My husband is a cool guy. In temperament, if not fashion. He accessorizes with adjectives like steady, dependable, logical… not given to flights of fancy or emotional outbreaks (totally my department).
Which is why it surprises most people to know he is a SUPER fan. A trivia spouting, memorabilia collecting, cyber stalking, concert hopping, backstage haunting, true disciple Groupie. He doesn’t scream like a teenage girl or throw his underwear, but it’s a close thing.
Under that stoic exterior runs a vein of intensity. A passionate devotion which very few things incite. Things like…
His wife (score!)
His favourite books
His hockey pool team
And his favourite band: The Airborne Toxic Event
Setting the Stage
You can imagine the thrill… the joy… the utter celebration when he heard they were coming to the Pacific NorthWest this spring! Three shows in three nights were within reach: Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. You couldn’t tell by looking at him (his excited face looks pretty much the same as his cleaning-out-the-garage face), but he was ecstatic.
There are very few things my husband enjoys more than a rock concert. Certainly nothing I can publish on a PG blog.
My appreciation for live music, however, lies somewhere between blech and meh. Between the crowds, the noise, the standing, the haze of weed and nicotine, and the ringing in my ears that lasts for days, I’m left feeling like a cranky old woman longing for home and flannel PJs.
It’s not the music. I love the music. I simply prefer singing along in my car, or in the shower, or dancing around my house with the volume up and the headphones on (which is probably really good for my hearing). Sometimes I even listen to The Airborne Toxic Event.
I’ve done my time. I’ve seen more live shows than most hard-core music fans. Conversation starters like “remember that time we saw Def Leppard AND Tom Cochrane?” or “remember that cold, outdoor music festival in a muddy field in the middle of Podunkville, Nowhere?” are followed up with “which time?”
As Glen outgrew his love of 80s hair bands, our family outgrew frequent concerts. Not only is there the expense of tickets to consider, but babysitting and that most precious commodity of all: time. So, he started going without me (insert huge sigh of relief).
Usually, he’s able to harness the inestimable power of “The Concert Buddy.” Eric is his go-to guy, but there’s a list in his head. When he asks you what kind of music you like, he’s not just making conversation. But, he’s not opposed to going all by himself if need be. Like I said: Super Fan.
But this time he wanted me to come with him.
Grandpa Barb and Grandma Bill (as they’re known in our house) drove out from Calgary the week before. I updated my
Anal Mom Family Manifesto Handy Babysitter’s Guide with our schedules and health care numbers and emergency contacts. I gave myself numerous pep talks about my baby (he’s in his own house, he loves my parents and knows them well, his sisters will help, there’s nothing they can’t handle and I really, really, really need a break). And we set off for Portland.
It was our first getaway since adopting the boy 8 months ago. The first extended “Just Us” time in a couple of years. And boy, we needed it.
I had planned our first romantic getaway a bit differently. There would be sleep. And room service. And sleep. And lingerie and candles and romance. And more sleep. There would be NOTHING on the schedule (except for sleep). There would be NO demands on us. We would do anything we wanted. For a change, it would be all about ME, ME, ME.
Instead, we had a deadline. The show started at 8:00pm. So naturally, we had to be there by 4:00. Super Fan isn’t interested in leisurely drives or romantic dinners, it’s all about Front Row seating.
Seating. That’s the other thing. There’s no actual sitting. Not for Front Row people. Sounded miserable to me.
We brought our camping chairs and umbrellas and warm clothes. I was briefed on concert line etiquette. Apparently, there are rules.
Here’s where I admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this experience. At all. And he knew it. We arrived in Portland amidst a flurry of “thank yous” and promises to make it all up to me.
Turns out, our extensive line prep was unnecessary. We were able to spend the afternoon in the bar downstairs from the concert hall, keeping an eye on the door and policing the line up with a judicious use of guilt and peer pressure.
Turns out, the “we” wasn’t just Glen and I, with nameless strangers in the line up; it was a strange community of instant concert friends. Some Glen knew from online or previous shows, some we met that day. There was a kinship as we snacked and drank and peeked out the window at passing band members and swooped in for pictures and handshakes and “I can’t believe it, he totally put his arm around me and gosh, isn’t he dreamy and WHY do I look so goofy in this picture of us…” and talked music (and I just nodded my head and tried to look intelligent).
