The Rock Show
Why Iím the Bad Mom Who took Her Son to a Concert
By Teresa Gonzales
"Mom, do you think weíll get to meet Lzzy?" my son asked as we slowly inched our way toward the theater doors. He, along with every person in that line would have loved to meet the front woman of the band Halestorm, Lzzy Hale. "I donít know buddy, it just depends." This is of course a "mom-ism" for when the answer is "probably not" and we just donít want to break their little hearts. The warm mid-June air was thick with the generic concert smell of beer and cigarettes. After 4 months of waiting, my son and I were finally going to see the concert. We had made a special weekend trip down to Missoula, MT which made it an even bigger deal. My husband of 11 years and my two younger sons had invited themselves along to use the hotel pool and just for the hell of it.
I looked down at my son as he patiently waited in line. He had just turned 11, but because of Hispanic blood on both sides, was very short for his age. He wore a black AC/DC T-shirt which he borrowed from me and wore a necklace I made him out of an old chain and a guitar pick. He was kind of a peculiar little fellow. He was enthralled with science, animals and insects. He just wasnít interested in what everyone else was doing. This was a blessing and a curse. While I never feared him succumbing to peer pressure, I wondered if he would get ridiculed by other kids as the social pressures just got worse with middle school. He seemed so grown up, yet somehow so young, at that moment, that I actually hesitated at the doors. I was having second thoughts. My husband hadnít been crazy about the thought of my taking him to a rock concert, where there would most certainly be swearing, drinking and pissing on rhe street corners. But I insisted that we would be fine. We finally made it to the front door and handed the bouncer our tickets. We looked at each other as we crossed into the dark side.
Now a brief word about me: I donít consider myself a "normal mom" although at this point, Iím convinced there is no such thing. I am 35 years old- a full time working mom who enjoys things like running, camping, writing, and especially music. Some bands I loved when I was around James' age were Nirvana (I had my cassette tape hidden under my mattress, because my parents would never have approved) and U2. My all-time favorite album during my early teens was Ten from Pearl Jam. I would listen to "Black" over and over probably hundreds of times and would never get sick of it. It was a coping song for my first broken heart when I was 13. And like all broken hearts it seemed so real and raw when it happened.
Upon discovering Halestorm in February, my dormant love of music awoke, and by now it was an everyday part of my life. The clean, honest rock Ďní roll sound of the band had awakened whatever modest musical talents I possessed. I had bought an acoustic guitar for $15 from a garage sale and had been playing it since March. I was now getting comfortable with the chords. My chords led to learning songs, which had led to singing them, which had led to writing them. My stomach muscles had been sore of late, as I struggled to find the right pitch and control my diaphragm. Music was a giant influence in my life at this point and showed no signs of slowing down. An inner rock star had emerged out of the mosh pit, met the working mom and pandemonium ensued. I had always considered myself a bit of a rebel- a rule breaker. I didnít mind being different, and I was hoping to teach my boy to be of the same mind. Rock music was about blazing your own trail and not being afraid to give everything and to throw yourself into whatever you do, regardless of what failures or disapprovals you meet along the way.
We were there about 45 minutes before the first act began and we stood in the open area in front of the stage. When the mic check finally started, the sound blared thru the ceiling-height speakers like a freight train. The poor little guy made a face that told me his young ears were going to age about 10 years if I didnít do something. As much as the thought of being in the front row appealed to me, the boy was going to go deaf way before his time if we didnít back up. We found some seats about halfway to the back and I had him sit down while I got him some earplugs. He seemed more comfortable now. The first two acts came and went and finally the crew started pulling off the black covers and setting up the sound equipment for the main act. I had been so into the whole process that when I looked down at him, the unthinkable had happened. He had fallen asleep! How could he fall asleep on one of the most important nights of a young manís life; his first rock show with his mom? It was about 9:30, but he had had a nap on the ride over. But I kept my cool. This was not my first rodeo and I knew just what to do. Without hesitation, I went to the concession booth and bought him a large coke. It only took a few shakes for him to wake up. Like a good mother, I handed him the styrofoam cup and said "drink this; itís full of caffeine and sugar." He obediently did so and after about 5 minutes looked like he was ready to rock again.
Finally, the stage grew silent and the lights dimmed. The crowd began screaming and... nothing happened. This was so typical of concerts that I had been to. Bands made the audience beg for their presence. In a lot of ways, a great concert is like having sex: both parties derive great pleasure from it and everyone has a good time. Itís even better when thereís anticipation, teasing and occasionally props. The crowd began to grow anxious and I was surprised to see my boy begin the inevitable. "Halestorm! Halestorm!" It only took a nano-second for the tattooed fellow that had been drinking the entire night, in front of us, to mimic him. Soon the entire auditorium chimed in. Finally, the band decided rhat they had teased us enough and they came out one by one when the blue light came on. And last but not least, there was Lzzy. Activate fan-girl mode...now. There she was, my inspiration and girl crush. I felt a bit silly, because by this point in my life, my fan-girl mode activator should have not been functional. But when someoneís music really speaks to you, inspires you and awaken talents you didnít know you had, you get pretty goofy and excited.
