The question always puts me in a cold sweat.
“Hey Matt! You’re a big music fan. What was your first concert?”
I silently scream the F-word in my brain every time.
In the past, I’ve declined to answer the question.
I’ve probably lied, too.
Other times, I told the truth and made excuses for it, which is what I’m likely to do here.
Because I went to my first concert in 1988.
I was nine years old.
And I accompanied my two stepsisters, my stepmom and my father—who must have wanted to kill himself every second of the night—to see one of the biggest pop stars of the day. And the biggest pop stars of tomorrow—we just didn’t know it yet.
On the marquee:
“with special guests
“New Kids on the Block”
I Think We’re Alone Now
And by “we’re,” I really just mean Me, Myself and I.
I am absolutely guilty of liking music that I don’t want people to know I like.
Sometimes it’s cultural. Like not wanting my black friends to know I liked some country music. Or not wanting older people to know I liked hip-hop.
Remember when Michael Bolton (the movie character in Office Space, not the horrible pop singer whose album I once owned) was commuting to work and rapping along with Scarface to the song: “No Tears”?
Yeah, I do things like that all the time.
Other times, I want to slow down with Moses Mayfield’s “Element”—one of the most-beautiful songs you’ve never heard.
Sometimes I want to hear Method Man, Eligh + Amplive, or the greatest—Notorious B.I.G.—spit poetry.
And othertimes it’s fishing in the dark with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a piano-laden love song by Gavin DeGraw, or something from The Fray or Needtobreathe to remind me there’s more to life than this.
I don’t want people to hear me rocking out to REO Speedwagon.
Even though Wheels are Turnin’ was my first album when I was six, and I love it, and you can shut up.
What does that say about a person?
A propensity for listening to music and enjoying it, but not wanting others to know about it?
It’s like I’m constantly evaluating what’s cool or not cool for me to be listening to.
The stuff that passes the test can be played loudly in the car. Everything else cannot, unless all the windows are up and I’m cruising down the highway.
I’m going to be 35 years old next month.
At what point do I just need to bravely embrace when I like some random catchy pop song on the radio (which I admittedly don’t often hear) and just own it?
Might the time be now?
My Music Through the Years
I’m a much bigger music fan today than I’ve ever been.
But it has always been a part of me. Maybe not all only children are this way, but even when you have a vibrant social life, you still spend a lot of time alone when you don’t have siblings. And one of the things I chose to do was listen to a lot of music.
My first three albums were REO Speedwagon, Prince’s Purple Rain, and Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required.
Some of the finest rock music in history was just starting to marinate as all-time classics, and I was cutting my teeth on this stuff.
Toward the end of the decade I fully immersed myself in the glamour rock scene. I was in love with Poison and Def Leppard and Guns n’ Roses and Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, and all the wannabes like Warrant and Skid Row and Motley Crue.
Things like Bel Biv Devoe and Vanilla Ice were happening, but it didn’t take long for grunge to emerge as one of the finest eras in music history.
It’s not for everyone. But it was for me. Nirvana. Alice in Chains. Pearl Jam. Soundgarden. Stone Temple Pilots.
You could ban me to a life of only listening to those bands, and I wouldn’t even be that mad about it, though I’d certainly miss the hell out of Sublime and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Moreover, unlike the glamour rock days, which I had to hide liking when it wasn’t cool for me to like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” or “Every Rose has its Thorn” anymore, I NEVER had to hide my affinity for this brand of alternative rock. It was cool then. It’s cool now. And it’s been cool every day in between.
2000 and beyond
Everything stopped making sense for me musically for the first several years of the 21st century as I immersed myself in bands like Disturbed and relied heavily on grunge, classic rock, and the strong library of the Wu-Tang Clan to get me through. Oh, and Beck. You know, because he’s a genius.
But sometime around 2007, everything started to change.
The internet started to provide music-streaming opportunities previously unavailable. I discovered the magic of both Pandora and California rock stations.
Changed my life.
Silversun Pickups. The Black Keys. The Decemberists.
And too many others to list.
Given the access to artists we all have now, and the sheer number of talented people creating music, I submit that we’re now in the greatest era of music that’s ever been.
Thousands of songs on our phones and mp3 players. Albums spanning five decades of music, in some cases.
Several things get worse as time marches on.
But this music thing? It’s not one of them.
I Saw Him Standing There
That subhead is nonsense.
I’m just committed at this point to using the only two Tiffany songs I remember as transitions.
It’s probably my stepsisters’ fault I ended up at a Tiffany show and seeing New Kids before their meteoric rise the following year.
I texted my stepsister this morning to ask her: “What was it that dad gave us as an option instead of the Tiffany concert? It was one or the other, but I can’t remember what we chose Tiffany over.”
She doesn’t remember either.
I texted my dad.
He didn’t remember, but promised to think about it. Sorry dad!
There’s no way dad and I are going to see Tiffany, even when I was a lame second or third grader if I don’t have two stepsisters wanting to go.
But still. Stillllllllllll. We must accept responsibility for our choices, right?
What if dad offered me something awesome?
“Hey Matt! Do you want to go to a Chicago Cubs game, or see Tiffany in concert?”
“Hey Matt! Do you want to go to a PGA golf tournament, or see Tiffany in concert?”
“Hey Matt! Do you want to do anything—ANYTHING AT ALL—that is even semi-cool, or see Tiffany in concert?”
And I chose Tiffany.
My defining memory of the concert?
Joey McIntyre—the runt of NKOTB—singing “Please Don’t Go Girl” in the highest-pitched voice I’d ever heard from a guy. I mean, it made the lead singer for Savage Garden sound like a chain-smoking trucker.
I have my fingers crossed that dad doesn’t remember what the other choice was, because I may never live that down.
Guess I’ll just deal with it like everything else.