The first concert I recall attending without a chaperone was Adam & the Ants at the Palace Theater when I was a freshman in high school. Well, not counting the performance earlier that year at the VFW by a group of upperclassmen playing under the name the Barf Boys. (Coincidentally, the Barf Boys did a very sharp cover of the Adam & the Ants B-side “Beat My Guest.”)
My father drove myself and two friends, friends with the delightfully fictive-sounding names Chipper and Stoner, up to Albany from Columbia County, dropped us off and told us where to meet him at concert’s end. We waved, watched him depart and headed straight to an alleyway on Clinton Avenue, wherein Chipper pulled a plastic pint of really shitty whisky from his waistband.
It was more demonstration than it was binge. I didn’t enjoy the taste, and didn’t consume enough to experience any effect. It was just a show of rebelliousness, of badassery–never mind that we were heading into a gilded venue to see a grown man in makeup and leather pants pretending to be a preposterous piratical Native American libertine dandy.
My own kid is now that same age and though times have changed and there’s no way on this or any adjacent earth I’d let her attend a concert without supervision, she recently hit a milestone of her own concert-going history: Her first arena-rock show, Twenty-One Pilots at the Times Union Center.
If you don’t know Twenty-One Pilots you are almost certainly not a teenaged girl. If you are a teenaged girl, you probably don’t need to read this, as you were almost certainly at the show. As we made our way through the serpentine line down Broadway and into the center, my daughter hailed some half-a-dozen or more friends from multiple school districts. If you were a cat burglar specializing in American Girl dolls, the Capital Region would have been like Supermarket Spree for you that night.
But, for the uninitiated, Twenty-One Pilots are a duo much loved for their lyrically moody, melodically catchy pop. Though the songs deal often with depression, anxiety and a young adult’s nostalgia for the simpler times of childhood (you know, like, 18 months ago), the music itself is upbeat and celebratory. The tunes are bouncy and anthemic, with not-infrequent reggae or ska rhythms. And because it’s 2017, there’s a rap bit in almost every song. So, imagine a PG-13 Eminem fronting Sublime performing the theme song for a network show about prep-school romantic intrigue.
It sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Thing is, it was really a lot of fun. Bands long ago figured out how to successfully work an arena. Well beyond the mere presence of a JumboTron, acts that can book 10,000-plus-seat venues, know to pull out the stops: So the lighting, the videography, the graphic design, the costuming, the stagecraft, all, are thoughtful and compelling. (Even if you’ve been to this rodeo before, and are prepared for the sudden, surprise appearance of the singer spotlit in the upper deck, or the scripted crowdsurfing.)
And there is something magical about the sheer delirious joy of a hangar full of thrilled teenagers. The kids were gleeful, yet polite. They stood, crouched, sang along, waved their arms as prompted by the lead singer. They waved their lighted cell phones in rapturous, lighter-less tribute. I saw no scuffles, no scowls. There was no jostling or impatience among parents in the modest beer lines. We saw, at most, one or two obvious drunks in the company of the EMTs, but they were adults and seemingly unaccompanied by kids.
Honestly, we looked down our noses at them. Particularly, the one man-bunned goofball in the budget Wiz Khalifa-style fur hoodie. (Rat Terrier?) What kind of idiot shows up at a Twenty-One Pilots show, only to get loaded and escorted out before the encore sing-along performance of “Trees”?
Hm. I kinda wonder what ever happened to Chip.
Twenty One Pilots, Times Union Center, Jan. 25