Without further ado, they began playing a blistering Grammy-winner "Love Bites." For a moment, all was right with the world. There I was with my boy; getting his first taste of what I hoped would be a life-long love of music. And there I was, at an awesome rock show with a great seat to my favorite band. Could everything stay this perfect forever? The guy behind me was quick to answer my rhetorical question. "Um, could you sit down, I canít see." I turned around and resisted the urge to kick him in the face, for ruining my perfect moment. This guy was probably in his late 20ís at the most. He sat there with his girlfriend who looked considerably younger and glared impatiently at me. I decided to enlighten these young, misguided people. "This is a rock show man" I replied over the noise of the show, "Get on your feet!" I felt this was effective in pointing out his erroneous assumption that one stays sitting at rock concerts and also gave him the solution to his dumb-ass apathy. I turned around back to the show, without looking at his reaction and proceeded to raise my arm and head bang like a true Ď80ís child. My inner rock star threw her horns proudly.
One by one, the songs came and regrettably went. Lzzyís speaking voice cracked a few times while addressing the crowd. The band is known for doing several hundred shows a year and it appeared that they were catching up to her, as she does vocals for every song. I watched my son begin to sing along and then stand up as he recognized the songs. He inched towards the center aisle. "Do you want to get a little closer?" I asked. He nodded, and because he still had his earplugs in, I thought it a good idea to move up to the stage. We were now in the standing area. It was crowded, but not fire hazard, jam-packed. I asked him if he could see, but he said he wanted to get closer still. So little by little, as the drunken crowd shifted, his little frame filled their spots. Song by song went by and finally they left the stage without warning, setting up the big encore finale. The crowd began chanting, this time without his prompting. Finally, again one by one, the band came back onstage. Lzzy came out last and this time I was only a few yards from the stage. A fan-girlish squeal came out of me and I was extremely grateful it was too noisy for anyone to hear it.
The intro began to my favorite song- "I Miss the Misery." Screaming vocals started right into it and my boy had his horns raised in a defiant rock ní roll stance. My inner rock star gave me a rousing slap on the back for my excellent upbringing of the child. The end of the song calls for a long growling, high note. She took a deep breath and began to melt faces once again. After the song was over she seemed emotional, and without a word, she gave the audience a heart symbol with her fingers and took a long bow. She looked as if this love affair was sincerely mutual. She grabbed a handful of her signature guitar pics and tossed them out. My eyes grew big as I watched them get grabbed out of the air, one by one. There went my first and last chance at a free souvenir. I looked down at my son who just stood there quietly with his back turned. I thought him to be probably exhausted, but he turned around with a huge smile and something in his hand. He opened his fingers and held a pic. I couldnít contain my fan-girl reaction. "Hey, buddy, youíre the man!" He said he was able to reach behind the speaker and grab it. I gave him an affectionate rub on the head and asked him if he was ready to go.
The things you wish would last forever are over the soonest. We made our way to the exit doors. The rest of the night ended uneventfully and we crawled into bed at our hotel room around 2AM. I donít know when I fell asleep that night, as my brain struggled to wind down from the bruising lights and sound I subjected it to for the last 3 hours. I think I fell asleep picturing my sonís satisfied smile as he turned around with that pic in his hand.
The next morning, the sun was as unforgiving as it always is in mid-June, and so were my two younger boys. They were up and ready to do something fun at 6AM. I woke to a rock starís morning without any of glamour or groupies in my bed. My throat was raw from singing/screaming, my head pounded from lack of sleep and mascara ran all down my cheeks. We all got up and had breakfast. I stuck mostly to coffee and juice as my stomach protested the thought of food. We left for home after a romp in the pool.
As my husband got behind the wheel I got out my phone and began checking my social media. On Facebook, Halestormís homepage had just posted a notice. To paraphrase, they said Lzzyís voice was not damaged, nor was she sick but she was plain old burnt out and had no other choice but to cancel the next week of shows. I got all chocked up for a minute. Iím not sure why, but for some reason, I felt special. There would be a lot of disappointed fans and my son and I very well could have been among them, but I had gotten my moment in the sun with him. I looked behind to the back seat and saw him contently playing his Nintendo DS. I knew that he didnít realize what we had shared or how fondly he would remember this. Just as when I was his age, I didnít realize I would still remember the things with my mom, which at the time seemed unimportant.
I knew that whole weekend was not about the concert, the music or even my girl crush. This was about him and creating a memory that couldnít be damaged or lost or stolen. I hoped Halestormís message of being yourself and not apologizing for who you are would stick with him long after the concert. For a kid who was as different as he was, I wanted him to always have that "rock and roll" side that would not really care what other people thought and would just be himself. I wanted him to go on in life, just as he did now; not noticing when people thought he was different. Because he was, and I hoped he would always stay that way.
I had been successful in creating this memory with my son and instilling a love of rock and roll in him. This inner rock star that lives in the working, church-going, responsible mom was allowed to show herself and had a coming out party. This part of me that loves to rock out, play the guitar and write articles- the part that is not evident was now loud and proud and unapologetically out there for all the world to see.
That night, my inner rock star defiantly gave a middle finger to my normal world and it felt so good.
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