Last night I worked with a lovely woman whom I adore. We seem to connect in a lot of areas, especially in the mothering department. On our late-night, post-work ride home conversation, it was brought up that she had never attended a live (rock) music concert (save a few cello or violin concertos). I was shocked!!! Seriously shocked. She then asked me what concerts I had been to in my life and I stuttered, because the answer was SO much greater than the question. I wanted to say, “in which life?”
Live music (and music in general)has always been my drug of choice. Give me a great love song on a sleek and sexy six-string guitar, a rolling and rollicking drum solo and a singer whose heart and soul is literally pulsing on the stage, drenched in sweat and I’m THERE. My taste in music varies greatly and has changed and evolved over time as I’ve grown older.
I went to bed thinking about it…what concerts I have been to in my life? The names, the places, the decades came flooding back to me in a tidal wave of memories as I tried to fall asleep. And then tonight, while I was nursing Calvin to sleep,(so many quiet, reflective thoughts occur while I am nursing…thank God for those moments) it solidified in my memory. And here it is, in some kind of random order, especially the ones that stand out the most:
Elton John at Poplar Creek in 1985. I was 13, my brother was 10 and my parents took us to listen to one of their own favorites as we picnicked on the lawn and watched the fireflies light up the night sky. Garrick and I grew up listening to his music and we loved “Benny and the Jets” when we were kids…”she’s got electric boobs, a mohair suit”…I didn’t know the actual lyrics until I was in college. I still want to sing, “electric boobs” when I hear that song.
My first concert I attended without parental chaperones was Depeche Mode, in 1986, at the same venue. “Black Celebration”. Oh the deep and dark songs on that album…so fitting for the beginning of teen angst. And then even later still that same year, with the same group of girls, we went to see Robert Palmer…I didn’t even know who the heck he was, but hey, it was live music without our parents there. Turns out that later in life I greatly appreciated his music and his verve.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of highschool. Thurs, Oct 29th, 1987 JAM presents U2 live at the Rosemont Horizon. I can still to this day feel the same chill that I got as a 15 year old girl when I hear the opening guitar licks of “Where the Streets Have no Name”. I went with a few of my best girlfriends (and still are, despite our geographical distance) and we had one of the most memorable times of our lives. The feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of other people who were engulfed in the same spirit and energy was absolutely magical. And I think we knew that we were seeing a band on the verge of exploding into our universe.
I’ll leave out the details of the World Series of Rock concert from my senior year of high school…mostly because I can’t remember them, save the time I was in the First Aid tent after “falling” into a barbeque pit…what? Yes, I still have the scars on my arm to prove how stupid and reckless I was. God, help my own sons to not be so stupid (or drunk) when they are teenagers!!
And then there came college in all of its variations…Sting at Bercy and Echo and the Bunnymen at New Morning in Paris, 1991 while I was on a year long study abroad program (the first two concerts I ever attended alone), The Charlatans (UK) in London of that same year when I went over to visit a good friend from back home who was also studying abroad. Big Head Todd and the Monsters and then BB King at the Civic Center in Madison when I was a student at UW. And then off to San Francisco to see David Byrne at the famous Warfield in 1997 and Suzanne Vega and Sarah McLachlan pre-Lilith Fair in Berkeley the year after.
After moving back to Chicago from San Francisco, it seemed like my musical journey was just beginning. Chicago is a phenomenal city for seeing live music. There are a so many places that are known by their first name alone…Metro, the Riv, Aragon…they all have their own “charm”, shall we say? Not to mention the extraordinary amount of jazz clubs, blues bars and gay bars…live music is never far away. The city pulses with a beat, it hums its very own tune for sure. I saw my idols on stage in this city…Patti Smith at the Riviera on Sunday, November 22, 1998…the MOST transcendental and out of body experience I have ever had at a concert. I still have this show recorded on cassette from a radio station that rebroadcasted it a few years later (and I “taped” it). I swear I can hear myself screaming in the front row. I still listen to that cassette and when I do, I am free…arms waving, fists pumping, legs jumping to her pulsing rock; I embody her spirit, her power, her joy. She is my idol and I have seen her many times since that first night…each one magical and memorable, making me feel more and more connected to her and her word.
Two days after the towers fell in NY and our world was forever changed, I walked a silent and black Chicago street with my boyfriend/friend/boyfriend (we couldn’t figure it out for years) to see PJ Harvey at the Riviera Theatre. I’ll never forget the silence in that hall. Normally when one enters a concert, there is loud chatter and vibrant energy, people ready to let loose and be free for a few hours. But not that night. The walk was silent, the entrance was somber, it was funereal. What could we expect? Our worlds were just completely shattered and torn apart. And then PJ took the stage. She came on solo and with grit and grace she told a little story. She said that she wasn’t sure if playing music after such a traumatic and devastating event was the “right” thing to do, but she had come to the conclusion that whether wrong or right, it was necessary. For what could unite a room of several hundred strangers more than the tragedy they just endured? Music. And she was so right. I think we all wept in the darkness of that hall, freely and openly…and not only for the loss that we had endured, but for the collective spirit that still shone brightly within us all. Music.
And then there was Ani DiFranco, Oasis, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tracy Champman, Duran Duran (only 20 years after I was their number one fan…oh, how I felt young again that night!!!), Lollapolooza, U2 (again), Sting (again), Wilco, Madonna (right off of the stage where we saw her make her grand entrance)…I’m sure I’m forgetting many more, but this post is going on and on. Oh, and how can I forget the Pixies reunion tour in Chicago at the Aragon, 2004? The first night of their 5 night tour….my best friend and I stood next to the sound booth and by the end of the night I held the only printed copy of the playlist they had in my hands. It now hangs in a frame on her wall.
Music…it’s been the running thread of my life. It connects me to the places I’ve been, the people I’ve loved (and those I still do), the moments that are crystallized in my memory and defined by a song or a note. It describes my heartache and pain without me having to in my own words, it exudes my joy and spirit when I want to shine and need to hear myself smile.
Music connected me to my husband and was the inspiration for the title of this blog. When Michael and I fell in love, it was to the tune of a Jeff Buckley song. Part of the lyrics are,
Twenty-nine pearls in your kiss
A singing smile
Coffee smell and lilac skin
Your flame in me
I’m only here for this moment
I know everybody here wants you
I know everybody here thinks he needs you
I’ll be waiting right here just to show you
How our love will blow it all away.
Thank you Music, for the memories, thank you musicians for singing the words that I feel in my heart and for the tunes that vibrate my soul.