Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's With Pretentious Tom Waits Fans?

I like Tom Waits. The album Big Time was my introduction to him. A great album, if you're in a certain kind of mood. Yesterday is Here and Strange Weather are great songs. You eventually meet people who are also Tom Waits fans. Because he has such a weird style and unique sound, it becomes a bit of a cult. You never meet a person who "kind of likes" Tom Waits. (Well, there's me.) They revere the guy like a demi-God.

Later I discovered Queen's University types were big on his music. Pour a glass of scotch and you listen in hushed silence with utmost concentration. (I have seen this on numerous occasions, many different Queen's guys.)

Anyway, during the late 90's a friend at work, a full member of the Waits cult scored three tickets for the upcoming show in Vancouver at an old 1920's theatre with a capacity of about 2000. He and his buddy were going and since I had admitted a liking to it, he got me a ticket. Turns out that his friend couldn't make it, so my wife substituted in with the spare ticket. She likes a few Waits songs, and thought it would be a good show.

The night of the gig, my work colleague's friend's plans had changed and he was looking to get his ticket back from my wife which we vetoed. He tried to buy from street scalpers but couldn't find anything and sat it out.

The concert was fine for a while but the reverence the audience showed was beginning to become bit of a joke. One over-long version of What's He Building In There? went over like when Beethoven first introduced the 9th Symphony. Oh the genius! My wife and I were looking at each other shrugging, was it that fucking great? (Hammering, bustling sound effects, Waits’ weird deep voice: "What's he building in there?" OK, enjoyable to an extent, but let's not get carried away.)

Anyway, the crowd pleaded and begged for encores. I was mostly disappointed when he came back out, but was keeping up appearances. My work colleague friend was enraptured. A song was played. Applause went on for five minutes.

Tom readied on the piano for another one. My wife said, "Do you want to beat the crowd and get out of here?" Hahaha! Yes! We got up and started down the stairs. I could hear a whimper of despair from my work friend: "Where are you going? He's still playing!" People in the audience watched us in appalled astonishment, like we had personally insulted them.

The next day my work buddy thought I was less than human. How could you leave? His friend missed the show, he never would have done that!

I read the review in the Georgia Straight a few days later. It was reviewed as more or less the greatest show in the history of Vancouver. I didn't see them but apparently Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were there. (Did I mention pretention?) What I found extremely amusing is they mentioned the encore and how the crowd was so spellbound nobody moved.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest.


  1. Yeah,
    Saying you like Tom Waits is like ordering sea urchin at a sushi place. It's your way of saying... leave the stuff that tastes good to everyone else. I enjoy this horrible tasting crap. Listening to Tom Waits is like smelling dog crap over and over again.

  2. i am one of those tom waits fans that think he is the most amazing person and musician ever. i wonder if his fans, like me, just hear different things than someone who does not like him that much does not hear. tom has the most simplistic melodies with the saddest lyrics. maybe one has to have known that sadness to understand it. also, some of his songs are not simplistic at all, but based on great composers songs. his music is huge and encompasses so so much. he makes me cry. he makes me laugh. i hear beauty in even some of those really gruff songs. once ya hear it, your kinda screwed. so beautiful it is bigger than life. i never meet any fans. my kids love him, and my ex. oh, and my brother broke into a club way back in the 70's in our town and he saw him live. i listened to tom waits as my first music at 12 years old. just love tom. romeo is bleeding rocks. wish i knew some waits fans.

  3. "Maybe one has to have known that sadness to understand it." Yup, Tom Waits. Pretentious music for pretentious people.
    From his contrived singing voice, his contrived, pre-fabricated stage persona, to his legions of sychophantic, boot-licking fans and critics.
    Maybe Tom Waits and his fans could go down to skid row in Downtown Eastside Vancouver, or a hospice to see some people dying of liver failure, to meet some real "Nighthawks of the Diner". They could pour each other single malts and gush about how "authentic" it all is!

  4. Dude... You're mean