The first rock concert I went to was in 1987. I was 14, and managed to convince my parents that it was okay for me to go see the Pychedelic Furs play at the local Civic Center Auditorium. I hadn't seen the movie Pretty in Pink, but I knew the song, and "Heartbreak Beat" was just starting to get some radio play, and they were coming to the local Civic Center, which all added up to my just having to be there. My parents grudgingly accepted that I was on my way to growing up, and let me go. Oddly, I don't even remember whether they came with me, or dropped me off with friends and picked me up afterward. You'd think I'd remember that. Well, anyway, the concert was quite something. The massive sound system filled the huge auditorium with music, most of which I'd never heard before. I had earplugs, courtesy of my folks, so the sound didn't hurt - I felt it, though, inside, vibrating through me. Even if I hadn't liked the music, I would still have loved the experience - it signalled independence, another step on the teen ladder toward real personhood. Or so it felt.
As I walked out of the Civic Center into the cool night, I felt elated. The ringing in my ears sounded like freedom. I had to share this feeling with someone. I rushed over to the big-banquet-hotel, next door to the Civic Center, and made a collect call to my friend Alison, from camp, who lived in Pennsylvania.
Her parents answered.
"Hmm? Oh, [ellinor]? I'll get her."
"you know, it's kind of late, don't you?"
I looked at my watch. Sure enough, it was near midnight. Alison, a little groggy, came to the phone. I told her that I had just been to a concert, something that she had done on her own for the first time only a few weeks before. We corresponded a lot those days, mostly by letter, long letters composed during class, which filled reams of paper and almost invariably began with the phrase "I'm bored." Anyway, she was more into pop music than I was, and she got one of those teen magazines that were so popular back then, and she was suitably impressed, although not quite as impressed as I had hoped she would be. The Psychedelic Furs were not quite at the top of the charts. No matter, I could taste adulthood, and it tasted like the slightly smoky air outside the Civic Center on a cool Friday night.
Time, as they say, passes.
It's seventeen years later. I've now been alive for more years *after* the concert than I had been before it. Now the taste of adulthood isn't quite so exotic, and independence is only part of what I'm looking for. But I'm still up for a good concert. So when I looked up at the Troubadour marquee this morning and saw that the band OK GO would be playing tonight, I thought, hmm, perhaps. I called a couple of people, none of them could come, but still, I decided to go on my own. I like their music, they make me happy, it makes sense.
I got to the Troubadour about 15 minutes before doors opened. I hadn't bought tickets ahead of time, but it hadn't sold out, which was a good thing. Of course, the doors actually opened about a half hour late, so I had quite a bit of time to survey the crowd. Everyone there - everyone - was 10 to 15 years younger than me. Except a couple of parents who had brought their kids. This shouldn't surprise me - after all, what age was I when I did my first formative concertgoing? - but I can't say it made me entirely comfortable. (Later at night, a wider array of 20-somethings showed up. Which was comforting, mostly.) Lots of girls dressed a little too sexy for their age; lots of pretty, floppy-haired skinny boys. (Which makes sense, given that OK GO is a band comprised largely of pretty, floppy-haired skinny boys.)
Being there alone, I had nothing better to do than eavesdrop on the mundane, and slightly surreal, conversation of the probably-16-year-olds behind me. They must have been old enough to drive, otherwise I would have said younger. Anyway, the conversation consisted mostly of the talkative one reminding her two friends of the trio's recent exploits. "Remember that time we went to the museum? And there was this cute guy there, wearing the striped shirt? And we were walking behind him and I said, real quiet, 'cutie-pie?' And he didn't think I was talking to him but then I said it again and he heard it and he turned around? Remember?" They would remember, and she would move on to another query.
And then she asked one of her friends, if she could be doing anything at all right now, anything in the world, what would she be doing?
The other one responded:
Then the talkative one told her friends they had to be really quiet when they got back after the concert, because her parents didn't know that she had gone out, and they'd have to sneak back in.
Freedom tastes different for each of us, I suppose.
The concert was fun. No one goes to rock concerts alone, and I understand why. It's kind of lonely. But I enjoyed the people watching, and the listening. (with earplugs, of course.) Songs are more fun when you know them ahead of time, and I didn't know most of the music from the opening acts - a band from Philadelphia called "LaGuardia," and an outfit called "Wheat" that may or may not be from Boston. Wheat had one excellent song that I'd heard before - the rest were okay, but not fantastic. They looked like they were having a good time, though, and the audience was too. I was a little bored, truth be told, but I still enjoyed it.
OK GO was, as one might have expected them to be, fantastic. The new songs (which I hadn't heard) were not as good as the old ones (which I had) but I suspect I'll like them much more once I hear them recorded. The energy was great. The music vibrated through me and I felt the feeling again, of being 14 and letting the music stop the time that surely was continuing to tick outside the club walls.
And then they came to the part of the concert where they play a cover song. Normally, apparently, they do a democratic process of sorts whereby the audience as a whole gets to choose the song, but this time they didn't. This time, Jon Cryer was in the audience - so okay, there was at least one person there older than me - and it was his birthday, and he had asked them to play a cover for him. So what did they play?
Pretty in Pink.
By the Psychedelic Furs.
I understand that once time has stopped, it can't stop more. Stopping is a terminal process that cannot be amplified. And yet, during that song, time stopped even more than it already had.
Time resumed its ordinary pace of stoppage (no, that doesn't make sense, so don't bother re-rereading it) with the rest of the songs. The encore had to be seen to be believed - a boy-band style, fully choreographed, lip-synched number to one of the group's singles, "c-c-c-cinnamon lips." Inspired and irreverent stuff from this punk-influenced indie pop/rock band. Truly fun.
The house lights came up, and the crowd milled its way out into the cool evening, c-c-c-cinnamon lips humming in their heads, into the slightly smoky air outside the doorway. As I walked to my car, I thought of calling my friend Alison. Alison has a daughter of her own now, and we don't write to each other much anymore, and we probably aren't nearly as bored as we used to be, but although we haven't spoken in months, or more, I still think of her as a close friend. After several moves, Alison has returned to Pennsylvania, where it is three hours later than 11:45.
I could just imagine the conversation:
"Hmm? Oh, [ellinor]? Really?"
"you know, it's kind of late, don't you?"