Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Too Old To Rock? A Cautionary Tale

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“Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune,

Something to make us all happy.

Do anything, take us out of this gloom,

Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy”

-Traffic, Mr. Fantasy

I hope I never get too old to go see live music. It’s one of my favorite things to do. The things I’ve endured to see good music… There’s the usual, like insane traffic jams and long bathroom lines. There was sleeping in a puddle of muddy water at Woodstock (’94) because our tent collapsed during the rain. There was a very scary (and not smart.. I shudder to think…) drive to a motel from a Grateful Dead show after the cops kicked everyone out of the parking lot. There was almost getting into a fight with drunk assholes at a Rolling Stones concert because my friend wanted to stand up and dance (if you’re sitting down at a Stones concert, just go home). There are some that I don’t want to put into print because my friends may kill me.

As I’ve gotten older my concert experiences aren’t filled with crazy stories. That’s what maturity buys you I guess. It’s no longer about the party, it’s mostly about the music.  But sometimes even the most mature and responsible (snort) concert goer can get caught up in the moment and reverts to the drunken 20 year old of their youth.

Last fall my husband (Joe) and I had tickets to Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta. Both of us lived in Atlanta for a few years and that’s where we met and fell in love. The city holds a special place in our hearts and we love any excuse to go back and visit. And I couldn’t wait for this concert. I tend to get just a tiny bit obnoxious with excitement when I’m really amped up about seeing a good band. For this festival, there were multiple bands I was really excited about. The Neighbourhood was playing early in the day. Reignwolf, was a new musician we were looking forward to. Weezer was playing later in the day. Queens of the Stone Age were playing that night. But really, The Arctic Monkeys is who I was geeking out over. Their new album “AM” had just come out weeks earlier and I was addicted to it. Since there were two main stages I studied the schedule and planned out where we needed to be to see all the critical bands. And I am not a planner. Joe and I tend to wing it when we travel. Also, I’m kind of a slacker with organizing and planning. But because I was so excited and didn’t want to miss any of the bands I had it all planned out and even made notes on my IPhone (since I’m also a tiny bit forgetful).

Upon arriving at the hotel, we make our way over to the bar to have a little something to warm us up before heading out in to the chilly damp weather. After sufficiently warming up, we set out for the park where the festival was being held. As we approach we see long lines at all the entrances. But, because it was our anniversary weekend we had splurged on VIP tickets. This meant we had a separate entrance with a significantly shorter line.  VIP also gets you access to free crappy food and cheap beer and wine but most importantly nice port a potties with significantly shorter lines. We arrive just in time to see The Neighbourhood. Perfect. My planning was paying off. After their set was done, we trek across the park to the other stage to see Reignwolf. By this time it was pouring, but that just made his performance even more bad-ass.  By the end of Reignwolf we are completely soaked. My jeans are drenched, my cheap combat boots are water-logged. We decide to go back to the hotel to change into dry clothes. We had plenty of time to make it back without missing any crucial music. We head out of the park on the opposite side from where we had entered.

Like, seriously raining

We happily slosh along reliving the show we just saw and laughing and enjoying our buzz (I might have indulged in some cheap wine in the VIP section) and our kid free day in Atlanta. We are enjoying ourselves so much that we aren’t really paying attention to where we are going. But as we’re walking I become increasingly aware of a nice little blister forming on my heel. Turns out, cheap combat boots aren’t the best choice for a rainy festival. I suck it up and don’t say anything. But the pain does make me acutely aware of how long we have been walking and our aimless meandering that was at first fun and relaxing is now becoming annoying. I casually mention my concern about our general sense of direction to Joe. I don’t want to ruin his good time and be a kill-joy, but I have a few concerns. One, my heel is throbbing. Two, we had been walking for a long time, like maybe 45 minutes. Three, if we get lost we might miss Arctic Monkeys and if that happens it ain’t gonna be pretty. And four, we seem pretty well lost. It was about then that my husband sees the top of our hotel. Through the distance. In the opposite direction of which we had been heading for at least an hour now. I try to contain my panic. What if we don’t make it back in time for the concert? Oh shit, my foot hurts. Where the hell is everybody? Like, no people or cars. Nothing. And there’s a huge concert going on nearby. We have wandered into a black hole of no man’s land and we can’t even catch a cab to make it back to civilization. I forgo all pretense of being cool and calm and accuse my husband of getting us lost. He lived in Atlanta much longer than I did, didn’t he know his way around? How could he get us so lost? It doesn’t make sense… What is wrong with him?

Damn you, cheap boots!
Damn you, cheap boots!

