On Thursday last week, the day before opening night of Gears & Guitars at Bailey Park, I accosted festival organizer Ray Boden as he made his paces on the grounds.
“What are you going to do about the Chair People?” I asked.
He laughed. A couple weeks earlier he had a hand in the Vagabond Saints production of The Wall, just around the corner in the Incendiary Brewing courtyard. That night, just as the music began, a couple dozen Chair People — those people who bring their own chairs to outdoor concerts and festivals — scrambled their lawn furniture to the front of the stage, turning the most prime real estate at the concert into basically a movie theater. One woman even had her elbows on the stage.
“We’re not doing that here,” Boden said now. “They can set their chairs up almost anywhere in the park, but no chairs at all in the first 100 feet or so. We’ve got a sign up.”
Got to — if a clear line of demarcation is not drawn, the Chair People will obliterate a dance area, create a bulwark against anyone who wants to wander close to the action for a bit, claim for their own the space always reserved for the band of the moment’s biggest fans.
Now, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to take a seat during an outdoor performance, especially in the kind of heat that usually accompanies such things. But a concert is not a campground, and it’s getting like the Oklahoma Land Rush out there, but with blankets, canopies and chairs.
So let’s all agree: The front of the stage is for dancers, air-guitarists, screaming fans and anyone else who wants to rotate through the throng. Chairs and blankets go on the fringes. If you want to get a better view, bring some binoculars.
But I should add: The price of a ticket does not guarantee each holder a clear, unfettered view of the stage for the entire performance. Sometimes, in order to see the band better, you’ve got to get up and move around.