Mae’s First Concert Rule

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been places I don’t belong.  Usually it’s not so much that I truly don’t belong, as much I don’t appear to belong.  I am sort of an old soul chameleon.  I enjoy having different hobbies and interests that don’t necessarily mix amongst themselves.

When I moved to California and became involved in a few different scenes, whether it was music, surfing, desert camping or antiquing, I found that as long as you play the part and believe that you belong, you can generally avoid standing out.

The first time I met the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I was at a charity event with a friend/date; I’m not sure what he was, honestly.  I bought my way into a small show, but there was a clear segregation between invited celebrities and ticket holders.  My “date” was clearly more interested in mingling with the bartenders while I was interested in making my very first attempt to score a couple minutes with the Peppers; any of them would do.  So while my “date” and I went separate ways, I found myself locking eyes with another fan who did not dress the part.  I mean, I had clearly been prepared in a sparkly pink sequin shirt, leather pants and spiked heels.  He was in a Chili Pepper t-shirt and Dickies.    Still, as I stood alone, as did he, at least we knew we had something in common; Chili Peppers.

After the usual introductions, he quickly asked if I’d been into the forbidden area of the evening; the main house.  I likely replied with something goofy like, “but we aren’t allowed in there”.  Fan Boy had a hint of trouble in his eyes, said “come on” and grabbed my hand.  As we approached a kitchen area, which had a wide open door to the back of the mansion, he stopped me and looked me dead in the eyes and said “if you act like you belong here, no one will question you.  Act like you own the place”.

So in the door we went, amongst buzzing kitchen workers, up the back stairs in stilettos I could barely function in and there we were.  We were in.  This was my first concert rule that I’d keep branded in my mind for all time; act like you belong and no one will question you.  It works because we clearly did not look the part, but we acted like we did…until we approached the band Continue reading

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Discovered Postmortem

I’m sure this has happened to you, because it has likely affected every genre one can be a fan of.  Have you ever felt sad that you discovered you are a fan of something or someone that no longer exists?

Probably the first time I really thought about it was the time I bought my first Jeff Buckley cd in 2002.  Damn.  His voice was pristine and emotional.  I’d never get to experience it live.  He died in 1997, young and still so much untapped.

He wasn’t the first artist I’d appreciated after their demise.  I had listened the Beatles early in life and shuffled through Mom’s albums before Kindergarten, but because they were “old” to me, I never expected to see them.  There were also three of them that toured and alive for so much of my life.

Buckley was the first time I felt mournful that I hadn’t experienced something, not because I couldn’t get a concert ticket or I’d be out of town, but it just could never be.  Beyond that, once I’d purchased all his music, which there never seemed to be enough of, that was it.  There would be no more waiting to get the new album at midnight at Tower Records (RIP) or anticipating his release dates in Rolling Stone. Continue reading

Chili Peppers Lacked Spice? Or Was It Just Me?

I took the weekend off from writing because, quite frankly, I wanted to.  I haven’t had a great following of late anyway so I don’t think it was missed.  So instead of sitting in front of the computer, I lived amongst the physical people; except when I read the posts that were emailed to me.Friday night was the much anticipated Red Hot Chili Pepper show in Philadelphia.  Since we got our tickets in January, it felt like it would never get here, but luckily time chugs along and we found ourselves with thousands of people who had made the trek to South Philly for the sold out show.

RHCP with Klinghoffer

It was a good show.  I’ve seen them over thirty times for sure, but I stopped counting then.  Not too sure why.  Counting would have been easier than explaining that at one time I knew there were thirty but now there are more.  Regardless, this was the first live show I’ve seen with newest guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.  He is a lot like John Frusciante, except he doesn’t seem to despise fame and fans.  Josh dresses the same, seems physically affected by the music and goes a little off the deep end with making noise with pedals like John.  It’s no wonder that they toured and recorded together prior to swapping the lead guitar job with the Chilis.

