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.

I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night — In Person Again

Last night my family and I did something we haven’t done since February of last year: we attended a concert in person. What seems like ages ago, we purchased tickets to the Hellamega Tour featuring Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day. The show was supposed to be last July, but then we all know what happened. So, it was rescheduled. The concert was held outdoors at a soccer stadium and we are vaccinated, but still we were a little wary about attending because of the crowd size and our knowledge that the vaccine we got is only 66% effective against the prevalent and more contagious Delta strain of Covid-19. Since Joe is heading off to college tomorrow and doesn’t want to end up in quarantine, we decided as a family to wear masks just in case someone we encountered in the 20k people crowd was contagious.

The show was held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, which shall henceforth be known simply as “not my favorite.” We paid $20 to park in Egypt and walk a literal mile to get to our seats. The venue’s web site listed that you could bring in one factory-sealed water bottle per person. I don’t normally buy water bottles because, well, single-use plastic, but I bought one for each member of our family just to be told at the gate that they were not permitted. Grrrrr. Once inside, we ended up spending $20 for four bottles because capitalism. Not certain I will clamor to see a show here again.

That said, the concert itself was AMAZING, easily one of the best shows I’ve ever attended, and I have seen somewhere around or above 100 live concerts in my estimation. Due in part to the parking nightmare and the cross-country trek to our seats, we were a little too late to catch the majority of the Weezer set. We saw Weezer in July of 2018, though, so we decided to make our peace with it and adjust our attitudes accordingly to prepare for the rest of the show.

Fall Out Boy

Luke and I had seen Fall Out Boy together in 2015, so we knew what to expect. Patrick Stump had zero trouble with the altitude that often trips up other singers and belted out their set list like a Colorado resident. The stage show, complete with all manner of pyrotechnics, including flames shooting from Pete Wentz’s bass, was great. Fall Out Boy performs true to their album sound and with twice as much energy. I started listening to Fall Out Boy in 2005 when the boys were just 4 and 2, so it was fun to have Luke turn to me during some of their older songs I was singing along to and ask, “What is this one called?” It’s always good to surprise your kids with your knowledge about anything. And I loved when Pete Wentz called out a person in the front of the stadium for being on their phone too much. He reminded the crowd that we’ve been locked up looking at our phones at home for a year, and it was time to put them down and live life. Preach it, Pete!

As expected, Green Day was the highlight of the evening. Before they came on stage, the speakers blasted Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for a little pre-show sing along. When Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool started the show off with an oddly appropriate American Idiot, they set the tempo for the rest of their set. They were rocking like it was 1991 and they were still 19 rather than 49. I had to marvel that I have been listening to this band for THIRTY years. I couldn’t decide if that made me really old, them really old, us all really old, or all of us just incredible cool. Billie Joe made a point to remind us all several times that we were alive and finally here to enjoy live music and that we should all be basking in the joy of the moment. So, we did. When they covered Kiss’s 1975 classic I Wanna Rock n Roll All Night, the crowd was a haze of jumping, clapping, and singing along. At times it felt like the entire stadium could be heard miles away. And during a couple particularly punk songs, I was transported back to the person I used to be, the one who would end up in the middle of a slam dancing group on the venue floor. (Mind you, I didn’t do that in the stands because I’m 53 and that might no longer be a wise choice.) We left physically exhausted but mentally energized, without a second thought to the ticket price that initially had given me sticker shock.

It had been 18 months since I had seen a live show, long enough that I had nearly forgotten how much being in person at a show is in my DNA. I have been seeing concerts since I was 15. Some years I could only afford one show, while other years I saw upwards of ten. There is something magical about attending a concert, knowing that all the strangers there have something in common with you. They also like this music enough to invest in it. There is nothing like singing and dancing along with thousands of other people who share your love of music. It’s intoxicating. It brings me to tears at some point during every single show. How lucky we are to have music to remind us that life is worth living even when it’s been challenging and somewhat dark. Last night was a good reminder that those who enjoy live music are never truly alone in a crowd.