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Am I Getting Old?

April 25, 2009
The Bamboozle Roadshow
We the Kings with the two dads
We the Kings with Marlee & Megan


For a few minutes, I felt like a kid again at my first rock concert, and thought this was rock like it was originally intended, loud, fast, and hypnotic. But when it was over, I was relieved. The concert was almost fours long, which for a person my age, is as tiring as the Boston Marathon.


When my 14-year-old daughter, Marlee, said that she just “had to go” to Clutch Cargos to see a bunch of rock bands I had never heard of, I didn’t know I was getting bamboozled. She said I had to come but I could stand in the back of the room along with her social studies teacher who was also coming. And by the way, we needed to sign up and pay more for the VIP “meet and greet” tickets so we could get in early, go backstage, and get autographs.

Can you say sucker? Or bamboozled, which was the name of the rock tour. The Bamboozle Road Show featured The Cab, NeverShoutNever!, Mercy Mercedes, Forever the Sickest Kids, and the headliner, We the Kings. When I saw the names of the bands, I asked, “Who?”

If it were The Who, I would have turned over the credit card in a heartbeat, even though I’m still surprised Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend still have heartbeats, after 44 years of hard rocking. But it was five groups I had never heard of at a rickety old nightclub in Pontiac, it was a school/work night, I knew it would be loud, and I hadn’t been to that type of rock concert in years. Could I think of any other excuses?

“Please,” Marlee continued, “Mr Common says it’s going to be great. And these are like my favorite bands.” When I was 14, I would have jumped at the chance to see the Doors, the Stones, and the Who, but I wouldn’t dare ask my dad or mom. Instead, I bought lots of 45s, those obsolete black circular things now sometimes used as frisbees. I thought back to the time I was 14 and in love with rock music, and thought, what the heck? It’s just another way to connect with my daughter before she can drive and go to concerts herself. I knew I was just the supplier of money and a car but I reasoned to myself, why not?

Today, here is what Marlee and her friends know: iTunes, cell phone texting, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Mr. Common’s son, Tyler, and Marlee twittered Travis Clark, lead singer of We the Kings, a day before the concert, hoping for a response.

When I was young, I saw the Clash, the Who, Tom Petty, and Springsteen. I mellowed a little before and after marriage when Judy and I saw the Go-Go’s, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, and a few years later, Simon and Garfunkel. But I know I’m still a rocker at heart even though I’m fatter, have less hair, and need to get to bed by midnight. I sometimes feel hip because I like modern rock groups like Death Cab for Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, and Coldplay, but I can’t know everyone. So what if I didn’t know any of the five groups performing and hadn’t been to a concert with so many bands since a friend and I drove to the Heatwave (“The New Wave Woodstock”) Rock Festival in Mosport Park outside Toronto on August 23, 1980. She and I, along with 50,000 other screaming fans, were lucky to see ten of my favorite bands at the time, including the B-52s, Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, and the Kings. And I was crazy enough to drive home the next day, buy a wedding gift at a drugstore, and just make the wedding of friends Rick and Linda Sherman in Oxford, Michigan.

I can hardly remember the Kings but 29 years later, got to meet their descendants, We the Kings. These boys from Florida signed Marlee’s Converse shoes with permanent ink and hugged her and her friend, Mara. Then, I took a photo of the girls beaming next to the group. Marlee’s teacher said he wanted to get a photo of him, me, and the band to put it on his website. I thought again, why not? How foolish could I look?

Marlee said she couldn’t wait to sing every song that night as she walked up to the stage with her friend, Mara Chaben, and Tyler Common. I warned her it would be loud and that I had extra earplugs and that the fans might get wild and push hard into the front of the stage. She was smart enough to move to the side to avoid the crazy crowd but not smart enough to wear earplugs. Her teacher and I said it would be loud but she thought, how loud could it be?

LOUD!! When Mercy Mercedes started blasting their guitars, I felt like my parents if they had attended an MC5 concert with me when I was thirteen. I stood next to the sound system and thought, can’t you turn it down? Springsteen wasn’t this loud. So I took out my handy Mac’s Earwax plugs, squeezed them into my ear lobes, and heard the loud but muffled beats and felt the floor shake. And then the surfing started with a boy and then a girl sliding on top of the crowd’s outstretched hands.

I took off my earplugs to listen to the mellower sounds of NeverShoutNever’s 18-year-old lead singer, Christofer Ingle, who also plays acoustic guitar and ukulele. Original, interesting, and passionate, he even tried to please the old people in his crowd by playing my first favorite rock song from the Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” For a few moments, I felt like I was witnessing the birth of an exciting new rock star, and started wondering what it felt like to see the early Beatles in Liverpool.

When The Cab started up, I put the earwax back in my ears and texted Marlee from the back of the room, “It’s too loud.” She texted back, “IT’S AMAZING!” My legs started getting tired from the hard and bouncy floor, so I went upstairs to the Old Folks section, the place in the back with the flat screen TVs and lots of lounge couches, and thought, boy, am I getting old? The music was really muffled there so I could sit back, relax, and check the Red Wing game on my cell phone. I didn’t know what all the other parents were doing on their cell phones but I watched the score go from 3-1 to 3-3 to 5-3 to 5-5 in two periods and then did a little Wikopedia research on We the Kings. I found out the four band members met at Martha B. King Middle School in Bradenton, Florida, which is the reason for their name. On the other hand, I couldn’t fathom the reason for the name of the band that was blasting their way through the next set. I just hoped, “Forever the Sickest Kids,” didn’t mean that all the band members had incurable cancers.

With only 45 minutes to go in the concert, I decided to go all out and pull out the plugs for We the Kings. Mr. Common and I stood in the back as Travis Clark and the other Kings jumped up and down and got the already loud crowd even wilder. Bodies were knocking into each other, kids were singing every word, cell phones flashed, photos and videos were shooting, and one kid after another skated along the top of the crowd.  We the Kings sang their popular songs, “Check Yes Juliet” and “Secret Valentine,” and even sang a song that I knew, which I don’t remember. I still was checking the Red Wings score and shouted when they took a 6-5 lead with 43 seconds left in the game and won the first round series against Columbus. Meanwhile, Travis told the crowd he loved Michigan, his birthday was at midnight, and he was happy to celebrate his birthday with us. For a few minutes, I felt like a kid again at my first rock concert, and felt this was rock like it was originally intended, loud, fast, and hypnotic. But when it was over, I was relieved. The concert was almost fours long, which for a person my age, is as tiring as the Boston Marathon.

The kids joined us again after the concert, happy like the NeverShoutNever song (“Happy”), with their new We the Kings shirts and their autographed memories. As we walked out, we all had loud ringing in our ears and couldn’t hear each other talk. I thought of the Clash concert when I couldn’t hear for three days and starting worrying what the concerts along with iPods and constant music would do my daughter’s ears.

  What’s more important, memories or hearing? Dumb question; You want the memories and you want to keep your hearing, or as Homer would say, “Duh.” I said to myself, I wonder if We the Kings or NeverShoutNever will ever get really big and then I can tell Marlee’s kids years from now, “You should have seen that Bamboozle concert. It was really amazing. We saw them in a small club in Pontiac and now, look at them.”

Even if the bands fade away like the original Kings and disappear into obscurity, we’ll always have the memory of my daughter’s first real rock concert. And I’ll still have the journey back from the everlasting memories of my youth to the still-forming memories of Marlee’s.



Travis ClarkBamboozle crowdNever Shout Never


BamboozledHeatwave posterFrom the Bamboozle Road Show

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