The word 'roadkill' accurately describes how I felt yesterday morning after spending the previous night with a demented crush of teenage banshees at a Fall Out Boy concert in Brussels. I was so tired I never even got up to my grumpy morning default setting. It couldn't be the one beer I had, decorous by my standards. And it wasn't that the music was concert loud, because I love that kind of loud. No, it was the non-stop pandemonium in the audience that wiped me out. Teenage hormones in full spate and at ear-splitting decibels will sap the juice out of anyone, even a life-long party animal and adrenalin junkie like myself.
As concerts go, it was a great evening; Fall Out Boy are a terrific band with a big brash sound. What made it special for me was the fact that it was Noodle's first ever rock concert. Being present at this rite of passage was a privilege for his music-mad mama. The look of utter delight on my son's face when FOB hurled themselves into their first song will stay with me forever. He was easily the smallest person there and glad to have us by his side. He'll feel differently in a few years, so we're grateful for today's small mercies.
A disapproving friend wanted to know why I would even take a 10 year old to a rock concert on a school night. (Legs stayed home studying for exams.) Not knowing how to explain myself I simply replied, "Because I like to have fun with my son." But it got me thinking about why Skunk and I do it. We've been taking Legs and Noodle to concerts for about 3 years now. The fun element is crucial, yet there's more. On the practical side, teaching the kids basic street smarts is part of our brief as parents. Noodle and Legs aren't too young to learn about concert protocol, especially how to be safe and enjoy themselves at public events. Stay away from drunks and people who are high or aggressive, we caution them. Know where all the exits are. Don't accept drinks from strangers, I sometimes nag. If the volume's too loud, ask for free ear plugs at the bar. Stay close to the security dudes if the mosh pit vibe gets uncomfortable, et cetera. Luckily, in the 20-odd years we've been going to the Ancienne Belgique, we've never had a spot of bother. It's a mid-sized venue, clean, well-policed and generally attracts a good-natured crowd. Still, better safe than sorry.
But back to the real reason why we take our children to concerts some people deem inappropriate for their age. A singular magic unfolds when good music is performed live. Live music creates fellowship in a way that bottled music can't. Aging rock chick that I am, I have much more in common with the dread-locked heavy or the wispy redhead with multiple piercings gyrating next to me than any of us can ever imagine. Barriers fall, smiles are traded. Kind strangers sometimes turn into new friends. Important discoveries are made about ourselves and what makes our cells hum with joy. We emerge, temporarily deaf but years younger. The happy buzz lasts for days, the memories a lifetime.
Besides, the thought of my children listening to dreck by the likes of Britney Spears or James Blunt is more than I can bear. Give me roadkill mornings any day.
Fall Out Boy performing "Thanks for the Memories" at their Brussels concert, the last gig on their European tour. The footage is shaky in parts due to jostling by deranged teens, but audio is okay. (Length 1:43)