June 21, 2015

What was your first rock concert?

Dear Evie & Felix,

This is one of those personal trivia questions that might come up in small talk or in a team-building exercise at work. Your answer says something about you, your childhood, and your family. 

Mine was Guns N Roses at the Fargodome; I was 14.

Most adults can remember their first concert with no effort, but you're pretty young so I'll fill in some details for you: Rock the Garden 2015, featuring Belle and Sebastian, Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett, Lucius, and thestand4rd.

Spending 7 hours listening to 5 bands is a pretty serious entry into concert-going; Daddy and I threw you into the deep end, knowing it might as likely be a disaster as a milestone in your lifelong love of music.

You kids tend to swim well at the deep end.

We've taken you on 7-mile hikes and 2000-mile road trips, and you tend to remain cheerful, especially if there are promises of ice cream.

With lots of treats available, and your grandparents and aunties around to help mitigate any emotional breakdowns or bouts of boredom, it seemed like we might be able to pull this off. We bought some junior sized ear plugs, packed up the picnic blanket, and slathered you in sunscreen.

It was a beautiful day - sunny, warm, with a blue sky full of puffy clouds shaped like animals.

We had fun. We rocked out. You discovered some important lessons that will serve you well in your concert-going future:

Stay hydrated. The giant lemonade is a good investment, ice cubes and all.

If someone gives you free mirrored sunglasses, wear them.

Don't skip the opening bands just because you haven't heard of them.

When someone on stage tells you to clap or dance or put your hands in the air, listen.

There's nothing wrong with bringing your family to a concert. In fact, I hope that you'll continue to rock out with us and your grandparents and aunties.

Take lots of pictures. 

Three generations of Wiants who rock.
Get comfy; it's going to be a while.

There are two perfectly wonderful and entirely contradictory vantage points for an outdoor show:

1. Sitting on a blanket, looking up at the clouds, and letting the music wrap around you.

2. Moving as close to the stage as you can, pressed up against other people, feeling the energy and thrill of being so close to a person you've heard on the radio. Jumping up and down, shouting along to the lyrics you know, feeling like a breathing part of a living thing.

Evie got to experience both. She wanted to jostle for a spot where she could see Courtney Barnett, whose latest CD has been in heavy rotation. We were close enough that I wouldn't be surprised if Courtney could see the little blond girl on her daddy's shoulders singing along to Elevator Operator.

When the heat and the intensity and the sound became too much, we moved back to our blanket. When the blanket became boring, we visited the food trucks and merch tent and worked on an art installation made from masking tape.

As we added our brightly colored pieces of tape (mine was lime green), I pondered how the whole messy, beautiful thing was similar to a concert.

Music is usually a solitary thing for me: popping in my earbuds the moment I sit on the bus, singing along to the radio when I'm alone in the car, feeling my soul stir when a song perfectly conveys my own emotions. Evie and Felix, I know you can relate to this. I've heard you listening to your iPods, playing the same song repeatedly because something in it resonates with you on that day.

Everyone at a concert brings a personal connection to the music, whether they know every song by heart or are hearing it for the first time. Like our purple and blue and lime green masking tape, we add our own pieces to the tapestry, next to and on top of and intertwined with everyone else's. Our faces show up in the crowd shots, our voices in the swelling roar of cheers. The result is something beautiful, complicated, and unique. There will be other concerts, but this thing that happened today can only exist once, exactly as it is, and it's perfect.

And we were part of it.


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