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Rated: E · Column · Parenting · #886234
An essay aobut taking my young sons to their first real "rock" concert.
The other night my wife and I took our two sons -- "B" (age 7.5) and "G" (age 4) -- to see the band Smash Mouth. It was their first "official" rock concert. In the past they have seen artists/bands such as Suzanne Vega, The Iguanas, and Roseanne Cash who could all be classified as "rock" but all those shows were free and the kids didn't know their music. So in addition to Smash Mouth being harder edged musically -- definitely "rock" -- and the kids knowing their music, we also paid to see the band play.

Smash Mouth, either by design or accident, have kind of become the musical equivalent of Fischer Price toys. In the same sense that kids get their "first" Fischer Price toy car, their first toy train, or -- in my day -- their first little record player, Smash Mouth are a lot of today's young kids' "first rock band". Having "All-Star" and "I'm a Believer" respectively open and close the movie Shrek no doubt contributed to this interesting place in the musical universe but the band seem to have adapted well to it and tried to carve their niche as such. The song "Hot" from their most recent album (Get The Picture?) was used in Hot Wheels commercials, they recorded an exclusive EP of "Schoolhouse Rock" covers for a Mervyn's kids clothing line promotion, they covered "I Wanna Be Like You" for a Disney movies music tribute CD, and they covered a Beatles song ("Getting Better") for the soundtrack to The Cat In The Hat. Put simply, the band has changed quite a bit from how they initially emerged with the hit "Walkin' On The Sun" (an ode to the spirit and "toking" of the 60's) and other songs about "Beer Goggles" and lesbians.

In the setting of a county fair -- where we saw them perform -- Smash Mouth seemed to appreciate the young members of their audience, many of whom were there with their parents. My wife and I certainly didn't feel old or out of place. In fact, it felt like the rock show equal of the play land at McDonald's. Apparently this is where all the local parents were taking their kids to rock out! Smash Mouth seemed to recognize this and -- thankfully -- kept their between song banter clean and if they are at all disgruntled about their place in the rock universe (or their slowing record sales) they certainly didn't show it in their set. No ballads, no solos, just a jam-packed set of fun, upbeat party rock that fit well for a very warm summer night at the fair.

It is worth noting that this is the first concert experience in my life where I actually had to help a member of my concert-going party to find the bathroom. Never in my life had I made a trip to the bathroom mid-set but with kids it was a different ball game. Still, there was something precious about it. Like every concert I ever went to as a teenager there was a line out the door for the women's room but no line for the men’s room. I commented to the kids, "You will never be happier about being a boy then when you need to pee at a rock show" -- an observation I thought was a nice father-to-sons pearl of wisdom but was ultimately lost on the kiddos.

This was also the first concert I ever went to where I lifted a member of the same sex on my shoulders for a better view. When I was 15 I let a total stranger hop on my shoulders to see Bon Jovi better, mainly because she asked so nicely and because she was cute in a big-hair sort of way. So for most of Bon Jovi's set a total stranger got to see the entire stage from her perch on my shoulders. The next day I could barely move, I didn't get the girl's number and other then the pain all I can really remember of her is the distant smell of Aquanet whenever I hear "You Give Love A Bad Name" on the radio. For our little son G my motivation was different. I put him on my sunburned shoulders out of love and so that he could see what we came for and have the maximum fun possible. And from his spot on high he clapped and tried to make the “devil horns” I taught him which, for those not in the know, is supposed to symbolize "I love you" and is not a demonic gesture -- or at least that is what we are telling the kids. Alas, G is not quite coordinated enough to do this m/ with his fingers yet but he tried and I was very proud. I should add that G also nodded off mid-set and that interestingly enough, it was not the first time I’ve been at a concert with someone fighting to maintain consciousness. But G was in a totally different state then those chums of mine at the Motley Crue show in 1990. G woke up by Smash Mouth's final encore, where as my old friend Mike probably couldn't tell you the last song Motley played that night all those years ago.

For us, seeing Smash Mouth was a planned, circled-on-the-calendar event we were looking very forward to. B knows their songs really well and has his own personal Smash Mouth Mix CD (created by yours truly) and little G knows the songs on that mix pretty good too, given all the times it has played in our house and in the cars. As a matter of fact it was little G who asked me, "Are they playing Track 5?" as the band kicked into "Walkin' On The Sun" during their set. That question from him was probably the cutest highlight of the night. But B followed up his brother's cute comment with one that was more observational and rather insightful for a 7 year-old: In the car on the way home he commented, "Their songs sound different in concert. 'All-Star' was faster and they stopped in the middle of it to let everyone sing along. I think it's cool that the songs are different in concert." I could have kissed him for his great appreciation of live music, but he was in the back seat and I was fighting post-concert traffic.

Despite seeing many a concert in my lifetime this one will stand out near the top for a lot of reasons. The most memorable concerts of my life have to do with any of a number of factors:

1. How well the band I was seeing played.
2. How the crowd reacted.
3. The novelty of the experience.
4. The company I was with at the concert in question.

Smash Mouth will live with me forever because they just happened to be the band I was seeing when all those above mentioned traits that make up a great rock show came together at once: The band played really well, the crowd dug it, it was my first "rock" show as a father with our kids and -- needless to say -- the people I was at the concert with mean more to me than anything in the world.

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