Ari Hest and Ingrid Michaelson were heading the bill at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium last night, and although it’s a sit-down theatre with no atmosphere and, even worse, no bar, I’d mercifully been given the night off because the wife and kids were off watching the daughter of some friends take part in an amateur school production in a land far beyond the last metro stop.
Yes, I went, even though there was no bar. The last time I can remember going out on a Friday evening and there being no bar, I was 15 years old at a disco in Tealby Village Hall, where they were serving pop and crisps to raise funds for the local youth club. But at least there was the consolation of having a bottle of vodka hidden in the bushes outside. If you tried to hide a bottle of vodka in the bushes somewhere in downtown DC, someone would assume you were hiding a Molotov cocktail, and you’d find yourself face down on the floor of a helicopter heading for Guantanamo Bay with a marine’s muscular knee grinding the back of your manhood to bollocknese sauce.
Worse still, this wasn’t any old pop concert. Barely mentioned in the publicity, it was being sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and an organisation billing itself as Music Inspires Health. I am serious, and I’ve got the free t-shirt to prove it. So not only did you have to abstain from alcohol on a Friday night, but between acts you had educational videos on wearing a condom, not drinking yourself into a coma, and on how to talk to your bulimic friends when they’ve spent a suspiciously long time in the bog after dinner. And then endless talks from the dull young man running the whole thing, who thanked everyone he’s ever known, and also let us know where he met his girlfriend and how far along she is with her medical studies.
Now I know how the homeless feel when they want a bowl of soup from the Salvation Army, but only after they’ve said their prayers and listened to a pious lecture on their low-down homeless ways. Except that here we were paying twenty bucks for the privilege, and being asked to fill out a survey asking us our opinion of Kaiser Permanente, and whether tonight’s event would change the way we thought about our health.
Admittedly, I’m no longer in the target age range for this kind of event, but even so. There’s something not quite right about pop and rock singers going on a tour aimed at telling young people not to smoke and get hammered. Of all the things music is supposed to inspire, I’d put health somewhere below ‘world peace’, ‘further studies into the history of calligraphy’ and ‘a better attitude towards your superiors’. And way below ‘going out on a Friday night, getting off your head, getting your ears numbed while shaking your brains out close to a tower of amps, and finding out both good and bad things about yourself, life and the universe.’ But then I'm an old fashioned guy in that respect.
Ingrid Michaelson was very funny and entertaining, but the concept behind the evening was way too worthy to make for a good time. I was, however, inspired to leave early, walk out into the warm, moonlit night, and then into the nearest bar to sink a pint of Sam Adams’ Summer Ale. It was the best way I could think of to toast everybody’s health.