Hey, All You Forty-Something Parents! WE STILL ROCK! (Part 3)

Hey, All You Forty-Something Parents! WE STILL ROCK! (Part 3) September 25, 2015


Modest Mouse finished their set, and the crowd, in solidarity with the band’s namesake, offered up a Modestly enthusiastic applause while the band exited the stage. The roadies began setting up for REM. Some kind of eclectic indie-alt music was now being piped out to the crowds. All of the songs had that same ironic apathetic tone of youth, with frequent and casual use of the f-word throughout the lyrics. I was offended, and increasingly disturbed that the f-word has become so commonplace among young people these days. And I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs being played. This alienated me even further. My quiet thoughts were derailed completely.

What am I doing here??” I thought  to myself as I listened to the offensive lyrics, my irritation rising. “How did I get sucked into this?” Your love for your daughter, who made a very compelling case for getting a ride to a once-in-the-summer concert, that’s how. But I kept going with the negative thoughts. How would I possibly make it through the night? I was already thinking about the traffic logjam that would occur when all twenty thousand people were ready to leave the show. Plus we would have to fight traffic all the way home, and I had to get up at 5:45 am for work the next day. I was already tired. This was going to be a nightmare. I started to resent this whole thing.

I texted my younger daughter Lilly, who was at home.

“i m so bored. wut r u doing?”

Lilly texts back right away.

“hi dad. wut band is on”

I explained the concert set-up. We exchanged a couple of texts and then there was nothing left to say, so she didn’t text me back again. I don’t know how kids can go on and on for hours, texting and cell-phoning and Face-booking, talking about basically nothing at all: friends, gossip, clothes, celebrities, hanging out, hooking up, making plans for more concerts. Everything in the world to them but nothing at all to me.

I thought of REM, surprised that they would draw such a huge crowd. I guess they were pretty big, back in the day. Although I never quite latched on to them as a band to follow. My loyalty tended towards the more refined, quirky, lesser-known artists. I still to this day have never bought a single item of music from any of the platinum classic artists, like the Rolling Stones, Dylan, the Beatles…or REM. I don’t know. I just haven’t been compelled enough by their music. Instead I have a huge collection of everything ever recorded from artists like Bjork, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell, Beth Orton, Kate Bush. And then I have a big mixed bag of pop-rock-folk-jazz-classical. I was reveling in my superior taste in music, and pretended to text Lilly again, just so that I would appear relevant to the demographic of the crowd surrounding me. Despite my most valiant efforts, the ovewhelming need to fit in was still dogging me. I was, however, thankful that although I was old, at least I was not fat.

The crowd started clapping and making some noise. REM was walking on stage. Everyone jumped up cheering as Michael Stipe nd the band launched into “Supernatural Superserious.” I stayed seated on the grass with my backpack. Ho Hum, REM. Yeah, I know what he sounds like. I’ve seen the videos. About twenty years ago.

I had a slight view of the top half of the stage. Gaping between the shoulders of the standing crowds, I noticed this incredible light-video show going on behind the band. It was huge. And extremely well done. It was like a moving electric Andy Warhol-esque exhibit. It reminded me of the repeating Campbell Soups or Marilyn Monroe’s, but with changing lights and patterns and colors displayed on a huge video checkerboard screen, interspersed with multiple views of a choppy black and white live feed of Michael Stipe’s head as he sang. It was way cool. I liked it. But I remained firmly seated. Because, after all, I was still irritated.
The crowd went wild cheering after the first song. Right away the band got into the next one. A girl moved right in front of me, blocking the only view I had of the top half of the light show (I was okay as long as I could see Michael Stipe’s head on one of the top video squares). Down in front! No way was she going to sit down or move, even if I yelled at her.
I stood up.

Hmmm. Michael Stipe was wearing a very nice suit and tie. Very nice, Michael. I liked this guy more than I thought I would. He’s got some class, coming out to do a rock show wearing a crisply tailored suit, surely a European cut. Standing up during the concert would not be so bad, I decided. But my hands stayed in my pockets.

You know what? The music was not too loud. It was just right. Powerful, but not overpowering. And this song rocks. Must be from their new album. I start swaying a little bit with the rhythm. I have to admit, I liked the way Michael Stipe put his whole body into the singing, with all those desperate electrocution jolts and convulsive jerking movements of his arms, feet and heads. Oh, sorry, he has just one head. But on the screen behind him it was multiple heads. I gradually got pulled into the whole scene – the songs, the crowd, the light show. It was a very community artistic sensory experience. And like I said before, the songs rocked.

Michael Stipe restrained himself from ranting about politics to the crowd. He announced that he promised some family members who were in the crowd that he wouldn’t do it tonight. Thank you, Lord. Instead, he continued to do what he does best. Rock.

Towards the end of the show, I texted Sophie to meet me at the gate before the encore, so that we could duck out before the hordes. She cooperated. As we walked back to the car, I told her how much I enjoyed the show.

“Really?” She asks. She is pleased with the potential dad-cool factor of me enjoying a rock concert. “Yeah, I thought they were great!”

We got a head-start on all the traffic and got out with no delays. As we drove out onto the highway, I was still feeling the energy of the music, the buzz from the light show. It made me feel young and old at the same time. Old, because I realized how long it has been since I’ve just let loose and taken in something so loud, so mobbish, so artistically huge. Young because, well, it just felt great. It made me happy in the way that only music and art can do. It reminded me of myself. The younger me. The one that has been waiting since I was 17 years old to get out and see a rock concert again.

The next day I bought tickets to see Coldplay, the favorite band of both my daughters. This time, we went as a family, all together. Because my family definitely rocks. And when the band walked out on stage and started performing, I was the first one to stand up and cheer.

Part 1

Part 2

Image by Pixabay

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