Rowdy crowds at Toads show no Southern charm

A weekend full of reasons to reconsider my feelings about my fellow Richmonders.

dillinger011.jpgThis past weekend saw my girlfriend and I frequent Toad’s Place two nights in a row, seeing Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter on Friday and then the metalcore package tour of Killswitch Engage, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Every Time I Die on Saturday. Although both drew dramatically different crowds, I couldn’t help feeling a little cynical about my fellow Richmonders after all was said and done.

Having long been a fan of the various comedic endeavors of the Michaels (such as The State, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer), it seemed all too good that they’d be coming to Richmond for a night of stand-up. Even with the “rock venue” setting, how could this show not be awesome? I’ll tell you how: the people that turned up ruined it. Seriously, who would have guessed that comedy fans in Richmond could be so terrible?! In fact, it reminded me of a bit by another comedian, Patton Oswalt, in which he talks about the bottom-of-the-barrel status of comedy in the 1980s; how people would show up and expect comedy to be “done to them” without any need for bringing anything to the table. Sadly, this bit became all too real for us Friday night.

I sound like I’m exaggerating I’m sure… I’m not. As could be expected, people kept yelling things out throughout both of their sets. And it wasn’t so much the yelling as much as what was being yelled: a handful of quotes from movies/shows they’d appeared in (not always lines there characters even said), gibberish nonsense, and Richmond-centric comments no outsider could ever grasp. Add to this the folks in the balcony who apparently didn’t realize other people were in attendance or that a comedy show was even underway (sorry all these people interrupted your social gathering) and you’ll start to get a good idea of what went down.

Despite all these problems, the fellows did a great job and delivered impressive sets, especially under the conditions. In fact, it might have made Michael Ian Black a little better as his loathing for the audience seemed almost palpable at times. Nevertheless, I have a feeling their response won’t be at all enthusiastic when asked, “how was Richmond?”

The next night, we ventured back to Toad’s Place to catch a night full of metalcore. Having been fans of Every Time I Die a number of years ago, it seemed like a fun notion. Fulfilling all our preconceived thoughts, those boys still pack a heavy-meets-rock sound teamed with a lot of live energy, a combination that always makes for an enjoyable set. In fact, newer Every Time I Die songs I wasn’t as familiar with seemed to pack just as powerful a punch as the older ones I know well. The Dillinger Escape Plan were also entertaining, although the direction they’ve gone since the stunning Calculating Infinity album has left me in the dark a bit. There set featured a good cross-section of their catalogue though, sure to keep new and old fans intrigued. Killswitch Engage are a little too dumbed down in their metallic approach for my liking, but seemed to have a high level of energy while not taking themselves too seriously.

But you want to hear about the fans, right? Having only moved to Richmond from Central Florida a little over three years ago, it still surprises me to discover how much the two places mirror one another in certain ways. Let’s be honest, we’re talking about rednecks here. And I don’t mean your friend’s dad who lives off a dirt road in Goochland; these are the kind that go to metal shows to let out some aggression, throw a few back, and have a good ol’ time at the expense of those around them. If this sounds harsh, I wish I could insert a photograph of the guy who stood directly in front of us and alternated between giving each and every band “the finger,” an index finger point, and “the goat” (you know, the combo index and pinky sign that indicates you’re evil to the core). I tried desperately to decipher the code within his gesturing to no avail. The changes between each signal came sporadically, without rhyme or reason, leaving me resigned to thinking they were the physical manifestation of his intoxication. This serves as a mere example of what was happening all around. These people live here (or close by) and that thought frightened me ever so slightly. The real icing on the cake was the vomit all over the stairs as we left the building.

I try desperately to avoid passing judgments… it’s a terrible habit of mine I’ve been working to shake. This past weekend may have set me back a few months worth of progress.

Photos by: Chris Lacroix

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Sean Patrick Rhorer

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