With great hesitation, on my part, our family of five headed to Talking Sticks Resort Arena, or as any lifelong Phoenician would say American West Arena, to watch emo/rap/rock band Twenty One Pilots perform. The tickets were a gift from my lovely wife for turning an uninspiring 32. My initial enthusiasm as I unwrapped a shoebox and discovered the tickets quickly grew into a quiet dismay as I realized there before me were enough tickets for the entire family to include our 16-month old.
How young is too young? When should you expose your children to large, potentially raucous, crowds of the varied humanity that in my pessimistic perception leans more toward the absurd? Well as it turns out the answer is quite easy. Listen to your wife; she’ll know. As we made our way to the arena, I began to notice scores of prepubescent, angst-riddled, mini-adults accompanied by people who appeared eerily similar to me, parents. Though my children were younger than the mean, there were many of similar ages. So, my anxiety about the whole ordeal began to wane as I realized that the worst possible outcome was my wife and I rocking out while our children experienced their YouTube favorites in person.
The concert was great. The roar of the crowd and my sweat-tinged eyes briefly transported me to my first concert at the Arizona State fairgrounds Coliseum as I watched Live, euphorically rocking out to “Lighting Crashes,” while simultaneously experiencing a crush every five minutes. Though I was considerably older than my children, an ancient 13, my hope is that their experience will be something they will remember when they’re older and I’m considerably fatter, greyer and less nimble minded.
Throughout the evening, I partook in one of my favorite and least favorite exercises – people watching. Scanning the crowds I noticed the receding hairlines and protruding waistlines and was constantly reminded of my own mortality. However, watching the crowd of forty-somethings slowly give way to the rhythm and lyrics that in an age long gone would have resonated as enthusiastically with them as with the children who accompanied them was something special, though slightly impinged by the bald idiot in a drunken stupor who intruded on the experience of those around him. There’s always one. But, throughout the arena there were thousands of like-minded, well-behaved people of all ages embracing a common joy for music and inspirational lyrics. It was awesome.
The night was a whole host of memories that I hope to hold onto as I age and my memory undoubtedly begins to slip. My oldest daughter holding my hand, and smiling up at me with her mother’s face, though younger, innocent and without the marred lines of experience and dulled eyes of disappointment. My son standing still, hesitant to move but seemingly enjoying himself while also overwhelmed by the experience, perhaps a ting of my anxiety coursing through his veins as he stood uncertain of the mass of humanity around him. But few memories will ever match the experience of watching my wife sway to the music with her twin in tow. The too often infrequent smile never faded from her face as she tuned out life for a few hours and danced the night away. In that moment I saw the 15-year old with the forever legs and midnight hair who not once but twice in my three decades induced the most passionate love of my life. A reminder of why it hurt so much when she left and felt so good when she came back. We agreed awhile back that we’d spend our limited resources on experiences and not material items. It’s worked. There’s no monetary value to what I experienced last night.