RHCP with Frusciante

I love John Frusciante because he is a guitar prodigy for one; he’s creative and innovative.  He’s been the backbone to music that has been the soundtrack to my life thus far.  I also feel offended that he threw that away; twice.  He did this to us before in 1992.  As a dedicated fan, I also find myself insulted that he didn’t bother to show at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony when the band was inducted last month.  Continue reading

Rockin’ With the Chili Peppers

I spent some time tonight writing a commentary on my experiences with the Red Hot Chili Peppers when I was younger. I say that like I’m old, but skipping work for concerts seems like a lifetime ago.

I won’t bore you with all the stories of mayhem; backdoor crashing, wristband making, concussions, “just in case” cigarettes and debt-building concert tours; (unless you ask me to).

What I will share, is that these were some of the happiest days of my life…so far. They are a band I followed since I was eight. And it became much easier to have access to shows and special events while I lived in Southern California after I graduated high school. I was foolish with money, spent time with some weird people and looked up to musicians who did a lot of drugs. I did not condone the drug use, but I did find solace in the music and theirs became a soundtrack to many years of solid memories and friendships.

Some people hate them, some people love them and I’m not here to debate that. I used to try but really, what is the point of trying to convince someone to alter their taste? I personally have a connection to them, which is that I feel happy when I hear them. My hips rock to Flea’s bass and my feet tap to Chad’s drums. I can’t resist singing along, even when the lyrics don’t make logical sense and no matter who is playing guitar, there is a hauntingly soulful sound on most tracks that just make me…happy.

I’ve posted a shot of me when I was 18. I just moved to San Diego and went up to Los Angeles for a charity event that the Peppers would be playing at. I snuck into the celebrity-only area and met the band for the first time. I’m smiling so hard that I look scary in this picture, while Anthony was in the middle of asking my photographer when to smile. My words to him did not make sense that night, and it was the first and only time in my life I was wordless…imagine that. I stood there in my leather pants and platinum hair and grinned for what felt like days. What a doofus, I think now. But what naive joy there is to be that young and happy without a care in the world.

The Most Honest Post I’ve Written

The only person in my family that knows about this blog is my husband.  He’s pretty supportive, though he doesn’t say much and even if his way of support is portrayed in the form of a challenge.  He challenged me that I couldn’t do this 365 blog when I first mentioned it.  I’d like to believe that what appears to be lack in faith, is instead his way to push me.  My Irish and Philadelphian roots are built with stubborn and defiant characteristics.  I used to think these were flaws, but they make me who I am, so I will not shy away from them if that’s what I need to survive.  In fact, those “flaws” are the reason I’m writing you.  He said I couldn’t, therefore I do.

There aren’t a lot of things that I think I’ve done necessarily right in my life.  I had so many dreams when I was a teenager and a surprising amount of adults to supported them, particularly people who had no real investment in me.  There is nothing they’d gain from my success.  They just cared.  I never thought about it before.  Teachers, co-workers, older friends all took the time to mentor me, without request and without agenda.

I’ve told you before that I’m an old soul.  My favorite memories are sitting with my Grandmoms and just talking.  These are some of my earliest memories and with two gone and one left, I see this part of my life slipping away.  I expected encouragement from them, but instead I got simple friendship.  I could actually consider them people I loved, respected and wanted to spend time with.  We’d laugh and talk about things that matter, not just superficial weather or sports talk.  When I think back though, even though they were incredibly important to me, they weren’t my motivators.

As I got my first job at a Hallmark store, I was enveloped by the family of people who owned and worked at the store.  They saw me through some of the harder times and though many were much older in experience and years, they counseled me without me even knowing it.  They encouraged the school-skipping and concert going city girl, and led me to believe anything was possible.  I continued to find people like this wherever I went.  Maybe I was a project or maybe I actually was as special as my parents said, but maybe I was just blessed with meeting the right people and accepting such unlikely friendships.  There I was, in California and my closest friends had children my age.

I didn’t sit down to write this blog, I had another vision in mind.  I started thinking about my plans.  I gave up so many plans to be logical when I was about twenty.  I gave up the steps I needed to take to fulfill my dreams, and instead kept dreaming with no real track to ever get there.  That’s changing.  Whether it’s logical or not, is not my concern anymore.  I’m going to be putting my husband and I in a financial situation that falls into a category of the unknown, possibly stupid.  I’m going to be leaping from a steady job to who knows what.  It’s scary.  But I can’t help but feel that I owe it to myself and to every person who gave me the reason to believe I was good enough to get what I want.  I’m doing something because I want to and for the first time, it’s not out of defiance.  Whether or not I find what I’m looking for, I can at least die saying that I tried, instead of feeling like a coward.

