Out-cooled By A Baby

Live music has been absent from my life for much too long recently. It’s not that there aren’t bands to see locally, just that we don’t often indulge. My packed school schedule of late eats up most of my weekends, and what free time we have remaining is further consumed by Mark’s campaign events.

We’ve managed to sneak out twice to see our son, Jarrod, and his band, Wirewings, perform at a couple of local clubs, but other than that, I’m totally reliant on my magic iPod for all things musical.

So last week’s Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails double-header in Dallas was just what I needed.

It didn’t matter that it was the middle of August and the concert venue was outdoors, although in Texas, doing anything outdoors in August can be a dicey proposition. As it happened, the day started out rainy and cool, which resulted in a slightly sticky, but mostly pleasant evening.

This outing was a foursome – me, Jarrod, my daughter Celeste and son-in-law Tim. Tim, as it turns out, has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of all things NIN and Soundgarden, so he was, perhaps, the most enthusiastic of the four of us.

The venue itself, the Gexa Pavilion, sits in the middle of the State of Texas Fairgrounds, within spitting distance of the Cotton Bowl. It’s not usually a bad drive, but the traffic was ridiculous, even for Dallas, which is working hard to rival Houston for insane traffic issues.

Once inside the fairgrounds, we opted for the outrageous VIP parking. I’ve learned over time that paying a premium for parking at a concert venue is actually a pretty good investment. It’s not cheap, but if you value your time at all, beating the masses out of the lot will get you home sooner. And when you’re as old as I am, that’s important.

At last, we were parked, and made the short walk to the pavilion. And I immediately began to notice something interesting, and even a little menacing, about the crowd. The majority of concert goers this particular evening were dressed in black. Some of them in black leather, even, despite the warm, muggy weather.

Black leather. Black pants. Ripped black fishnets stockings topped by short black skirts. Black Vans and black Docs and LOTS of black eyeliner. The seriousness, indeed, the angst, was palpable. Dressed in jeans, my perky, rainbow-colored Asics, and my blindingly bright gold Dave Grohl silhouette t-shirt, I felt conspicuously happy and out of place.

Especially after seeing the young couple who wandered past as we were settling in to our spot on the lawn. They were both wearing black from head to toe. He was toting a black diaper bag decorated with sugar skulls. She was toting a baby, probably six to eight months old, also dressed in black. No eyeliner on the baby, thank God.

Granted, I’m 53 years old and don’t have a whole lot to be angsty about. Other than suffering the occasional bout of Jewish Mother worry, I’m a fairly upbeat, happy person. But in this crowd, I felt totally uncool. Toss me an apron and I would have given June Cleaver a run for her money.

I should have at least opted for something black. But on our way out the door, Jarrod had admonished me for wearing a Soundgarden tee (not cool to wear a tee for the band you’re going to see, Mom), so I changed at the last second, grabbing the gold shirt off the laundry rack. Now I was a glowing beacon of Dave happiness in a sea of dark and moody. I was even out-cooled by a baby! Ah well, I suck at applying eyeliner anyway.

Shortly after we settled in, Soundgarden took the stage. I’ve just been getting to know Soundgarden over the past several months, so a lot of their music is new to me. Still, there were enough familiar songs that I enjoyed their set.

Soundgarden’s lead, Chris Cornell, has been singing for the last 30 years in one band or another, but vocally, he’s still got it. He’s got a four octave range, and all four sounded great. From what I could tell (from WAY back on the upper lawn), he looked great, too. Cornell turned 50 last month.

After a brief set change, a roadie in black cargo shorts and a tight black tank ran on stage. Except it wasn’t a roadie, it was Trent Reznor his own self. And those weren’t cargo shorts, according to Jarrod. They were more likely drop crotch designer shorts from Rick Owens. Owens is a fashion designer who, based on his photo on Wikipedia, looks pretty angsty and edgy, like maybe he should be singing lead for Nine Inch Nails. His clothes are edgy, too. Kind of an “industrial urban chic.” Whatever that means. I found some of his drop crotch shorts for sale on line. $465 a pair. Good thing Mark only aspires to Congress, and not a job demanding an industrial urban chic wardrobe. We’d go broke dressing him!

Like Cornell, Reznor still sounds great and looks even better. Once he got clean from his substance abuse issues in the early 2000s, he started taking care of himself. Gone are the long black locks, now replaced with a very respectable short haircut. I think if you just passed him on the street, you might mistake him for a banker or a doctor, rather than a rock musician. Reznor is 49 this year. And damn, he’s gorgeous!

The trouble with this concert, for me, was that I was not familiar enough with most of the music to fully enjoy hearing it live. Not that it wasn’t a pleasure to lie under the stars and listen, because it was. I just wish I’d been able to sing along to more of it. I also wish the guy upwind from me with the nasty cigar hadn’t lit up and made part of the concert a little unbearable. I’m tolerant of cigarette smoke in large open areas, and the skunky fragrance of cannabis is not at all unpleasant. But nothing can ruin an evening outdoors like cigar stench.

Another thing that I missed was interaction with the audience. I would have appreciated those little breaks between songs where the band members are introduced. After all, it’s not just about the lead singer. The other band members are instrumental, pardon the pun, in contributing to the sound. And a little more banter would have been nice. Cornell offered some, but nothing from Reznor, save for a polite ‘thank you’ following the applause after each song. I guess that’s just not his thing.

Still, I was glad I went. It was time well-spent with my kiddos, even if it wasn’t the perfect concert experience for me. And thankfully, I’d arranged to take the next day off. A good move, in light of the fact that we didn’t return home until well after midnight. For someone who’s typically decked out in pajamas before 8:00 p.m., midnight is tough for me. And just think how late it would have been if we hadn’t splurged on that VIP parking!

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