Life's Good at the Wiltern LG

When my ears are ringing so loud I can’t hear myself think, it usually means that it’s not the ideal time to write, because if I can’t write my thoughts, what exactly am I writing? But here I am anyway, if for no other reason, because the keyboard keys sound different, and I feel strangely impelled to mindlessly vent about tonight’s concert.

First of all, I mean no disrespect to my friends or any fans of the band I just saw, but this was a last minute, why the hell not, good people-watching possibilities, tag-along show if there ever was one. Because I can only afford to see my most favorite bands ever, I won’t normally do what I did tonight unless it’s really important. Well, as it turned out, it was.

After my soccer game this afternoon, I checked my phone to find two voicemail and five text messages from my friend. Since it takes me about a month to figure out that I have text messages (unless I get yelled at, whichever comes first), I checked the voicemail. First message: “This is an emergency!” Second message: “Where the hell are you? Call me as soon as you get this.” One quick, worried call and a sigh of relief later, I learned that the emergency involved me coming with her and her posse to see the Killers at the Wiltern Theatre, utilizing a ticket that had been left useless at the last minute. This being a favor asked by the same good friend from college who had a birthday earlier this week, I was happy to oblige.

Quick digression (the first of many). Concert etiquette – Lesson 1. I’m a really passive person when it comes to human behavior at concerts. But it is definitely not cool to show up minutes before the headliner, shove your body in front of another more vertically challenged person who has been standing there since before the opening act, and then expect to get away with it. Luckily, my friend moved to a better spot shortly thereafter, but this alleged rude concert couple committed the number one crime of disrespect. Their conversation, so random I can’t respect any logical order of dialogue:

Guy (immediately after my friend strategically edges to a spot back in front of him, with a mean-popular-jock-in-80s-movie kind of tone): Sure, fine, just go right in front of me.

(insert Delia True evil look here)

Guy (after two minutes of silence): I can’t believe it’s so packed.

Girl: I’m hungry! How long are we staying here? I have to work tomorrow!

Guy: We kind of lucked out with this spot. Someone better not come stand right in front of us!

Girl: I love those hot dog vendors!

Guy: Is that your birth control pills?

(whispers indicate no, they are some other kind of pills)

Girl: I’m hungry! I could eat as much as I want to right now.

Guy (sounds impatient): Are you buzzed yet?

In addition to this winsome couple, we were also standing nearby the Plastics, you know, the very same ones from Mean Girls. Now this wasn’t too surprising, given the appeal of the Killers among the teenage girl crowd (marketing research indicates it has something to do with the lead singer’s abundant eyeliner, or maybe that the Killers’ #1 hit, “Mr. Brightside” is not a sarcastic song title but a takeoff on the recent comeback of the Mr. Bubble franchise). But guess who introduced the band? Efren Ramirez, better known as Pedro Sanchez from Napoleon Dynamite. So the Plastics were screaming Backstreet Boys-style for Pedro. Only at a Killers show.

Regardless of how I was passing judgment on and observing the other concertgoers, I was still a total poseur, the most fair-weather fan there, the equivalent to the atrocity of attending a Radiohead show only having heard the song, “Creep.” As far as the Killers are concerned, I’m at that don’t-NOT-like but don’t-like indifference. From what I’ve heard (not much before tonight), they seem very poppy, danceable, channeling the Brit Poppy New Wave-y vibe, with a little lingering post-emo angst in the lyrics. The lead singer, Brendan Flowers, reminds me of Robbie Williams playing the lead role in the Who’s Tommy on Broadway. But the way I feel about Killers’ music doesn’t really matter, because to be honest, I don’t really feel much about the music; therefore, I’m not really inspired to comment one way or the other.

What most fascinates me about the Killers was how they wound up with that particular band name. There it was tonight, in an elaborate light-bulb twinkling sign behind the stage, feeding off the electric current of the Las Vegas strip during the really swanky, flashy songs. The KILLERS! Why the KILLERS, of all…? It’s not like they’re violent, dangerous, or even remotely suicidal. Just watch the drummer during the concert. He’s the happiest drummer since Def Leppard’s drummer found out he could still play with one arm.

Anyway, the backstory of the Killers name is that it originated from a New Order video, and the guys were really surprised it hadn’t been taken yet. You mean to say that Toad the Wet Sprocket and Insane Clown Posse could have been the Killers? Come on, Killers. You’ve got to get a better band name story than that. I would rather hear a long, elaborate tall tale about how the guitarist was so taken with John Woo’s gun-happy cinematic extravaganza The Killer (which I actually “studied” in college. Watch it. You’ll see. Maybe you’ll even ponder how he got from the full flavor of that film to the rather bland Windtalkers) that he wanted to pluralize the title and draw continual inspiration from its love triangle for the band’s lyrics. But no, instead we get mumbles about a New Order music video.

