Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Friendship. Loss. Rock and Roll. Gavin DeGraw. And Rick Springfield.

A friend recently posted a quote on Facebook that said, "I may be old, but I've seen all the good bands."

I've seen some good bands in my time, and some bad ones, and some pretty awesome solo acts, too.  When I was a teenager my mother took me and some of my friends to see Rick Springfield in concert, and God love her, she was miserable.  She sat still in her seat staring in disbelief at the spectacle on stage, shaking her head at the hysterical teenagers all around her--us included--jumping up and down and screaming Rick's name and singing the songs with him at the tops of our lungs.  One of my friends, Becky was her name, was wheelchair bound and we had seats on an aisle so she could have a clear view of the stage.  My mother--my fabulous, rock-and-roll-hating mother, made sure that nobody, nobody, was allowed to block Becky's view of Rick.  She had many a dirty look thrown her way from girls who were repeatedly told to sit down because there was a girl here who was handicapped and couldn't stand.  (Looking back I suppose my other friends and I should have stayed in our seats, too; but hey, we were fifteen, and anyway Becky was in front of us and we weren't blocking her view.)  At my house that night Becky told me this had been the best night of her entire life.

Becky had a tough life.  She was born with spina bifida, when her mother was sixteen.  Her mom married Becky's father but eventually they were divorced, and she went from one bad relationship to another.  Becky's mom did the best she could to raise her but sometimes the drama in her life was so overwhelming that Becky had to rely on other people for emotional support.  Unfortunately some of the people she turned to weren't exactly the best role models.  She got in trouble at school once in seventh or eighth grade because one of her so-called "friends" had promised her some favor if she would bring beer and cigarettes to school to give him.  She hadn't really learned what it meant to have a true friendship, a relationship in which people care for each other and mutually support and look out for the good of each other.  So when Becky said that to me that night after the Rick Springfield concert, it wasn't just about getting to see Rick.  It was that we were all there together, sharing the gift that he was offering to us that night.  It was my mother going with us even though she hated the music (oh, and was it ever loud), and making sure Becky would have a good seat, daring anyone to get in Becky's line of vision and ruin it for her; and then bringing us all home late, late at night.  It was Becky and I staying up until the wee hours talking about what we'd seen and heard, knowing we would never forget it.

That's what music does, doesn't it?  It brings people together.  I've been to a lot of concerts since that night with Rick.  What I remember most about them isn't the music (although I still vividly remember the shiny bright-red leather pants the lead singer of Loverboy was wearing, and the bandanna in his lovely curly hair--like in this video), but how much fun it was to be with people I cared about.  My brother and I arriving super-early to a Richard Marx concert to be the first ones through the doors when they were opened, and sprinting ahead of the rest of the crowd to grab front-row seats.  Being pregnant with Larry at a Jimmy Buffett concert, with a couple he went to college with, and her being pregnant too and us girls wishing we could have the juice-pouch margaritas they were serving; and Jimmy running down the aisle past us and high-fiving people, and giving one to Joe, and him turning around, grinning from ear to ear and high-fiving the rest of us.  And just last Saturday, with Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw and a Hawaiian folk singer named Justin Young (who, it so happens, is Colbie's beau--or possibly her husband...?  I don't really know--but when they sang one of her songs together I think half the audience swooned.)  The music was fabulous, and I was so close to Gavin at one point I could almost have reached out and touched him; but the best part is that now I have a new set of memories to share with my sister-in-law Jenn and my friends Barbara and Mauri.

I told the boys on Sunday they would have enjoyed the show, especially Colbie, who was fantastic.  But they might have been embarrassed to be seen with this crazy old lady who, like all the other teenagers and middle-aged women and kids and tattooed couples who were there, was jumping up and down and singing Gavin's songs with him and yelling his name and snapping blurry pictures with her phone.  And the woman who, when after the show when Gavin came back to sign autographs for fans who had stuck around long enough, literally ran to the stage just to see him up close, to hear his actual voice not coming through a radio or a television or a loudspeaker, to take more photos, to join the crowd of (mostly younger) women waving their tickets and programs and begging him to sign them.  I felt like a teenager again, and as I let myself get lost in the excitement and the music that would soon be a distant memory, I knew what would remain was the memory of spending these few hours with people I loved.  I thought of all the other friends and family members who I wished could have been with us; and I'll tell you right now if Gavin ever comes around again I want to call up everyone I can think of and bring a party with me, including--hopefully--Joe and the boys this time.  (My only regret?  Not getting a T-shirt.)

(Smiling for someone else's camera...but I caught it!!!)

Now Gavin DeGraw is no longer just the wonderfully talented singer and songwriter who only recently got my attention on Dancing With the Stars.  He's not just the person with the amazing voice and crooked smile who makes his audiences cheer and swoon when he sings "Chariot" and "I'm In Love With a Girl" and "Sweeter," or the guy who learned to dance the rumba on national television, and cried when the show's host asked him how it felt to have his mom and dad in the audience cheering him on.  Now when I listen to his CDs I won't only think about those things, or how much I like this or that song; he will also be the person who shared his gift of music with me and my friends, the person who inspired me to take them on a girls' night out we won't soon forget.  The person who helped me feel sixteen again, just for a little while.   My friend Mauri said she thought Gavin and Colbie were the most personable performers she'd seen, the way they interacted with the audience, thanking us for coming and for singing along with them, and showing genuine appreciation for the gift we had given them just by being there.  Not too many big-name performers will come out after a show and sign autographs; Gavin did.  (No, I didn't get one.  Maybe someday I will.)  And Colbie Caillat?  She's not just a voice I'm vaguely aware of on the radio anymore.  She's amazingly talented and lovely and fun to watch onstage.  I hope I have a chance to bring the boys to one of her shows, because I know they would love it.  There are new memories to be made.

(Colbie Caillat.  She rocks.)

OK.  Normally I try not to use other people's photos on my blog, BUT...it's one that Gavin posted on his Twitter page, and I just HAD to share it with you because if you look all the way to the left of the picture, between Gavin and the first post and just a little lower, there we are.  Sorry to steal your photo, Gavin... ;)

I quickly lost touch with Becky after high school.  We saw each other a few times in the years I was in college and shortly after, but by the time I was in my mid-twenties (to make a long story short) there really was no friendship left.  I gave myself a lot of reasons why, but mostly it was because the drama in her life was difficult for me to deal with at the time.  Like many others had done, I cast her aside.  A few years ago I got an email from a former high school classmate, who had contacted everyone in our graduating class to let us know that Becky had died.  I was shocked and saddened by the news, and felt some regrets, too; mostly that I didn't work harder to keep our friendship alive.  Perhaps if I knew she would die so young I would have.  I think she had gotten married; I hope her husband was able to provide the kind of self-giving love she so needed, and that her last years were happy ones.  I've been thinking about Becky a lot these last few days; I know she would have loved Gavin DeGraw.

I'll leave you with a video I found on YouTube that someone took at the concert on Saturday.  (Back in the 1980s and 1990s we didn't have YouTube.  I would love to have a video of that Rick Springfield concert back in 1983.)   The band Foreigner is coming to my little town in a couple of months.  I am so there.  Rock on, my friends!  Now to listen to that new Colbie Caillat CD I just bought...

(UPDATE, September 2013:  Labor Day Weekend of this year I managed to drag my family to another Gavin DeGraw concert, and guess what?  They loved it!  It wasn't too hard to convince them to go, because there was a baseball game beforehand.  I posted a few pictures on my new blog, Eating Slowly; I hope you'll stop by there and take a look!)

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