 

Photo courtesy of gettingsmartonline.com

I Hate Country Music; Or So I Thought

I always told myself that country music is horrible. From the time that I was very, very little, I detested it and really rallied my mind against it. I honestly have no idea why. It was something that I made a point in letting people know when we discussed music taste. My response to it almost bordered on aggressive. It’s one of those things that I look back on and though I’ve tried to analyze my reasoning, I can’t come up with anything to defend my logic, except for the fact that I was immature and must’ve been trying to fit a mold.

Over time, I started to hate country music less and trend to a more indifferent feeling about it. My parents didn’t listen to country music, but they certainly never taught me to hate it, or hate anything for that matter. The closest thing that played in my house was Gordon Lightfoot, which is more Folk, but certainly has twang-y elements to it.  I’ve basically loved the fundamental instruments in country music all my life, which are no different from rock music, but it’s just a different style and a slightly different structure.

Still, having grown up outside of Philadelphia, I never understood the crowds that flocked to country music concerts in the summer, with cowboy hats and a Budweiser in hand. I’m all about being a patriotic American, and I realize that country music probably depicts the American persona more than any other, but where did these people pick up the taste for it?  Where did they come from?

It wasn’t until I realized my Uncle had a love for country music that I started to think about it in a different way. He was a city kid, grew up loving heavy metal bands in the 80’s and had the style and hair to rival bands like Van Halen in his day. He played in a metal band, loaded up with tattoos and although he never lost his love for a bad rock ballad, he loves country music now too?  As he is a person I respect, good for him, I thought.  Then I met my husband, who is from Iowa; who knew all the country songs when we went to a piano bar early in our relationship. Then I discovered the country station presets in his pick-up truck. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots or anything, but I must’ve been slow to not see that coming.  I feel kind of sorry now, that he didn’t come out spurs blazing to show his country roots. I always wondered if neglecting his country roots publicly was his way of finding himself in another part of the country or if he was that concerned I’d dislike him for it.  That would be something I’d truly feel sorry for.

As I grow up, I’ve found there’s nothing more important than being open minded. Hell, I can accept most anything else in the world and look on the bright side of most any situation, why can’t I accept country music? Then it happened, crossover music. Though I’m sure it always existed in some form, country has crossed over into mainstream music in a very popular way over the last few years and onto mainstream stations.  There are even bands that I really like that use country elements. I think I might like it. Though don’t tell anyone yet, because I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment just yet. I haven’t bought a country album, but I may have programmed a country station on the second set of presets in my car. We’ll know for sure if it makes the top 10, but its tough competition.

I knew I was lost when I got hooked on the Mumford & Sons album last year and there was a heavy bluegrass and banjo vibe on it.  I’d really love to play banjo, once I get guitar down a little better, but I’ve convinced myself that maybe I’d focus on old Irish music to ease my way into this American genre. I know, none of it makes sense, but at least there’s no longer a deep misunderstanding about something that never truly deserved it.

Rock Star Incident of 1998

Perspectives really change with age.  I’m not quite 30, so I’m nervous about how many things I have yet to look back on and shake my head about, but needless to say, it’s funny how time changes things.

I heard the song “Shimmer” by Fuel on the local rock station tonight, WMMR.  I drove along and snickered a bit when I thought about my first “rock star” experience.  I was fifteen and Fuel was in regular rotation on the airwaves at my favorite Modern Rock station, Y100.  RIP.  They were holding a Sonic Session, which was a somewhat regular promotional event in which the station got a popular band to play a mini concert at a local recording studio as they breezed through town for a concert.  One of my best friends at the time won tickets and asked me to go.  If saying “OMG” was popular at that time, I would have said it about 150 times the day leading to and following this event.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My Mom had been the type to idolize musicians in her youth and met the Bay City Rollers at a similar event when she was that age, so she understood the true excitement to it all.  My Dad on the other hand, was none too pleased about his little girl going into the city on a school night to drool over some guys in a band.  Looking back, it’s fair to say he was right to feel that way.  They both were, really.  Mom won and I went.

