So my schedule at work is pretty sweet. I work slightly long days all week and then get off early on Friday. That changed a bit this week because of our favorite pyrotechnic holiday, Independence Day. Hasbro, being the awesome company they are, decided to pay all of the interns and temps for the holiday, meaning that as I sit here typing this entry I’m earning money not just for blogging but also for building toys (only one of which I’m actually doing). But, that’s not the best part, since we have today off they moved our half day to Thursday. This means I got back to campus much earlier than normal letting me have a little evening-time fun.
A year ago I read Matt McGann’s entry about some super-special secret Boston Pops concert the night before the 4th and I figured the 3rd of July was as good a time as any to have my first Boston Pops experience. I, unfortunately, did not take my camera, so you’ll have to rely solely on my beautiful prose and various other forms of media.
I left the dorm at 5:30 PM for a concert I was told started at 7:00 PM. I strapped on my skates, threw my shoes in my backpack, and skated down to the Longfellow bridge, crossed it, and headed to the Hatch Shell.
This is when I began my experience with July 3rd/4th security. I was skating happily down the sidewalk towards the Hatch Shell when I noticed the sidewalk was cordoned off and guarded by police, redirecting anybody without a “pass” to a dirt trail. I don’t skate on dirt, it trashes bearings, so I de-skated, threw them into my backpack, and continued my trek on foot. Security 1 Snively 0. I made it to the Hatch Shell and instantly thought “Oh right Matt, sure nobody knows about it!” because, even though it was an hour before anything was supposed to start, there were people EVERYWHERE! Thousands of people. The entire grassy area was also blocked off by a metal fence. Well, a metal fence, the national guard, police officers, and private security guards. I walked around the circumference of the gate before coming upon what very well could have been the longest line ever. I got in it. It slowly inched towards the grassy area as people had their bags checked for dangerous things (silverware being the most common offender). I was tipped off that there was a much shorter line to my left so I wandered over and sure enough, a line with 2 people in it (as opposed to several hundred, as was the case in my current line). I wandered up and walked right up to the baggage check lady. We chatted in a friendly manner, I explained that I was a harmless guy and didn’t have anything dangerous or illegal and she said reassuring things like “I’m sure you’re fine” and “I can’t imagine you having anything like that” but that was all until she opened the back of my backpack. That’s when she saw my skates. “Oooooh, you can’t bring these in.”
“Skates, skates aren’t allowed, you can’t bring these in.”
“But I’m not wearing them. Look, it’s all grass in there, how could I skate on grass with three thousand people around, they’re in my backpack!”
“Nope, I’m sorry, you can’t get in.”
Wonderful. Security 2, Snively 0. I started looking for a place to stash my skates but there wasn’t anywhere around that seemed safe, not to mention that right as I left my hidden secret line, the rest of the people discovered it and a hundred people came over and made it not so short. I was officially sealed out of the grassy area. I made the best of my situation and found a wall on a walkway that, when sat upon, provided an excellent view of the stage. That lasted, oh, 10 minutes, before a cop came and told everybody to leave because it couldn’t support the weight of a lot of people. Moved again, excellent. Security 3, Snively 0.
I proceeded to just walk up to the perimeter gate and stand there. It was 6:15 PM. It was then that I heard somebody mention that the show started at 8:30 PM, something I was ill equipped to hear. I looked at my watch. I was going to have to stand by this fence for another two hours and fifteen minutes, a really long time. I made the best of it though, chatting with some nice older guy who was a Boston Pops 4th of July veteran and some exchange student from Europe, both of whom were very nice. At around 7 o’clock the loudspeakers came on.
“Attention. A weather front is approaching the esplanade and will hit us at approximately 7:15 PM. We expect heavy rain, wind, and severe thunderstorms. If you would like to leave and return we will be taking shelter in the tunnel near the esplanade.”
Nice. Clearly a plot by security trying to get me away from the Boston Pops, but YOU WILL NOT WIN COPPERS! NEVER! The only way I could think of exploiting this situation was to go buy a beverage from one of the vendors since there were no more lines (people are easily frightened, I felt like a salmon swimming upstream as I fought against the throngs of escaping Americans). Unfortunately for me I only had plastic for $$$ and nobody took debit. I set out in search of an ATM as the sky got darker and darker, the wind got stronger and stronger, and the people got more and more frantic. As I wandered I heard somebody yell “Snively!” I turned and sure enough, Matt McGann. Somehow, out of thousands of people, we’d run into each other. Well, Matt McGann with family and friends, more prepared for the storm than I. Armed with umbrellas and having obviously seen “300” they were crouched and had created a shield against the rain and wind. I ducked behind and chatted with Matt about such interesting subjects as Ring Committee and our buddy Ben.
