Concert Memories a Generation Apart

Mom and Jean, a nostalgic thank you for taking me to my first concert–Andy Gibb and the Alessi Brothers at Chicagofest, the pre-cursor to Taste of Chicago.  It was unassigned seating, so we arrived to the open air pavilion early.  We snagged the front row seats, and waited in the sun, the heat, the concrete for our first concert.  The moms wandered around the other music stages, leaving us three girls alone for several hours.  What intoxication, our freedom! What brave ones, our moms, in the time long before cell phones.  The only touchy moment I remember was running to the bathroom lines–in our bare feet, gross–seeing the moms and HOPING they would not notice our lack of footwear.  They didn’t.

I remember loving the concert, standing right in front of Andy Gibb.  No lasers, no dancers, no  video.  Just pop music with a cute singer and band behind him. Big brother Barry Gibb was standing in the wings, acknowledging our calls with a wave.

I was mentally reminiscing about this concert as we went to our first family stadium concert, to see Lifehouse and Daughtry this past week.  We have been to outdoor venues for concerts, but this was a true rock/pop concert with heavy rock and ballads from Daughtry, bit more pop from Lifehouse, with many songs that all three kids knew.

I loved watching how excited the girls were: standing up to dance when everyone around us was sitting, singing, buying the ubiquitous tee-shirts, taking photos.  Ronan–who hates fireworks–seemed to like the heart-pounding music, liked watching the few graphic changes that Daughtry had, was inspired by the lasers and lighting, intrigued by the drummers.

Having been already been to Alicia Keys this year with one daughter who won tickets, I wonder why the crowds start yelling when the lead singers say “Hello, Chicago!” or “I love to be here in Chicago.”  Do the fans interpret them to be saying “Hello Cindy!” or “I love to be here Pete!”, being acknowledged by the famous and semi-famous singers?  Every time a band says it, there is a groundswell of cheering.  I don’t quite understand it.   And maybe that is why there is such a big press outcry when a famous singer says the wrong city.  People then feel invisible, forgotten.  Like someone walking up to me at a party and saying “Good to see you, Sally” when that isn’t my name.

Thankfully, Daughtry and Jason–lead singer from Lifehouse–said the correct city!, played to the audience, telling stories about their past and songs which always makes me appreciate the music more,  walked through the crowds and seemed to appreciate their fans.  Our kids loved their first stadium show, and I know they hope we go again soon.  Although with seats closer to the stage. C


Musical Changes

“Regret” by New Order was first.  The next time it was “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs, followed by “Another Nail in my Heart” by Squeeze.  These were all songs we danced to in the 80’s at “new wave” and punk clubs in Chicago with names like Neo, Club 950, Avalon, Clubland (greatest new year’s bashes!) Exit and of course–the Lizard Lounge– that most of our friends did not know or understand, and most radio stations did not dare play for fear of reaching outside the top 40 or big-haired rock realms.

All had great dance rhythm, and we could–err, would–dance all night.  On the dance floor, on the bar, on our couches at late night parties, a Christmas tree swaying in the background of one video.

And in the past two weeks I have heard ALL these songs at the grocery store!!, Trader Joe’s at least, but still.  Our once-new, different music playing while shopping for Wasabi mayo and samosas and orange juice and hummus.  How cliche, how old I felt, how everyday….but they all still made me want to dance. Some things don’t go out of style, for me. C

Granny Can Dance

Granny tapped her foot to the rhythm over and again, as the middle school jazz band hopped through their songs.  Her husband next to her, hearing aid hidden and ball cap on his head, slowly pumping his ring finger to “Sing! Sing! Sing!” but it was granny–with her blue plaid shirt and pink Keds that I watched.

There she was in my mind, twirling on the floor with shimmering eyes, a teasing glint and flirty smile, blue chiffon spinning with a petticoat peeking from underneath, white ankle gloves and matching handbag on the table. Laughing, pearl teeth under red lipstick, as she flows, jumps, and spins around the dance floor, the brass pumping in the background.

