My husband took me, at age 37, to my first “real” concert. We got there very early, so we could stand right up against the stage, with our hands right on it, to keep from being bumped back into the crowd. Once the crowd arrived, that is. At this point, there were just three of us—me, my husband, and his brother—standing on this dance floor. The people who were all in line with us had already taken the only tables and chairs, which lined the balcony that overlooked us in front of the stage.
I am not a music person, nor am I much of a dancer. And I was worried that I’d be expected to move in time, completely immersed. That’s really not me. I said I felt like a dork standing there while a couple dozen folks looked at us and the empty stage. His brother said, “You really care what people think about you, don’t you?” Busted.
His brother got us each a beer. That helped. Now I had something to do. People filed in until there were a few dozen of us on the floor. The opening musician was actually a pretty good guitar player. His fans were really excited about the lyrics, deep things like taking a toke of mary jane and doing something all night long. Somehow I didn’t doubt the mary jane part, but doing it all night long I didn’t buy. What do I do now? I can’t just seem disinterested. It must be hard to be an artist pouring out your soul to some crowd of 25 while awkward girl at the stage’s foot just stands and looks at you blankly. Do I tap a toe? Smile a little? His fans, swaying and saying “YEAH!” to the drug references further confronted how out of place I truly was. Finally I smiled, bobbed a little, but just couldn’t get into the details of what happened at midnight, and just appreciated the good guitar.
Finally, time for the band we came to see. Earplugs in really tight, I found myself excited now and slightly more comfortable with the crowd’s surrounding us and letting me blend a little. Only now I was right up against the stage, in front of the lead singer, hoping he and the rest of the band wouldn’t notice that I was so strangely out of place, didn’t know all their lyrics, and didn’t dance and sway and swoon, too. Hoping I wouldn’t throw them off by my lame concert behavior.
Again, what should I do? Do I tap a toe? Nod in time? Stare at the guys like I idolize them and hold them up higher than they ought? Faced with this self-evaluative moment, I think I decided that it was about time I just stop caring. So, I smiled and listened, which was easy since I love their music. I have to say that I had never really felt music to be a part of me, but they started and my insides jumped with every beat. Intoxicating and freeing, almost persuading me to let down and really be myself, whoever that is.
And I watched. I watched the way the band interacted and laughed at their own in-band jokes. And I watched the fans that I could see on either side of us. There was the girl that looked so completely immersed in it all, eyes closed, swaying, so happy and in her own thoughts very comfortable. Girl next to me was following the band from town to town, had their set lists from each night, and wanted to know if it was my first concert. Really, that obvious? She said I was cute standing there with my husband and his brother, all by ourselves earlier. And the drunk guys who were banging their heads a little too hard for alternative folk music—I loved it. The business men behind me in their polo shirts tucked into high-waisted jean shorts, clean white tennis shoes, were rocking to the beat a little off beat, and I felt more at home.
My husband and his brother seemed quite natural and quite themselves, both being music people and musicians in their own right. They kept laughing, asking me how my big purse was as I switched it from shoulder to shoulder and hand to hand. It at least gave me something to do. I wanted to feel like they did, in love with being there and fitting right in, not caring what they looked like and what anyone thought of them.
The stage was all dirty, not vacuumed in ages, speakers, wires, equipment that could seem messy but was placed just so. The band wore 70s cowboy shirts, jeans, and various types of boots from cowboy to harley to the kind that skinny jeans could fit over and stay taught. The one-time lovely velvet curtain behind the stage was now mis-hung and stained, a remnant of an 1800’s mansion turned party house/concert venue. It was all so beautiful and messy and dirty and loud and real, a lovely backdrop for the music’s depth and intelligence.
Before long I was tapping my toes, stomping my feet, and bobbing my head, feeling more like I belonged. I smelled like smoke and wanted to go wash my hands and get off my tired feet. I was in love with the whole experience, confronting as it was, excited that I could let myself feel a little of what real music lovers feel, and wanting more. More to make me be more like who I want to be and a little less of who I am. More to make me relax and stop caring what anyone thinks about me, stop caring what I think about me.
Awkward girl went to a concert, and she loved it.
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