Traveling Back In Time

This weekend I got to be a time traveler. I traveled back to the 1980s with my husband. We flew to LA for the Cruel World Festival, a music experience at the Rose Bowl featuring new wave and classic goth bands. To make the journey even more retro, we attended the pre-show festivities and the concert with a friend I have known since fourth grade, Kerry. This is not the type of concert I normally attend. Over the years after graduating from college in 1990, I embraced grunge and post-punk and then went straight from that into alternative music. Since acquiring satellite radio in 2009, I’ve primarily listened to indie rock. As I tell my husband, the 80s are a great place to visit, but I don’t live there anymore.

Still, I thought it was about time for a visit with my much younger self. So Steve and I boarded a plane bound for LAX Friday morning and headed to California. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew my friend would be an excellent tour guide, as she had kept up with her younger self and her love of 80s music. On Friday evening, Kerry and her husband let us tag along to a pre-concert 80s party co-hosted by Chris Olivas, former drummer for Berlin now known as DJ Christopher J. It was held at Mijares Restaurant in Pasadena, owned by co-host Tom. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I got was a fun evening filled with margaritas, great Mexican food, 80s-era new wave hits, dancing, and nostalgia.

Someone had wisely hired a photo booth for the sake of memories, so we enjoyed being silly and making use of it.

I met a lot of Kerry’s friends from the 80s cruises she takes every year. They were a lot of fun and were so kind to let us weasel our way into the celebration. After way too many margaritas, Steve and I walked the 20 minutes back to our hotel and crashed out to prepare for the full-day festival on Saturday.

Saturday morning, after obligatory coffee and some lunch, we caught a shuttle to the Rose Bowl. The festival was held at Brookside, a golf club adjacent to the stadium. The temperature was quickly approaching the forecasted high of 94 under clear skies, so we applied vats of sunscreen and swilled from water bottles because we are old enough to be responsible now. There were three stages to wander between and the sets were staggered, so it was a pick-and-choose menu.

Festival line up

We headed straight to start the party day off right with Dave Wakeling and The English Beat. One of my all-time favorite songs is Save It For Later, which I am sure Dave played especially for me. From there, we went to hear Missing Persons and then it was on to see Johnny Rotten and PiL (aka, Public Image Ltd). We had recently learned that Johnny has been home caring for his wife who has Alzheimer’s, so we appreciated that he took time from his devoted, kind-hearted care-giving to drop some choice f-bombs and share his rebellious alter ego with us.

Public Image Ltd

After that, it was on to see The Church and then Violent Femmes. The Violent Femmes took me right back to bus rides in 10th grade when the alt crowd would sit at the front of the bus (rebels we were against the cool kids at the back of the bus) and sing along to Blister in the Sun playing loudly on someone’s boom box. Next we hit up Devo, which turned out to be our favorite concert of the evening. They pulled out all the stops with videos, props, and costume changes. Devo was never a favorite of mine when I was younger because I didn’t really get them then. I get them now, though, and can understand their idea that humanity is devo(lving).

The famous red flower pot hats, though

After Devo we caught the first half of Bauhaus’s set before finding a spot to see Blondie. I had never seen Blondie perform and knew I might not get the opportunity again. It was pretty empowering to see a 76 year old woman on stage, still rocking out. Girl Power!

We headed towards the shuttle after Blondie’s set because I have already seen Morrissey perform and it was one of the most disappointing shows I have seen. I suppose I could have given him a second chance. Maybe Moz deserved it and would have redeemed his poor showing in Denver years ago, but I’ve never been great at giving honest, open-hearted, second chances to men who broke my heart once. I tend to be cynical that way, which Morrissey of all people should be able to understand since it was he who penned this lyric:“So now you send me your hardened regards when once you’d send me love.”

All in all, my return trip to the 1980s was a success. It was a blast to spend time with my old-school bestie reliving our high school days. And now I fly back to 2022 to rejoin my life, already in progress. It’s fun to find your younger self sometimes to check in and remember where you came from and how far you have come.

It’s Time For Live Music Again

After years of streaming concerts, it seems bands are ready to trek back out again for shows. Some musicians returned to the scene last year, but this year it seems there is an explosion of bands hitting the road after too long of a hiatus from their livelihoods. This is fantastic news for me. I’ve already got six shows on my calendar for 2022 and I expect that number to increase as I see what else is coming down the pike. I am looking forward to making up for the year and a half I lost to Covid-19.

This morning, out of sheer curiosity, I did my best sleuthing to determine how many bands I’ve seen over the years. I started seeing concerts in 1983. My first show was The Police when I was 15 years old. I’ve conjectured since then how many concerts I’ve been to, but it’s all been speculation. I stopped saving tickets stubs decades ago, so the list I was working on this morning was recreated out of the few stubs I kept, my Facebook and Instagram feeds, my Apple calendar, and my iTunes account. I’m sure I missed some, but this is what I came up with:

These aren’t all separate shows, as some of the bands were co-headliners or opening acts for other artists and some bands were seen at festivals. The numbers in parentheses denote the number of times I’ve seen that band live. It’s a little embarrassing, for example, how many times I’ve seen Sting in concert. I can say for sure, however, that he was the headliner at all those shows so that helps me better estimate how many actual concerts I have attended. I made a guess once that it was around 100 shows. Looking at my list and digging through my memory, I think it’s safe to say I’ve actually seen closer to 120 shows, and it may be more since I just realized I’ve actually seen U2 three times. I shudder to think how much money I’ve spent on these shows, especially when you consider ticket prices with fees these days, but in most cases I wouldn’t take my money back for the experience. There have only been a handful of shows for which I would like a refund of time and money.

My friend Heather and I at a very rainy Decemberists show at Red Rocks on my 47th birthday

Because concert going is one of my hobbies, I’ve turned my sons into concert goers too. Joe’s first show was Imagine Dragons at Red Rocks when he was 8. Luke’s first show (also seen when he was 8) was the Foo Fighters at Red Rocks. We love seeing concerts as a family, which has become costly for the four of us. Nonetheless, we’ll be seeing Spoon in May and The Decemberists in August together. Steve and I are flying to Pasadena for the Cruel World Festival on May 14th too so we can see 80’s bands. I will get to pretend I’m 16 again. All the bands will be showing their age and reminding us, in fact, we are not 16, but I’m looking forward to seeing Blondie, Devo, Violent Femmes, and Public Image Ltd. I also purchased tickets to see The National twice this summer and we’re going to Red Rocks to see The War on Drugs for the first time as well. Have I mentioned I’m excited to get back to shows?

I know stupid Covid isn’t done with us yet. I’m vaccinated and boosted, but I know I will be risking exposure to coronavirus by inserting myself into large crowds. I do not care. Being a music fan is as much a part of my identity as being a mom is. Some people live for sporting events, others for the theater. While I enjoy attending those things too, concerts are my happy place. I’m ready to get back at it. I’m overdue.