So two nights ago, I went with my friend and her two daughters to see Twenty One Pilots in concert at the Saddledome in Calgary. It was her daughters’ first big concert. Music is very important in their lives, as it is in mine, and so I thanked my friend for letting me share this experience with them. She replied that it was a perfect day, that we are concert buddies, she and I, and so this was a passing of the torch.
I love that idea. So much so that I can’t think of any other way to write a post on this concert. It really was a passing of the torch (or rather, as my sister said, more of welcoming them to share the torch because we are not letting go of it :D), I consciously felt the desire to impart concert joy to these girls. To make sure their experience was all it could be. I was sick that day but I remember a passing thought through my brain and heart that I needed to not let this illness hold me back – I wanted to live by example and show them you can lose yourself in the music – scream, sing at the top of your lungs, get out of your seat and dance. So I did.
Though, I didn’t really need to worry about the girls. Their excitement was palpable and contagious throughout the night and had me reliving my own first show. Actually, I had been reminiscing well before the night began. The parallels between their first show and mine are just this side of serendipitous.
My very first concert was also at the Saddledome in Calgary – Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation Tour, almost 29 years ago, June 12, 1990, to be exact. My dad drove my friend and me from Red Deer, dropped us off at the Saddledome and then picked us up afterwards to take us home. I have no idea what he did while he waited for us, but it was typical of the parents he and my mom were, willing to take time out of their lives to support our passions.
I am sure I thanked him afterwards, and probably a million times in excitement when he first agreed, but I’m not sure I ever fully realised until now how important this night was for me as a music lover, nor the significance of his sacrifice to take me there. He worked hard, had health issues, was probably tired and wanting to do nothing but crash on the couch with dinner and sports on the tv that night. We were not rich and this was in another city, a good hour and a half away. There was an expense to drive us, feed us and entertain himself while he waited (I bet he went somewhere for coffee – coffee and a roadtrip – that’s my dad.) But he did it.
History repeated itself for Twenty One Pilots, only this time it was my sister who was driving me to the Saddledome for the show. (From Edmonton, three-ish hours away, and she also went for coffee while she waited for us – coffee and a roadtrip – that’s my sister!) We picked up my friend from her small town on the way in and met her girls at the arena. As with my first show, the girls’ dad dropped them off and picked them up afterwards.
Time flew by quickly as we waited for the opening act (Bear Hands, who were very good) and then for Twenty One Pilots. As the crowd broke into spontaneous collective screams, and as one guy in our section ran around getting everyone to cheer in a callback: 21! Pi-lots!, we pondered if anyone does the Wave at concerts anymore…
And then the lights went down, the audience roared and cheered, a car rose up from the stage on fire, and the girls (and rest of the audience) gasped and ooooh-ed at the dramatic start to the show. Tyler Joseph, the singer, began the night singing from the top of that burning car. It sat on hydraulics and was lowered off the stage towards the end of the song. Once it was gone, Tyler free-fell backwards down the same gap, disappearing dramatically from the stage, and then almost instantly re-appearing close to our nosebleed section to finish the song. It was awesome.
Blurry flashback to Janet’s entrance all those years ago and another magical appearance of the artist: if I remember correctly, her show started with a cage coming out of the stage floor with a black panther inside (I have a feeling this wouldn’t be allowed these days) and then poof, the panther was gone and Janet was in its place. The opening, and the rest of the show, was everything you would expect from a Janet Jackson concert – lights, pyro, theatrics. It was a mind-blowing start to a life long obsession with live music. The perfect first concert.
The Twenty One Pilots show felt like a perfect first concert for these two girls as well. The band of two did not disappoint. The theatrics continued throughout the show, with hydraulics lifting and lowering the drum kit (and Josh Dun, the drummer :)) and other parts of the stage, a very cool cubical metal structure thing (wow, I don’t have a clue what to call it!) that provided a fantastic element to a spectacular lighting show, a stage B, multiple costume changes, blasts of columns of smoke, big bangs, back flips.
