Rock Concerts – Then vs. Now By Steven Wilson

Rock Concerts

It’s the coolest thing in the world to be able to say, “I am taking my wife to a heavy metal show for Mother’s Day” and…the spousling that is going to aforementioned heavy metal concert does not have purple spiked hair, assorted pins and metal objects in her cheeks, chin or forehead and only wears all black at funerals.[1]

However, I couldn’t help but note how the mighty force of time indeed waits for no one and causes sweeping changes in its currents.  Hence, Concerts Then with Girlfriend vs. Concerts Now with Spousling.

Concerts Then:

Me: “Hmmm, okay, we got $11.37 left after gas and tickets. I should be able to grab two 30 packs of those white cans with ‘BEER’ written on it in the big black letters before our friends get here. Or we could eat.”

Roommate: “Dude, you’re pretty funny.”

Girlfriend: “Yeah, I date him for his sense of humor.”

Me: “That was hilarious, wasn’t it? Come on, let’s get to the beer store!”

Concerts Now:

“Honey, when you go to the store can you grab us a couple of liters of bottled water, please?  Don’t want to dehydrate tonight.”

Concerts Then:

Roommate’s girlfriend, other assorted buddies and their dates begin to arrive. We start to inebriate ourselves in preparation for a night of heavy metal debauchery. I fire the grill up and everyone starts gorging hot dogs.  This quickly gets boring so, under the premise of “grilling,” we start setting random things on fire like beer cans, potato chip bags, beer cans, odd socks, beer cans and firecrackers left over from July 4.  A few of the guys tried to capture the crabby old lady next door’s poodle so they could shave a pentagram in his fur but he got away. Girlfriend and I sneak off for…ahem….some “quality alone time” before the show while the backyard antics are going on.

Concerts Now

I fired the grill up and cooked some chicken and fresh vegetables. The kids eat and run outside to play. I wouldn’t be opposed to…ahem…”quality alone time” but the spousling took a nap. I, just briefly, considered shaving a pentagram in her cat’s fur but decide it’s not worth the trouble.

Concerts Then:

Get to show as soon as gates open, which is usually about 90 minutes before opening bands start.  Opening bands may suck, but it’s a rock show and we’re gonna get our money’s worth!  We also need plenty of time to raid the beer stand and find a spot on the floor as close as we can possibly get to the stage because the people that use the arena chairs at a rock show are old and hate fun. They’re probably just the parents that brought their kids anyway. We buy a beer for each hand and several more we stuff into our pockets.

At this point, girlfriend has drunkenly cut off the bottom third of her T-shirt with a pocket knife.

Concerts Now:

Arrive just in time for main acts and opening bands be damned. Hope stadium seats are cushioned and I am going nowhere near the floor next to the stage. Spousling purchases a new Megadeth T-shirt but a) doesn’t cut it up[2] and b) vows to never wear it outside her house. I go to the beer stand and buy a bottle of water before the show starts. I call my kids to make sure they remember to turn the porch light on before we come home.

Concerts Then:

Me, my girlfriend, and 10 other assorted friends and dates we managed to cram into one Ford Focus are having a good time, minus our “designated driver,” i.e. the guy who drew the short straw and had to drive because he was (mostly) sober. Opening bands are finally done and two main acts, Motley Crue and Megadeth, are ready to go.  Roommate is playing air guitar and I’m convinced if Vince Neil should ever get strep throat, I can fill in for him cause I am singing as loud as he is. I also assume everyone around me is enjoying my harmonizing with Motley Crue’s lead singer.

Concerts Now:

Spousling and I arrive in our SUV. It occurs to me I could’ve looked cooler bringing the Mustang but I am afraid of what parking on the grass might do to my tires.  I think the guy a few rows in front of me playing air guitar looks like an idiot. Upon closer inspection, he’s probably homeless too. There are a few people in the crowd trying to emulate the lead singer and I really wish they’d just shut up.

Concerts Then:

Opening act is over and our crew is off to the beer tent for a copious amount of alcohol. Girlfriend is salivating at the sight of the one-meter long plastic margarita containers. Drunk girlfriends are fun so I buy her two. Designated driver opines he can have a beer because he figures he will sweat it out. This sounds logical to the rest of us. The ladies, true to form, herd up in a pack and head to the restrooms. Us guys start plotting which of our dates we can auction off to a roadie to score some backstage passes.

Concerts now:

First main band is over and I need some more water. As I get up, I remember drunk wives can be fun so I ask the spousling if she’d like a margarita or anything. She replies not now, but wouldn’t mind a glass of chardonnay when we get home. It’s a long walk uphill, so I am very thankful I’m not coming from the backstage area.

Concerts Then:

Megadeth takes the stage and Dave Mustaine can play like a madman! He is also obviously on some mind altering substances which may or may not be legal. He screams random obscenities into the microphone after each song.  I think all of this is very cool.

Concerts Now:

Megadeth takes the stage and Dave Mustaine can play like a madman!  He’s been sober for years and, at one point, reminds the crowd it’s an election year and their vote is important. I think all of this is very cool.

Concerts Then:

The music is so loud this close to the stage in the floor area it is like being hit in the chest. The people a few rows above us in the chairs don’t know what they’re missing!  Girlfriend is ecstatic that she’s so close to the stage she can almost reach out and touch Dave Mustaine’s hair during a guitar solo. I am thinking she should pay more attention to the music than Dave’s hair.

