It was our third concert together, and our second in two weeks. This time it was The Who at the All State Arena. I was looking forward to sharing this stereotypical experience of my g-g-g-generation with my son.
As we were pulling into the parking lot, Tommy got his first taste of how this was going to be a little different than the friendly McCartney show we saw at Wrigley, or last week’s polite Australian Pink Floyd show. If you’ve never been to the All State Arena, there are many different lanes entering the parking lot. On this particular night, one of the lanes simply wasn’t moving. Tommy and I looked over to see what the holdup was. As we did, an older woman rolled down her window. My first thought was, “It’s going to be an older crowd.”
My second thought was formed by her words, gracefully flowing through that open window. “Hey Jack***,” she screamed. “Move your f***** car! Let’s go, F*****.”
You think she kisses her grandchildren with that mouth?
As it turned out, she was just the first of many to pepper his or her observations with some colorful verbal exclamations. This concert was like Dresden—the joint was being firebombed with f-bombs all night. The Who dropped more than a few on stage, and the old guys around us were screaming them in every possible conjugation.
When somebody in our section joked that this crowd was bigger than a Justin Bieber audience, a visibly agitated 50-something turned around and screamed—temples throbbing, veins in his neck popping: “F*** Bieber. Got that? F*** Bieber. Don’t you EVER mention his f***** name again.”
Okey doke. Not a Bieber fan, apparently. Then, in the middle of the show, a certain familiar smell wafted toward us. Tommy started waving his hand to get the smoke away from him.
“I thought you weren’t allowed to smoke cigarettes in here,” he said. Then he astutely observed something else. “Wait a second. This doesn’t smell like cigarettes.”
“It’s not,” I confirmed.
I was really starting to feel like Father of the Year. My g-g-g-generation had now shown him two of the rock and roll lifestyle’s big three (sex and drugs and rock & roll). Luckily, I figured there was very little chance of seeing that first one. The male-to-female ratio was about 10-1, and the women in attendance were well past the PDA age.
Turns out, that was no impediment. While Tommy and I were in line at the refreshment stand, a 40-something couple started going at it as if they were experiencing a jailhouse conjugal visit. I hadn’t seen such an exhibition in public since the hallways of my high school. When the woman went for her man’s neck and started to give him a hickey (I kid you not), I turned to Tommy to see his reaction. I don’t think he even noticed.
Despite the sights, sounds, and smells around us, Tommy and I had a great time at the show. The Who doesn’t just play the music, they attack it. If they didn’t have giant video screens with close-ups of Roger and Pete, you’d never know that these guys were pushing 70. They absolutely rock.
And even though the audience was a little rough-around-the-edges, I noticed something else about them after I allowed myself to relax. There were quite a few fathers attending the show with their sons. None of them seemed the slightest bit concerned about exposing their boys to rock and roll realities. Most of them were mild-mannered everyday fans like me simply enjoying the musical soundtrack of our lives. We’ve gotten a little older, but the time hasn’t diminished our love of the music. The fact that we can share it with our sons is a great blessing; one that none of us ever thought we’d get to experience.
On the way out of the building, Tommy and I made one last stop at the restroom. I’ve heard some of the most profound pearls of wisdom uttered in the lines of sinks or urinals at concerts in my lifetime, and this night was no different. A forty-something-old year old man was drying off his hands on a paper towel when he said to his buddy: “You know, last time I saw these guys, I was dropping acid. Now I’m dropping antacid.”
That got big laughs in the restroom. He was talking ‘bout my g-g-g-generation, and he pretty much summed us up in two memorable sentences.
I’m glad we didn’t die before we got old.