The First Time

REMEMBER YOUR FIRST CONCERT? Of course, you do. Who could forget it? Surrounded by performers, I’d seen live music plenty of times as a child, but my first real concert was April 23, 1983. I was 12 and my new favorite radio station was holding their first festival. 91X had just made the switch from album-oriented rock to modern rock or “the rock of the 80’s” a few months earlier. Only the second station to have that format, they were playing all the stuff you couldn’t hear anywhere else (except KROQ up in Los Angeles). Their inaugural X-Fest had The Flirts, Modern English, the Ramones, Bow Wow Wow, and the Stray Cats, with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers headlining. It was six bands for under $14 at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium.

My stepdad took me to the show. We arrived just a tad late and I could hear the music as we waited in line to go through security. I recall my heart pounding and my palms sweating with excitement, or maybe it was because I was hiding something. I’d developed early and was able to conceal a camera in my bra. With my stepdad looming behind me, giving the security guy a “go ahead, I dare you” look, I was pretty much just waved through.

By the time we made our way near the action, the Ramones were just taking the stage. Seeing them in person felt surreal, like a dream. I wanted to get closer, but there were bald and bloody slam dancers next to the stage, so we kept our distance.

Next up were Bow Wow Wow and I thought it was completely rad that lead singer, Annabella Lwin, was only 16-years-old at the time. With her long mohawk, fringe, and beads she was mesmerizing to me and almost indescribably beautiful, like some sort of exotic surf-punk goddess.

I began really straining my neck when the Stray Cats were coming on. Often, when young girls take to a new band, they’ll determine which member they think is the cutest and for me, that was Lee Rocker.  My stepdad knew I wanted to get as close as possible, but the throng in front of us was not budging. Each move we tried to make was met with stiff elbows and over the shoulder glares. Then, my stepdad came up with a new tactic. We moved about 20 feet to the right. Then, he pulled out a joint from his pack of cigarettes and lit it. He tapped the two people in front of us on the shoulder and offered them a hit. They each took one, passed it back, and waved us in front of them. Like magic, he used this maneuver to get us within a few feet of the stage. The Stray Cats were electrifying. Lee Rocker seemed to defy gravity as he balanced on top of his big bass and I couldn’t figure out how three dudes could make all that sound.

I was exhausted in the best possibly way by the time Tom Petty took the stage with his Heartbreakers. We slowly made our way to the back of the crowd to take in his set and eventually, toward the exit, but not before buying a t-shirt.

My mother and stepdad had a tumultuous relationship and we were often at odds with each other, but not on that day. That was one of our best days, one of my best days. On that day, my stepdad was my hero.

As you can tell, the memory of my first concert is one of my fondest, as it should be. It should be that way for everyone, but that was changed Monday the 22nd, when 22 people were murdered and dozens more injured at a show attended by thousands at the Manchester Arena in England. The demographics of Ariana Grande’s fan base would lead one to believe that this was the first concert for many of those in attendance. Even if not the first, any concert attended with parents can be a bonding moment – something that can be in short supply in those difficult teen and tween years. The murderous pieces of excrement responsible for this atrocity not only killed and injured innocent people, including children, they robbed everyone in attendance. What should have been one of the greatest memories of their lives was made horrific by ignorant scumbags.

The group claiming responsibility for this should listen loud and clear. You’ve not attacked a single country, a single religion, or ideal. No, you attacked music fans. You’ve messed with something sacred within all of us. Live performances are where we set any differences aside and commune as human beings, breathing the same air as the artists we love. We are in the biggest cities and the smallest villages the world over. We wear all types of clothes. We have skin of every color. We speak every language. We worship every deity and none at all. We hold the highest offices and occupy the tiniest prison cells. From exalted leaders to humble servants, we are everywhere. You cannot hide from us. There are literally billions of us. We are music fans. You have enraged us and we are coming for you. You should be afraid – be very afraid.

“The Making of a Natural Disaster” is the first book in my trilogy “Somewhere Between This & That: An Absurd Journey” – Coming Soon. Follow my blog at harmonieahillwest.com for the latest.

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