Is she remembering the live band?  An icy drink?  A first kiss? A secrert glance?  the smell of gardenias?  They must be happy memories, as her foot continues tapping. 

And I wonder, will I feel this same way in 25 years if I hear the music of my youth?  Or my growing older? or my children?  C

A Ravinia Night

Where were the mosquitoes? I pondered, on a September-like evening at Ravinia last night, enjoying the sounds of British raggae group UB40.  At our house, they would have descended upon all, wreaking havoc on our party.  But here, as seems to be the norm, there were none to be found.  It made for a much more pleasurable night outdoors.

Ravinia is a wonderful outdoor musical theatre, in the north Chicago suburbs.  There is an outdoor pavillion to watch performances, or you can pay a low $15 for lawn seats to picnic and listen to concerts, the symphony, and kids’ concerts.  When I was in high school, lawn seats were only $5, and we went to see a number of concerts, including annually Chuck Mangione and Jackson Browne.  My high school graduation was held on the pavillion stage.

Some of the concerts today still seem like the high school “parties” I remember there from high school, with many large groups  of friends and family coming together, some indulging a bit too much. Now we might have more refined food and beverage than in HS, but I think we have as much fun.  Last night there were many people dancing on the lawn, as I have seen at other concerts in recent years including the B-52’s, The Coors, and Elvis Costello.

It is a little strange sitting in lawn chairs, sipping wine, listening to music over loud speakers.  Couldn’t we do that at home?  Yes, but here we can walk up to the stage if we choose, mingle with our friends, no one has to set up or clean up (other than our small tables), and it is such a relaxing, welcoming ambiance on a beautiful summer night.  Our only time to go this year, we always wonder why we do not go more often.  Summer just slips through our fingers, before autumn rolls in.  It was one more enchanting Ravinia memory to file away, as the UB40 concert surprisingly fizzled to a close rather than ending in triumph.  C

Super Swell Season

Have you seen the awesome Indie film Once?  The sweet story, the wonderful lyrics, the humor and the unlikely heroes simply drags you in and leaves you wanting more at the end.  Two lonely people searching for a touch, a connection, and finding it in the most unlikely way.  A viral success, the music so touched people the song  “Falling Slowly” won this year’s Academy Award for Best Song.

The film’s stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are now touring with a group of talented musicians as the group The Swell Season.  We attended one of their 3 sold-out concerts in Chicago last weekend, and they rocked the Chicago Theatre for 2 hours with songs from the film, new music, and Irish ballads.  The very varied mix of people in the audience (from twenty-somethings to families to couples to seniors to musicians to button-downs) were entertained by Hansard’s humor, Irglova’s shy words with the people, and the musical ranges from mellow to raucous, especially a rendition of an old Van Morrison tune.

Hansard talked about how Chicago has always been supportive of his music, and regaled us with tales and meanings behind the songs. I sometimes felt as if I was in a jam session, their conversations were so informal. I was brought back to being in a pub in Ireland hearing folk singer Christy Moore play, the audience enraptured with every song.

Their amazing fiddle player Colm Mac Con Iomaire played a solo from his new disk. Then The Swell Season’s final encore number was played without microphones, the band first getting the auditence to join in, then making their way through the aisles.

We need more beautiful, thoughtful music like they wrote and played–be it their melancholy sounds, their solos, their duets, or full-force rock sounds of the entire group. C

Rock Alive

There was only one destination for me in Cleveland last weekend–the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A child of rock, I was intrigued to explore this fascinating building on the shores of Lake Erie. 

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame With the triangular shape like the Louvre and the rectangular and circular sections, it was like opposing forces thrown together.  A bit like the history of rock, with many types of music combined, perhaps?  I hoped to take many more photos to include here, but cameras were not allowed in most areas of the building.

