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Gonzo Report: Lost in the trenches at SDSU’s Open Air Theater

A silent understanding at the Dispatch concert

Sneakers — for sneaking, of course.
Sneakers — for sneaking, of course.

We were pre-gaming at the College-area Eureka! near when Whittney Blue said she was going to steal the table knife. There were four of us gathered around a table at the campus restaurant, trying to sink our pints as quickly as we could before showtime. Ashley and Michelle had arrived late, because Sunday work had demanded their day, but now we were together at last, just in time to see indie rock band Dispatch play the Open Air Theatre on the SDSU campus.

“Don’t take the stupid knife,” I told Whittney Blue, “it looks like a butter knife on steroids.” She agreed to put the wimpy blade down. Dispatch had been scheduled to play the Belly Up Tavern in November 2021 before canceling two sold out shows due to yet another pesky Covid wave. They are known for being the best band you’ve never heard of, and have sustained their independence from the corporate music world since their formation in 1996. That night’s SDSU engagement was their first San Diego performance since an August 2018 set at the same venue.

After leaving the restaurant, we found the entrance to the theater. Before going in, we decided to find a place to smoke. The problem was that nobody had a lighter. We asked a bunch of college kids, but no luck. “Kids these days only vape,” I griped. Finally, a friendly older gentleman sitting on a nearby bench gladly let us use his pocket fire. “You know smokin’ ain’t allowed on campus, but I got you,” he said. God bless that man.

As we approached the gates to the venue, Whittney Blue reached into her purse and pulled out something shiny. “I can’t take this in, can I?” she laughed, wielding the big butter knife.

“You took the knife? Go throw it away, you lunatic!” I answered, pointing at a nearby trash can. I wasn’t going to be denied entrance to a show by one of my all-time favorite bands over a butter knife. She giggled as she tossed it into the trash. “Can’t take you anywhere,” I chuckled. Completely disarmed, we passed through the metal detectors without beeping.

Our upper level seats provided a decent view of the stage, but it wasn’t enough. A feeling of determination came over me while we watched other indie rock band O.A.R. open the show. “We need to go to the front when Dispatch comes on,” I told the others. “When O.A.R. goes off stage and people are going to the bathroom, we’re going to sneak down.” The plan worked swimmingly, or so I thought. I went first and the rest followed. Only, when I reached the front, it turned out that only Ashley had made the full journey with me. Whittney Blue and Michelle had gotten lost somewhere along the way. I haven’t seen them since.

Ashley and I watched as the band’s roadies began exchanging one set of equipment for another under the neon blue stage lights. Displaying the work ethic of Oompa-Loompas high on some college kid’s non-prescribed Adderall, they had the stage set right quick, and we were all up in the action. Front row. We’d made it. Lost a couple of good women in the trenches along the way, but found our way to the target zone. I turned around to look at the crowd to see a packed house — plenty of meat in the seats. I guess some people have heard of them.

But then, almost as soon as Dispatch graced the stage and started sending their music into the masses, security approached and demanded to see our non-existent wrist bands. I quickly flashed my right arm, the one with a “BEER” stamp smudged on the inside of the wrist, in a sorry attempt to fool the guard into leaving us alone. It was all I had, and it wasn’t enough. We were told to go back to our seats. As we started up the steps, I told Ashley I’d catch up with her. I stopped somewhere around the third row, turned around, and listened to a few Dispatch hitters while the security guard kept a watchful eye on me. There seemed to be a silent understanding between us. I would behave, and he would leave me be. It was only when he turned away momentarily that I ducked into the crowd and disappeared back to my assigned seat, leaving the poor bastard with his bewildered victory.

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Sneakers — for sneaking, of course.
Sneakers — for sneaking, of course.

We were pre-gaming at the College-area Eureka! near when Whittney Blue said she was going to steal the table knife. There were four of us gathered around a table at the campus restaurant, trying to sink our pints as quickly as we could before showtime. Ashley and Michelle had arrived late, because Sunday work had demanded their day, but now we were together at last, just in time to see indie rock band Dispatch play the Open Air Theatre on the SDSU campus.

“Don’t take the stupid knife,” I told Whittney Blue, “it looks like a butter knife on steroids.” She agreed to put the wimpy blade down. Dispatch had been scheduled to play the Belly Up Tavern in November 2021 before canceling two sold out shows due to yet another pesky Covid wave. They are known for being the best band you’ve never heard of, and have sustained their independence from the corporate music world since their formation in 1996. That night’s SDSU engagement was their first San Diego performance since an August 2018 set at the same venue.

After leaving the restaurant, we found the entrance to the theater. Before going in, we decided to find a place to smoke. The problem was that nobody had a lighter. We asked a bunch of college kids, but no luck. “Kids these days only vape,” I griped. Finally, a friendly older gentleman sitting on a nearby bench gladly let us use his pocket fire. “You know smokin’ ain’t allowed on campus, but I got you,” he said. God bless that man.

As we approached the gates to the venue, Whittney Blue reached into her purse and pulled out something shiny. “I can’t take this in, can I?” she laughed, wielding the big butter knife.

“You took the knife? Go throw it away, you lunatic!” I answered, pointing at a nearby trash can. I wasn’t going to be denied entrance to a show by one of my all-time favorite bands over a butter knife. She giggled as she tossed it into the trash. “Can’t take you anywhere,” I chuckled. Completely disarmed, we passed through the metal detectors without beeping.

Our upper level seats provided a decent view of the stage, but it wasn’t enough. A feeling of determination came over me while we watched other indie rock band O.A.R. open the show. “We need to go to the front when Dispatch comes on,” I told the others. “When O.A.R. goes off stage and people are going to the bathroom, we’re going to sneak down.” The plan worked swimmingly, or so I thought. I went first and the rest followed. Only, when I reached the front, it turned out that only Ashley had made the full journey with me. Whittney Blue and Michelle had gotten lost somewhere along the way. I haven’t seen them since.

Ashley and I watched as the band’s roadies began exchanging one set of equipment for another under the neon blue stage lights. Displaying the work ethic of Oompa-Loompas high on some college kid’s non-prescribed Adderall, they had the stage set right quick, and we were all up in the action. Front row. We’d made it. Lost a couple of good women in the trenches along the way, but found our way to the target zone. I turned around to look at the crowd to see a packed house — plenty of meat in the seats. I guess some people have heard of them.

But then, almost as soon as Dispatch graced the stage and started sending their music into the masses, security approached and demanded to see our non-existent wrist bands. I quickly flashed my right arm, the one with a “BEER” stamp smudged on the inside of the wrist, in a sorry attempt to fool the guard into leaving us alone. It was all I had, and it wasn’t enough. We were told to go back to our seats. As we started up the steps, I told Ashley I’d catch up with her. I stopped somewhere around the third row, turned around, and listened to a few Dispatch hitters while the security guard kept a watchful eye on me. There seemed to be a silent understanding between us. I would behave, and he would leave me be. It was only when he turned away momentarily that I ducked into the crowd and disappeared back to my assigned seat, leaving the poor bastard with his bewildered victory.

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