The Killers isn’t even wordplay clever, like the BEATles (new theory for breakup = they hated the name and couldn’t agree on a new one. John wanted to be called the Plastic Ono Band, Paul wanted to be Wings, and George wanted to be the Traveling Wilburys, and Ringo wanted to be the All-Starr Band), literary-affiliated, like the Doors, or even sexually hip, like the Strokes. It’s just off.

Band name origins is another topic I would like nothing better to explore one of these days, but I should probably stop here before I head out on a quest to find a band that most appropriately deserves the Killers’ band name…besides the Killers themselves. The most obvious choices, musically inclined death row inmates or notoriously homicidal outlaws, would need a more hip and conspicuous name in order to be successful. If they already weren’t so famous and hadn’t just moved hundreds of t-shirts out of the lobby, I would advise the Killers to just find a new name. But it’s too late.

Regardless of my name-related musings, the Killers killed ‘em tonight. They put on a killer show. Totally killer. The buzzing in my ears is actually not from the amp on the kick drum but from my friends’ screaming at the beginning of every song and between the “last song” and the encore (I’m not even going to get started on the exciting concert experience formerly known as the encore. No one knows for sure when the encore died, but I have yet to experience its element of surprise because ever since my first concert, Paula Abdul and Color Me Badd, the encore has always been reduced to expectation. What if a band just said, ‘no more encore,’ tacked three extra songs at the end of the set, and didn’t come back? I’m still waiting for this to happen, and when it does, I am going to be cheering the loudest over the booing). Yeah, so the Killers were totally killer. Fun pop music for all. For the most part, I enjoyed myself, especially when they came back out for the encore and lead singer Brendan Flowers (Robbie Can You Hear Me?) said, “Hello! We are the American Idiots” (some sort of Green Day inside joke, Bush allusion??)

The most alarming part of the show came when Flowers got the crowd fixated on the lyric, “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier,” from the show-closer “All These Things That I’ve Done.” While I wondered about the whole Killers, soldier, soul connection, I watched the crammed auditorium of teenagers and early twenties chanting the soul-soldier mantra like it was “Everybody’s got a hungry heart.” Luckily, before I got too deep in thought, I was yanked to the surface again as the lights went up, the fancy Killers sign dimmed, and Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” ushered us out of the auditorium, my friend leading a sing-a-long that I was too quick to join.

Bonus factoid (Nerd alert. Nerd alert. Because I am a nerdy naughty nurse): The Killers played the Wiltern Theatre, a gorgeously ornate, art deco auditorium (and formerly a legendary gala movie theater for premieres back in the Golden Age) right smack in the middle of Koreatown. The Wiltern used to be just the Wiltern, but lately it’s identified in ads as “The Wiltern LG.” What does LG stand for? Well, I got my answer tonight, and it’s not as if I sought it out or anything. We were walking towards the exit and I noticed a display with a refrigerator and flat screen TV. Now this is pretty random for a rock show, but product placement is everywhere. Why not a rock show? I’ve stopped being surprised when it sneaks up on me in unlikely places. But still, there has to be some explanation for this.

As I looked closer at the merchandise on display, it turns out that LG is LGE, or LG Electronics, or Life’s Good Electronics, a South Korea-based digital electronics company that pioneered Korea’s first TV, telephone, refrigerator, air conditioner, and has obviously expanded its global reach and cultural influence by infiltrating the lucrative concert business. Before you jump to conclusions and envision the Spaceland LG and the Hollywood Bowl LG, please be assured that LGE has invested in the Wiltern in an effort to preserve the theatre’s status as a Los Angeles cultural icon. After supporting major renovations in 2002, the Wiltern was reopened and renamed with LG in fall 2003. According to the LGE corporate rundown, the renaming is consistent with the level of the company’s support for the “arts and community” aspect, as it sponsors any additional architectural renovations and equips and maintains the theatre’s slick LG sound system technology.

Okay, so given that I accept the inevitable, that predictably, urban arts preservation has gone the way of the private sector, what I’d really like to know is…since when are they tacking the company name on the end like some sort of trademark? And why are they displaying products in the lobby like we’re in some kind of sick infomerical? Everyone’s going to be thinking about buying a fridge when they’re high off of a totally killer concert experience. Life’s good like that at the Wiltern LG.


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