Peter Chianca: Daughter's first show conjures ghosts of rock concerts past
I sidled up to the bar -- most likely looking like someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time sidling, especially up to bars by himself -- and ordered a Diet Coke. This seemed to be the beverage of choice for the row of tired-looking middle-aged fathers slumped over the stools at Boston’s House of Blues, all of us anxiously twiddling with our phones and watching the boy-band concert being piped in on closed-circuit TVs from the venue next door.
Somewhere among the screaming crowd whose pale little hands we could see swaying along the bottom of the screen was each and every one of our daughters, who were no doubt professing their undying love for three skinny boys born well after we all graduated from college; at least one of them had a first name (“Keaton”) that I’m pretty sure wasn’t even invented until sometime during the Bush administration. (The second one.)
The young bartender gave me a look that was equal amounts bemusement and pity -- it was a look that said, “Hang in there, pops.” Or, “Yes, it’s come to this.” Or maybe, “You look like you could use another Diet Coke.” Regardless, it was heavy with portent.
I used to be a concert-GOER, rather than a concert-picker-upper. Yes, I still catch Springsteen whenever he’s in town and take in the occasional other oldie-but-goodie (like Bob Seger, who is sort of like Springsteen if Springsteen were from Detroit), but my days of seeing up-and-coming bands in venues where no sports are played seem squarely behind me.
Still, I’d managed to put that thought out of my mind until I found myself among the phalanx of jittery parent-chauffeurs lining Lansdowne Street, looking like shell-shocked abductees who’d just been released from an alien spaceship, or the suburbs.
The concert in question was Emblem3, whom I’d actually arranged to have my 14-year-old daughter, Jackie, interview for my newspaper when they visited Square One Mall in Saugus last summer. This created a zero-degrees-of-separation relationship with the group that cemented her status as their No. 1 fan, so it’s pretty much all my fault; the deeper you get into the teen years there are fewer and fewer chances to play Hero Dad, so we tend not to consider the unintended consequences.
I arrived early for the pickup, hence my stop at the bar, but it was after the main set ended and I wandered out onto Lansdowne that the collective parental fuddy-duddiness of the situation really became clear. Everywhere you looked corners had been staked out, hands were shoved awkwardly into the pockets of puffy coats, and eyes squinted intently from behind bifocals and tired lids on the doors where our daughters would emerge -- presumably lest they somehow slip by us and into the world of roofies and twerking, and whatever else they’ve invented to keep parents from sleeping until their kids enter their 30s. (40s?)
The later it got, meanwhile, the more parents barrelled down the narrow street in their SUVs, apparently (and inexplicably) expecting to find parking, or to slow down just long enough to grab their daughters and pull them into the vehicle, Uggs-first if necessary.
At one point an older couple in a Jeep Laredo, whose look suggested their last concert experience might have been a Pete Seeger show at Hynes Auditorium in 1978, plowed into a snowbank at about a 45-degree angle from the sidewalk. The wife scurried out to find their daughter while the husband remained seated behind the wheel with a look of forced nonchalance, as if it were perfectly normal to be parked on a snowbank outside Gate E of Fenway Park at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night, your backside sticking out into the middle of Lansdowne Street like a beached sperm whale.
It wasn’t long after the show ended that Jackie came wading through the crowd and up the street, arm-in-arm with her concert buddy as is standard practice for suburban girls in the Big City. But I had just enough time for my concert-going life to flash before my eyes: from my first show (Huey Lewis & The News, Hartford Civic Center, 1985) through dozens of others with friends (some of whom were dragged), my wife (including a Yes show two nights before our wedding; long story), my kids (if Barney the Dinosaur counts as a concert), and now, this one -- on the outside looking in as my daughter had her first parent-less concert experience.
“How was it?” I asked as she approached our meeting spot at Gate E.
“It was the BEST NIGHT of my LIFE!” she responded, beaming.
And there you had it: As we walked back to the car, it was clear the torch had been passed to a new generation of concert-goers. And good for her. I guess from now on I’ll be seeing you among the waiting throngs out on the sidewalk, my fellow parent-chauffeurs.
Well, and at the next Springsteen show. I’m not THAT tired.
Peter Chianca is editor in chief for Gatehouse Media New England’s north-of-Boston newspapers and websites. Follow him on Twitter at @pchianca.