Also, I would like to point out that Matt McGann uses a bright pink umbrella. He claims that it belongs to his wife but I’m pretty sure it’s his, judging by how fervently he denied ownership. We were quickly concerned with other matters as the rain finally hit, and by hit I mean WOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH HOOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLLLLLL SSSSPPPPPPLLLLLOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! We ducked, umbrellas strained, and we weathered the storm. I still hadn’t found an ATM, but since Matt is awesome he loaned me a twenty so I went off and bought some fried dough and a lemonade.
I returned to my spot at the fence and settled in to wait for the show. It’s 8:00 PM at this point. The lighting tests began, there were sound checks, and people were milling about the stage. I noticed a green drum set on stage and found it strange that the Pops would need a set. Then this announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being patient. You’ve weathered the storm and, while you’re waiting, we have some folks that would like to thank you for coming by playing a song for you. Please welcome to the stage, Rascal Flatts!
*cue audience hysteria*
I’m not a huge western fan and about the only experience I have with the Rascal Flatts is an ex-girlfriend obsessing over “Life is a Highway,” but it was definitely a good time. They only played one song for us but everybody loved it. Then, fifteen minutes later, the Pops took the stage and launched into the national anthem. This is when I realized that the Pops were famous for a reason. They. Are. Good.
I like to think that I have an ear for a band’s sound since I was so involved in band in high school (Charles A. Sprague High School, what now, we won a Grammy my senior year!) The Pops are good. Very very good. After the national anthem the director, Keith Lockhart, came up and introduced their first set, “A Tribute to Leonard Bernstein.” Excellent, Bernstein is awesome! I was expecting some “popular” Bernstein songs arranged into some mashup featuring just the main themes, but was pleasantly surprised by what they played. They played two entire songs, the first of which was “Overture to Candide.” I have a small obsession with this song, I played it in High School and everybody LOVED it. Hearing the Boston Pops play it was amazing, to say the least. I found a YouTube video of them playing it 2 years ago, the sound isn’t great but I’ve also included a link to an mp3 that’s much better (although not performed by the Pops).
Click for full mp3
After Candide they played “Mambo” from Westside Story, another excellent choice and a crowd pleaser.
Lockhart announced that since Boston was obsessed with sports, the Boston Pops have decided to piece together a compilation devoted entirely to baseball. The set began with a song called “National Game” by our favorite cheesy music writer John Philip Sousa. Next was a really nice compilation from “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural.” “The Natural” has great music, just listen:
Then we listened to “Take me out to the ball game” about three different times, all different arrangements, and some with vocals. By the end of that we were all like “Please, please, no more take me out to the ball game, we’ve had enough!”
Luckily, following the baseball song overload, was a reading of “Casey at the Bat,” set to music. I was stunned at how many people around me had never heard this poem! If you haven’t, you need to get smart and culture yourself really quickly because I’ll laugh at you if you don’t. Read Casey at the Bat I really enjoyed this part of the performance, it was an unexpected treat.
Next was a transition away from baseball, every Bostonian’s favorite song by every Bostonian’s favorite band, “Shipping up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys, performed by the Boston Pops. Different, but very enjoyable, another crowd pleaser.
Next, the classic 4th of July number, the 1812 Overture, complete with cannon fire synced to the music. Another surprise was that a lot of people don’t realize just how long this song is and that the recognizable part is just in the last couple of minutes. Check it out for yourself:
The cannon fire, although kind of cheesy, was AWESOME! Seriously, any music with cannons as instruments is a winner in my book.
There was a short intermission as the Rascal Flatts took the stage again and we were introduced to Craig Ferguson, a late night comedian who is apparently quite popular. At MIT we don’t really watch TV (don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, trust me) so I hadn’t heard of this guy but everybody else seemed really excited. I noticed though, as he was speaking, that he kept saying that it was July 4th and that there would be fireworks soon. Ooooooh, practice! That’s when we heard this very official voice saying “Welcome back to the 35th annual Boston Pops fireworks spectacular, sponsored by Liberty Mutual. And now, Craig Ferguson!” The official dry run had begun, complete with commercial breaks and live talent. Rascal Flatts struck their first chord and the audience went NUTS! This time I actually knew what was happening, they were playing “Life is a Highway” and the audience was eating it up.
Next was another Rascal Flatts song, “Every Day,” which I’d never heard but was enjoyable nonetheless. Then came the obligatory patriotic song medley, featuring:
My Country tis of Thee
America the Beautiful
This Land is Your Land
Grand Old Flag
God Bless America
All came with lyrics courtesy of the Jumbotron.
The finale was “Stars and Stripes Forever” and a huge explosion of confetti from air cannons all throughout the audience. It was all very patriotic and lighthearted, a great conclusion to the evening. People, dressed all in red, white, and blue, slowly filtered away. The real excitement is tonight in just three short hours. I won’t be braving the crowd tonight, I’m going to watch the fireworks with some friends over here on campus. We should be able to hear the music too, we could hear the sound checks this morning thanks to the dozens of huge speakers scattered on both sides of the river, projecting music into both Boston and Cambridge. It should be a good night, I’ll try to get some footage of fireworks to post!