Introducing the Band- Or, Reflection on the Difference Between Writers and Rockers

"I want the style of a woman, the kiss of a man/ Introducing the band!" -The London Suede

Today I read a post by a dear friend of mine, one Elizabeth Barrett, and it was so charming I decided to file away the post I was anticipating to write tonight in favor of acknowledging hers. If you'd like to read the "parent post" (and you should- it's darling) you can do so so here. If you choose not to (shame on you- it's darling) I will summarize crudely and say that it is an essay exploring a particularly shy aspect of her personality, and the vehicle is a reflection of a memory of some concerts she saw- particularly primo seats for Neil Diamond.

I don't listen to Neil Diamond and I don't think anybody would have guessed from looking at my rock pedigree that anyone in my family did. But my dad famously (according to his sisters, who report this story with an all-knowing smugness of which only we older sisters are capable) got bounced from a Neil Diamond concert for attempting to get onstage and interact with the singer. The story goes something like that Dad suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to take home a souvenir from the show, and the story says that the selected item was Mr. Diamond's belt. I find this last part especially odd. It is disconcerting, to say the least, to imagine your dad grabbing at another man's belt onstage. Especially if that man is Neil Diamond, and Dad's record collection tends to have things like Frank Zappa, Judas Priest, or (on the other hand) Jackson Browne. But this story gives me context to appreciate the fan fervor in The Other Elizabeth Barrett's story.

Except I think even my dad would have been tired long before the 20th "Bah-bah-bah" of "Sweet Caroline". And he doesn't really put his hands in the air for concerts anymore, either. It has less to do with getting into it, I think, than with not feeling particularly demonstrative. I thought for sure he was miserable during the Bowie concert, but as I was bouncing along radiantly back to the car with him afterward, he said "That might have been one of the best shows I've ever seen."

Me, I do put my hands in the air. My fan fervor can become an uncontrollable fan frenzy. I don't mosh but sometimes I wish I did... instead, I do what little people do: squeeze to the front of the crowd, very politely, and open my eyes and ears as wide as I can, and hyperventilate into the music. The time will come, I'm sure, when this will not thrill me so much as it does now, and it will likely have to do with significant hearing loss at an early age. But for now I will clap and cheer and sing my heart out. I once held hands with a stranger at a folk-rock concert, and I saw a girl a few feet from me singing and crying at once at another (also folk-rock...). I have no problem letting it tear through me.

But that's because music brings this out of me. That's because true artists have the power to captivate and pull things out of you that, short of religious experience, don't often surface. That's why Jim Morrison could hold the Coliseum in the palm of his hand, and start a riot with a word.

I genuinely used to dream of being a rock star. I'd performed quite a lot as a kid for church and school functions, such that by virtue of the demand I received I thought I was good. I don't remember stage fright except as an affectation- being shy and nervous was something people demonstrated because it was done. But eventually I started to grow up and started to feel it. Oddly, it wasn't really so much for when I was singing for an audience (of course, that happened less and less) as for when I was speaking to one. When I was just saying what was on my mind. My heart still pounds and my face flushes and I twitch my feet if I'm sitting down or twist my hands if I'm standing up. When I give my own gift, my own thoughts, to a crowd, I lose all my internal composure and just pray it doesn't sound like word vomit.

But I think maybe it's less that I am afraid people will think I'm foolish, off topic, etc, than that I won't do justice to what I want to tell them.

I'm content to be a face in a grocery store. I hate playing Speed Basketball because there will come a point where I, absolutely spotlit, will hold up my team with my ineptitude for minutes that seem like eternity.

But when I'm at a rock concert, I'm part of the music. I don't hold a candle to the artist's charisma, but I will absorb and learn from it and someday maybe I will speak my own mind, present my own art, with as much power and conviction. I will learn how to help people feel that way, like they can throw up their arms and repeat the chorus til they collapse, and together we will have no inhibitions.

"I need you to believe in not me, but my words." -Taylor Mali

And for laughs: Tim Minchin- "Rock and Roll Nerd" (Disclaimer: PG-13 for strong language)


  1. This post really makes me miss playing shows :( I really need to get back into it...

  2. What a writer, Brooke! And your words move all who listen or read! You have a lifetime ahead of you to touch thousands!