Wednesday, June 3, 2009

American Idol, Air Force Style

Everybody sing: Yvan Eht Nioj...Yvan Eht Nioj....
OK, technically, that should be: Ecrof Ria Eht Nioj...

Sorry, but I couldn't resist that Simpsons reference.

I was driving by a park not far from a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, my camera riding shotgun, when suddenly, I heard music. I immediately pulled over, walked to the other end of the park, and saw this:

and this:
Oh yeah, and a fighter jet, a rock climbing wall, a tricked-out motorcycle that is definitely not standard issue, a lot of people you wouldn't want to make angry, and a tent concealing a mystery exhibit that purportedly "takes only 5 minutes." Yeah, right! I thought. Five minutes to get you suited up for your tour of duty in Iraq!

Actually, I am a huge fan of anyone in the military. Their posture alone has me in awe:
Seriously, that photo could be a twenty minute video and it would look the same but for the wind-blown grass. That guy did not budge...Not even when Master Sergeant "Sweets" (and I'm not making this up) belted out No Doubt's "Don't Speak"—probably the first track on the torture resistance training mix tape.

The whole thing was such an unexpected sight. Why were they there? And who chose that location? Not that the homeless people didn't enjoy the show. Just look at the self-proclaimed "Rubber Band Man" demonstrating his appreciation with a few moves :
I doubt anyone would deny that the spectacle was surreal. I am just not used to seeing people in uniform rocking out—at least not since 1980. But even though my equally cynical colleagues would accuse me of being brainwashed for saying so, the Air Force Band rocks. Really. Max Impact is definitely not your father's Air Force band. I stayed and listened to song after song and wondered why these people weren't performing on American Idol—I mean, if you're looking for a large-venue PR campaign...

Having spent a year as a performer for a pretty cheesy group myself, I am in no position to point fingers at things that look like propaganda. Mainly, I felt sorry the band didn't have a better audience. Look at the woman in the folding chair:
You're really going to have to work to win over her heart and mind, I thought. But guess what? A couple of songs later, that woman was out of her chair and dancing up a storm. They were that good. If I were younger and had stayed in that park 30 minutes longer, I might just have gone into the mystery tent and signed up.