Queens of the Stone Age at the Arizona State Fair
Queens of the Stone Age at the Arizona State Fair 10/31
by Jesse Stawnycy
The Arizona State Fair has an almost supernatural ability to draw hundreds of thousands of people into its gates during the short time it’s open, along with some of the biggest bands anyone can ever hope to see for the price of a general admission fair ticket. My best friend, Kaelen, and I had free tickets regardless, and Queens of the Stone Age were scheduled to be on stage in half an hour. The Fair has drawn the likes of the Foo Fighters, Megadeth, and living legends ZZ Top in past years. My first-ever concert (far too late in the game for my likes but better at age sixteen than never) was Weezer when they came around a few years back. But this is now. I’m experienced now. I lost it to Weezer, and now the Queens were here to rock us even harder. Seeing a band at the fair is especially wonderful since it’s not only in a relatively small stadium compared to US Airways or the similar venues, but it’s never sold out. Bands come to play here seemingly for the fun of it and almost definitely not for the money, considering the majority of the audience either gets in free with their fair ticket or maybe end up paying twenty dollars for a better seat. Maybe a 90s stoner rock band coming to play on a Thursday night has something to do with the lack of huge audience, but that’s why I came. Not for the bacon, or the rides, or the babes: just to rock out with a friend and make a memorable night of it.
Kaelen and I meandered our way into the free section, which, as concert seating goes, turns out to be fantastic for the price. Great view, non-deafening seat position, and easy access to the exit in case of riot or pyrotechnic malfunction: the best of all worlds.
“Can’t believe this is our first concert together, dude? This is gonna rock,” Kaelen said. “Hell yeah it is, I’ve wanted to see these guys for awhile,” I said.
“How’d you get into them?”
“You know the little get-together Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones had with Josh Homme, their front guy, right?”
“Yeah yeah! I can’t get the name.”
“Them Crooked Vultures.”
“That’s right! I heard something about that some time ago.”
“Anyway, I heard their record together and thought, ‘I dig the Foo Fighters, and Zeppelin is eternal, who’s the guitarist?’ and here we are.”
More people shuffled in. The place still wasn’t full, but I was getting excited. It was close.
“We can move down a few rows in awhile when it’s dark,” I said.
“Yeah, these fair people take that kind of stuff seriously, eh?” Kaelen said.
“We’re fine as long as we don’t take people’s seats.”
“It’s all good, there’s nobody sitting down there anyway.”
“And if they ask us to go back, just don’t be a dick about it and we’re cool.”
Just then the countdown timer began from sixty, and the anticipation began to boil. No opening band, just the main event. Perfect. The gang strolled on stage around the ten-second mark, and everyone counted down to the drumbeats. The first beats and bass of “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” struck the audience dully. Nobody moved at first, and it seemed like they all weren’t sure what to do. It’s not an energetic song and even took me a second to recognize it because I’m not as familiar with their latest album as the rest of their catalogue. Maybe they were trying to build up to the rest, confuse the people by not playing a big hit as a first song. I enjoyed it anyway. “Regular John” kicked into drive by the third song, and the crowd started to loosen up a bit. By this time, I started to feel the sonic energy start to flow and really responded to it but couldn’t help looking around and seeing that most people around me were more concerned about getting their next beer and looking cool than enjoying themselves. Josh Homme’s style of singing, especially live, isn’t very conducive to singing along unless you really know the lyrics. Not super poppy fun Weezer-music by far, but I was here to see Queens of the Stone Age, not Weezer. Different band, different feel: don’t expect the same and don’t compare too much between shows, and you might just have a good time. There were two attractive girls just in front of us, though, who seemed to have had a bit too much beer, but at least they looked like they were enjoying themselves more than most. Maybe they were attractive because I wanted them to be or because it was just a little darker than usual, but it made no difference, they still looked happy. I turned to Kaelen after another two songs when we were both hanging on the railing and we slid under and down to the next level when security wasn’t looking to stand up and be able to enjoy the extra space without blocking anyone else. Excellent choice. I stood the rest of the time and we both started rocking back and forth as the band broke out a keyboard for “Make It Wit Chu” and a double-necked Gibson for “The Lost Art Of Keeping a Secret.” A couple behind us gave us a high five because we were really jamming along by this point, the drunk girls turned around after dancing and asked me to take a picture for them, and I got down to some headbanging and dancing with myself. Some other drunk and happy man gave us a slap on the hand and the raw guitar screeched into our heads. As soon as the show looked like it was about to end, a powerful encore trio of songs followed. In a fun gesture of audience interaction, Homme called out the audience on holding up their cellphone lights and said, “No, keep your phones out, you guys will be the light show for this one.” A sparkling show of white followed, illuminating the entire stadium. I took out my Zippo for lack of a cell phone and added to the glow. The show ended with a resounding last powerful chord and drum clash, the band thanked everyone for coming out and the lights went dim.
Kaelen made a motion for us to escape quickly before we were mobbed by the rest of the crowd. I slowed pace for half a second to catch up with one of the girls in front of us and thanked her for enjoying herself, telling her it made the show a better time for me. Kaelen stuck out in the crowd with his green jacket and grey cap, so I found him easily, and we made our way down the off ramp.
“That was rad, dude,” I said.
“Great first concert with together; we should do this again,” Kaelen said.
“WHAT?” I replied, pretending to be mostly deaf.
“WAT??” he screeched back, and we talked like that for a few minutes pretending to be old, half-deaf, chain-smoking Jewish ladies.
“Glad you enjoyed it though, thanks for coming with,” I told him as we walked toward the rest of the fair.
“Wouldn’t have missed it, I was just as excited as you.”
“Good,” I said.
“No, it was great.”
I’m thankful for musicians who choose their career and enjoy it too, as it makes for a genuinely better show. No regrets. If there’s ever someone you dig who’s playing the fair, make a night of it and you won’t be disappointed. Quite the opposite, actually.