As I’m questioning the man I love and his god-awful sense of direction, we somehow end up in a dead end parking lot. I’m not even sure if that’s a thing, but we were on a street that ended in parking lots and buildings on all sides. I stop and start to break down. I don’t actually cry, but I do let the voices in my head speak….  I don’t know what happened next, but I think Joe decided it was time to get his woman back to the concert. I’m not sure if it was the pain that was now shooting up my leg from this abscess that had formed on my heel or if it was delirium from walking in the pouring rain for so long, but all I remember is coming to and seeing the crowd. We are back in civilization. There are lots of people. Angry, disgruntled people. In huge lines. Shit. It was then that we realized that we were going to have to wait in line to get back into the festival.

I check my phone and realize that we are dangerously close to the start of The Arctic Monkeys show. My gimp leg is forgotten as I grab my husband’s hand and we speed walk/jog over to the VIP entrance. The line is long but it isn’t ridiculously long. We basically listen to most of Weezer’s set from the line. It’s not all bad. There are some spontaneous sing alongs happening so that is cool. “If you want to destroy my sweater, hold the string as I walk away…” We make it back to our cheap wine and stake our spot right as The Arctic Monkeys take the stage. I check my phone. We had been walking for three hours. I am now shivering uncontrollably and essentially balancing on one foot to take the pressure off the blister. I don’t care. I am so relieved that we made it back in time to see them. The show is amazing. After the Monkey’s set we decide to head back to the hotel and take hot showers and change before the other bands we want to see were scheduled to play.

The Arctic Monkeys made it all better
The Arctic Monkeys made it all better

After standing in a hot shower for about 30 minutes I confess to my husband that I don’t want to go back to the concert. My foot was hurting so bad that I don’t think I can walk that far again. He is relieved and agrees to dinner and a drink at the hotel. I am totally bummed about missing Queens of the Stone Age, but I am old enough to know my limits. We declare the day a success and toast to our “adventure”. It really was a fun day, I even enjoyed getting lost with my husband. If there hadn’t been the bastard blister (which took no less than 4 weeks and a Hydrocolloid patch to heal), I would have enjoyed the adventure a little more. But all in all it was a great day.

I learned a few things from this experience. We may be getting older… maybe the younger me would have toughed it out to see all the bands. We may be too old to crowd surf (never did that) or too old to rip off my bra and fling it at the stage (Ha! Do you know how much bras cost?) But too old to go to a concert? Nah. Even if they have to wheel me in and prop me up, I’ll always go see a good show. Too old to go to a festival? Not as long as we can afford to pony up for VIP tickets. Too old to mix bourbon and cheap wine and take a three hour hike in the rain? Maybe….

Oh- and also, planning is highly overrated.

12 Responses

  1. It’s not that we’re too old to tough that blister out, Gretchen. It’s that when we were younger, we would have been SO HIGH we wouldn’t have felt the damn thing.

    “Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
    We wouldn’t have known you all these years”

    The opening to “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is like the theme song for doing drugs.

    Great post. \m/

    1. Gretchen – I know you are thrifty and I admire that but remember cheap boots are never the answer for any event, young or old! I see no problem with the planning, next time chic and comfortable footwear are a must then and you are set to rock on!

      1. Ha! Never underestimate good footwear, right? I can definitely be frugal but really the cheap boots were a desperate purchase at the last minute when we realized it was going to rain all day… They have now been given to my 10 year old daughter. But I will remember your philosophy and use that as an excuse to go shoe/boot shopping before my next concert!

    2. Samara- I promise no drugs were harmed- I mean consumed, during the writing of this post. Although with all of the grammatical errors I had to correct you would have thought I was high when I wrote it! And I love Steve Winwood’s voice in this song, it’s almost eerie, which is a quality I seem to be drawn to in music… Thanks for reading! 🙂

  2. In my fifties now and still rockin’. Saw Yes in Jackson a while back – band and audience were both gray/bald and wrinkled, but the music kicked ass just as hard as ever. You’re never too old for rock ‘n roll. 😉

  3. I’ve found that by keeping an ear out for newer bands, I can hear great stuff locally and cheaply. Granted, I’ve hit the age where I’m not sure I want to wait for a band to come on at 10 if I’m working the next day, but some shows are worth it.

    And when all is said and done, after the blisters and the rain, you saw some great music.
    And that makes it a great story!

    1. You know, I need to start paying more attention to the smaller acts that come to town. I love seeing bands at small venues! I have been completely out of touch with the local music scene here ever since I had kids (13 years!). Actually, I feel like Blogging has helped me start to learn about new artists, I follow some music bloggers and love getting turned onto new music! You sound like you must be a music fan too, do you blog about music also? I’ve only recently found your blog so I haven’t had much time to explore…

      1. I’m not a music blogger, but I do love music and seeing live bands. I start every post with a song of teh day, anything from arena bands to two girls recording in the back of a van, as long as it catches my ear.
        Occasionally, I’ll do a post about a particular show or band, or even just a song.

        Living in NYC, it’s easy to get exposed to stuff I wouldn’t have heard or seen otherwise.

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