Even though I was born a few years too late to truly be part of the classic rock generation, my older brothers' music seeped under my bedroom door late into the night as I was growing up. For better or for worse, I seem to have absorbed Blue Oyster Cult, Styx, Asia, Kiss and Pink Floyd by osmosis.
I wasn't all that interested in going to see the Styx concert initially, but when my husband suggested we take our 7- and 9-year-old daughters, I reconsidered. It's always good to see live music, and how crazy would it be to see your first big rock concert at age 7?
We cooked dinner on Saturday night in a kitchen filled with the sounds of "Pieces of Eight" streaming from Styx's MySpace page. My husband and I, both youngest children, would catch a lyric that we knew and sing along at the top of our lungs. Our daughters would raise their eyebrows in concern and pretend not to hear us.
We walked to the concert just after one storm blew through and before the next one rolled in. The clouds were spread like peanut butter against the sky - thick and creamy. Linty curtains of rain fell in patches to the north as we danced down the brand new sidewalks, singing snatches of pop songs we all knew. The evening could have ended right then and I would have been happy.
While we waited for the show to start, the kids pulled out pens and notebooks and doodled. We had come with a friend, and he and my husband entertained themselves by calling out '70s rock T-shirts they spotted amongst the crowd.
"I see Tesla!"
"There's Santana, and I saw a Chicago shirt back by the bathroom."
"How do people manage to keep a T-shirt for 30 years?"
The girls were bored by the time the piped-in soundtrack was dialed down and the deeper, booming chords of the prelude music drew in the people still lingering in the hallways. There were a few other families with kids, but most of the concert-goers were people my brothers' ages - mid to late 40s, in small groups or couples. There were plenty of women with high heels and tight jeans and a few men with feathered bangs. I suddenly missed my brothers - they would have fit right in.
The band took the stage and the lights started pulsing, and for a second I flashed right back to my first concert: The Outfield. I watched my daughter's eyes widen as the band took the stage and the volume increased to a roar, their notebooks and pens quiet on their laps. My 9-year-old, a fledgling piano player, was thrilled when the keyboard started spinning on the silver podium and the pianist played with his hands behind his back. My husband caught my eye over the heads of our kids; both of us were grinning.
The next couple of songs were written in pages of my memory that had been glued together for so long I had forgotten they were there, but after the first few bars, I sang right along without missing a word. The whole crowd sang along. Between songs I explained to my daughters how, when I used to go to concerts as a 20-year-old, we would bring lighters and hold them up to show our support for the band. Now the floor was lit up by cell phones held overhead.
Still thinking of my brother, even though we don't talk often, I pulled out my own cell phone and texted him.
"Thinking of you. At a Styx concert."
"Dog! Have fun."
"I should have called you. I had a few extra tickets."
"Come stay with us the 4th of July."
One text and suddenly we're making plans to see each other. I put my arm around my oldest daughter and gave her a squeeze, knowing that she was glimpsing something that would never be hers, but hoping it might help her relate to a whole generation.
The kids didn't last much past the first hour, so I left my husband there and walked home with my daughters through the fresh wet twilight. They were excited and exhausted and wanted to know if they could stay up when we got home or if they had to go to bed right away. Their first concert experience didn't change them too much, although they said it was fun.
And it was fun, really. It was not my music or my era, but that is one of the most beautiful things about music - it brings people together. Parents and children. Brothers and sisters. Husbands and wives. All of the people at the concert; all coming together to remember and connect with each other over some music.
Domo arigato, Styx.