A few of my Chicago friends had the good fortune Sunday to see Jack White play a record store gig. I felt a twinge of jealousy when I learned of this, even though I am not a huge Jack White fan. I respect his work more than I enjoy it. My friends’ enthusiasm made me reflect on the time I caught Jack White and his former missus, Meg, play a show back in July 2007.
It wasn’t until years after I saw The White Stripes play an amphitheater gig in Southhaven, Miss., that I learned I had witnessed their final concert. I like some of their songs, yes, but the idea that my friend Rob and I drove nearly eight hours to see The White Stripes … in a car with no air-conditioning during the middle of summer, well it seems absurd. And that I, a so-so fan, was there for their final show? Just a bizarre coincidence.
I only remember two things about the show. The first: I didn’t enjoy Meg White’s drumming. Perhaps, that’s an understatement. I felt as if I was watching a virtuoso (Jack White) play with a fifth-grader handed drumsticks for the first time. As I recall, Rob had kinder words about Meg’s drumming, particularly how her no frills style complemented Jack’s guitar-playing.
The second memory? Well, let’s just say I probably should have been kicked out of The White Stripes’ final concert.
Rob and I were struggling journalists at the time. Not much has changed, but we were struggling journalists back in 2007 too. And so we paid for the cheap seats – the grassy hill overlooking the stage that was far from cheap.
At some point during The White Stripes’ set, we mutually agreed we should sneak into the lower tier to get a closer look at the stage. We were not alone. At this point, a dozen other people were trying to sneak across the border, so they could get their ears damaged by a true rock’n'roll god.
The borders were guarded though.
The sun had minutes earlier set when Rob and I made our first attempt to sneak into the venue’s chairback section. We never had a chance. Before we could sit down and feign innocence, an usher of around 60 years vintage waved his flashlight at us.
We trudged back up the hill. Meanwhile, we saw over our shoulders a handful of strangers escaping our version of rock’n'roll Alcatraz. We were determined. Sneaking into the bottom tier had become the event within the event.
Emboldened by others’ successes, Rob and I made our way toward the stage a second time. We were careful. We waited for our troublesome foe to look off at other people scampering down the steps and toward the pit where a few hundred people stood. He flashed his light on them, and we casually walked to two open seats and sat down.
That is until he flashed his light on us and waved us back to the land from whence we came.
“Bastard!” I remember thinking.
The show was nearing its zenith when Rob and I made our final surge. At this point, the amount of people attempting to sneak from the lawn into the lower section resembled the Americans storming the beaches of Normandy in “Saving Private Ryan.” There were some casualties, sure, but we weren’t going to be denied. And besides, our reasons were pure – to be closer to the stage at a White Stripes show and to ceremoniously flip Ticketmaster the bird for attempting to gouge us, the fans.
Rob and I arrived at the border where the seats began, tip-toed to our right, in darkness, and once again sat down in empty seats. This time, the guard, preoccupied with a flood of lower tier immigrants, was none the wiser. We had made it to the bottom tier in Mississippi. Those ten words are generally cause for sorrow, anger, and frustration, but not for us. We were satisfied. Finally, we had arrived.