Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rock and/or Roll

My fist rock concert was Def Leppard on their Hysteria tour. I was 13. It was a shocking gift from my dad for my brother's 16th birthday. He drove us and two of my brother's friends across Lake Champlain to the Lake Placid Arena and dropped us off and went in search of a cup of coffee and a newspaper to entertain himself while we rocked out. The boys in the band were a little late coming on, so we stood out in the cold night, surrounded by knee high moccasins, metal hair and lots and lots of pot smoke. It's the first time I ever remember being part of such a massive crowd with singular purpose.

After an hour of standing, the chanting "Let us in! Let us in!" grew into its own sort of separate entity and hovered over the 10,000 of us huddled on the sidewalk. When the security guards moved the barricades, the sudden rush of movement was titanic. My feet left the ground and I floated in, buoyed up by my brother and his friends. It was an evening of firsts for me: my first contact high, the first time I fell madly in love with a one-armed man, the first time I was in a place where it was OK to stand on your seat and screech along with the music, the first time I was part of a mob. Pour Some Sugar On Me to this day remains one of my favorite songs. It's a ridiculous keepsake, still around long after the ticket stub has disintegrated. A keepsake of my first taste of abandon and wildness. A keepsake of the beginning.

I generally don't like crowds. I tend to get a little claustrophobic. I also tend to be irrationally afraid that someone around me might barf. There are crowds enough in my head, and I think an external crowd just pushes me around the bend. I avoid shopping centers at busy times of day and year, school-related activities are an activity of tremendous parental self-sacrifice, crowds of children and their parents being some of the most frightening types of crowd there is. Additionally, I don't even like being part of a virtual crowd. If everybody likes something, I am automatically suspicious of it. If everyone is saying something, doing something, eating something, being something, that's the fastest way to get me to avoid it.

But, like all good hypocrites, I have my exception. The rock concert. One of my first dates with the Chief Lou was to go see They Might Be Giants (right before they really started to suck) at the Blue Iguana in Houston. We hardly knew each other but we knew we loved the band, so in one of those make or break sort of evenings, I went nuts. I danced, I screamed, I elbowed to the front, I joined the conga line, I sang along at the top of my lungs, I took a swig out of a stranger's drink, I surprised my future husband before he even knew he was my boyfriend and he loved it. I made it.

The thing about being a mostly internal, introverted kind of gal is that sometimes it gets so crowded in here. Sometimes the company of my many nagging thoughts becomes too much and it's time to shut the operation down for a while. It takes a lot to get that particular factory to shut down. I've tried the relaxing routes: meditation, medication, massage, nap taking, wall staring. Sometimes those work. But my sure-fire method for clearing the cobwebs is to get my rock on. There's something about becoming just a tiny drop in a hot stream of burbling, pulsating flesh and music and light that is liberating. I exchange coherent thought for a hand stamp at the club door and fling myself into the moment. I take my place as an appendage of the organism the crowd has become. I bounce and move and sing and sweat and scream and revel. I have those precious few hours to ooze into the guitar strings, the drum kit, the mic. I have those few hours to forget that I am anyone or anything except a receptor for the throb and jangle of the music. I am a fan. Nameless, identity-less, faceless except for when the strobe lights hit me. This is my therapy.

The Chief Lou and I are considered to be a solid, calm, staid couple by most of our acquaintances. By all appearances, we are gentle folk who spend quiet evenings at home reading books and knitting. And we are. But sometimes, sometimes... the tickets get bought, the babysitter gets arranged, the Doc Martens get donned and we head out. We're complicit in this activity. I won't ask him about why he hugged the man next to us after the show and he won't ask me about the jumping, flailing, enraptured dance I did that cleared a 5-foot space around us. We won't mention how we both bellowed all the lyrics to our favorite songs as if we were alone in the car. We don't discuss how I wept during that one song and just stood there swaying, singing along, tears running down my face. If either of us should, perhaps, find it necessary to remove and throw our underwear at the stage, we won't discuss that either. But we will smirk over our coffee the next morning - sweaty, hoarse, and deaf - while the monkeys ask us how our evening was.

