I’ve never been a huge music buff. To my dad’s chagrin, I really can’t tell the difference between Pink Floyd, the Who or any other band whose name I recognize but whose songs I couldn’t name if you paid me a million bucks. Maybe I just don’t have the ear for it… or maybe I just have really lame taste in music. Both are likely possibilities, but whatever the reason, I was the kid who blared “Breakfast with the Beatles” from the radio on CHUM FM every Saturday morning. Why? Because that is the bread and butter that I was fed growing up. Every weekend (and week day) was filled with songs from the Monkees, the Beatles, the crazy Swedes from Abba or some British rock band that my dad had listened to himself growing up. It was bliss pulling up on Sunday’s after being dragged to Sunday school to see my shirtless father rocking out to the radio and cleaning the car. For him, this was nirvana. Not the band.
Not only was I not a fan of Nirvana, Green Day, or any other popular bands entertaining kids my age as I filtered through middle school and worked my way up through the high school years, I had never been to a concert, which in my family, where my dad makes every effort to attend every and all musicians worth seeing, was a travesty. What wasn’t a travesty was that for my first ever concert, I was taken to see the brilliant and talented, Sir Elton John. Now, I should tell you that despite the fact that I had no idea, nor did I care who the “in” bands were, or what the “cool” song of the week was, I LOVED musicals (I still do) and I knew the scores of my favourite off-by-heart. Looking back, I’m not really sure how I made it through school without being subjected to utter and complete ridicule but for my 13th birthday, I wasn’t sitting with my family in Chuck E Cheese – oh no. I was in the 3rd row at the Phantom of the Opera. That was my nirvana, right there. To date, I have seen the Phantom maybe six or seven times, and was over the moon when I was studying in London and caught Love Never Dies, the sequel to what remains by far my favourite musical production. I’ve also seen Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Evita, Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, Billy Eilliot, The Sound of Music and am currently in the process of buying tickets to attend Chess with… my dad. Why I never saw Les Miserables is beyond me – something to look forward to perhaps. I did happen to catch Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tribute in Hyde Park. That was spectacular, but I nearly froze to death and had to leave before Elaine Page hit the stage. Regardless, I digress.
Back to the story of how I rid myself of musical apathy. It started with Elton. Elton John was, in my eyes, a star. He was the typical British rock and roller, an icon that I knew and adored, and had just released the song “Candle in the Wind” a year or so before. So, off I went to see the prince perform alongside my dad, my mom and… my grandmother. We were a group to be reckoned with. Grrr baby (be afraid – we managed to have the women sitting behind us thrown out for drinking too much and possibly damaging my poor Gran’s ear drums). But despite the drama, which I found fascinating, it being my first concert going experience and all, I had the time of my life. Live music kind of rocks! I suddenly realized that concerts are one of “those things” that should be taken advantage of, when available. After all, those artists won’t be around forever. It also hit me that good music is good music and never goes out of style! Not to say I didn’t venture to some of the more age appropriate shows once in a while. I took in my fair share of ‘NSYNC concerts, saw John Mayer (Maroon 5 opened and acquired an immediate following) and even wore a blue wig for the Backstreet Boys concert as they released their album entitled none other than…Blue. No one said I was the creative type, even back then.
Since those high school days, I’ve slowly taken it upon myself to support those artists that may be labeled as super corny, or kitsch if we’re talking German – the lesson learned from my dad about taking the bull by the horns and enjoying music for the sake of music, whatever your taste, has stuck! I am an admitted groupie of non other than a Mr. James Blunt – who I have seen 3 times and is, to date, the most talented artist I have ever heard preform! I swear he sounds better live than on his album and he always has the most amazing people opening for him (Lindi Ortega and Christina Perri to name a few). I have also seen Ich und Ich, singers of some of the cheesiest German songs, of which many helped me extend my vocabulary and one of which happens to be the first dance I shared with my new husband on our wedding day! Now if you don’t know Ich und Ich, perhaps you know Rammstein? Oh yes. I saw Rammstein. It was a gift for the man I love, and I must him a whole lot because was I ever out of my comfort zone at that one! Not that having a man made of solid muscle wearing leather pants, stomping around with no shirt and riding a pink penis that shot out little sperms as he sang the song entitled “Pussy”, wasn’t my thing…. but… it really wasn’t my thing.
That would be another lesson I quickly learnt. Once in a while, for yourself, and for the people you love, it’s worth stepping outside the box and trying something new. Now, I can’t say I do this often with my musical repertoire: I like what I like and if I’m going to pay to go to a concert, it better be to see someone worth watching. That being said, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to was Powderfinger, an Australian band who performed once in Toronto and then again in Ottawa. I saw them with my dad when I was in university and their CD didn’t leave my portable CD player for months afterwards. They have since broken up (unfortunately) but I made sure to invest in their entire collection before they disappeared and was crushed when I realized I wouldn’t have the opportunity to see them again in concert (I was banking on that for a Christmas gift for the old man, he got cologne from the Body Shop again instead. What can you do?). On a similar note, I recently attended Bryan Ferry at Casinorama with who else other than, yup – my dad – and we had a HOOT! Yes I know, for those of you over a particular age, you’ll be reading this bewildered that I didn’t know Bryan Ferry, former member of Roxy Music, yada yada. Sue me. Although, I did end up recognizing one or two of his covers (Dylan stuff), and they rocked! Some of these old timers aren’t too shabby, let me tell you. In fact, not too long ago, also in the company of my lovely parents, I saw the Monkees (3 out of 4 anyways) preform in Niagara and I was on cloud nine. I remember the hype growing up… okay wait.. that’s a lie. I remember watching reruns of the Monkees television show and hearing all the hype about Davy Jones, who was then and will forever be viewed as quite the cutie pie. Sorry – I don’t use that expression often but he was/is too short for me to use any descriptor – it’s all relative and coming from a giraffe, I feel it’s excusable. Anyways, moving on – when I saw those guys preform, I felt my heart race rather quickly thinking about how amazing it was that I – a 26 year old – was getting the opportunity to drool over Davy Jones, lead singer of the Monkees! I never imagined growing up that that would have been possible! For me, the Monkees were a thing of the past, a great reminder of a time when songs were about love and happiness, when men could pull off long hair without the mullet and bell-bottoms were totally in! But in fact, the Monkees had jumped, or perhaps I should say they swung, out of my past, and into my present. I savoured the moment and really appreciated the opportunity to be in the presence of something great.
I thank my dad for opening my eyes to the magic of good music, music that is eternal and that can bring people together, bring you back to a time when things were easier, or make you appreciate the goodness in the things that are. Now that my eyes are fully open, I have many more concerts to look forward to, whether with my dad, or with my own kids who will initially think I’m “totally un-cool” but will one day appreciate the power of beautiful music. My husband has already been fully integrated into the trend as he was dragged alongside the rest of the family to see John McDermott, a Scottish-Canadian tenor who sings beautifully, lulling the audience with a mixture of classical and modern holiday tunes. Mr. McDermott has become a staple in our Christmas routine and my husband has already started to ask when the concert will be so we can schedule it into the busy winter months.
I have no problem going to a concert alone. In fact, there was a time, when I was traveling and single, when I relished the opportunity to sit in silence and enjoy the beauty of the music. Now that I’m back living closer to my family and friends and am happily married to a guy I can be my absolute self around, I prefer to share the experiences with those I love, using the time as a simultaneous pause in our busy lives to catch up over some good music in the presence of great company (the artists and each other, of course). If there’s one thing I learned from my dad (and be assured there are many), sometimes the best way to enjoy life is to bite the bullet, buy the ticket, break out the air drums and let the music play.