It was stimulation overload, as we spent almost 3 hours wandering through the exhibits that choronicled the evolution of rock music. First were the roots of rock, which included gospel, blues, country and folk music playing homage to many performers who laid the tracks for the rock singers.  I was surprised how many of the singers–some  forgotten until now–were black (and some women!) in the early 1900’s who spent their lives in both the south and Chicago.  Gave me a better appreciation for the blues of my hometown.

We listened for a long time to 500 songs from influential albums, and I laughed at the video compilations of preachers, politicians and tv announcers disparaging the influence of rock.  Where was the Steve Dahl disco demolition?   The videos were all from the mid-90’s; they could probably use some updating. 

Each exhibit showed an era of rock, be it an wall or an entire room encased with memorabelia–clothing, instruments, actual song lyrics, invoices from different eras, TV screens playing music, fabulous photography, automobiles, awards, and several short films. 

I grew up an avid Elvis fan, so I really enjoyed the large space dedicated to the King–with accounting sheets from his concerts, hotel bills, one of his cars, clothing through the eras, and some personal notes.  And I learned to appreciate Janis Joplin (loved her car!) and Jimmy Hendrix (his costmes and kitsch drawings drew me in)  more. Though I have never really liked their music–though can appreciate their artistry and influence. Pieces of Otis Redding’s crashed plane gave me a chill.

We wrapped up the lower level looking at costumes from some of the inductees–Madonna, U2, Bowie, Michael Jackson, ZZ Top among others.  My main complaint of the main level would be that it was a bit dark.  They also had pillars with white writing throughout, and it was hard to read the words at the bottom of the pillars.

We walked a little more quickly through the other floors, which included an exhibit on the creation of the electric guitar, paying homage to Les Paul; the architects of rock and roll; a collection of early sound equipment; and a special exhibit on making the film Help!.  We did pause a while at the Pink Floyd The Wall.

Several months ago we saw an exhibit on album art (4/15 post), and having recently read Eric Clapton’s biography (4/30 post), I feel I can much better discuss the music I have listened to and has influenced me throughout my life.  Of course, after we left the museum we discussed who wasn’t represented that we thought were missing–KISS (for my husband), Elton John among others.  But all in all, it was a pretty fascinating place…if you like rock and roll.  I think my kids could have been bored and rushed me though; when they are older, they will appreciate it more. It would be amazing to someday see the inductees perform there some day, too. C


Guitar Genius

I didn’t own any Eric Clapton music-until now.  While I enjoyed Clapton’s music, I didn’t truly appreciate his impact on music and others’ influence on him–until now.  I didn’t realize how  autobiographical his music was-until now.  I recently finished and absolutely absorbed his autobiography, Clapton

Eric Clapton succeeded in life because of this love of music, despite his lack of love for himself, abandonment by his mother, massive amounts of drugs and alcohol, and loss of a child.  He was in Chicago last summer rasing money for his rehab center in Antigua, Crossroads.  I wish it was this year, when I would understand this project better and encourage all my family and friends to attend. Creating this recovery center for addicts seemed to help Clapton take control of his own life, possibly for the first time.

He jumped from band to band early in his career, trying to find one to play the types of blues music he loved, yet had success with all his bands.  He crossed paths and worked with many of today’s biggest blues/rock/jazz artists, many when they were all reaching for success. He fought a solo career though he said “I knew I had it in me early, but I had stuffed it down to the point that I stopped believing in myself.”  (p. 120)- who hasn’t felt like that?

Until Clapton mentioned his diaries in the middle of the book, I wondered how he remembered dates/places/people in such detail, especially during his drug & alchohol hazed days. No matter what field you work it, it would be amazing to  collaborate with such a wide range of talented individuals on projects. 

His book Clapton is such a telling story about life and addiction, enabling,  the difficulties of overcoming fears, problems, devastation, and the choices we make in life. C

note: I also wrote about his autobiography in my blog on April 15,08.