There weren’t that many people allowed into the small recording space, but it was pretty exciting as we sat on the floor and watch a band, which was signed to an actual recording label, jamming out in front of us.  The lead singer Brett was barefoot and blonde, and giving the full rock star vibe to the small-time performance.  The show ended and we were allowed to ask for autographs.  Guess who was first in line.

At that very moment, I remember thinking that I didn’t have enough things for the band to sign.  I should have brought posters or bought a second CD in case something happens to this one.  A bundle of excited nerves, I handed over my CD and introduced myself to Brett.  I probably just said my name and nothing else, afraid to throw too many words out there at the same time, in case they got jumbled.  He said it was nice to meet me and then in a quick panic and sheer brilliance, I thought at the time, “Can you sign my shirt too?!”  Of course he did, what a nice guy, to take the time to sign a barely developed girl’s chest.  Then he saw I had a camera and offered to take a picture. O-M-G.  We posed for a picture and then it happened.  He pinched my ass.

Now, if a guy today, even a popular musician did that, although I’d be flattered, I’d have the presence of mind to say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”  I didn’t.  I glowed.  Since we were just fifteen, my friend’s Mom waited outside for us and I bounced around outside, in the car, at home and for a month following exclaiming “He grabbed my ass, it was awesome!”  I can only imagine what my Dad was thinking.  I clearly looked underage too, all big cheeks and innocence.  And by big cheeks, I mean the ones on my face.

I don’t have children, but I’d be torn about whether or not I’d let them go to something like that.  Experiences like that as a whole, minus the groping, don’t happen often.  It spurred a nearly ten year concert spree that I am currently still paying off, which included hundreds of concerts and memories that always make me smile and that I’d never give back.

(Don’t worry Dad; this experience never turned your little girl into a groupie.)

Daydreaming Rock Star

Let me (Mae) out!

Branching off my post earlier, I started thinking about the little daydreams that go through my mind on a regular basis. I wonder if I’m alone.  I have them mostly while driving, but they pretty much take place anywhere. I’m usually a natural rock star in my mind. My Red Hot Chili Pepper tattoos give me the false hope to continue dreaming about it maybe.

Music can be infectious; it seeps into the soul if you’re lucky enough to feel it. There are people who like music and there are people who live music and can let it stir parts of us that typically doesn’t get woken. I’ve always envied anyone who can get up on a stage and just play. Hell, I’d be proud of myself for strumming a tune for my husband without faltering over the strings due to nerves. The idea of letting loose with a bunch of friends while creating sound sounds so simple and so appealing.

I’ve often dreamed of becoming a closet musician, secretly plugging away at my musician skills like a mad scientist. Most of the time it’s guitar based, but depending on what I’m listening to, it can be piano, bass, drums, violin or even banjo. The idea of being consumed by talent and fearlessly showcasing my inner spirit is fascinating. My dreams usually take place in a small dive bar or club, and there are a few friends around but mostly strangers, and I join a band on stage, letting Mae out, without fear and without faltering.  It’s exhilarating.

The more time that passes and the more that responsibility rips Mae out of me, the more I daydream about things like this. I think maybe it reflects my distaste for the mundane and typical personality I represent, as opposed to the fun and outgoing character I was.  I realize we need to grow up and go through stages, but maybe it’s not so bad to jump back into the mosh pit now and then.  Don’t worry; I’ll leave my leather pants in the attic.

“Back When I Was A Kid…” The Spectrum Was Happenin’

Mid-demolition of the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Winter 2011

How many times have you heard an “old” person start out a sentence just this way?

Well, back when I was a kid, the Spectrum in Philadelphia was a big concrete stadium that always felt outdated. It remained this way till last year, until a wrecking ball took aim. It was probably outdated for years by the time I got to be old enough to remember it. I was going through yet another folder and found these pictures of a mostly demolished Spectrum in South Philadelphia last winter. My husband and I actually drove down there on a pretty and brisk Saturday to take some shots of a place that holds so many memories, before it was only a pile of dust.