Turns out, those 4 hours were kind of fun, even for an introvert like me. There were fans from different generations – parents and their grown children. There were single folks and couples and professionals and students. There were people who lived down the street and people who flew in from Idaho and people who took a ferry and drove half the night. There were people who scraped and saved to find their way there and some who didn’t give it a second thought. As different as we were from each other, we were a team. We were galvanized by the inevitable line-cutting drama (insert grave head shake here). We passed the time getting to know each other, sharing pictures, exchanging e-mail addys, handing out concert advice and taking turns going to the bathroom (with one eye on the line cutters all the while).
Turns out, Glen got to go in and see the band! They agreed to put their handprints on a canvas as a fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation. I’ve not seen him that nervous in a long time. Nor have I seen him so elated, when he came back and told me how kind/cool/funny/wonderfully human they were, how one of them remembered meeting him before, how they took a picture of his new Airborne tattoo and asked him what song he wanted to hear.
How he didn’t request his favourite song in the world, but mine: The Graveyard Near The House.
This canvas will be auctioned off to raise money for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation.
If Glen can part with it.
As promised, there was no sitting for us. But there was a lovely fence to lean on, right at the very front. It might have felt claustrophobic, with all those other people pushing up against me. But by now, I knew them – Stephanie and her best friend from UVic (it was her first concert and she was SO excited), Karen and Mistie (who also have 4 kids close to the same age as ours and are very sweet), Kari, Andy and her daughter Kara (yes, the Kar- thing was a bit confusing), Elva (who calls me Mrs Glen, has great concert connections and takes care of everyone), Morgan and her parents (she helped Glen with the handprints and felt like it was a favour to her), and all the poor schmucks who came after 7 and didn’t get a great spot.
I wasn’t looking forward to the two opening acts. I mean, isn’t it enough that I came to see one concert?
However, the first act was excellent. The Parson Red Heads (excellent name) were pure Portland with their plaid shirts and bushy beards and folksy-hipster style. The music was just my style and the words… well, I’m a writer, so that’s the kind of thing that makes me fall in love with a band.
The second act was misplaced. I felt bad for them. They might be the best screaming thrasher band in the entire NorthWest. How would I know? It was so loud you couldn’t hear the music. Besides, I hate that kind of thing. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one, since their reception was lukewarm at best. But, there was a videographer filming some of their songs for their new album. And I felt so bad for them. So whenever the camera panned our way, I screamed my head off and jumped around like a real fan. I’m sure suburban soccer mom isn’t their usual niche, but who knows, maybe I’m in their music video now.
Finally, the main act arrived. They reminded me of my boy, with all that energy and jumping around. Did I mention that I was a bit homesick by now – how sad is that?
I’ve been to a lot of concerts. From U2 to Petra to Jann Arden to Coldplay to Arcade Fire. And I’ve tolerated them all.
This was one of the best ones, top of my Most Tolerable List. They are excellent performers. I knew all the words to all the songs (inevitable if you happen to live with this man). They are more storyteller/poets than simple songwriters, which appeals to me the most of all. It helps that I’d heard all the back stories of each song, what they meant and where they came from. Somehow it means more knowing the context. I cried when they played Timeless.
What’s more, they seemed genuinely surprised and deeply grateful that we all showed up. I hope that never goes away, because it’s so appealing in a rock star. And a human being.
But the best part was the Huge Ridiculous grin on the man beside me. It’s kind of amazing to me to see him so exuberant.
Goofy Grin with lead singer Mikel, showing off his tattoo,
and for some reason, giving us all the finger.
Over the past couple years it’s become easy for me to think of Glen as “the other parent” and “the guy who does the banking” and “the man who holds my hand.” More co-worker and teammate than person in his own right. It’s easy to forget that he exists apart from our world together.
He was pretty thrilled that I shared this concert/road trip with him. I thought I was a pretty darn-good wife for giving up my romantic weekend dreams. Turns out, it WAS a romantic weekend after all. Better than anything I had in mind.
He shared a corner of his world with me. I got to know him better. In a new way. And he was genuinely surprised and deeply grateful that I cared enough to show up.
Sometimes love looks like this.
I recognize it, because he’s done it for me so many times. At every sci-fi movie he’s sat through. In the museums and art galleries he’d rather just bypass. On mall benches and ski lifts and holding my purse while I ride the roller coaster one more time.
Concerts aren’t my thing. But he is.
In fact, I’m a SUPER Fan.
So here’s me, and lest you think me too heroic, I got ME time too. I spent the next morning in a huge bookstore, the afternoon poking around Seattle and the evening BY MYSELF in a hotel room with a movie and pile of junk food. I felt so bad for Glen, having to go to another concert while I revelled in the quiet. To each their own.