Friday, August 12, 2011

First Concerts

When did you attend your first concert? Who did you see?

Mine was on March 21st, 1983. Spring had sprung on the closing curtain of my Junior High career, and we eighth grade adolescents were just weeks away from being full-fledged grown-ups. Or at least this is what we thought, so a few of us banded together to lobby our parents to let us see the crazy amazing concert coming to northern New England. For sure, it was a spectacular double-bill, featuring up-and-coming Brit headbangers Def Leppard opening for arena rock demigod Billy Squier.

Yes, this is the second time in two weeks that I've mentioned Billy Squier in this blog. I don't understand it either.

Anyway, this was the must-see event of the season, so we had to be there, even if it meant running away from home. Fortunately, we struck a hard bargain before arriving at this point. We were given permission to go, but we just needed one minor thing to come along with us.

A parental chaperone. 

Sometimes being thirteen absolutely sucked.

The tragic combo of a parent and a rock concert virtually decimated our Cool Kid Quotient. Yet it was sadly necessary given that the concert was ninety minutes away in the big city of Portland, Maine, and the only wheels we had were ten-speeds and skateboards. I can recall with complete clarity that our chaperone brought homework from her paralegal classes, and basically treated this epic event as little more than a TV show in the background. So while Def Leppard was bringin' on the heartbreak in the center stage spotlight, my friend's mom was studying dispute resolution and estate planning with a flashlight. 

Still, something magical happened even in spite of our chaperone's mortifying behavior. From the moment the lights and the music exploded, we were all electrified in a way we'd never experienced. Sure, we all competed to own the town's biggest boombox, and we thought we knew all about enormous  sonic mayhem. But we knew absolutely nothing about pure energy until we were awash in the kinetic flood of rock and roll adrenaline.

In a word, awesome.

A first concert can be a powerful experience. Those of you who've read my novel know that the catalyst for its main character Zoe's rock star dreams was a concert she was snuck into as an impressionable kid - an evening with a then unknown pop/punk/new wave band out of L.A. called The Go-Go's. I'll go no further with story chatter, fearing my own excitement when discussing the novel will ultimately lend itself to me blurting spoilers of my own novel, which I'm told is a massive authorial foul. Suffice it to say, however, that Zoe's fictional New Year's Eve with The Go-Go's was a volcano of a night that turned her world upside down. 

Made me wish I was there, it did.

Cut to over three decades later. Oh, and also cut to non-fiction. Imagine my surprise when this past April, I first looked at the summer schedule for a favorite local venue, and saw that The Go-Go's were coming to town, and they had scheduled a Sunday sundown show just down the street. 

Time was, this would've been an easy call for the summer to-do list. But given our new reality, we had to pause. Could we do this? After all, the date of this concert was less than a month after our firstborn's due date. Our August calendar was looking pretty full. Could we pull the trigger on what would surely be a sold out show, then hope against common perception that we could come up for air long enough to see at least one summer concert?

Would The Go-Go's become our son's very first show?

He Loves a Rainy Night
♫♫ Vacation, all I ever wanted... ♫♫

And look, we even bought a ticket for Eddie Rabbit, our little rock star's fave plush pal. 

I know what some of you may be thinking... "Wait, the boy is only three weeks old, isn't it a bit too soon to be taking him to a concert?" But if you look closely at the ticket, you'll see that it's at The Woodland Park Zoo. So you see, we're not actually taking him to a concert.

We're taking him to the zoo!

And if a concert happens to break out while we're there, so be it, we'll be ready!

This coming Sunday. Gorillas and Go-Go's. Win-win.

I am sure that decades down the road from here, our boy will be telling his own narrative about a first concert, and it will not involve The Go-Go's. No, his will probably either be a band that's in its fledgling stages in some suburban garage, or The Rolling Stones, who will inexplicably still be selling out stadiums at age eighty, even though Keith Richards has to be wheeled out onto the stage and propped up with backstage scaffolding. But whatever the venue and whoever the artist, it will likely leave an indelible fond memory, and what more could a parent want for their child?

Oh, and kiddo?

If I do have to chaperone, I won't get in your way. But if you need me, you'll probably find me dancing with your Mom somewhere near the back of the venue.

When did you attend your first concert? Who did you see?

Did it totally blow you away, or what?



  1. Technically, *technically*, mine was the Hollies when I was eleven. But I went mainly because buying another ticket was cheaper than a baby sitter. It was also in a leisure centre, and we had to sit on school chairs.

    So, no, my first gig was Radiohead at the Lemon Grove, Exeter, in 1994. I remember very little about it. I remember them being very loud, and there were too many people, and for most of it I felt quite sick. I was thrown around like a coin in a tumble dryer, my ears rang all the next day.

    A week later, I went to see pop will eat itself in a larger venue. They were quite good too.

  2. This is PERFECT!! I think you should bring the Go-Go's a copy or two of Zoe...
    Since ZMan has to learn so many lyrics to keep up with his Parents, I think this is the perfect age to break him in!! I have a great picture of Remi with the Bellamy Brother's when she was 3 months old.
    My first concert was Duran Duran, with some of your other besties from back in the day! We rocked it~even John Taylor noticed us!! Thanks for the smile today...and now I am off to sing "RIO" at the top of my lungs...

  3. Mark - that must've been an exciting time to see Radiohead! Still new enough to be raw and untainted by both commercial & critical expectations. Very cool

    Kristen - I tried alerting Belinda Carlisle to our kiddo's presence this Sunday, telling her that he has requested they play 'Vacation.' She's ignored us, but we are ever hopeful :)

  4. I was 6 or 7, I believe. Sometime during 1983. Michael Jackson's Thriller tour at Comiskey Park in Chicago (now US Cellular Field :P). We thought we had front row seats, but those were in the stadium seats. There were lots of rows of card chairs in front of us. Still, it was an amazing concert. :)