I remember the first concert I went to. It was around 1982 or 1983 and I was in the 5th grade. It was on the Mississippi State University campus and it was – The Oak Ridge Boys. I don’t have any pictures of us from that evening but I’d be willing to bet that both my friend, Kelly, and I wore denim jackets, probably with buttons all over them. I think it was a Friday night, meaning none of us watched the Dukes of Hazard or Dallas that night.
A couple of years later, I went to my second concert. In September of my seventh grade year, a gaggle of girls – it must have been four or five of us – saw Rick Springfield at the Jackson Coliseum. Lea Ann’s mother drove us the hour and a half to Jackson, of us all piled in her mom’s navy blue Buick Regal, navy leather interior.
We felt sophisticated because we were A) In junior high, and what’s cooler than that; B) Going to a ROCK AND ROLL concert on a SCHOOL NIGHT; and C) Already thinking about how we’d get to wear our cool pink Rick Springfield concert tee shirts to school the next day.*
The concert was general admission, the first I’d ever heard of. Although I had, of course, seen the WKRP in Cincinnati episode where some teenagers are killed in the crush of doors opening at a general admission concert. This one was more tame. I think as a rule, Rick Springfield fans are pretty tame.
It seems like Corey Hart was the opening act. Didn’t he sing that inane I Wear My Sunglasses at Night song? (What does that song MEAN, anyway?) At the concert, we saw a number of students who went to our school but they were in the ninth and tenth and eleventh grades! Like in high school! Oh my goh! And we were there in the same place we were, at the same concert! We were slaying each other with the coolness!
The next day, we wore our pink Rick Springfield tee shirts. During study hall we wrote in fat bubble letters, "Rick Springfield Rulz!" in our Trapper Keepers. Boys in our class asked how we’d like seeing “that punk Prick Springfield.” We tossed our big hair and walked away, knowing they were just jealous of Dr. Drake.
About a year after that, our family moved to Arizona. To Mesa, to be exact, a suburb of Phoenix.
Imagine growing up in a town the size of Belzoni, Mississippi. Imagine a town where at ten o’clock every evening the traffic lights blink yellow caution on one side, red on the other. Imagine a school with around 500 students, kindergarten through twelth grade.
Compare and contrast with a furiously growing suburb of one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Houses smashed next to each other, and oh, yeah, NO GRASS in the yards. Just sand or rocks or other desert landscaping. An old, grouchy next door neighbor who refused to give my brother’s football back to him when my brother accidentally kicked it in his yard. Did I mention the houses are right next to each other?
Imagine the first day at a junior high school that had over 1,200 students in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. The halls were crowded and there were kids with Mohawks and purple hair! It was scary!
On the very first day of school, in the very first class of the day, when the teacher got to my name in roll call, I answered, “Here.”(Hereah.) The teacher stopped, looked around, asked, “Who said that? Where is this Keetha DePriest? WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” Which didn’t make me feel ill at ease AT ALL.
Understand, when we’d first talked about moving out west I was all for it. I would shake the dust of that little Delta town from my shoes and – and – and go to UCLA for college, by golly. Why my parents thought a thirteen year old had any idea what she was talking about, I don’t know.
My mother, because she is awesome, took me to a concert at Arizona State University. It was Tina Turner – this was 1985, ya’ll, in the prime of her comeback. Mister Mister (Take / these broken wings / and learn to fly again / learn to live so free) opened for her.
She played all her current hits and when she belted out Proud Mary, I stood and I cried and cried and cried. The river! She’s talking about Memphis, a place I always considered MY TOWN. And we’re here in this city, with freaking cactus for crying out loud, and teachers you don’t run into at the grocery store and it’s all anonymous and foreign and scary and OH. The teenage angst.
My mother looked at me and the tears rolling down my face and said, “Well, honey, what is wrong?” I summoned all my aggrieved little feelings and in the most pitiful voice you can imagine sobbed, “I want to go HOME.” I was actually surprised we didn’t load up a U-Haul and leave that very night.
A couple of years later, we were still in Arizona and I was beginning to get the barest glimmer of an idea – that the world did not, in fact, revolve around me. We’d moved to Gila Bend, Arizona, a small town about 70 miles south of Phoenix. It likely wouldn’t be there at all except Interstate 10 runs right through it. There is also a big farm there, only it’s out West, so it’s called a ranch, and they grow pima (high grade) cotton. Which has nothing to do with anything, except that’s why we were there, because my dad is a crop duster and he dusted those crops. (Random fact: It was so hot that he had to fly at night. Seriously.)
