You always remember your first...
I had a great time attending a concert this weekend and it had nothing to do with the bands or the music they played. The reason I enjoyed the event so much was that I got to take my 14 year old niece to her very first concert (Fallout Boy with Plain White Tee’s and Gym Class Heroes as opening acts). Not only did she get to see the show, but due to the generosity and thoughtfulness of some very good friends of mine, my niece actually got to meet her favorite band before the show. She has in the last year or so fallen in love with pop music and much to her joy, received an iPod for her birthday this past summer that has since never been far from her grasp.
While technology has changed by quantum leaps, the process of falling in love with music seems to have changed very little. I began my love affair with music listening to top forty AM radio in the fifth grade. From there, word of mouth from kids at school and friends older brothers whom I thought were cool guided my early record purchases. About the same time (1976), FM radio was fast becoming the main stay for album oriented rock (AOR). Each record I purchased deepened my obsession with rock and roll music that carries on to this day. I couldn’t wait for the chance to see my first show and would bum out for weeks when my friends got to attend a concert, usually as a reluctant guest of their older brother/sister.
Everybody remembers their first concert. I remember mine like it was yesterday (Starz opening for J. Geils Band, Eisenhower Hall, Fall of 1977). I still listen to both acts regularly and just recently re-purchased J. Geils ‘Monkey Island’ on vinyl. I remember the anticipation that began the minute my ticket was purchased. I dreamt of the performances for weeks ahead of the show and listened to nothing but the two bands records exclusively in the interim. What little time I spent previously in school actually paying attention to what my teachers were blathering on about was now spent day dreaming about loud ear splitting guitars being played by long haired dudes in spandex pants. One thing I did have that my niece is without were record jackets with pictures to get lost in. I’d stare at the album covers for hours while blasting the tunes and imagining what it was going to be like. I was NOT disappointed. In fact, it was about the coolest thing that had ever happened to me up to that point in my life.
My niece was every bit as excited as I was back then. I’m not sure what I would have done had I got a chance to meet the guys in Starz or J. Geils (oddly enough, I did meet guitarist Richie Ranno from Starz some 25 years later and he had very vivid recollections of the Eisenhower Hall show), but I can say with certainty that I would have shared the grin my niece is wearing in the above picture. I knew every lyric of every song as did my niece when the diminutive Fallout Boy hit the stage for their set Saturday night.
What really brought a smile to my face was what I got to witness before the show. The logistics for the event had us meeting a contingency of sweepstakes contest winners from around the country at a hotel forty five minutes from the venue. We happened to have arrived first and boarded this decked out party bus that would take us all over to the show. As the out of town contestants arrived and boarded the bus, my normally shy and slightly introverted niece immediately began chatting wildly with what were only a minute ago perfect strangers. That is the power of music my friends.
I’ll say this too: It is the reason EVERY parent should make it a point to try and keep current with what their kids are listening to, no matter how crappy and/or distasteful you might find the music to be. Find a way to enjoy some aspect of it and even if it’s easy to do, try your best not to ridicule it either. Kids will inevitably grow out of their first pop idol infatuations, but at the moment the sun rises and sets on these one hit wonders and they probably have more influence on your kid than you do.
For my niece’s first show, she got to meet her favorite band in person and witness her muse play their stuff from close up floor seats, lights, pyro, confetti, $50.00 plus concert shirt and all. As she ran down the experience to me afterwards all I could do was listen and smile. I knew she didn’t want to hear a recount of my similar experience 30 years ago. Perhaps someday she will. No, all I could do was nod in silent acknowledgment and share in the joy of seeing her heroes spill their blood on the stage. For me, a bunch of unremarkable samie/samie performances of songs that sort of all blend into each other. For her though, an experience that she will NEVER forget as long as she lives.
I'm truly glad to have been there. It was a good night indeed…