I’ve been meaning to post about this literally for months. I know: lame. But better late than never, right?
Last summer, I took Christian to a concert in Danbury, Connecticut. It was outdoors! At the Ives Center! I had been driving past the sign for years and had always wondered what it was like. I mean, would it be Ivesian in some crucial and unique way? Would two bands play at once, in different keys and rhythms, within earshot of one another?
No, it turns out. It’s just a really nice outdoor venue. Woodsy, with a pond. Ample parking. A nice place to see a show.
And the show was great. Four bands played: New Kingston, Collie Buddz, Cypress Hill, and Slightly Stoopid. I love me some reggae and ska, and anyone that can fuse them with blues and hip-hop and throw in a dash of skatepunk is mighty fine by me.
Collie and the boys from New Kingston are all adorable. They brought out the most maternal instincts in me—and trust me: I’m easily old enough to be their mother. Such cute kids! So fresh-faced and wide-eyed! So talented! Such fine dancing! I’m sure they’d hate the fact that I wanted to coo over them, pinch their cheeks, and make them some nice sandwiches.
Cypress Hill was raw and sincere. They rap life as they see it. And when you grow up Latino in a really crappy part of Southern California, life is not often pretty. It was a lot to take, but I respect their work and their perspective. Plus, the lyrics are only half as offensive when they’re 50% in Spanish. (I’m winking at you right now.)
Slightly Stoopid, the headlining band, is a phenomenally talented group of young men. “Closer to the Sun” is one of my favorites of theirs: lovely guitar work paired with an incredibly catchy melody.
They’re fun to watch, too. One of my favorite things about the show was how the two singers, Miles and Kyle (who are best friends from childhood), would trade their bass and guitar back and forth and take turn singing lead. They probably have more than two instruments between them these days, but I’m guessing this is a habit that goes back many years.
When we got to the venue in the late afternoon, I found myself a nice seat with a good view right at the edge of the mosh pit. Christian hung out with me during the breaks, but during the acts, he was right down in the thick of things, as you can see from the photo above (he's the tall blond kid singing along on the left side). Lucky thing. When I was going to concerts at his age, I always wished I were one of the tall, skinny guys who could see well and not have to worry about getting groped.
During one of the early breaks, as the sun was going down and Christian was on his way back to me, I sat reading in the fading light. A cute but obviously quite stoned kid came up to me and sat down. I’m guessing he was maybe 22—exactly half my age.
“Why are you reading at a concert?” he asked.
“I’m just reading during the breaks,” I answered. “I’m enjoying the music when the bands are on.”
“Oh.” He tried to process that for a few moments, but failed. “But why are you reading at a concert?” he repeated. I realized I’d have to speak his language.
“Reading is my drug,” I explained. “It’s my high.”
He gave me a wide, unfocused smile. “Right on.” He leaned in a little closer, overwhelming me with the dueling aromas of sweat and Colt 45. “Are you here with anyone?” he asked in what I’m sure he imagined to be his best James Bond imitation.
“Yes, I am,” I said, nodding at Christian, who was making his way through the crowds toward us. “I’m here with my son.”
The poor boy’s jaw dropped, and he got a little gray in the face. (Alcohol poisoning or humiliation? Not sure.) “Right on,” he mumbled again, looking around furtively. I successfully kept myself from guffawing at his obvious embarrassment at trying to hit on someone’s mother. He scooted off in search of younger blood just as Christian approached.
I'm not flattering myself that I would have been a pick-up target had the poor boy been in full possession of his faculties. I wasn’t the oldest person at the concert, but it was a near thing. That didn’t matter to me; I had a great time with Christian, and there was really only one downer about the whole evening.
Yes, that would be the drugs. When I was a teenager at gigs, you would often smell pot, but people smoked it surreptitiously. At this concert, despite the huge security presence, nearly everyone was very open about their usage. It astonished me, and I’ve been around the block a few times.
More than that, I find it tragic that all four of these very gifted bands devote a majority of their lyrics and focus to marijuana. Pot isn’t heroin, but it’s not harmless, either. It’s powerfully addictive, both physiologically and psychologically.
I hate to see talented wasted in the service of a false god. Is it hyperbole to call these guy’s drug use and glorification idolatry? I don’t think so, not when you sing about how, if everyone would just smoke a little ganja, the world would be at peace. That pretty much feels like a religious prescription to me.
Not sold? My faith teaches that if everyone would just follow Jesus, the world would be at peace. Same format, different substance to the prescription.
So, that’s a drag. I find I can’t listen to the majority of these bands’ songs, despite their enormous musicality and rhythmic appeal. The pot is a dealbreaker for me, but I’d buy their music in a hearbeat if these kids saw the light and decided to sing about something else. I guess I really am older than I look.