supporting tour.  Jack doing what I think Jack does best, performing. 

I have a yearly tradition of seeing Jack White in concert, a streak that I have upheld since 2007.  Some years it was Jack with the Raconteurs, some years it was Jack with the Dead Weather.  I even caught him (and shook his hand) in Los Angeles last year supporting Wanda Jackson playing guitar in the Third Man House Band.  Although I have been a fan of Jack since the first White Stripes album, I never have had the opportunity to see the White Stripes in concert.  And after their split, that chapter was closed for good.

When the tour for Blunderbuss was announced, my heart sank because Dallas was notably missing from the tour. What is a fan girl to do?  Buy a plane ticket, of course.  One of my oldest friends live in Los Angeles, so when I saw there were two shows at the Wiltern, I was sold. 

Through my paid membership in Jack’s fan club, The Vault, I was able to purchase pre-sale tickets for both nights at the Wiltern before they went on sale and enter a contest to be one of ten Vault members (plus guest) to win early entry to the venue.  Early Entry is a privilege to enter 15 minutes before the doors open, to either gain prime positioning at center stage or at the merch booth to be first in line for tour-only limited edition vinyl. 

The afternoon of the show, I received an email from Third Man Records, Jack’s record label, informing me that I have won the contest for early entry into the venue.  My email instructions said to line up early outside the venue and a “sharply dressed man” from Third Man would come out and collect us about 15 minutes before doors open.   I almost couldn’t believe it.  I have entered the contest for early entry for every Jack White show that I have been to since becoming a vault member a couple of years ago and I have never won, until now.

We get to the venue a couple hours before doors and begin the waiting game.   I never stood in any of the long lines wrapped around either side of the building; I just hung around the front of the venue trying to spot some other of the Vault early entry winners so that maybe we could collectively figure out what we were supposed to do.  There were people standing in line who said they had gotten there as early as 8:30am to ensure they got good positioning in the pit.

me, overly excited after I picked up my ticket from the Will Call window.

After a couple of hours of waiting, it was just a few minutes before doors open and no sharply dressed man came out to collect us.  The box office and venue security had NO IDEA about the Vault, or the early entry contest, and really didn’t seem to care.  Me and my fellow Vault winners were starting to worry if this early entry thing was going to work out after all (OK, maybe it was just me).  If we had to get to the back of the line at this stage in the game, there would be no way we would make it anywhere near the pit.

As we were waiting, someone stopped us on the street and asked a group of us who was performing at the Wiltern tonight.  When we told him Jack White, he asked us what kind of music Jack performed.  We all kind of laughed as we really weren’t able to answer that question in a couple of words.  Although I love Jack for his rock music, it is just a small piece of what he does, especially on this new Blunderbuss album.

Finally just five minutes before doors, a sharply dressed man female came out with a list of names and after checking our ID’s, let us through the doors into the merch booth area, but still outside the stage area doors before anyone else.  All of the other vault members headed to straight to the merch booth to get their hands on the limited edition vinyl.  I was the only one, in fact, that stood in front of the stage area door.  I would have LOVED some vinyl, but I really had no way to get it home and I didn’t want to carry it around all night, so I let that opportunity slip past me.

I stood, first in line, at the stage doors once again…waiting.  When they finally opened, I was the very first person through the doors and took my place in the pit, center stage, first row.  The stage was about shoulder-height, so I stood armpits deep into the stage and once again waited, as I watched the venue fill up behind us.   I spent some time looking at the empty space in front of the microphone, just out of arms reach, almost in disbelief that after some more waiting, Jack would finally fill up that space.

I generally never like any opening bands, ever.  I think it is usually the excitement and anticipation of the main act that leaves me impatient to sit through anything else.  The major exception being when Jeff The Brotherhood opened for the Kills earlier this year.  I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Pokey Lafarge, although not the type of music, at all, that I generally appreciate. I may have been looking at Pokey, just mere feet in front of me, imagining he was Jack. 

Pokey Lafarge was a fun band and the cute personalities of the talented band members showed through.  Although not my usual musical-cup-of-tea, their songs were catchy and I’m glad I they were there to entertain me and help pass the time before Jack took the stage.  I honestly enjoyed every moment.

Finally, after many waiting hours in the making, Jack and his male band, Los Buzzardos, took the stage.  I was quite happy to see the male band come out.  Jack plays with two backing bands, one all-female and one all-male, and you never know which band you will get until they take the stage.   After watching a couple of live concert performances online, I had decided that while I really liked the girl band, I preferred the male band because, in my opinion, their sound was more of a rock-music style and somehow Jack seemed looser and more relaxed with the men.

The next hour and half was the shortest in my life.  It was a whirlwind.  There he was, right there, playing this explosive set, spastically jumping all over the stage, repeatedly knocking down cymbals and guitar stands along the way.

