My wife and I took our son to see his first concert last weekend. Well actually it wasn’t his first concert and I say this only to ensure Kim and I remain cool in your eyes. His first concert, and there is some debate over this, was either Black Moth Super Rainbow, Medeski Martin and Wood or the Black Keys. Despite this obviously awesome upbringing though the first concert Jack actually chose was Big Time Rush. If you aren’t familiar with the band all you need to know are two words that send shivers down most father’s spines—boy band. That’s right, the boy I brought up on Miles Davis and The Doors, Dylan and Led Zeppelin, Bowie and hell why not, even Mika, chose as his first concert a boy band.
I’ve tried in my own way to reason away the boy band affiliation with the band. Big Time Rush, after all, is a smash hit on Nickelodeon and in many, many ways is more like a Beatles cartoon or The Monkees TV show, I’ve told myself. There’s no real boy band connection I’ve said, no bad boy, no clear break out “cute” one that will one day have a solo career. No, it’s just a boy band marketed to the fans of Nickelodeon. All of these are lies I know, but they’ve helped me to sleep. In reality, what may have started out as a cute little show is now an actual boy band and from what was on display almost a week ago.
I grew up in the era of hair metal and then grunge. It was a different scene back then. The live music industry has changed a thousand times since then. During that time I’ve also grown and changed. I pretty much now only attend concerts with artists of a certain ilk. There’s no real touchstone but it’s either an age think or a sound or a genre of music. Over the last few years I’ve seen a lot less concerts but the ones I have definitely meant more. I’ve seen Rogers Waters, Return To Forever, The Black Crowes, The Black Keys, I’m sure there have been several more but you get the picture. I’m no longer going to shows because they’re hip or for the girls or whatever. I go now strictly for the music. I digress though. What I was beginning to say was that in the age of metal when fish net stockings and aqua net ruled the day (and I’m talking about the guys!) the concerts were insane. You could and would see things an impressionable young mind could only imagine. When I was into grunge the scene just mutated. By the time I was listening and attending industrial concerts forget it. If you think you’ve seen everything there is to see go to a concert for Skinny Puppy, KMFDM or Lords of Acid, trust me, you’ll never be clean again! So, I thought I saw it all. I thought I was prepared for everything. I thought nothing would shock me. I was wrong.
Everything about this concert surprised me. I’ll start with the obvious; the cost of everything now is insane. I’m sure it was always insane but it seems to have risen to a level that’s completely unconnected to the real world or actual inflation. I shouldn’t have been surprised considering the price of parking and the fees attached to actually purchasing a ticket now. I was just as surprised by the crowd though. I’ll admit that in my youth I never attended an actual boy band concert so this might be par for the course but it was a completely new level to me. There were girls actually weeping and shaking. The shrieks were sounds I swear I never heard before. They were so loud and so high-pitched I actually bought ear plugs for Jack, honestly, not because of how loud the music was but because of this previously unheard noise by these girls. It was as if the Beatles or Sinatra were standing in front of them (trust me, they weren’t). The last thing I noticed was the parents. For the most part they were a lot like me. Looking slightly out-of-place and unsure why they were at this type of concert, feeling a weird sense of déjà vu, being at this place we’d lived out a part of our youth but not in this way and not at these prices.
For what it was the concert was everything I could have hoped it would have been. Jack sat in rapt attention at each new wardrobe change and each pyrotechnic event, taking the focus from the only passable music level of each song. The band was tame by all measurements, as they should have been, even when they brought four girls up on stage and sang to them, kissing each on the cheek and I’m sure creating a memory that will outlive the band, the arena and the glow sticks they were buying to raise during the ballads. It’s not the concert I would have chosen but what did I expect? There aren’t a lot of real rock bands being marketed to 7 year olds so it’s pop music. The hope is that when Jack is older he can’t remember whether it was the Black Keys he saw first or Big Time Rush, that he won’t be able to recall whether Cody Simpson opened or some hip jazz trio. In the end, Kim and I just hope that he remembers sitting on that lawn with the two of us experiencing something special. Of course, in order for that to happen I have to steal his new Big Time Rush shirt with the Pittsburgh date on the back and replace it with a Black Keys or Whitesnake or Black Crowes t-shirt and finding youth sizes in those prove to be slightly harder.