Turning Stone Casino
May 24, 2011
Way back in early July 1992, my friend James called me from the mall and told me that he was just at the ticket place and saw that "Weird Al" Yankovic was doing a concert in New York City at The Ritz in a few days, and asked if I wanted to go. Of course I said yes, and fast forward almost 19 years, and I am watching Al and his talented band perform for the 100th time.
Prior to that phone call, I had no idea that Weird Al even did concerts. I didn't expect reaching 100 shows to be emotional, but reflecting back over the last 19 years, I couldn't help think how much it changed and sculpted my life. It is through tour chasing that I visited places I might never have gone, and met people I never would have met. I met my wonderful wife while tour chasing. I matured from a fan of the band to a friend of the guys in the band. I met many life-long close personal friends and I met many people who enthusiastically shared the concert experience with me only to disappear and never to be heard from again.
But one thing remains constant -- "Weird Al" Yankovic puts on one hell of a show.
This concert wasn't originally in our plans, but seeing as how Jackie couldn't attend the shows in New Brunswick, Glenside, and Englewood with me as she was in San Diego at the time for her other hobby, we added this one kind of last minute when an amazing offer we couldn't refuse came along.
Jackie and I left the house around noon. There was no traffic and only one minor rain shower, so we arrived at 4:30. Heading in we quickly said hello to Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz who going up the escalator as we were going down the other one. We walked over to the box office to see if they had our tickets yet, and ran into Jeremy, Dan, and Jared, and met Yankomaniac who were all hanging out by the showroom doors. Since the box office didn't have our tickets yet and they were still setting up the merchandise stand, we took a walk around the casino and I lost about $20 in the slot machines in record time.
We headed over to the entrance of the buffet and waited for Trixie and Steffan, but almost immediately got surprised by Alison and her sister who arrived with balloons and gifts for me! One balloon was a green star with a "100th" printed on it. The other said "WAY to Go" (WAY, get it?) and the third was a smiley face in yellow and black "Dare To Be Stupid" colors.
While waiting, we saw Steve Jay walk by. We yelled but he didn't hear us. Jon stopped by to say a quick hello before he ran off to wherever he was heading. Jeremy, Dan, and Jared arrived, and finally Trixie and Steffan came, and we headed into the buffet, where we impressed the hostess with my 100th birthday balloon.
After dinner, we hit the box office again, and the merchandise stand where I picked up an Alpocalypse tour shirt. The second surprise of the evening was when Trixie found Michelle, who was dressed in her traditional "Like A Surgeon" scrubs, walking around. We caught up with Michelle, and then headed into the showroom.
When we arrived to our table, already sitting there were two older women who looked a bit out of place. They tried to guess what the balloons were for, but before they did, one of them let us know that she was there because her grandson was working the lights for the show. We chatted with them for a while and then let them in on the balloon mystery, and they were impressed. I told them they would have a great time, and from time to time throughout the show, I was glancing over at them, and they were really getting into it. Maybe I'll see them out tour chasing sometime. Weird Al, fun for the whole family, even Grandma.
Also seated at our table was a nice woman we met that evening named Vickie, and the third surprise of the night, Ethan, who I had last seen in 2007 in Albany, but coincidentally first met at Verona a few months before. The seats we had turned out to be really good, just slightly off center, but a nice view of the whole stage. And Grandson came through, as the lighting was so awesome, it really was one of my favorite parts of the show. Much improved from Englewood.
After "Polka Face" one of the women turned to the other and probably louder than she thought, said "He's cute!" Al, I think you found yourself another Al Gal, haha! There was a slight moment of hesitation when "Fun Zone" started up again, but as Al was about to call an audible, Jon kicked in with the drums and they launched into "Frank's 2000" TV." "You Don't Love Me Anymore" used a smaller red guitar, and got one of the best audience reactions of the night. The kid sitting at the table next to me and his family were practically in tears from laughing so hard. "You're Pitiful" had the Winning and Atlantic Records Still Sucks t-shirts. There were no streamers for "Canadian Idiot."
Steve was doing weird hand movements during "Whatever You Like" almost like he was signing, but not quite. During "Wanna B Ur Lovr" Al picked on a girl up by the stage for most of the song. He did sit on Michelle's lap for one verse. We had a nice view of that from where we were sitting. The snotty barista in "Craigslist" was from the coffee shop in Turning Stone Casino. "Amish Paradise" came complete with Grandma and friend enthusiastically waving their arms.
During "Fat," Al literally chased Santa off the stage. It looked like Steve might have broken his bass guitar strap at some point during the song as it was disconnected during the jam. He also faked playing with his teeth for a bit.
The stage was packed for "The Saga Begins" with two Emperor's Guards, two biker scouts, two Tie Pilots, two stormtroopers, Darth Vader, and R2D2, who enthusiastically spun his head around. There's a lot more choreography this time around. All the characters acted like broken battle droids during the appropriate lyrics. Confetti went off at the end of "Yoda."
After the show, I said hi to Ron and his daughter who I last saw at Princeton earlier this year, and then everyone was shuffled out of the showroom. We headed out to the stage door and were brought backstage. Steve was on his way out, but stopped to talk to Ethan about doing a radio interview, and I asked him to sign my balloon, which he did and congratulated me on reaching 100.
Next I briefly talked with Jon, who also signed my balloon and congratulated me, until it was our turn to meet Al. Al greeted me as Mr. 100 and posed for a picture. I asked him how the new server is holding up and he said this was the first show they used it, and except for a few minor glitches that will work themselves out, things went well. He then signed my balloon and congratulated me again.
I saw Jim West, so went over to say hello and we talked a bit about Hawaii, as we had seen him perform there in October. He gave me some good pointers and places to check out next time we go, so I'll be looking forward to testing that out sometime. Jim was whisked away before I got a chance to ask him to sign my balloon, and the security guard let me stay behind for a little while to see if Jim would reemerge, but finally had to ask me to leave. Jon stopped by once again to say goodbye and we headed out shortly after.
As I was saying my goodbyes, Rubén Valtierra came out and signed a few things for some people, and then Jim came out shortly after. I lent my marker to a couple of people and then asked Jim to please sign my balloon as I had been denied the opportunity earlier. He complied, and hung around for a bit signing stuff for others.
It was a long drive home, but I'm really glad we made the trip. It was a great show and a great time. I know a few of my tour chasing buddies are getting up there, maybe a tour or two away from reaching 100, and along with myself, Fred, who did it a few years back, and Jeremy, who bested me by two days, joining the Exclusive 100 Show Club themselves.
You can click on the highlighted words above and below to see more concert photos.