As I stood there (I mean jumped and screamed there), I almost couldn’t believe at certain moments that I was standing in front of Jack White as he performed White Stripes songs.  After the break-up, I never thought that I would have this opportunity; the opportunity to stand less than 5 feet from Jack and sing along to some of my all-time favorite tunes.

What I am going to say next is going to be wildly unpopular within the White Stripes community.  When Jack and his band played White Stripes songs, I didn’t miss Meg.  No death threats please.  White Stripes fans are pretty serious about their love for Meg.  Don’t misunderstand me, I LOVE Meg too.  There would never have been the White Stripes at that level of popularity without her.  She is sweet and adorable and had the perfect stage presence/style for her role in the White Stripes.  But let’s be honest, Jack musically was always 99% of the White Stripes.  As far as anyone could tell, he directed her every move, every note.  I don’t intend any disrespect for Meg, and while Jack always defended her simplistic drumming style, Meg was never a great musician.  Oh My Gosh, do you hate me yet?  So when Jack played those same old songs with a full band of super talented musicians, I may have enjoyed them more than I ever had.  I’m pretty sure I am the lone-holder of this opinion.  I swear I love Meg for everything she was and contributed to the White Stripes, I just hold this new appreciation for those old songs played in a new way.   I think this is Jack respecting the past and giving the fans what they want, but still moving forward.

I promise, it is true.

At one point in the night, I got hit in the head with a drum stick that I believe the drummer threw out into the audience after it broke.  Honestly, I didn’t know what happened until it was over.  It hit me square in the noggin, knocking my sunglasses off the top of my head.  As I struggled to regain composure and get my glasses back, I witnessed the scrambling that ensued on the floor behind me.  I didn’t put it all together until a girl emerged from the chaos holding the drum stick in the air, like a prize. 

I think Jack best showcases his talent in a live venue.  I loved every song on Blunderbluss, but experiencing those same songs live gave me a new love and new level of appreciation for them. I may even have formed some new emotional attachments to these songs, the same sort of attachment that I have to his music from his other bands.  There is something that I can feel inside, in my soul.  It is hard to explain unless you experience it.  It was a whirlwind of a set.  He played songs off of Blunderbuss, many White Stripes songs, a Raconteur song, his single from the Danger Mouse produced album, Rome, and even a Dead Weather song (I may have missed Alison on that one).  It was Jack doing all the things that Jack does best, all at once, in one night, on one stage.   Then it was over, for the night.  We would be back for the next night's performance, which would undoubtedly be with the female backing band, the Peacocks.

The second night, we decided to approach things a little differently.  I did not have any special privileges regarding early entry for this performance, so if I wanted up close, I’d have to stand in line for hours on end like everybody else.  I felt like I got to experience the front row pit the first night, and I wasn’t sure I had the patience to spend hours waiting again outside the venue (I am getting old after all).  We ultimately decided to get to the venue area early, but to eat a leisurely sushi dinner and then have a couple of glasses of wine at a nearby restaurant on an outside patio instead of waiting in line again.  It would be a more relaxed night. We hung out down the street most of the evening until we knew Jack was ready to take the stage.

Me and Mikki not stressing about being in the front row.

Unlike the previous night, we effortlessly, easily and stress free walked through the doors long after most everyone else.  We took our place on the floor, not anywhere near the front row, but still half-way decent positioning in the general admission standing area.  I saw a girl who looked just like a Black Bell, and although she wasn’t (she’d be back stage if she was, right?) I still felt the need to talk to her about it.

I somehow got separated from my friend and I really have no idea how this happened, but a venue employee came up to me and said, do you want to go in the pit?  Do I?  Does Jack White sometimes resemble Edward Scissorhands? Of course!  She slapped a wristband on me and before I knew it, I was once again standing (I mean jumping, dancing) in the pit area about 5 rows of people back.

At the beginning of the show, they asked us not to take pictures.  They said Jack wanted us to be present for the show and enjoy it with our own eyes and not through a camera lens.  They promised to post pictures online that we could download for free.  The first night I saw many people in the pit taking photographs.  Clearly the others around me did not feel this same way, but I thought it would have been a little disrespectful to Jack, being so close, snapping pictures right in his face, when I knew he asked us not to.  But the second night, I could snap a few pictures from a little further back, a little less obvious.  Most of them came out blurry and dark, but here is a shot of Jack sitting at the piano from my vantage point on night #2.
Jack White with the all-female band

While I felt a little less connected the second night, it was another epic night of Jack.  It was less stressful more laid back.  I was not as up front and personal, but still very fun and amazing none-the-less.

Jack is playing Austin City Limits this October, so he will be in the Texas neighborhood. You know, because Texas is known for being quaint and small.  I am hoping that he will stop in Dallas and do a show on his way home and I will have another opportunity to see him perform live.

While I am still sad to see the end of the White Stripes, I think this new album and live concert experience sealed the deal that future the of Jack White is very bright (white)! 

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