Last week, the Band of Heathens -- one of our family's all-time favorite bands -- played at a club in Brooklyn, not far from where we live. They are Austin-based and almost never get to New York, so this was a Big Deal for us.
I almost never go to non-classical concerts, even if I love the band. I hate loud music, and crowds scare me. I think the last rock concert I attended was around 1974, when Crosby, Stills, Nash and possibly Young played the Nassau Coliseum and some stoner set off a firecracker behind my seat and
almost gave me a heart attack.
I go to Ben's performances, but that's different. And this was different, too -- it was something we could all anticipate and experience together. So, even though their performance didn't start until 10:30 -- already past my weeknight bedtime -- we trooped over to Park Slope and had the flashback experience of getting our hands stamped.
The crowd was a little more sedate than the ones in my youth, but the place had a familiar packed, loud and beery ambiance. Bill and I collapsed onto one of the church pews lining a wall, but Ben made his way to the front of the room, where he stood transfixed for two and a half hours.
The band was fabulous, as expected, but my main focus was on Ben. Other standing audience members drifted away to get drinks or take a bathroom or smoke break; they spoke to one another, danced, and played air guitar or drums. Ben watched and listened, completely absorbed in the music.
Afterward, we waited outside while he sought autographs. When he didn't emerge after several minutes, I stuck my head back in, to see him deep in conversation with two band members.
When he finally came out, he explained, "You know how, when we do 'Jackson Station' [a song he and I sing together] I keep saying some of the chords aren't right? It's because they were playing chords I've never seen before.
I asked them about it, and it turns out they made them up. I guess they liked that I noticed, because we started talking about music generally, and they asked me about my band. They were so nice!"
Ben is still a kid in many ways, but his seriousness about, and understanding of, music give him an entree into at least this corner of the adult world. He can be shy, but he is completely comfortable around fellow musicians, whatever the differences in age and stature. This is his language, his home. It is rewarding, and even inspiring, to watch him pursue what he loves with a whole and confident heart.
MULTIPLE: President, Los Angeles Harbor College, President, Los Angeles Southwest College, President, Los Angeles Valley College