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.

From Darkness To Light, or Here Comes The Sun

I love listening to music. I like it so much that it is difficult for me to listen to books or podcasts because there is no time for them. When I am in my car driving to one of my gazillion errands or wearing headphones while doing work around the house, music is what keeps me going. It transports me. And I need to be transported out of my busy, monkey mind most days.

For most of my life, I have liked music other people consider dark. Maybe even too dark. I like depressing lyrics, songs about heartbreak, music that makes me feel part of a bigger whole. When a friend told me that she loved “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, I mentally rolled my eyes. I just can’t get behind that. I never really thought much about my proclivity towards dark, brooding bands with melancholy and depressive lyrics until other people pointed it out as something odd. It didn’t feel odd to me. It simply was what I liked. Recently, though, I realized sad songs are what I relate to. They make sense to me. I can inhabit them because they seem to reflect my experiences. Happy songs? Well, I just haven’t lived from that walking-on-sunshine place yet. But play me a song about a broken relationship, a girlfriend in a coma, or some serious self-loathing, and I can meet you there.

Here are some miserable (but great) song lyrics that have resonated with me, so you can see what I mean:

“I never thought about love when I thought about home.” ~The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio

“I know I’m unloveable, you don’t have to tell me…I wear black on the outside ’cause black is how I feel on the inside.” ~The Smiths, “Unloveable

“And at once I knew, I was not magnificent.” Bon Iver, “Holocene

“Going out of my mind, never getting what I wanted, getting what I needed, I left myself behind.” CHVRCHES, “Get Out”

“Take a good look at my face, you’ll see my smile looks out of place, if you look closer it’s easy to trace the tracks of my tears.” Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, “The Tracks of My Tears”

“Start asking for forgiveness in advance, for all the future thing I will destroy. That way I can ruin everything.” Julien Baker, “Hardline”

“The best of us can find happiness in misery.” Fall Out Boy, “I Don’t Care”

Depressing, right? There are a lot of songs about misery and pain. They are easy to find. When I first started getting into music in middle school, I gravitated towards gloomy songs because it was easier to sing along with something that resonated with me than something that felt shallow to me. I know dark doesn’t directly translate to deep or anything, but with dark you are in the ballpark. Or, at least, that is what I would tell myself; the mournful songs mean I’ve lived sadness and delved into the depths of human misery. That’s kind of deep, right?

Over the past few years, I have noticed I’ve begun to find some positive, happy songs that suck the depression right out of me. I think this is a good sign. I suspect it means I am growing, and my outlook is changing. I’m not sure I will ever walk away from my depressing songs because they are part of me still but, if I can get to a place where happy songs reflect my inner life as much as gloomy ones, I’m on the right path.

And, to end on a positive note because I am heading in a positive direction, enjoy some of these lyrics from a song that inspires me in all the best ways:

“I used to lay low, hiding in the shadows, so don’t give me dark days, I already had those. I’m just trying to figure out how to be myself right now. I don’t wanna lay low, hiding in the shadows. So I wake up, I get out of bed. Stay up, stay out of my head ’cause it’s dangerous and I don’t wanna lose my mind, no. I just wanna shine like the sun when it comes up, run the city from the rooftops ’cause today’s gonna be my day. I just wanna climb to the top of a mountain, standing tall when I’m howlin’ ’cause today’s gonna be my day.” Fitz and the Tantrums, “I Just Wanna Shine”

Suck on that, misery!

Wrong

“There’s something wrong with me chemically, something wrong with me inherently,
the wrong mix in the wrong genes, I reached the wrong ends by the wrong means.” 
~Depeche Mode

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Little me before I understood I was wrong

For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve operated under one irrefutable certainty: there is something wrong with me. That belief germinated in my early childhood when I was regularly told how imperfect I was. I couldn’t be still in church. I couldn’t behave in a store. I couldn’t act like a young lady. I didn’t use the brain the good Lord gave me. I was too talkative. I was inconsiderate, selfish, and not achieving to my fullest potential. Even things that were beyond my control, like my genetically thick and unruly hair, were wrong. While I knew intellectually that my parents did their best to love me, I accepted that I was off. The messages imprinted, the proof was iron clad, and I accepted it and wore it like a full-length down parka that both protected and obscured what lied beneath.

In my teenage years, I donned headphones and disappeared into music. Song lyrics were the first place where I found belonging. Morrissey’s morose vocals provided a soundtrack for my life. I know I’m unlovable. You don’t have to tell me. Message received – loud and clear. He was proof that there were others like me out there, although I didn’t seem to know any of them personally. As an adult, friends gave me grief over my depressing music, but I didn’t care. The National’s gloomy tunes told my life’s tale. When I walk into a room, I do not light it up. The awkward, the invisible, the alienated, the isolated, these were my people.

It wasn’t until I had my sons that I began to sense that, in terms of who I was, I might have been sold a bridge in Arizona. I started my parenthood career with the same high expectations of my sons that had been applied to me. When I approached them harshly and saw the crushed look on their little faces, however, I was reduced to a weepy mess. I couldn’t do it. Hurting them hurt me, not unlike sticking a pin in a voodoo doll only to realize I was piercing myself.

When my boys, both at age eight, were diagnosed with brain differences, an unexpected and beautiful idea drifted into my purview. These people who had been entrusted to me were meant to show me that wrong was subjective. Yeah, Joe couldn’t tie his shoes or ride a bike, but his intellectual curiosity and ability to retain and regurgitate information was impressive. And Luke, while struggling to comprehend phonics and read, created vast, complicated worlds and endless diagrams and drawings to explain them. I found my boys amazing. Flawed in some ways, sure, but still basically perfect. 

I have been in and out of therapy for five years now as I struggle to remove the coat of self-worthlessness I donned unquestioningly as a child. Yesterday, Glennon Doyle shared with the world a snippet from her upcoming book Untamed: “The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me.” Whoa. Hold it right there, Glennon. Are you saying that maybe there is nothing “wrong” with me after all? Maybe I’ve been wearing this cumbersome layer of shame and self-loathing out of habit? Maybe I could take it off or trade it for a windbreaker for a while and see how that feels? Hmmmm……

Spring and daylight savings are right around the corner. It might be a good time to lighten up. I can start by unloading the notion that there was ever anything wrong with me. I may not have been a perfect child or teenager or friend and I may not be a perfect wife or mother either, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. At least not inherently.