Rock Stars: Apprenticing Music Fans

When I was pregnant with Dorothy, I had two CDs in my car that I listened to over and over: Weezer’s The Blue Album and Springsteen’s Born to Run. Back out of the driveway, put on my seatbelt over the awkward big belly, down the hill to the highway, music blasting out my windows into my otherwise quiet West side neighborhood: Say it ain’t so, My name is Jonas, the Sweater Song. Lying on the floor! Lying on the floor! I’ve come undone!

On the way home, bumping down the brick streets away from the warehouse/office/greenhouse, singing Thunder Road: Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night—you ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright…

All the pregnancy books tell you that your baby is absorbing sound and rhythm before she’s born, learning to recognize your voice, getting smarter as muffled waves of Mozart wash over her. I wonder if there are long term studies on the effects of Weezer and Springsteen, if Born to Run babies grow up unafraid to ride motorcycles into some dark night. When an old friend’s band came through town I declined the offer of earplugs, needing to feel the sound full on, hoping the baby could feel the intensity of that show: Turn off the lights and watch it all melt down, Napoleon slow, to the bottom of this town.  Am I a bad mother if I secretly hope my girls absorbed a little bad boy rock star in utero?

T has always been resolutely opposed to kid-oriented music: in his car, the girls listen to Phish, or jazz, or the local radio station that makes me batty because you never know if you’re going to get Ani DiFranco or Celtic folk or terrible low-key techno, bass thumping under some weird repetitive phrase: Ambient! Technology! AMBIENT! TECHNOLOGY!

I’m more lenient. Laurie Berkner Band, Muppets soundtrack, even the dreaded Kidz Bop, with its kid safe versions of pop songs that can’t possibly hold any meaning for my kids: The Chipmunks singing Party Rock, a shiny clean version of Call Me Maybe: Your stare was holdin’, ripped jeans, smile showing, where do you think you’re going baby?

Most days, though, we listen to the Fresh Beats. When we started watching the show on Nick Jr, D was immediately hooked: the plots and jokes are a step up from Dora and Wonderpets, the music is insanely catchy, and the mix of fantasy and pseudo-reality is weirdly engrossing. And then she noticed the commercials for the Fresh Beats LIVE IN CONCERT. Kids dancing in the aisles, Kiki rocking out on guitar on stage: Mom can we please go tomorrow?

Live music, lesson one: let’s check the tour schedule.

Indeed, the Fresh Beats were coming to our very town, and the tickets were outrageous.

Live music, lesson two: sometimes it’s worth it.

I ended up buying scalper tickets through Stub Hub, guessing that the small mark up would be worth it to get close to the stage. I’m a front row junkie. Live music was a central part of my identity and my relationship with T in our 20s (our experience seeing Phish at Coventry was the pinnacle of this). I proposed at a Phish show. The fact that it was the Fresh Beats didn’t so much matter – I wanted the girls to have a taste of the magic, the intensity, the awesomeness of rocking out in the presence of a band you love. Front row seats were hundreds of dollars and could only be bought as part of a package including a backstage party with healthy snacks, but I got us on the main floor about 15 rows back.

Hey girl shout it out– Put your hands up! Put your hands up!

Live music, lesson 3: Vocab

I may have been the only parent there who used the words merch table, opener, set break, cover, and encore. The 2 year old next to us spent most of the first set quietly weeping. Some kids appeared overwhelmed; others seemed underwhelmed. But D and Lucy really loved it: maybe because of my dorky prep, they were expecting a concert, not a live version of the tv show, they were psyched to be close to the stage, and they stood up and danced spontaneously to their favorite songs. Afterwards, they were bursting with excitement, wanting to rehash their favorite moments, excited to talk about the new songs, stoked that the band played some old favorites. When the songs we heard live come on in the car, they talk about the show: “Remember when the monkeys came on the screen and we all yelled GO MONKEYS! GO MONKEYS!”

I want them to love Weezer like I do, and Phish, and the Killers, and Regina Spektor. I hope that those months spent floating in the belly listening to Born to Run mean they learned the Boss’ voice along with mine. But for now, it’s okay with me if they love the Fresh Beats and Carly Rae Jepson. After all, my first concert was New Kids on the Block. I want them to know the dorky joys of fandom, the thrill of unrolling the poster from the concert and taping it up on your bedroom wall. I love that they know all the words to their favorite songs, fantasize about being rock stars with their own bands, put on shows in the living room. A couple days ago, D said from the backseat while we were listening to a Fresh Beats cover of I’m Yours, “Mom, when I grow up, I want to have a band, and I will sing, and there will be guitars and drums and a banjo and a washboard and Jason Mraz will play the keyboards.” Maybe it’s time to start those guitar lessons: we’ve got a couple rock stars in the making here, and they’re already imagining their heroes singing back up.

We got the beat!

I’m blogging every day in the month of November as part of NaBloPoMo at Yeah, Write– check out the other amazing talented bloggers who are also on this crazy train!


8 Responses to Rock Stars: Apprenticing Music Fans

  1. I love this post so much! Right down to the in utero absorption of “The Sweater Song.”

    Much to my husband’s chagrin, we’re a Fresh Beat family too. When I want to involve my kid in cleaning we pretend it’s “Clean and Green day” and she mops while doing physical comedy ala Twist. I like that she’s taking joy in music. That’s so important.

    • The sweater song has been a favorite of mine for decades. It never gets old for me. I really do think it’s the joy that matters- Fresh Beats or Weezer or whatever the source, they’ll keep seeking out new music if they know it brings them joy. Eventually they’ll get to Weezer and whatever the hipsters are listening to these days. It’s okay with me if it takes a while.

  2. This was such a fun post! We took our then 5yo to see Santana b/c he loved him (from hearing us play it). He made it through the opening act and then fell asleep right as Carlos took the stage. I can’t stand the Kidz Bop…

    • I don’t mind Kidz Bop, but mostly because I don’t mind pop music in general. I find the existence of Kidz Bop weird- why does my 5 year old love Call Me Maybe? She has no idea what that song is about. But there she is, belting it out in the backseat.

  3. Just like a rock star, hey hey hey!!

    My girls were morose. But they pretend to be the Fresh Beats daily now. I have a Fresh Beats post brewing as soon as I get pics from the last 5 months uploaded…

    • I’m looking forward to your Fresh Beats post :)
      We also have daily “shows” — sometimes they are the Fresh Beats, but sometimes it’s more random: hula harmonica princess, for instance. That was a hell of a show.

  4. I remember blasting music when I was pregnant with my now six year old. I even attended a Shakira concert when I was 39 weeks pregnant. “How cool would it be if I go into labor while at the concert?” I would ask my husband and friends. While I didn’t go into labor, I definitely felt Kiddo dancing around. Now, he ADORES Shakira. We always jam out to her tunes on our way to school. I’m now inspired to take him to live music shows, we live in the Live Music Capitol of the World, after all! Thanks for sharing your experience, can’t wait to see how my kid handles his, hehe.

    • I love the idea of going into labor at a Shakira concert! I really do suspect there’s something to the idea that kids grow up to love the music they heard in the womb. If they can learn to recognize our voices, it only stand to reason that they could also be learning a little Hips Don’t Lie.

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