My son and I wait for the concert to start.
She said she was celebrating her quarter-century birthday.
Petite and determined, she had pushed her way from the back of the large sweaty crowd to the front of the pit, and I could tell she was high on something. She talked too much, and her focus was a bit off. She'd driven from Arizona to see the concert, and she wasn't going to let anything or anyone stop her from enjoying the show, not even a woman just past middle age who, improbably, was there with her 14-year-old son front and center, leaning against a railing that separated diehard fans from the stage.
My son and I were, in fact, one of several pairs of mother-teen duos who were at the Honda Civic Tour concert the same night Mitt Romney accepted his party's nomination for the presidency. I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate being healthy, happy, alive and American than jumping, screaming, fist pumping and head-banging to three of the best rock bands in the United States. I'd rather be at a concert, in the pit, with my son, than sitting on my middle-aged rump in front of a TV, worrying about noisy neighbors, or banging my head over the lies pumped out by politicians, and the drones who believe what they say.
On tap at the concert: Mutemath, Incubus and Linkin Park.
As we waited for the concert to start, the pit crowd gathered, and began roiling with energy. People held giant plastic cups of beer or water, and some flicked ashes from the tips of joints. The acrid, skunky smell of marijuana wafted over us, and I thought, "Some things never change, boys and girls." On stage, a crew of tatooed, dreadlocked roadies sound checked instruments, plugged in audio and light equipment, and unfurled cheap Oriental rugs they taped to the stage for ambience. Bright spotlights flickered over us, and artsy banners ruffled in the wind.
On a giant stage behind the set, a video of Linkin Park promoting the tour looped, and fans texted marriage and hook-up proposals that scrolled at the bottom of the screen. It wasn't much different from the preshow circus we'd experienced before last year's tour, when Blink-182, Rancid, and My Chemical Romance hit the stage at the amphitheatre in the Denver area. This time, though, we had scored pit tickets, and had arrived hours early so we could beat the crowd and stake our positions in front of the stage.
My son pointed at the to-die-for drumkits, keyboards, guitars and other expensive musician's paraphernalia. He's a musician, and not a fanboy. It's all about the music for him, and I could not be more proud of him. We are a musical family. My husband plays Spanish classical guitar, and my son picked up his first electric guitar at the age of 6. He has become a talented guitarist and drummer, and recently stunned us when he started playing piano by ear. Because of our love for music, we've become a family that goes to rock concerts together whenever we can afford it. We've seen Green Day twice, and attended the band's hit Broadway musical "American Idiot" when it was staged in Denver earlier this year. We've also seen the rock bands Muse, Franz Ferdinand, AFI, Rancid, U2, The Fray, Blink-182, My Chemical Romance, and others. We dream of seeing Paramore, Weezer, and more of our favorites before our son runs off to college and onto his own life. After that, who knows?
Our teenage son has introduced us to new music, and spared us from a fate of glory-days backward glancing. I still love the music of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Beatles and other bands from "our days," but I've listened to those songs enough to last two life times. The lyrics and melodies are written on my heart, and imprinted in my memory for all time. New music inspires me, and luckily for me, there are a lot of really good bands out there today who have picked up the torch and run with it with a vengeance. Why should we let age deter us from enjoying new music or anything else for that matter?
One of the biggest surprises about growing older is that we don't have to become stagnant and staid. Just as I've upgraded my wardrobe and makeup to change with the times, my musical tastes have evolved, too. I've found that it is possible to age gracefully in mind and body, which is why my husband and I work out (though we are nowhere near the fitness levels we'd like to be!) and, yes, we go to rock concerts with our son. We met later in life, and are "older" parents, so we have to keep up with our son. We want to be around for him as long as possible, and stay relevant in his life, even if society tells us we should fade away quietly. I keep waiting for old age to set in, and, so far, it just hasn't. I'm a grandmother, but I'm not ready to sit in a rocker and knit, and anyone who can't accept that is rigid, and probably going to get old before their time.
It's all about plasticity in our brains, the ability to stretch mind and body as we age, to keep our neurons happy, and our synapses firing away. Medical doctors know this better than anyone else: You treat the patient, not their age. In other words, people age at a different rates based on their individual life choices. You can't assume that all "older" people are the same. It's a motto I live by, and hope to pass down to my children and grandchildren: Don't let age define you. A few years ago, a University of Colorado professor released a study that revealed that most people cherish good memories over material wealth. Sharing music with our son is one way for us to create good memories for him. I've saved every ticket stub, pit wristband, and other concert memorabilia for a family memory book he can show to his children and grandchildren.
For now, our son doesn't mind having the old man and woman alongside him, and we're going to ride this wave for as long as it lasts. For my husband and me, it's not about trying to act or look young, or relive our youth. It's not about indulging our son's every whim, or trying to be the "cool parents." We are just trying to inspire our son, and encourage his love of music. Already, he's miles ahead of the suburban kids around him who spend hours playing video games or hanging out at the mall. He's more intimately aware of the beautiful curvature of a guitar, an F-hole, frets, strings, capos, foot pedals, and tuning, than he is with a joystick. We use his PS3 to watch DVDs, and that's about it. "Call of Duty" has never crossed our threshold, and we haven't updated "Madden NFL" in years.
"How long have you been a Linkin Park fan?" the young woman asked me earnestly, trying to make nice as she celebrated her 25th birthday.
I looked at her unlined face and the sheen of sweat on her pink cheeks and thought, "Did I really look like that when I was 25?"
"It started a few years ago, when my son introduced me to their music," I said, extending my thumb toward my son who leaned over the railing that separted us from the burly guards standing in front of the stage.
"That's awesome!" she chimed enthusiastically. "My mother would never come to a rock concert with me. She likes country-western music."
"I've always loved rock," I told her as she feigned suprise, as if rock were a new musical genre. "My first concert was Fleetwood Mac in college, then I saw Santana and the Runaways a few years later in Los Angeles."
As we talked about music, people around us pushed in, and we felt our bodies being pressed against the railing even more. The New Orleans band Mutemath and the Calabasas, Calif., band Incubus had already warmed up the crowd with tight performances and dazzling video and light productions. Then, like a burning log in a campfire, the crowd crackled, and popped as Linkin Park took the stage. As they surged and roared around me, I glanced over at the young woman on my left, and my son on my right. They were jumping, screaming, and waving their hands in the air.
What else could I do? I grabbed the railing and joined in the late-summer crush and crescendo of voices, bodies, sweat, and music.
MUTEMATH lead singer Paul Meany belts out a tune.MUTEMATH drummer Darren King, one of the finest percussionists I've ever heard, plays for the crowd in Denver during the 2012 Honda Civic Tour.
Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd is brilliantly talented and charismatic.
Linkin Park lead singers Chester Bennington, left, and Mike Shinoda, right, rock out to a sold-out crowd in Denver on Aug. 30. They are two of the most talented singers, muscians and performers in rock right now.
Linkin Park singer/rapper, guitarist and keyboardist Mike Shinoda waves to the crowd in Denver.
Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington roused the crowd with his singular brand of singing and screaming. He is a brilliant performer.
Burning it to the ground.
Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda tossed guitar picks into the crowd after every song.
Pretty girls rock out next to us.
© Story and photos by Deborah Méndez Wilson. All rights reserved. YouTube video of Linkin Park singing their hit song, Burn it Down, which they sang last night with fire and other special effects.