Drake’s Club Is Not Paradise.

by juli boggs

Despite what I consider my cultural education, I feel like a complete outcast walking into the UC Davis Pavilion for Drake’s Club Paradise tour. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so estranged among my peer group. The crowd is all designer ball caps and fake nails, and they all seem to be drunk on either caffeinated-alcoholic beverages or pure enthusiasm for mediocre hip hop.

The opening group A$AP Rocky despite receiving so much positive press in the blogosphere makes me want a refund, ASAP. I can hear nothing, but feel everything. The bass seems to be shaking the fillings right out of my teeth and completely drowns out any tonal noises that might make up the rest of the songs being performed. I feel shellshocked.  I focus my thousand-yard stare in the direction of the stage but cannot get a hold of what is happening there. As the bass careens through my body, the small figures gesturing with microphones from the stage seem to be in another world.

The ushers continually request me and a hundred other roamers to find a seat. I move through each section noncommittally faced by 8,000 ticket holders guarding themselves with the expression so familiar to childhood school buses. “This seat’s taken.”

Armed with what I hope looks like casual ignorance, I worm my way into the handicapped section in the front of the balcony. Here, they are not dancing, but rather bobbing their head from the comfort of their wheelchairs or staring glumly up from their crutches at the swaying crowd pressed against the front of the stage. I am viewed suspiciously, but never asked to leave.

Though more akin to a Milli Vanilli performance, Drake’s set is hailed with unabated enthusiasm by thousands of smartphone wielding fans. There are musicians on the stage but they don’t seem to be touching their instruments, and recorded vocals take the lead on every song while the Drake of flesh and blood before us offers a layer of shout outs, hype, and occasionally the lyrics to the song playing on with or without him. As the last moments of the set wind down I give myself away by jumping up and sprinting for the exit in an effort to beat the crowd.

The parking garage adjacent the pavilion is like a tailgate party after the show. Traffic immediately becomes a gridlocked standstill for nearly an hour lending those show-goers hesitant to call it night one last chance to make merry. Music thumps from every stereo, girls abandoning their high-heels sit barefoot on the hoods of cars, and bootleg shirt vendors approach passengers’ windows with their last-chance wears.

Though the evening’s performances were far from worth the ticket price, the environment added something I was happy to come away with. Sitting at the wheel of my busted ass civic, my feeling of alienation among strangers turns to wonder as I observe the ongoing antics of a community brought together by the one bonding experience to rule them all: jumping my car’s dead battery.

*a version similar to this ran in the SN&R’s blog Sound Advice section on March 12th, 2012.