  • My first circus with Grandmom
  • First of many concerts
  • First NBA game
  • First college basketball game
  • Countless other random events

The first time I smelled drugs was at my very first concert here. My Mom took me to see Elton John when I was in 4th grade. He was always her favorite.  I’ll never forget it.  She turned to me and at one point said, “Shannon, do you smell that? That is marijuana. Try not to breathe it in”. Well the story goes that she turned away to sing along and when she looked back I was straining to hold my breath in my big chubby cheeks. She told me I could continue breathing, but being the good girl I was, I was cautious.

I also always loved the corridors to get to my seat there. Each section felt like it had its own little dramatic tunnel that opened up in a world of bright lights and excitement. The nosebleeds were so high and the inclines so steep that it felt slightly dangerous, and the ceiling felt surprisingly close. The walkways were too narrow and during intermissions, it felt like a traffic jam. The concrete columns looked stained and filthy and it never really felt fresh and sparkly like many of the newer arenas today.

The building has equated to a large empty lot by now and in its place will be a big construction site soon. Xfinity Live has been touted as another stadium experience, but with colorful restaurants and events, giving concert and sports fans a reason to stay within walking distance to Citizens Bank Park, Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field.  Sure it sounds nice, but being local, we love our underdogs and unsightly appearances; I’ll always have a soft spot for the ratty old Spectrum.

For the Love of Music

Shannon enjoying music early on, before walking. Most likely listening to Mom's Elton John. (Disregard the hand, it's an unintentional gesture)

Music is crucial to one’s existence for many people. I am one of those people.

From an early age, it impacted my life. I remember waking up, pre-Kindergarten years and pulling out my Mom’s vinyl, trying to figure out how to play them before she woke up. I’m happy to say I never did any damage and I also inherited the collection when I moved out on my own.  What a great collection.  I attribute my passion for music from her.

As time went on, my allowance of $1 per week went toward cassettes.  The purchase was always a huge decision because it took a good deal of time to save the money, and I treated each one like an investment. More than one song had to be appreciated to buy a whole cassette; otherwise it would get taped off the radio.

By the time Santa got me a CD player, I found CD’s pretty expensive for my habit. My first CD was given to me by my Mom after I had some painful dental work. My gauze-filled mouth was all smiles when I had the joy of painstakingly opening my first CD, even with all those unnecessary and impossible sealing stickers. At one point I considered only purchasing CD’s from the labels who gave the convenience of those little pull tabs on the plastic wrap to get the CD open a good two minutes faster.

Eventually in high school, the money I made at my first job at a Hallmark store went almost exclusively to music.  Maybe a little went to gasoline to get to shows.  The towers of CD cases I accumulated were staggering and alarming to my Dad, who at one point asked how I afforded them.  He didn’t want to ask if I was stealing but looking back, I can see how he might have thought it to be impossible to make $5.25 per hour for a few hours a week and create such a collection.  I can tell you in all honesty though, each was legitimately purchased.

Today, my iPod is now full, of music ranging from the 1930’s to today, in any genre you can think of. Music impacts our lives and can help define moments, which is probably why I seem to have generated a playlist for so many routines and events.  So many of us recollect moments in conjunction with a song, immediately allowing us to recall events and slip into old emotion, even years later when an old song is played.  Though it’s probably morbid, I even know what songs I’d play at my funeral and my husband has strict instructions to do so. We must be a good match because he agreed he had some defining songs he’d already chosen post-mortem for himself.  My playlist is called “After”.

Alongside writing, for a short time I studied sound engineering and my Professors agreed that I had a knack for it.  Instead of following my heart, I decided to divert to more logical courses of study while feeding my need for sound on growing piles of debt, of which only ticket stubs and memories remain the acquisition.  These are the best investment I ever made.  The culture and experiences that music provides is overwhelming and never ending.  Today, surviving on the basis of music seems to be becoming more difficult and unfortunate.  For the rest of us, we can peruse our way through our daily lives with little devices that fill our heads and ultimately our souls with escape and inspiration.