A Tale of Two Concerts

Prologue

I have the most random taste in music. On a single drive home from work, my soundtrack will cover everything from Mack 10 to Abba to John Coltrane to The Descendents to Luciano Pavarotti to Waylon Jennings to Poison and back again.

Chapter 1: Willie Nelson

Yes, I love Willie Nelson. Don't laugh. In fact, seeing him in concert has always been on my bucket list. And then I got a phone call last week from my buddy Joey the Fireman.

"Jiiiim...What are you doing tonight?"

"The usual." [Joey has learned family-man-speak for "nothing as exciting as what you probably have planned for tonight."]

"Apply for a hall pass -- Willie Nelson is playing the Greek!"

I began to strategize for my night-out visa application.

"Well, I've always wanted to see Willie in concert and Lisa knows that..."

"Dude, the man is 150 years old. We may never get another chance!"

Joey is a smart man. I called Lisa, told her Willie Nelson was 150 years old, and received clearance to abandon the family on a Friday night to watch one of my cowboy heroes (yes, a Boston-born Asian guy can indeed have cowboy heroes).

I rushed home to have dinner with the family and then got me to the Greek. The Greek Theater is a concert venue nestled in the Hollywood Hills, so if you get there late, you go to off-site parking, which is basically a cleared patch of woods. Upon exiting my car, I noticed a family of deer grazing not 50 feet from me. They were hanging out with a coyote. I guess those nature shows are rigged. Some other guy was witnessing all this with me. It wasn't until he walked away that I realized it was Johnny Knoxville from Jackass. If ever there was an "only in L.A." moment, that was probably it.

After risking a coyote mauling to snap the above picture, I made my way over to the theater to meet up with Joey. The first two songs Willie performed were two of my favorites (Whiskey River, Beer for my Horses), and he rocked them, or so I hear. Joey and I were stuck in the booze line trying to get our Jack Daniels on. Priorities.

We were seated separately (long boring story), so I found my seat and got settled in, right in between two nice couples. Very retired couples. The aroma of pot smoke and IcyHot will now forever remind me of "On the Road Again."

The concert was awesome. But Willie pretty much bluesified all of his songs to suit the LA crowd, which I could have done without because I'm hardcore outlaw, you know? Joey and I met up during the encore and as luck would have it, Willie performed one of our favorites: Good Hearted Woman.

"Hey Jim, remember that time we did this at Karaoke together?"

"Huh? We did? I don't remember. When?"

"At your birthday party."

"Oh, no wonder."

That's me and Joey for you... making memories neither of us can ever remember.

Chapter 2: The Pixies

There are only three bands in existence that have been on my "heavy rotation" list consistently since high school, 20+ years ago: Led Zeppelin, Guns n Roses and the Pixies. So when I found out that the Pixies were getting the band back together for the 20th anniversary of the Doolittle album, I pulled the birthday card.

"What do you want for your birthday?"

"Pixies tickets."

"Who are you going to go with?"

"No one. I shall go by myself. Pixies tickets, please."

"Where are they playing?"

"San Diego. I want Pixies tickets please"

"That's far..."

"Pixies. Pixies. Pixies. I don't care."

Or something equally childish...

So, on my birthday, my wife got me a card. And inside that card was a gift card. For iTunes. I think d wife likes to see me weep.

But then it was cake time. And on top of the cake was a printout, from Ticketmaster. WOOHOO!!! And another birthday card that said that she booked me a room at the La Jolla Shores hotel so I wouldn't kill myself driving back (I fall asleep on the road when it's dark). Also, a "hint, hint" about making this a family trip.

Since the concert was on a Sunday, I thought it might be fun to head over in the morning, spend all day on the beach and then head back the next morning. Oh no... Fury had this thing called school to attend. You know what's cool about being a parent? You don't have to forge a note from dad to get out of stuff anymore. You are the dad! Membership has its privileges.

Sunday morning, we packed up the car and headed down to San Diego. Fury was playing Rock Band on his iPod Touch and I told him to plug it into the car stereo so we could all enjoy the tunes. Yes, video game soundtracks also function as playlists in our household. When we reached the San Diego County border, Fury had earned himself a mystery song unlock.

"What new song did you unlock, Fury?"

"COOOOOL!! Debaser by the Pixies!!"

These coincidences just happen to me. A bone from the blogging gods or whatever.

And cute baby pictures from the beach also happen to me.

The Pixies played in the basketball arena of UC San Diego. I got totally lost trying to find the place, but I managed to get there in time to catch the end of the opening act: two DJs spinning some trancy electronic music. I guess I would have enjoyed it more if I were younger, or C3PO.

At least I wasn't the only nostalgic ex-youth at the show. I noticed a few roving packs of grey haired folks among the mostly collegiate crowd. But you know what? It was us old timers who got the most satisfaction screaming "then god is seven!" during Monkey Gone to Heaven. Dare I say it was pretty much a religious experience in its own right.

So was swimming with actual sharks the next morning. I tried to get a picture of the waves cresting, with silhouettes of sharks clearly visible within them, but I failed. You'll have to accept my re-created version below.

Yes, real sharks were swimming not 10 feet from us. You just can't get that adrenaline rush sitting in a classroom (disclosure: they were harmless leopard sharks, but Fury's classmates don't need to know that).

Epilogue:

I was humming the opening to Debaser yesterday while playing Bionicles with Fury. Right on cue, he chimed in "Got me a movie, I want you to know! Slicing up eyeballs, I want you to know!" I love that kid.

Random Segue:

So I want to know... how do you influence/monitor your kids' choices when it comes to grownup music? Obviously, my filter is set on low. If you agree or disagree, chime in on my discussion topic in the SoCal Family Connect (you don't have to be a SoCal parent). </shamelessplug>