I tried to write this post once before but couldn’t find the words. Because it isn’t about the facts. It isn’t about back to back concerts. It’s not really about the music, even though that’s the heart of everything. Getting lost in a world for even a little while, letting friends create a community, living in the music again and again.
It isn’t quite as cool of a Penny Lane story as it could be. There are no moments hanging out with the band or walking around backstage or living with secrets of the road.
There was one brief conversation with a rock star but there are no pictures of that so somehow it doesn’t really count.
It started, actually, in December 2016. I’ve never been big on concerts. I’ve been to a few and sometimes been bored, sometimes had fun but it’s never really been how I want to spend my money.
And then my sister saw Bush in concert. She got pushed right up front and took pictures and listened to music I’d LOVED and for the first time I was jealous of one of her concerts.
Still we vacillated about going to see them in the spring.
It wasn’t the money. It was the hassle of getting out of the house and the effort to go. We went back and forth so many times but finally on the day we got in the car and we drove and talked and got there at least an hour early which is only relevant because it was an outdoor concert and we were RIGHT UP FRONT.
We got food and we sat and talked and we made friends with the girls in the VERY MIDDLE OF RIGHT UP FRONT.
And then. Then the music started. It pounded through us rising and falling in waves of energy and memory. Half the songs from later albums I didn’t know but it didn’t matter. The music didn’t care if we knew it or not, only that we’d let it sweep us away, into the night as the sun set; that we’d follow wherever it led, through rage and angst and love.
I think it must be odd, to perform a song you wrote two decades ago, when the turmoil and passion has faded and resolved itself in the distance of years. When the music hasn’t changed but your heart has.
Because listening to it isn’t the same. You’re twenty and you’re older at once; you remember every beat, every word and you remember being angry and hurt and powerful; remember wanting everything and all at once. But you aren’t angry anymore; the hurt has long ago healed itself and somehow you survived and got stronger for it. You don’t feel powerful but you are bold and confident and smarter about wielding those things then you ever were before.
But the music hasn’t changed. It demands your attention and your allegiance. It doesn’t ask you to remember but it can’t help reminding you; can’t help taking those moments blasting music in your apartment years ago and making it REAL.
Because the music is here and it’s now and it’s loud. The rock star is standing RIGHT THERE and he’s singing every word you know; not in the way you know the lyrics to half the songs on the radio, know because they are a part of the fabric of your life. And then because Gavin Rossdale is awesome he’s walking toward you and then he’s standing over you and he’s strumming your heart with the same precision as the guitar, like he knows every note and every emotion and how they fit together to form the song.
And then the night’s over. And your ears are ringing with the silence (and let’s be honest probably some hearing damage).
But you don’t want it to end so you hang out with your new friends watching fireworks and remembering the music like an echo. Because you still know the songs but it isn’t quite so real anymore. And they tell you about the concerts they’ve been to before and the next concert an hour away.
This time, that doesn’t seem that far. It doesn’t seem like such an imposition to get ready or get out of the house.
And suddenly you’re Penny Lane, following the band from one venue to another, watching the same concert the next night all over again.
Because you want the music to be real again.
And you want better pictures. And videos. Because this time you know the set list. So you know what’s coming and when to seize your moments and when to let yourself get lost in the music. To let it make you forget the world and your job and everything you’ve learned and felt and done between here and there and be twenty again. And feel the angst and the power of your youth rise up and assert itself in this moment, in this song and the fiefdom of the music.
And after it’s all over, to understand why she was Penny Lane. Why she loved the music and why she loved the rock star and why she left her whole life for a while to be a part of it.
Because you ran away from the world too. For two days.