Wednesday, July 17, 2013


I attended a rock concert last weekend with my husband. This is even more unusual for us than getting dressed up to go out somewhere, which at least happens about once a year. I think this concert made the 4th rock concert I have been to in my life. In general my ears are pretty sensitive and so loud concerts just don’t work all that well for me. In our pre-child life we would usually go to musicals, or the symphony, or a play if we were going out on a fancier kind of date. However, I really like the band Train (I think their music is catchy and fun, plus I like their name. We love trains in our house)  and they were playing in our local area at one of the big concert venues. My husband bought the tickets for us about six months ago when they went on sale and so off we went last weekend to the concert, leaving our daughter at home with the babysitter.

I had never been to this particular venue before (remember – 4th concert) and I really liked it. It’s a huge open pavilion with enormous electric fans suspended from the ceiling. The pavilion is set down into the bottom of a grassy bowl (manmade I thought, judging by the symmetry) ringed with cedars. A lawn spreads up and behind the seating area and provides further seating for people who don’t mind sitting in the grass (or the mud, in this case). There were a surprising number of children present, including some who seemed close to my daughter’s age. I had never considered bringing a child to a rock concert, but most of them seemed to be having a lot of fun. So perhaps when my daughter is older (old enough to sit still for longer than 10 minutes, stay up past 9pm without turning into a mess, wear earplugs, and not be scared by the noise) I will bring her to a concert.

The opening band was Michael Franti and Spearhead. I didn’t recognize the name but I thought their act was great. This might be a good time to confess that I am pretty clueless most of the time when it comes to popular music. I love listening to music but I have trouble connecting a particular song with a particular artist, and I generally don’t know anything about the artists themselves. Anyway, Spearhead made a fantastic opening act. They brought a ton of energy into the performance and made the huge space feel intimate. I think Mr. Franti was off stage more than he was on stage, dancing around the audience, high-fiving people and giving hugs and getting everyone involved. The music they performed was upbeat, positive and inclusive which made it really enjoyable for me. I told my husband that I would go to a concert featuring them in the future, which, considering that would be my 5th concert, is pretty high praise.

In between the opening act and the main act there was a break of about 45 minutes. I don’t know if that is normal for a concert but it felt really long to me. Most of the energy generated by Spearhead seemed to trickle away. I amused myself by watching the big screens on either side of the stage, which were playing advertisements for Train’s other ventures. Did you know they have a wine company? Or that they have a line of chocolate with Ghiradelli? They are also doing a cruise with Norwegian cruise lines this winter in which they will give several shows and participate in activities with the other cruise ship guests. I was really curious about all of that activity. I assume it can’t really be about the money. Train is a big enough and well established enough band that even I, in my generally clueless state, can recognize their music. Their blog talks about how they have met and connected with people through wine and music, which makes it sound like wine, chocolate and travel are passions they have and they have been able to leverage their resources as a successful band to invest in those passions. They also give at least part of the money they make from the wine and chocolate ventures to Family House, which is a place where families of ill children can stay when children are being treated at U.C. San Francisco’s Children’s Hospital. All of which I think is really cool.

The main act by Train was awesome, although very different from Spearhead. More flash and lights and much louder (my ears definitely were not thanking me for the experience). The music felt much more polished but somehow less intimate as well, despite the efforts to connect with the audience – walking down off the stage, getting the audience to sing with them, and telling stories during the concert. Perhaps there is just only so much you can do in that big a space with that many people. It did seem like the attendance increased about 50% between the opening and main acts. I think the lights also create a sense of distance. Somehow it just becomes more unreal with all the strobe effects and flashing signs. It was still a ton of fun though, so I am not complaining. Probably my favorite part of the show was when the band invited everyone dressed up like a Mermaid (about 30 people total, including some men and one woman in a wheelchair who had the most amazing, gorgeous mermaid costume) to come up on stage and sing with them. Some of the people on stage were kids and one little girl got a chance to sing a line of “Mermaid” into the microphone; she was just beaming. It made me smile to see her. The whole concert made me smile, and feel a little more connected to the people around me.