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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Off the farm: KISSed at Bluesfest

In the ‘80s, I went to a lot of concerts. My uncle was head of Dustbane Security at the Civic Centre, and he let us in for free. Lansdowne Park was the only venue in town at the time. We saw half a dozen concerts each summer. And we sat in the V.I.P. section. I had no idea how lucky we were.
My tastes were more dance pop than hard rock, however. I didn’t see Judas Priest. Or AC/DC. I never saw KISS in concert... until this year.
Our youngest daughter Paulina is a fledgling rock star. Yes, she’s going to want to kill me when she reads this. She goes to club shows quite often, a true aficionado of live musical talent. I love going to concerts – and I like to give tickets as gifts. I decided to take the girls to KISS at Bluesfest as a summer celebration. Then I gritted my teeth, girded my loins and prepared to not enjoy myself. As it turned out, I haven’t had that much fun in decades. My cheeks hurt as much as they did on my wedding day, from smiling so much.
I didn’t “get” KISS in the ‘80s. I saw concert video clips on TV, and I remember thinking that Gene Simmons’ blood-spitting demon act was really scary, while his cod-piece thrusting dance was just plain gross. After Adam Lambert’s live American Idol performance with KISS, however, I decided it was pretty funny. Those guys don’t take themselves seriously. How could they, dressed the way they are in their garish costumes with the reptilian scales, bat wings, peek-a-boo cut-outs and platform heels?
On July 15 I put the girls in my little non-air conditioned car that squeaks so much you think a squirrel is caught in the engine, and headed to one of the most successful outdoor music festivals in North America. We drove down one street and up the next, searching for a parking space. I was occasionally overwhelmed by merging buses, one-way streets and aggressive drivers, and the girls were getting antsy so I dropped them off at the gate, and went off to find parking on my own. Every time I chose a spot, someone would come out of their house and say, “hey Lady. You park there, they tow you away,” or they would just stand guard at the end of their driveways, shaking their heads at me. Finally I received a text message from my eldest daughter, who was waiting for me at the front gate of the festival grounds. It took me another half an hour to find the parking lot that she directed me to. I walked the few blocks back to the concert area, crossed the green space and the OC Transpo route and booked it down the parkway to the main gate, followed by several slightly familiar looking people that I probably went to high school with. As I walked, I questioned whether I might truly be too old for this sort of event.
Like one of many sheep, I allowed myself to be corralled through the security check. I looked around for my children. Several thousand people were there, but not one face I recognized. And despite my three years in the over populated city of Taipei, I never have become comfortable in crowds. Thank goodness for cell phones and text messaging. They do come in handy at times like these.
The girls texted that they were waiting for me under the big screen, beside the stage. After all that driving around I was thirsty so I decided I had time to line up for a beer. But first I had to line up and show my I.D. I joked that I didn’t have any I.D. on me and asked if wrinkles and stretch marks would suffice. The girl behind the counter just stared at me, deadpan. She must have left her sense of humour in her other purse.
I took a cell phone photo of this 40-year-old guy who was very convincingly dressed as Gene Simmons. He too was playing host to a bunch of teenagers. This is what happens when Guitar Hero and Rock Band use ‘80s music in their programs. The music of our youth gets stolen by our own children. I don’t remember the music of the ‘80s being all that great when I was in it. Funny how it has stood the test of time with such a discriminating audience as today’s youth.
Beer in hand, I made my way through the crowd toward the big screen where my girls were supposed to be standing. Suddenly I got another text message. They were just a few feet from the stage, in the thick crowd that had begun to form. If I could see the guy with the foot-high Mohawk, they said, I could see them. But I couldn’t reach them. The crowd had already woven itself into a tight, impermeable mob. I was resigned to stand at the back, with a bunch of other parents who had been successfully shaken by their teenagers.
Finally, the show started. Fireworks cracked over our heads. Pyrotechnics flamed out from a wall of speakers to tan our faces, and I found myself wondering how flammable those costumes were. Paul Stanley hooked his platform-heeled boot into a hanging ring and swung out over the audience. The two new guys (replacing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss) played even better than the originals (not that I would know). A big screen spanned across the back wall of the stage to show Gene Simmons’ demon act in all its bloody glory.
I thought it was wonderful. It was one of the best shows I have seen in years.
Most recently I have seen Blue Rodeo, Diana Krall, Norah Jones, kd lang, and many other acts that might be deemed more suitable for my age demographic. But you know what? Sometimes it’s good to do something silly. It feels great to be a kid again. Crammed into a crowd so tight you can barely move. Getting rained on because the umbrella you wisely brought would only obstruct the view of the people behind you if you dared to put it up. Choosing for your own safety not to inhale but enjoying the incense mixture of cotton candy, cannabis, Indian food and fresh summer air anyway.
And even though my children stayed just out of my reach, deep in the thick crowd, I felt it was a night to remember, and we shared it together.

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