We are a quiet, bookish couple. Solid, calm and staid. Responsible members of our community. But underneath it all, we are rock and roll.


  1. *devil horns while in a muscle shirt sticking my tongue out and screaming YEAH*

    Pour Some Sugar On Me is a perfect Rock and Roll Song - timeless, never get tired of it, and makes me feel 20% physically stronger than I really am.

    Bless you and your rock memory. Loved this!

    ~ Red Dirt Kelly

  2. This doesn't surprise me...especially after your ABBA Gold Dance Party last month. ;) Everyone needs their rock and roll! Love this post! Keep rockin' and rollin'!

  3. I forget this is maybe that was 2 months ago. ;)

  4. So many memories. I saw Jethro Tull four times, and Jimmy Buffet also four times, not in the same venue. There couldn't be two more diverse musical artists in the world than Buffet and Ian Anderson, of Tull, who plays the flute, and is quite the performer. I absolutely went along every step of the path you described. Substitute Led Zeppelin for Def Leppard, and that's me.

  5. "the first time I fell madly in love with a one-armed man.."

    Ahaha The FIRST time? And subsequently?
    Maybe it's a "Fugitive" thing? :)

    I adore your writing.
    Like you, I tend to eschew that which everyone else runs to & embraces, including those who claim to be "counter-culture". Poor things never realize that a counter-revolution still suffers from the mob mentality. It's just a smaller mob, but they still offer you kool-aid to drink, albeit a different flavor of Koolaid.

    But yes, there is something delicious about experiencing live music. Such raw kinetic energy that rips through you. I love feeling a bit dazed and confused by those primal impulses.

    I wouldn't call it hypocritical to wish to be a part of a thing greater than yourself in these moments. I should call it transcendent, even if it is nothing more than a primal instinct embedded deep within our reptilian brain's need for survival. Whether we like it or not, ultimately, most of us seem wired by a herding instinct. Survival was often predicated upon it, probably still is...

    P.S. Hell yes to you and your man getting your freak on together.
    It's wonderful to share the madness with the man you love.
    Wonderful and freeing...

  6. Love it! Kind of like me and my husband, only underneath our quiet exterior lurks true rock-a-billy soul....

  7. "The thing about being a mostly internal, introverted kind of gal is that sometimes it gets so crowded in here."

    A big hell, yeah to that--and I'm with sebtown, totally jealous. I've yet to find anything that shuts down the nagging-thought factory--at least nothing that can be done in public. ;)

  8. "I also tend to be irrationally afraid that someone around me might barf."
    I laughed.
    Thanks for the smiles.

  9. I knew we were soul sisters. I'm not into crowds. I don't think someone's going to barf, though I am afraid someone's going to step on me. Or, that someone's going to get lippy and someone else will get punchy and I just don't like that.

    However, the rock concert? Yes. Def Leppard? Yes, please. Poison, Def Leppard, AND Foreigner? HELL YES!

    I've been known to drive and/or fly thousands of miles to see Def Leppard, Depeche Mode, Maroon 5 & Train, Rob Thomas, Matchbox Twenty ... ahem. So, gitcher rock on, girl! And Chief Lou!

  10. "The thing about being a mostly internal, introverted kind of gal is that sometimes it gets so crowded in here." I agree with MM...still searching over here! You really are afraid of barf, aren't you? We've all got a phobia, I guess!

    p.s. I never would have suspected:)

  11. "The thing about being a mostly internal, introverted kind of gal is that sometimes it gets so crowded in here."

    Yep! Yep! I'm with MM and cdnkaro. Sometimes I wake up in the morning to a cacophony of voices yelling over the tops of one another to be heard. It makes my head hurt before I have the wherewith all (coffee) to tell them all to shut it.


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