Two things happened at the gig last night, the penultimate night of Oktoberfest. One was cosmic, sort of. The other was tragic.
The first: have you ever been in a large crowd in an enclosed space and listened to its roar? The big tent is unique in this perspective, I think. I’ve never been anywhere else where the roar of the crowd is so intense. It’s not a response to anything in particular, although the band can certainly get them roaring when it wants to. But this buzz I’m talking about is just the background level of thousands of people talking all at once. It becomes a kind of white noise, which, I’ll mention in passing, can also make it difficult for the band to perform because that noise is at a certain pitch and can easily get loud enough to interfere with what’s heard on stage.
Last night, early, the beginning of the second set, or maybe the third, the band played a medley of polkas. Steffie began singing the first song, and as I played it seemed as if the entire crowd was singing along with him. Just as if we were at a soccer game and the crowd was singing that song they do, you know the “Olé Olé Olé Olé” thing. A rather ghostly sound travelling around the tent.
That’s fine. The crowd often does sing along with us. But this particular song happened to be in Croatian. And nobody was singing along. It only sounded as if they were. I can’t explain what caused this sonic anomaly.
The second: at about 8pm. a man collapsed at his table, the victim of some sort of seizure or heart attack. We were about to go back on stage, but delayed our start so that the floor would be clear when the paramedics moved him out on a stretcher.
It seemed to me a rather long time before they did move him, but I don’t know much about that kind of stuff. They had moved the tables away and cleared a substantial space. From the stage we could see someone performing CPR. At last, they had him on a stretcher and wheeled him out past the right side of the stage. (Not the side I’m on.) Voin later said he didn’t look too good.
At the end of the night we heard that this man had died.
We also heard that he’d had open heart surgery only three weeks ago.
I don’t know if either of these are true because it’s second-hand information. Still, even if it’s not true, it’s not a happy memory of Oktoberfest. I watched the area where the man had fallen. It took a long time for that space to fill up again.
Now, there’s a symbolic statement, if I’ve ever made one.