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We Can Dance if We Want to 

Belle & Sebastian at the Bowl

Wednesday, Jul 12 2006
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On a balmy Wednesday evening, a critical mass of Los Angeles’ hipsters, indie rockers, art students, TV writers, yipsters, yippies, cool dads and rockin’ moms climbed up the windy road toward the promised land. I was one of them, giddy with the kind of anticipation that comes when the band you’ve rooted for since you were a kid is about to do something few bands have done, and do it at the greatest place in your hometown: Belle and Sebastian would be accompanied by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl! My only worry was whether my ticket and my boyfriend, both of which were stuck on Highland in pre-Bowl-concert traffic, would ever get there.

While I waited, small talk pingponged around me. “I’m very comfortable. It’s amazing what expensive shoes can do!” said a well-turned-out woman in precarious heels. Looking forlorn among the throng of ticket holders, one young man walked around pleading, “Anyone have one extra?”

Two songs into the Shins’ opening set, my ticket and boyfriend arrived. There’s nothing as comfortable as the Hollywood Bowl on a warm summer night with friends around and the band that has provided the soundtrack for your life about to play under the stars. But then, another fixture of too many Los Angeles rock concerts burst into view: a nearby fan who really loved the Shins.

While everyone else quietly drummed their fingers against their thighs, she danced in her seat and shot her hands up in the air during particularly moving chord changes. While this was a little distracting, I let it go, figuring that she had to be the president of the Shins’ Southern California fan-club chapter or something. Surely she would settle down by the time Belle and Sebastian came on, tap her foot and bop her head happily, like the rest of us.

By the middle of Belle and Sebastian’s first song, however, while most people remained seated, she got up out of her chair and went into full-tilt boogie. It seemed a little much for songs about art school and quiet strolls. Belle and Sebastian front man Stuart Murdoch didn’t think so, though.

“I hope you’re all enjoying your fine wines and sandwiches,” he said. “Perhaps later we will play you some songs to persuade you to dance.”

Still, most of us remained stuck to our seats. During “Jonathan and David,” Murdoch and vocalist/guitarist Stevie Jackson took matters into their own hands and pulled a woman from the front row up on stage to dance with them. Heineken in hand, our dancing neighbor seemed crestfallen, maybe because it wasn’t her. “Stuart!” she called.

It didn’t take long for the audience’s indie cool to melt. During “The Wrong Girl,” the party people up in the benches rushed toward the pricier seats. The ushers were helpless to stop the gush of fans; some even made it onto the stage. The rest of the concert, I found myself singing in perfect harmony with the woman next to me, realizing, after all, that we had come on this night for the same reason.

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