Concerts Now:

Our center stage area stadium seats are quite comfy. Spousling points out she sees, via the huge monitor next to the stage, Dave Mustaine is getting a bald spot.  She also notes that I am not. I am glad she’s paying attention to Dave’s hair.

Concerts Then:

Show is over and we all cram back into the little Ford Focus. Except me. I think it’s a good idea to “surf” on the roof of the car as we are leaving the parking area. Our (mostly…compared to the rest of us) designated driver whips the car to and fro as violently as possible to attempt to dislodge me from the roof.  The cops at the parking lot gate do not find this nearly as amusing as I do.

Concerts Now:

Show is over and the spousling and I make our way back to our SUV. There’s a group of young twenty-somethings in front of us in a pick-up carousing, tossing empty beer cans out of the truck and driving like idiots through the parking lot. A few of the girls in the truck are lifting their shirts and flashing random motorists and pedestrians. The cops at the parking lot gate do not find this nearly as amusing as I do.

Concerts Then:

We, somehow, manage to get back to the apartment and decide we’re going to quit our jobs and answer our obvious calling to take it on the road and become rock stars. We start detailing out roles right away, which costs more than a few fights and a good amount of relationships.

“All right,” said my roommate as he looked up from his notepad, “so we got Steve down to sing. Who’s gonna play bass guitar?”

“Seymour looks like a bass player,” one drunken cohort supplied helpfully. “He’s tall.”

We all agree on this because somewhere we all evidently learned bass players have to be tall.

“Okay,” said the roomie as he scribbled on the notepad that was detailing our future as rock and roll heroes. “Seymour you got bass.”

“Wait a second, Seymour is not playing bass,” slurred his on-again, off-again girlfriend since kindergarten. “He’s going to finish his accounting degree.”

“Am not,” Seymour said. “I’m a gonna play me some bass. And I think all of you should get used to calling me by my stage name. You know, for our fans and stuff. Write down that my stage name is Sledge.”

“Got it,” said the roomie. “Okay, did everyone hear that? From now on we call Seymour ‘Sledge.’”

“Seymour Gilbert James Johnson you’ve never picked a guitar up in your life!” screeched on-again, off-again.

Seymour narrowed his bloodshot eyes as best he could and solidified his better half’s “off-again” status for at least a good month when he said, “I told you. It’s Sledge. And you’re fired from being my main groupie.”

The newly dubbed Ms. Off-Again screamed a few well-placed insults at future bassist extraordinaire Sledge and sulked off to join the rest of the female mob in the dining room. True to form, the pack reformed and they came stalking.

“Hey guys, we want jobs in the band too!” screeched the pack leader.

“You ladies got all sorts of jobs,” said our producer/publicist/my roommate as he consulted the notepad that held our future as rock gods.

“Let’s see, Suzie you are in charge of carrying all of the guitars from the tour bus to the stage, Gwen you’re managing the groupie and ‘assorted hot chicks’ list…”

“I am not!” Gwen squealed. “I want a job in the rock band. I used to sing in the church choir…why can’t I sing?”

“Cause Steve is best at setting things on fire,” supplied Jake aka Vicar Voracious, our lead guitar player.

“What’s that got to do with anything?”

Vicar Voracious, our band’s new guitar hero, who’d incidentally, never even picked up a harmonica much less a guitar babbled as he opened another beer, “Because everyone knows lead singers hafta set things on fire.”

“What do I get to do?” asked Wendy, Voracious’ girlfriend or, according to roomie’s notepad, “main groupie in the present town.”

“We have you down for cleaning the tour bus,” said the roomie.

“And dusting my guitars,” added Voracious.

“YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE ANY INSTRUMENTS!” said Wendy, as the rest of the female pack wolves[3] began to exhibit various howls of agreement.

“Yeah, well we will,” said roomie/producer. “Just as soon as we get paid.”

“And quit our other jobs,” added Seymour Gilbert James Johnson/Sledge.

“We should probably learn to play too,” said Vicar Voracious.

“What for?” asked Girlfriend Then. “Nirvana never did.”[4]

“We should get started then,” I said. “Just as soon as I set this T-shirt and leftover M-80s on fire. Who’s with me?!”

At this point, the future hall of fame rock band, assorted girlfriends with mediocre jobs in said future rock band and, somehow, the crabby old lady next door’s poodle, whom Sledge had captured and been feeding tequila to, all clambered outside for our latest experiment in theatrical pyrotechnics.

Concerts Now:

Almost 20 years later, said band has never been named, rehearsed, written a song, or bought a single musical instrument.

I have since determined people that use the stadium chairs at rocks shows are not anti-fun.

And I have taught my sons the joys of leftover fireworks…when the Spousling isn’t around.


[1] She does have some tattoos. But show me a dude who doesn’t dig tats on girls and I will show you a prude. Or a commie.

[2] I point out she used to cut up her T-shirts but she said something about how she just spent $35 on the thing so that would not make fiscal sense.

[3] Female Pack Wolves, incidentally, would be a righteous name for an all lady metal group. Or a roving maid service. Either one would make the coolest bumper stickers.

[4] I wanted to put this statement in our eventual wedding vows some years later but she wouldn’t allow it.

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