And, well, while some gods may walk on water, these rock gods walked on the crowd, literally on the crowd… and crowd surfed the drum kit… while Josh played it…
It was an epic night. A perfect first show for these girls, a perfect x number of shows for my friend and I to go to together. It renewed my love of Twenty One Pilots, who have such an impressive multi-genre catalogue of music, are amazingly multi-talented, and put on a stellar show!
And it confirmed my solid belief in the power of music. This was not an easy show for us to get to. We were so super excited when the dates were announced and we bought tickets. But life happened along the way and there were moments when I wondered if it was going to happen.
There were moments when I wondered if I should even go. In addition to the difficulties of getting there (thank you soooo much to my sister who saved us), my friend and I have a horrible tradition of one of us being or getting sick when we go to concerts together and this was my turn. My head was splitting painfully at times throughout the day, spinning dizzily at other times, my throat was sore, I was tired, and the coughing was not fun either.
But I missed my friend and couldn’t wait to see her. We both needed the fun and excitement. We were both so excited to share the girls’ first show (especially my friend, total musical family bonding thing :D). And there’s just something about live music. It’s happened so many times for me where I am unwell at a show but the minute the music starts the pain goes away and is replaced with adrenaline, joy, happiness, oneness, togetherness, love, and probably serotonin, endorphins, and all the happy chemicals that bodies produce.
Yes, some of that change is the distraction – I am not focusing on being sick, my attention is on the stage, and on my camera, and those around me. But it is so much more than that. There is always some point during the show where my attention does come back to myself – mindfulness or something kicks in, the intense pleasure or how wrapped up in the music I am – and I notice how I am not feeling sick, how the headache is gone, how I can breathe freely and am not coughing. There is, for me, absolutely a power in music. A healing property. Sure, the next day or even minutes after the show ends, I might feel ill again, but for those moments it is healing.
I know these girls already have music in their blood. I know it moves them and is important to them. But this, this is the torch I want to pass to them. Life gets hard, it gets overwhelming, and there may be moments when you just want to curl up, dig your head under the blankets and stay in bed. Moments where you want to quit or give up, or where the effort seems too much. But there are things out there that can pull you out of those moments. It might be concerts, or art, or hanging out with loved ones, or science, or whatever.
But it’s there. It’s not a panacea. It’s not a cure-all for all mental or physical health concerns or struggles in life. There will be moments when you really do need to stay in bed, or get professional help. But those things, they are there when you need them. If you can, go to the concert, buy the tickets, reach out, bring the joy. This is the torch I want to share.
That, and appreciate those things people do for you. It seemed like such a simple thing to me when I was 16 for my dad to drive me and a friend to Calgary for a concert and back home. I don’t think I understood the expense involved, or that I was essentially asking him to put his life on hold for a few hours so I could have this awesome experience in mine.
Like I said, I’m sure I thanked him for driving us. But it is only just now in writing this blog that I understand just how pivotal this moment was in my life and the importance of my dad in bringing it to me. First concerts are epic. Music is epic. It has always been my heart and soul. I know there were many times when my dad was exasperated with me and this obsession (I almost always had something playing – I lived with my headphones in, at family reunions, in the car, ahhh in class hidden in my cloths and hair…) but he took me to buy my first walkman, my first big-ass CD player/stereo unit and first CD (Michael Jackson’s Bad), and my first concert (and my second and third – all out of town).
He is gone now, so I can’t tell him how much I appreciate his support and sacrifices for me, how he nurtured this love for music, this thing that brings me so much joy. I’m sure he knows it but I wish I had been more gracious at the time. We all get wrapped up in our own lives and it becomes easy to take for granted the acts of kindness others bestow on us at their own expense. Take each gift as though it will be pivotal. That sacrifice of theirs, no matter how seemingly small at the time, could change your life and theirs. (Thank you sister! You paved the way (and drove on the pavement, ha ha) for four people to experience all kinds of awesomeness, sacrificing your time, sleep, and education 😛 This means so much to me.)
Also, be that person that drives someone in need to a concert. Be the change. Be the giver of acts of kindness, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem. You may change someone’s life for the better, or simply give them joy for a couple hours.
That is the torch. And that is all.