The Rolling Stones kicked off their Fenway Park stand tonight around 8 pm in front of a paying crowd of zero, performing what bystanders who showed up before us said was a seven-song soundcheck. OTD -- departing late from the offices down on Brookline Ave, iPod blasting the new Ashlee tracks -- damn near missed the gig entirely, and would have had we not noticed the unusual knot of raggedy old dudes standing shock-still on the corner of Lansdowne Street, glaring up at the poker-faced Green Monster as if it had just sprouted Yankees penants. Under a full moon, with the windows open and the Pats on the flat screens across the street at Game On!, the patio at the Cask hosted what felt for a few minutes like the world's cheapest Rolling Stones living room party. Fenway soundchecks are a neat fringe benefit of working near the park: you can be walking down the street at lunch and suddenly get a big, booming "Star Spangled Banner" belted at you, as if it were just another hoary old hit someone felt like taking a whack at down at Jake Ivory's. Better yet when it's Jagger. Stripped of Mick's lips-puckered prance, disembodied and distant, an ambient voice in the warm bustling eve -- with Keef (presumably Keef; coulda been a devoted roadie, sure) hacking his away around the chord without ever settling on it; also with what sounded like a gospel choir on backups -- the one song we heard and don't know the name of felt stately and luminous, communal and humbling, oddly intimate and unexpectedly beautiful. It was as if by playing for free in such a dense civic space, the Rolling Stones had become, however briefly, a public utility. Like electricity or water or sewage removal. Something that just is: a part of the night you walk under and share and pass along.

[UPDATE: Rolling Stones soundcheck makes the Noise Board happy, too.]

Practical lessons learned: if they play at commensurate volume this weekend, the Cask and the Lansdowne Street parking lot are really not bad seats. It may be just a coincidence, but the one obviously illegal vantage point on Brookline Avenue -- a roof-access chimney atop a warehouse -- has been scaffolded up: can't tell whether it would help or hinder someone trying to see into the park, though. Looks pretty shaky. Stage appears to be backed against the center-field wall, PA pointed back at an angle towards Brookline Avenue, which means that those little causeways like Overland and Fullerton may not be bad, and there may even be prime squatting territory down at the corner of Yawkey and Van Ness.
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