The old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” rings true when it comes to my mom and I. A lifelong live music devotee, my mother Maureen has been to over 300 concerts, from back in the day cheering on rock bands in a cramped Long Island club to dancing along with Pitbull in Las Vegas just a few months ago. I like to think I inherited some of my musical fandom from her so this Mother’s Day I decided to learn a bit more about the coolest concert-goer I know.
We started at the beginning. “My first concert, I think, was The Young Rascals which I went to with my older brother. Everyone I knew loved the Rascals. They were seen as a Long Island group because they played in the Hamptons before they were famous.” “I did see a lot of big groups at Stony Brook College when I was still in high school. Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Chuck Berry to name a few.” I asked mom was there ever a show her parents (my grandparents) ever forbid her from going to. The answer was no – but there were a few chaperoned events.
My parents probably go to at least one concert a month, gracing venues all over Long Island and Las Vegas, their two home bases. “I have probably been to more than 300 concerts. I don’t have one favorite but I can tell you the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden around 1969 was amazing. Rod Stewart for my 40th birthday I will never forget. Janis Joplin, my idol, at Fillmore East along with a few other venues. And my all time favorite band Chicago. I have seen them at least 30 times and every time is the best time, I can still be moved to tears. So many memories.” The people watching at these concerts never disappoints. I’ve had the pleasure of accompanying my mom and whether it’s people air guitaring at Chicago or enthusiastically singing along with Mick Jagger, there’s true joy in seeing people relive the songs that provided a soundtrack to great times. Also, how many people do you know that have seen Janis Joplin live?! My mom’s concert resume reads like a Rock n Roll Hall of Fame poster.
In the wise words of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, sometimes parents just don’t understand. I asked my mom what her parents thought of her musical taste. “My parents were fine with my music. They may have said “I can’t even understand what they are saying” but they loved the Beatles and Petula Clark and the Twist. They never objected when I played the same song on my stereo 20 times…or loud.”
Soon after my mom graduated high school, a monumental moment in live music took place. Woodstock Music & Art Fair was about a 3 hour drive from Long Island and thousands of people made the pilgrimage north for what was to be a 3 day celebration of peace, love and music. But no one, from the event organizers to the attendees, had any idea the event would become the most incredible music event of its time. And yes – my mom was there. “Woodstock was amazing and even more so in retrospect. I had just graduated from high school and to go away to a festival with your friends and without parents…well who wouldn’t love that!! It was fun, great music, so many people, a little scary at times. If we weren’t watching the performers we could hear it from our campsite. Everyone was there to have a great time-it really was 3 days of peace, love and music. I have so many stories I remember but you know my favorite, Mara…” The favorite story my mom refers to is as follows. It was 1969. There were no cell phones. No social media. So when my mom learned thanks to a transistor radio that there were half a million people at Woodstock and the highways were closed, she had one thought – “my dad must be flipping out”. My grandfather had to be talked off the ledge, as he was intent on driving up to rescue my then 17 year old mother from the unruly grips of rock n roll. The thought of a dad wading through thousands of people, tents and blankets yelling for his daughter would have been a sight to see. Just imagine your dad stomping through EDC’s Kinetic Field looking for you!
My mom is always up for a new adventure, so I barely flinched as I purchased our tickets to Excision, a show that just happened to fall smack in the middle of our Mardi Gras 2015 vacation. My plan was to not reveal exactly what where we were going until after a few cocktails. I did just that and into the Joy Theater we went, one slightly nervous mom in tow. What could go wrong? “I didn’t know what to expect but I was a little intimidated by the music and crowd. Enjoyed the show’s production and lights very much and the music too, although it was SO loud. I felt kind of old but people were nice. I felt the most comfortable next to the sound booth, haha.” I often tell this story at shows and 99% of the time the reaction is “THAT IS AWESOME”. My mom. Went to this. What can I say, she’s well rounded.
I asked mom to build her ultimate festival and she came up with a pretty eclectic lineup. “It would have to be old and new. Rolling Stones, Chicago, Rod Stewart, Pitbull, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5. I like so many different kinds of music. Not a lot of blues people left but love them too. There could be an awesome concert in heaven. Janis, Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, BB King to name a few…” You heard it here first, event organizers.
Finally, I wanted to know the biggest differences my mom sees between going to shows then and now. “The prices and I don’t want to get home too late. I used to go to the Fillmore East (a legendary Long Island concert venue) and the shows started at 11pm, you could see 3 groups and it might be over at 3am. You saw the sun rise on your way home. I still have some tickets from back then and it could be Chicago, Jefferson Airplane and Johnny Winter. I loved the music then and I still love it now.”
I’m lucky enough to have attended many shows with my mom and of course my parents head off to many shows on their own or with a group of friends. Concerts and festivals are truly a lifestyle, a hobby that seemingly never gets old. There’s no expiration date on enjoying live music. So buy that concert ticket and, if you can, buy your mom one too. Just maybe hold off on Excision until they’re ready. ::wink wink:: Happy Mother’s Day!