New Years Eve has a mystique about it like few other "holiday" events can claim (Christmas would trump all others I would guess). The fact that those two days have a global acceptance help reinforce that mystique and often those days involve travel and occasionally those travels take us to exciting and exotic locations. When I learned of my upcoming travel to a New Years Eve party, the potential for traveling to one of those exciting and exotic places may have presented itself.
New Years Eve, December 31st, 2011 became the latest date to add to the long year of concerts I had attended but to attend a concert I had to have someone to see. Bret Michaels Band became that someone and I was interested to see BMB because I hadn't an opportunity to see him (minus his band Poison) before then. Looking at the checklist we seem to have a date and a band but where would we be venturing and how exciting and exotic would that place be?
Springfield, Illinois known as the mecca of entertainment and temperatures in the high 1400 degree range became that place. I know, I know you're asking yourself (or your pet fish) what makes Springfield a mecca and what's the deal with the temperature? As a lifelong resident of the State of Illinois I can assure you that both of those descriptions are accurate but they may require further explanation to the non-resident (you lucky dog you).
Allow me to provide a brief history lesson and a brief apology to the fine residents of Springfield as well. Illinois has a small problem with governors that want to spend time in prison and as many, many of the people that are elected have successfully bankrupted the State with their inane, nonsensical legislation make the State laughable and the butt of many a late night talk show host (thus the mecca of entertainment comment). Coupled with the "hell" the State has been put in because of the politicians that populate our state capitol (Springfield... duh), the temperature comment makes sense (I'm guessing "hell" would be really, really hot after all). This is the part where I apologize because it's not the fault of the residents of the fine city our politicians have destroyed us (unless they voted for them then all bets are off).
As I made my way from our hotel to the Prairie Capitol Convention Center (which was a "brutal" walk of 150 feet), I commented that the building really didn't seem much larger than the Five Flags Center (in Dubuque, IA) but I was anxious to see what may await us within. Every facility is different obviously but when I entered the building I was taken aback by the limited space in the box office / mezzanine and really how confined I felt with the claustrophobia inducing low ceilings in part because my eyes went to ceiling level as I looked at the fascinating pictures of previous acts that had performed there.
Entering the auditorium I was greeted by a very friendly scanner toting ticket person who then told us that to get the "after-party" admission slip (a purple wristband) we had to get into a line and with a little flip of her hand she guided us. The interior of the auditorium was dark, really dark and the line we were to follow had sliced its way through groups of people that weren't in that spot for anything other than space filling. As the line meandered to a centralized point we were greeted by a wristband "giver" who was anything but enthused with her job and appeared to be more interested talking to her fellow wristband "giver" than to answer any questions.
The nice thing about attending a "party" as opposed to a standard concert is that the food that was being offered had already been written into the price of admission but a teeny bit of apprehension began to creep in as I approached the large tables of what appeared to be food. Its interesting what the mind floats to and when as I began to wonder what diseases or illnesses these drunk, stoned, overweight curmudgeons might actually have as I began to peruse the table. In all honesty I was impressed by the spread and possibly as important I was impressed by the care being given to the tables. A dedicated person re-stocked the table regularly, cleaned up little messes that occurred and was helpful to those that did ask questions about what was what.
In the grand scheme of things, that buffet was exemplary and it afforded the denizens nice choices while keeping cross contamination (and vomit from the young lushes in the crowd) from overwhelming the selections. I was impressed by this portion of the evening (and as a side note, the buffet was kept up well into the night and into the next year as well).
As this was labeled a "party", alcohol was expected (demanded by some I'm sure) but I was confused that in Springfield, IL, smack dab in the middle of St. Louis Cardinals territory that Miller Lite appeared to be the only beer that was offered (if I'm wrong about that, I apologize but I didn't partake in any case) and no Budweiser type products. Along similar lines, I was surprised that soda (pop, cola, sody, soda pop, etc.) was only available via the TWO Pepsi machines I saw and considering each beverage in said machine was $2.50 each the machines worked like a well oiled machine (its a machine you see).
Strike that last comment about the "well oiled Machine" as the strangest phenomena happened following the end of the show and the start of the "after party". Both Pepsi machines "mysteriously" became inoperable and beverages could no longer be purchased from them but there was a saving grace. Who would have ever thought that the powers that be figured out that such failures to each machine could occur and they prepared by having each of the bars that "appeared" during the break fully stocked with Pepsi products. What was so interesting was that the same bottles of Pepsi products went from $2.50 to $3.50 and was much, much warmer than the beverages in the machine. Look I understand why all of that happened, I understand supply and demand, heck I even understand bait and switch but never, ever offer the same product at a higher cost than it was FIFTEEN minutes before.
