Saturday, October 12, 2013

I'm with the Band

If you don't have this album yet, go get it. 

My Junior year at boarding school, I was assigned a new roommate. We had never met before and yet we somehow instantly connected. After no time at all, we were inseparable. We stayed up late listening to music. I thought I was a music lover, but this girl - this girl - she introduced me to The Cure. She got me in the habit of falling asleep listening to music like Level 42 and Yaz and Tom Tom Club, Talking Heads and Suzanne Vega and Peter, Paul, and Mary. We would write down lyrics and obsess over their meanings and marvel at how in the world Robert Smith knew exactly how we felt at any moment in time. We would take our double cassette recorder jam boxes and splice together our favorite lines from favorite songs until it was a 30 minute collage of teenage angst. We made each other mix tapes - of course we did. She took me to my first concert at - get this - Madison Square Garden. The band was Squeeze, not that it mattered. How's that for a first concert experience?

We graduated the next year and I never saw her again. She went to college, I went to college. We talked on the phone once or twice. Then nothing until 2009 and Facebook. She could see bits and pieces of my life and I could see glimpses into hers. I wasn't sure what she'd ended up doing exactly, but I knew it was in the music business. She traveled a lot, touring with Lady GaGa, Madonna, Dave Matthews Band, Hootie & the Blowfish, Glee, and Dancing With the Stars. Her incredible knowledge of music looked like it had led her somewhere perfect for her.

We finally live near a major metroplex, so it worked out that her touring schedule this year brought her somewhere that we could actually meet up. Twenty-four years later.

She called me and left a message - her voice was lower than I remembered and she called me by my maiden name. It's kind of cool when someone does that. They knew you way back when. We met for lunch but barely ate because we couldn't stop talking. We had both been through things. Serious shit. And yet weirdly similar. It was as if no time had passed. We laughed at our ridiculously stupid younger selves. And I brought something:

High School Yearbook. 

Our yearbook from Junior year. Some of the pictures are pretty funny. Mostly because we had a lot of damn hair.

There we are. 2nd row center. Angie (l) and Me (r). Basketball.

Front row. Me (l) and Angie (r). Softball.

But here's the best part. She had signed my yearbook and it was basically a timeline of every cool thing we did that year. We read over it. Out loud. And remembered.

I dug out an old photo album and brought it along, too.

The time flew by. She was getting texts from the band and had stuff to do. She offered to set aside some tickets for me and the boys for the concert that night. Listening to her stories that afternoon, I realized just how accomplished she was in her career. She was the tour manager for major bands and she had worked hard to get there. It was so her. And while I have been to quite a few concerts in my day since my first experience at Madison Square Garden, I had never been with my children - who are now big ol' teenagers - and never had VIP access.

She met us behind the building with these:

The key to the city. For real. 
And another one.

Just for kicks.
We both realized that she had taken me to my first concert and was now taking my three boys to their first concert. How cool is that?

Second generation concert inductees.

I look ecstatic. Just another day at the office for Angie.

We got to walk around backstage before the opening band went on. We were treated like family. We had dinner sitting at the table next to the singer and bass player. They signed my album cover and photos and the guitar player's dad gave the boys signed guitar pics later.

It was too intimate to even think about taking a photo. We played it cool. We sat at a private table during the concert, next to another band member's grandparents. It was an amazing view.

Angie was able to sneak out and see us, which was awesome. But you know what was really, really, completely fantastic? To walk out of the VIP area, through the crowd, all the way up to the stage where big, burly guys are standing guard while saying, "Excuse me, excuse me," as I pushed past people looking annoyed and flashing my VIP badge and having the Security guy move aside and say, "Right this way, ma'am." That's the very definition of awesome. "Excuse me, but I'm with the band."

And this band. This band. If you don't have this album yet, go out and buy it immediately. It was released a little over a year ago and it has just exploded. Because it's musical genius, that's why. The first song I heard was "It's Time" and it's still my favorite. But "Demons" and "On Top of the World" have gotten under my skin. The whole album is terrific. Don't doubt me. And the icing on the cake? They're really nice guys.

The concert ended and we got to see all that goes in to breaking down a stage and loading things up. We walked out a back entrance where big buses were waiting for everything and everybody to drive all night to the next gig. There were fans waiting behind barriers, wondering who in the hell we were with the personal escort up close and personal where they were not allowed. It was delicious.

But re-connecting with someone who had been a very best friend when I was 16 and 17 meant even more. It is valuable to look back at where you've been to understand where you're going. Another friend of mine once told me that we are our truest selves at about 10 years old - before the world rushes in with its expectations and disappointments. So whatever you did that made you happy when you were 10? That's what you should be doing with your life. So to see that someone I had known and loved and lived with and shared so much with was doing exactly that was inspiring. And to have her encourage me in my writing and to remind me that it was what I had always wanted to do...Well, it's exactly what I needed.

Thanks, Angie, for helping me remember who I am.

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