Last night I took my thirteen year old daughter and her two closest friend to their first gig. The band was their current favourite, Twenty One Pilots (their wikipedia page describes their sound as schizophrenic pop, in case you’ve not heard of them!) Anyway, the genre and the band are not particularly important to this post, although I will say I was enormously impressed.
My daughter has been to family music festivals before, but this was the first time she got to a see a band of her choice, a band she has discovered and fallen in love with herself. I have to admit, I felt kind of privileged to be able to experience this rites of passage experience with her, even if it was politely from the side-lines. I watched their excitement build as we finally arrived at the venue, and watched their confidence soar as they joined the massive, snaking queue of teens, who all looked just like them. (Checked shirt, skinny jeans, red beany hat.)
My daughter has a phrase she sometimes uses when I show an interest in her music tastes, or when we discuss our musical differences. She will say jokingly; ‘stay in your own lane’! Which basically means, don’t try to get it, don’t try to understand, go back to the 90’s where you belong!
So, with this in mind, I kept to myself in the over excited queue, whilst keeping a watchful eye over my hyperactive charges. I wasn’t there to enjoy the band, and had to keep reminding myself of this. I wasn’t there to join in, or embarrass them in any way. I was only there because under fourteens must be accompanied by an adult.
Once inside, they queued for their merchandise or ‘merch’ as they call it these days, we found the toilets, and then found our seats in the circle upstairs. Once seated, I looked around and felt immediately old and out of place. I go to gigs and festivals as much as I can, but I go to see either music from my era, the 90’s, or music I have gotten into lately. I was surrounded by teenage girls and boys who all looked remarkably like my strong minded daughter. I was also really tired and could have easily dropped off asleep at that point. I then started to notice the other parents. Dotted here and there among the beany hats and checked shirts, sat sedately and smiling gently while the excited chatter built to a crescendo around them, were parents, around my age or older. They were out of their lanes too.
Then the band started. The four teen girls in front of us instantly leaped to the feet and started bouncing and screaming, and pretty much didn’t stop. Everyone else followed suit, while us oldies remained seated, as we were only there because we had to be. We didn’t want to get too excited or too involved, no matter how good the band was.
I tried to mind my own business, whilst stealing the odd glance at my teen as she enjoyed herself. I’ll admit I had to choke back the odd tear or two, watching the utter joy on her face as she sung along to the songs she loved. It was more than just excitement though, more than just joy and the wonder of a first time time experience. It was their sudden sense of belonging, of being part of a tribe to while they automatically knew they belonged, of seeing themselves in the people around them, feeling a powerful sense of unity and without a doubt, pride in who they are.
It made me think back to my first gig. Pulp is always the one that sticks in my mind. I think it was 1994 and I went with my then best friend, a girl who had always been bullied and ridiculed at school. I remember how it felt for us, to walk among a crowd of young people who looked just like us, who loved Pulp as much as we did. We belonged. We’d found our people, and no one was going to laugh at us for being different.
That feeling was repeated for me many times over the years, and even more recently when I finally got to see the reformed Stone Roses at Finsbury Park in 2013. That smile you get on your face when you recognise the people. When you all sing along. When you jump and bounce and wave your arms all as one. A tribe. A belonging. Add to that the utter thrill of finally seeing a band you love, in the flesh, right there, and they are talking to you, and singing for you, and giving it all for you. Nothing can beat that! The only sad thing is that it ever has to end.
So, in the end, I was up on my feet like the rest of them. At one point a mini drum kit had been placed on a platform, and passed out on top of the crowd. The drummer then climbed onto it and drummed on top of the audience! The singer vanished, only to suddenly appear up on the balcony with us. Like all great front men, he had complete control of the crowd. If he had asked them all to jump off the balcony for him, they would have done so willingly.
I crept out of my own lane just a little bit, just long enough to be extremely impressed, and to wish I was young again! I didn’t sing or dance though. My daughter would have been mortified.
On the way home, the kids were buzzing and hyper. My daughter talked about the next gig she wants to go to. I can see now that she has the bug and I am happy for her. If anything can help you get through this confusing life in this crazy world, it’s music. It reminds you why you are alive.
I was left wondering if I would be welcomed along next time. By that date, she will be fourteen, and in most venues, won’t need and adult with her. I felt a brief stab of sorrow at the thought of being asked to merely drop her off and pick her up again. I’d miss out, but that is as it should be. She’s got her lane and I’ve got mine. I’m sure they will cross paths again at some point. Festivals are great for that.
In the meantime I will just savour the memories, of being able to witness one of her first experiences once again. Like watching her take her first steps, learn to ride a bike, and learn to read. I’m glad I got to be a part of it, even if it is unlikely to happen again!