Earlier today, 80,000 of my fellow Wisconsin residents and I were treated to a two-song mini-show by none other than "The Boss" himself, Bruce Springsteen. In addition, the Foo Fighters provided a nice three song, acoustic opening set. All in all, it was a nice Bruce SpringsteenHHHH^....err, John Kerry rally.
Let me start off by saying that I have absolutely no intention of voting for Kerry. My vote is still firmly in Nader's camp and, if anything, today's rally only cemented my thoughts on the issue.
The rally was supposed to start at 11:00. I got down to the area (by bike and foot) about 10:40. The line to get into the rally was already over six blocks long(!). By 10:50, I had found the end of the line and put myself into it. After approximately an hour of stading in line, we were finally let into the area where the rally would be held. Of course, everyone in line dutifully held tickets that were either given to them or printed out from an on-line form. No one ever bothered to check those tickets or even ask for them.
Once we got into the so-called venue (which was nothing more than a three block long section of street and cross streets closed to traffic with controlled access to pedestrians), Russ Feingold gave the opening address. As a reasonably popular Senator who will most assuredly win re-election, he was a good choice for an opening speaker.
Feingold smartly kept his (intelligent, coherent) remarks to a minimum before introducing the Foo Fighers. After all, 80,000 of us did not show up and wait in endless lines to listen to Russ Feingold (nothing personal, Russ).
The Foo Fighters came on the stage and played a three song set with a minimum of editorializing. Sure, they gave us the obligatory "Vote for John Kerry, and even if you don't, please vote anyway" speech, but it was nicely mixed in between songs one and two and it included some nice personal perspective on the part of Dave Grohl.
The Foo Fighters left the stage about 12:05. A pair of roadies attacked the stage and moved some microphones around, placed some water bottles, etc. Van Halen's "Right Here, Right Now" (circa 1992, twelve years old) and other assorted 90's rock songs were piped over the loud speakers.
Time dragged on. Minutes passed. Thirty of them, to be specific.
The CD of time-filling music obviously reached its conclusion. Van Halen's "Right Here, Right Now" (now twelve years and thirty minutes old) started up again.
Fifteen more minutes passed. Any energy the crowd possessed after the Foo Fighter's set died about minute seventeen of the unseemly long break. People started shifting from one foot to the other and looking at their watches. Some people started walking away.
About 12:45 a woman in a tan pantsuit (I have no idea who) gets on stage and yells incoherently into the microphone. She must have been part of the Democratic apparatus as nobody appeared on stage to drag her off of it (unfortunately). Apparently, we were susposed to be inspired by this anonymous screamer. Using some complex logic, I finally determine that she wanted the whole crowd to turn as one and march over to the City Clerk's office to cast absentee ballots as soon as the rally ended. (Right, they could definitely handle 80,000 people in that little room. Great idea, Incoherent Screamer Lady.)12:51 (yes, I checked my watch), Bruce Springsteen appears on stage with Wisconsin Governor Doyle. Doyle apparently fired all his speech writers last night because his introduction speech was awful. The oh-so-clever premise was to string together various Springsteen song titles to form an introduction speech. Real clever there, Gov. A normally silent type in public, I was moved to yell "Sit down, Doyle. No one came here to hear you." No one around me blinked an eyelash.
Finally, Doyle stopped embarassing himself and turned the mic over to The Boss. The crowd went wild. Springsteen's first words: "That's the last time Governor Doyle opens for me." Classic.
Bruce played an excellent rendition of "Promised Land." He then harangued us about what a great guy Kerry is and how awful Bush is. Thanks, Boss, but there really weren't any undecided voters at the rally. Everyone there was either a Kerry supporter traveling in full Democratic Party regalia, or a supporter of another candidate traveling incognito.
Anyway, Bruce's stump speech finally ended. He launched into "No Surrender" which Kerry has appropriated as one of his campaign's official melodies."No Surrender" ended. Bruce introduced Kerry. There was a two minute delay. Kerry finally managed to negoiate his way onto the stage. (I have no idea what took him so long.) Bruce left the stage. Kerry started his speech. I left the rally.
Why did today's rally cement my anti-Kerry bias?1. Telling everyone you need a ticket to get into the venue, but then failing to check those tickets. 2. Not adequately planning how to get 80,000 people into and out of a large venue so that the event starts quite late. Camp Randall (home of the Wisconsin football team) holds nearly eighty thousand people and they do not have any trouble starting the games on time (and most of the people entering the stadium are well on their way to fully liquored up). Other college and professional stadiums hold even more people and not only do the games start on time, but the venue operators even manage to do so while checking everyone's tickets. 3. The unexplained forty-five minute delay between musical acts. What on Earth were they doing during that time?!? There were no conessions, no side stages, nothing else to keep the crowd busy. So, everyone just stood around and wondered what was taking so damn long. Any positive energy the crowd had completely dissipated. 4. Letting Screamer Lady near the mic. 5. Putting John Kerry on after Bruce Springsteen. Let's be honest. 80,000 people did not wait two hours to see a tiny moving dot that could be John Kerry on a tiny stage two blocks away. Most everyone was waiting around to hear The Boss. Those of us who did not care to hear Kerry speak, simply left after The Boss was done playing. The number who left was not insignificant. If I had been planning that rally, the candidate would have given his speech between the two musical acts, with the more popular musical act following the candidate's speech. That forces people to stick around for the candidate's speech if they want to hear the rally's true headliner. If the Kerry camp cannot even handle staging a rally over which they had nearly complete control, why on Earth should I trust them to run a country with a multi-billion dollar budget, a good-sized military, and 270+ million residents?