The festivities were to begin at 8PM (the doors were to open then) and with it being a "New Years Eve" party and only ONE band on the bill it was ludicrous to assume that the band would appear much before 10:30PM, but despite that many in attendance were upset that Michaels didn't start playing at 8ish. In an attempt to compensate for the "cushion of the festivities", the promoters decided to have a little dance party and five people singing karaoke before the main event. Yes I said "dance party" and "karaoke" in the same sentence and I can assure you I wasn't the only one kind of a bit confused by said combination appearing.
Without getting into music "genres" and where I think Michaels fits in those genres I can tell you without hesitation that many in the crowd would enjoy to hear music from bands like Poison, Guns 'n' Roses, Judas Priest, KISS, heck even Winger and the crowd would have been entertained but that isn't what happened. What happened instead was Michaels fans were "exposed" to was music by Michael Jackson, Adele, Fergie and some really terrible modern dance mix crap. In my opinion they were one Justin Bieber song away from one hell of a riot in Springfield. The pre-concert, dance party music was just garbage and the number of people dancing to it could be counted in the TENS, okay maybe ten for the entire night, this part was an epic FAIL.
In a simplified attempt to describe the "karaoke" part of the evening and in some attempt to rationalize said part I will preface it by saying "STOP. NO KARAOKE, EVER!" (sorry I had to vent). As the DJ from some local station began to explain to the audience, there were area contests for people to win a chance at performing with Michaels on one song during the evening and this part was the "finals" for that honor. What we were given was five very capable bar band type performances by five participants (four men, one woman) of Poison songs (with Michaels band playing each song). Each song was performed to the best of each persons ability and for me I thought they performed from best to worst. The first song was phenomenal and the last song really felt forced and honestly didn't fit into the criteria of what they were judging on and the winner was oddly enough the last performer. Despite the fact none of the performers were Japanese businessmen and none of them were professionals, each performer did well.
There is a phenomena that I have been seeing at many shows now and that is providing the fans the ability to send a text message to some number and those texts pop up on screens for the fans to see and read and although they can be entertaining they really have to be stopped. Many comments were off color, some were offensive and even fewer were really entertaining.
Following the Michaels show (I have another article on that performance here), the whole evening got a little pear shaped. As we watched an auction take place of various pieces of the stage, instruments and hats (as well as the drummer and a crew member affectionately as the "Albino") I wondered how they would get the people that were there just for the show separated from those who were there for the after party and as we wandered into the "buffet" part of the world we found our answer. As we looked for change so we could buy a Pepsi like product we were told rather rudely by a PCCC employee to get out of that part and wait outside until the next portion began, so we did.
As another observation of that part of the evening, doesn't a change machine seem like a good idea to be on-site as opposed to having patrons wander aimlessly in an attempt to find said change?
During the break it began to filter throughout the waiting crowd that what was really happening was two-fold, they were clearing out the concert only people and separating the VIP meet and greeters for their "visit" with Michaels. Here is an interesting "tidbit" to chew on, the tickets we got were sold as a "private Party" with Michaels after the show (until 3AM) and as the time passed it became more clear that the "meet and greeters" were the only ones meeting Michaels and interestingly that was for really a few minutes per person at most (as I was later told by one of those "meeters").
When we were allowed back into the venue we discovered the "Pop Machine Tragedy of 2012", the well manicured buffet remained but a new beast made its appearance, PIZZA. Following our purchase of the lukewarm Diet like product from the bar (No more machines) I wandered over to the pizza table hoping that I could get a nice, hot piece of pizza. To be clear, I didn't get that instead I got instead was a cold, burned piece of a franchise made vinyl like pizza and a great affinity for dislike of anything with stupid cartoon characters for mascots on pizza boxes.
The evening was interesting to say the least, it was marked by highs and lows but the whole experience must be graded by those highs and lows. To say that the stay in Springfield was anything but great would be a boldfaced lie (bravo Hilton!) and those people that I met from and in Springfield have always been great (I worked for a Springfield based company for a few years). To say that the concert was (just read the other article that will tell all) but to say that the venue is one I will be visiting again, that would be a great big NEVER.
I would equate the venue much like I would elections in Illinois, they seem promising, and then they sour quicker than milk in the desert.