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Concert, CD posters in Los Angeles
Concert, CD posters in Los Angeles


By Ramin Tabib
The Iranian
May 1997

The Iranian entertainment machine in Los Angeles spews out a large number of different attractions every year: shamelessly hyped concerts, extravagant solo performances and even comedy-musical plays. Concerts, however, are the grand daddies of these pseudo-entertainment events, and there are only a few periods during which the full blast of Iranian concerts unleashes.: Noruz, Christmas and all summer long.

Noruz, as most Iranians search for a way to connect to their Persian heritage, is a particularly ripe time and a unique opportunity for entertainment brokers to exploit the occasion and showcase their skills... excuse me, talents. They do their best to lure weary, alienated Iranians to concerts and bill the event as a Persian cultural event.

This new year was no exception. There were at least two mega-concerts competing for attendees. Concerts used to be exclusive to one or two performers per night. But competition for Iranian dollars, dwindling concert goers, and the simple frustration with the insulting ways concert goers have been treated by brokers has led to concerts becoming packed with three, four or even five singers. This year, one Noruz concert included four major and marketable singers.

Iranian concerts are a feast for the eye. I think if I were a non-Iranian, I would have a blast attending one, just for the sheer hysterical cultural value of it. For example, the etiquette of Iranian concerts goes something like this. No matter what time is printed in bold black on the face of the ticket, and no matter how many times people are begged on local Iranian radio and TV to please, please be on time, no one shall attend a concert earlier than two hours after the announced time. And then you have to wait some more for the performers to show up.

Also important, and subverted only in extraordinary circumstances, is the rule that every one should be draped in black. The funeral/concert is the place to showcase the best of this season's downtown Los Angeles fashion in black: Italian suits made in Hong Kong, black miniskirts, black Gucci and Prada look-alike pants, black silk shirts, fake black Chanel purses and black Taiwanese platform shoes.

It is also mandatory at Iranian concerts to be rude. That means, if you are known by those around you to be a modestly polite and well-mannered gentleman, you change into the opposite. Anything goes, specially, lewd comments to strange women and sarcastic, cruel comments about other men. If you are a woman, the rules change, but the application is similar. You degrade and put down fellow women's appearance, scorn their behavior in public and cringe your facial muscles in disgust at most men who lock eyes with you.

The performer is a blast by him/herself. A lot of our singers are simply OUT THERE. These days, almost all of them have an entourage. These are not their musicians. They are not even back-up singers most of the time. These are male or female ornaments that are clad in some revealing attire and are left to gyrate aimlessly on the stage. Male singers usually have female playmates and vice versa. Some are not even Iranians. They must have a particularly nice head-trip gawking down from the stage and looking at a bunch of people fresh from a funeral, sweating, spitting and swirling. And they get paid to do this.

Most of our younger performers do not have much of a voice, if any, so the lack of real singing talent is camouflaged by blasting music, flickering floods of light and acrobatic movements by every one on the stage not attached to an instrument. Additionally, on not so many rare occasions, singers suddenly stop the on-going entertainment and recite homegrown poetry or praise their family members such as a daughter or a son. Some have suddenly become flushed with patriotic fever and love hollering political rhetoric in the ears of the poor entertainment-seeking public.

In terms of logistics, personally, I think the choicest spot in any Iranian concert is near the bar or refreshment area. There is no need to plug your ears with tissues and it is lit enough to discern faces and check out the crowd. I mean why would you dish out 25 to 30 bucks? It sure as hell isn't for the "entertainment".

Then there is the entertainment within entertainment. This most probably includes two men suddenly lounging at each other and planting punches to "protect the honor" of some woman who would not give them the light of day in the first place (or maybe she would). Or security drags out a poor bastard for downing a few too many drinks.

By one or two in the morning, just as the air becomes almost green with the stench of sweat, cigarette smoke, perfume and the disgusting steam from the stage, the concert ends. It does not really end, it just runs out of energy and fades out. There is still a little entertainment left though, and that is the scene in the parking lot. Radios blast, ominous Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches race to be the first one out and giggles fill the cool L.A. night.

Next year, there might be changes in the cast, but the formula will be the same. Every one will look a year older (still wearing black), a few more will finally graduate from the concert scene, and at least one new talentless but market-savvy performer will be added to the venue.

It is particularly interesting that very few Iranian teenagers who grew up States-side attend these concerts. Most are assimilated by American entertainment machines and have little regard for the kitschy rhythms that are force fed down our throats as Persian music. Ask the youngsters and they will tell you of their preference for a kind of music we might consider completely alien but which they consider authentic: rap.

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* THE IRANIAN Satire Section


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