Too Old to Rock

By Sara Vigneri

Remember when waiting in line to use a grimy portable toilet, drinking overpriced water and standing ankle deep in mud signified a good time? In my college days I attended the outdoor rock festival Lollapalooza with my husband (who was then my boyfriend) and we had a blast despite the rain and the mud. We spent way too much money on the tickets and parking, but were in awe that we were able to hear Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and the Smashing Pumpkins on the same day. It’s funny that I don’t remember much of the details, but I do remember how amazing the music was and how much fun it was to see the bands all on the same stage.

I wasn’t bothered by throngs of people dancing and pushing and jumping to the music–I just sat in the mud and soaked it in. But of course that was long before I was unable to sit on the ground for more than a few minutes without pain searing through my back. Last summer I got wind of a throwback concert at the Allentown Fair and raced to buy tickets to see Journey, Night Ranger and Foreigner. I couldn’t wait. Not that I was much of a fan of any of those bands, but it seemed like a great way for my husband and I to see a live concert, ‘old people style’. And by that I mean, we were able to see the show without the need to drive or pay for parking (we can walk to the fairgrounds), and no fighting crowds or getting home too late. Perfect!

As we sat in the stands (of course I bought grandstand seats, I can’t stand up for that long!), I looked around at the crowd of forty-somethings and couldn’t help but feel the juxtaposition between this and Lollapalooza. No mud. No mosh pits. And yet, despite the comparatively serene environment, I was complaining.  Why is the main act coming on so late? Why is the line for the women’s restroom always so long? These chairs are hurting my back! Does the music have to be so LOUD? As we were leaving before the finale (it was getting late!), I looked at my husband and realized how old we had become. Forget wading through mud, I could barely tolerate an easy-going concert of middle-aged rockers at a small venue near my home.

The last concert I truly enjoyed was seeing Sting perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Met in New York. Yes, my favorite ‘rock’ concert took place in a venue where people wear tuxedos. It was so nice to see a bunch of civilized people rocking out while sitting down comfortably in plush chairs – they served wine at the concessions and the bathrooms were spotless.

Every so often a band comes to town that brings back a longing for the days when I actually enjoyed a real outdoor rock concert. Like when I saw Sting open for the Grateful Dead at Giants Stadium in 1993. Or one of the craziest concerts I ever went to, The Scorpions at the Orange County Fair in upstate New York in 1991. That was the first time I experienced the fear of being crushed by a mass of crazy fans pulsing toward the stage. But as I was standing in the crowd, clutching my friend for safety, I experienced something magical as I watched the sun set over the stage. As darkness fell, the stage lit up the entire sky. I got swept up in the frenetic energy as the main act took the stage and blasted the crowd with sound.

With summer in full swing, I feel the itch to score some tickets to a good outdoor show. Maybe I’ll relive my youth and catch Jane’s Addiction at Musikfest, or hang out with a younger crowd and see MGMT. But whenever I start looking at the concert info I start doing the math – outdoor venue = outdoor bathrooms. And let’s be honest, it’s all about the bathrooms. Give me a concert at Allentown Symphony Hall (we saw Chris Cornell of Soundgarden perform there this winter – a great venue), or maybe the new Sands Bethlehem Event Center, and I’m there. Basically, the increase in my age is inversely proportional to my willingness to use outdoor bathrooms.

So while there are still plenty of rock concerts on my bucket list, the older I get, the less willing I am to rock it out…outside.

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