I went to a ZZ Top concert in Phoenix in early August with some friends a couple of years older than me. I drank two orange California Coolers and a slug of Jack Daniels.
I didn’t touch whiskey again until here recently, like in the last few months. The next day, the electricity failed as temperatures were in the triple digits. In south Arizona. In August. With my inaugural hangover. So that was fun.
We moved back to Mississippi (rejoicing!) the summer going into my sophomore year in high school. One afternoon mid summer I drove to Jackson to meet Linda, a friend of mine from way back. My mother taught her piano lessons and she babysat me from the time I was in kindergarten on up. She was out of college and living and working in Jackson. I met her at her apartment and off we went - to a Motley Crue concert on the coast.
I’m goobing myself out with this one. In short, I thought I was beyond cool because I was at a Motley Crue concert with a bunch of older, cool kids, which made me = cool, right?
When I was a senior in high school, my dad treated me and my friend, Dodie, to a concert in Jackson for my birthday. The concert was the night before my birthday – Saturday, Janaury 20, 1990. Jackson Coliseum. George Strait (King George!) who I still love very much. Garth Brooks OPENED UP for him. If you know anything about country music, you know how remarkable that is. It was great.
The next day, my mother took me to see Cats at the Orpheum in Memphis to celebrate my birthday, which I think either says something about my dual personality or my parents. Not sure which.
Do you all know what Baccalaureate is? I don’t know if it’s a southern thing, but it’s a service held at a church wherein all the graduating high school seniors are honored and recognized. Following the baccalaureate service at the First Baptist Church in Belzoni, Lara and I decided that we should go to the Aerosmith concert that was (where else?) at the Jackson Coliseum, Jackson, Mississippi that very night. Like in two hours. Her dad, WHO WAS THE MINISTER of the Baptist church, was still standing at the door greeting parishioners when she approached him, dressed in her cap and gown, and asked if we could go to this rock concert.
He said yes, reluctantly and sadly. As a parent, I now say, bless his heart. I’d like to say we felt a bit disrespectful drinking beer on the drive down but um, we didn’t.
We were eighteen, about to graduate from high school, and knew absolutely everything there was to know about everything. Just ask us. We would tell you.
About three years ago – and if I went to other concerts in the interim, I can’t remember – some friends and I went to see – wait for it – Motley Crue at the DeSoto County Civic Center, just outside of Memphis. Woo hoo! We were psyched. We were totally going to relive a bit of our misspent youth! Again with the woo hoo!
In the weeks before the concert, I fired off emails to Kate about how I heard “Gypsy Road” on the radio driving home and woo hoo! “That’s Cinderella, honey, not Motley Crue,” was her response. A few days later I texted, “I wanna rock ‘n roll night..” She sent a text to me: “Are you sure you know who Motley Crue is? Because Kiss sang that, not Motley Crue.” It’s possible I wasn’t the fan I thought I had been back in the day.
At the concert we were not the oldest people there. We may have been among the more conservatively dressed, although I’d felt rather daring in white hip huggers and a black and white halter type shirt thing. There were tattoos and mullets and more vintage Motley Cruet shirts than you can shake a stick at. And lots of flesh. Lots.
Besides the fact that my friends and I kept raising eyebrow at the, um, colorful getups and various displays, then there was this to make us feel antiquated and out of place: at concerts when the lights dim and the band plays its ballad, there were no lighters raised in the air. Instead, it was cell phones. CELL PHONES. It just ain’t right.
We left the concert early, having drunk half a beer and then bottled water, because we had to, um, go to work the next day and we didn’t want to be all tired. So much for rock ‘n rolling all night.
It’d be fitting to end this with the most recent concert I attended was Barney or some such with my son. That’d make a neat little full circle thing.
The fact is, the last concert I went to was when The Boyfriend and I saw Cross Canadian Ragweed in Starkville and the one before that was John Anderson, also with The Boyfriend, and they were both awesome!
Maybe I can still throw that fist of rock up in the air with the best of them.
What about you?
* I would not for any amount of money under the sun go back and be in the 7th grade again. No way, no how.