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By Owen Baker-Flynn
In April, my teenage daughter went to her first rock concert ever, which meant I went to my first rock concert in quite some time.
I was painting a bench on a sunny day in February when my 16-year-old daughter, Sara, came down the back stairs and said, "Can I ask you a question?" Naturally, with that kind of setup, I had to quip: "You already did." She looked at me like I was an alien from another planet--a look I get a lot. Then she asked, "Can I go to a concert?"
Normally, this is the sort of question reserved for Mom, but I guess I was the perceived softer touch this time. I asked who and where. Sara said she wanted to see My Chemical Romance, coming to the Warfield April 4.
I thought for a while as I painted my bench. My first rock concert was back in 1970-something in Rhode Island. I was 15 or 16, and working at an Italian restaurant. I remember, it wasn't my night to work, so I must have gone to the restaurant to pick up my check. When I got there, a bunch of guys asked if I wanted to go see Deep Purple. I called my mom and she said yes.
Clearly, I couldn't pull the "When I was your age, we didn't..." out of the Parents Handbook (which I believe is still available on Amazon). So I thought some more, took a deep breath, and said, "Okayyyy, but you have to go with at least two friends--you can't go by yourself. And you still have to ask your mom."
Later, she and her mom came back to me with one more revision: One of the kids' parents also had to go.
None of us was dying to see My Chemical Romance. They scream, they play loud (the band, not the parents!). People call them punk, glam, and "emo"--whatever that means. But I like music of all kinds, and even though I'm probably not the "coolest" parent, I was the one elected to go. Actually, elected isn't the right word. Someone yelled, "Last one out of the room has to go the concert!"
The big night finally arrived. My daughter was dressed in what I'd call "goth-lite." Lots of black. Lots of dark eye shadow. No piercings, no overcoats, no stomping boots.
By the time we got to the Warfield, an hour and a half before the show, the line snaked from the door of the theater all the way down Market Street around the corner and up Turk Street and back toward Taylor. It was packed with people, big and small, dressed just like my daughter.
When we got inside the hall, I tried to stand close to Sara and her friends. But at some point it became clear that my presence was not welcome. I was cool with that. I'm a dad, after all. So I stood back a few yards and kept an eye on them.
The opening act was a band called Drive By. I can't say I loved it or hated it, but it was interesting. Music is inherently interesting. I found myself wondering, how did they put those drum and bass sounds together? How does one guy know when the other guy is going to start or stop? Then Billy Talent came on as the middle act. There didn't seem to be much difference between Billy Talent and Drive By, so I started thinking: How does one become a headliner? Do openers become middles? Do middles eventually graduate to headliner? Then My Chemical Romance came on, and midway through the first song I thought, Oh, that's how you become a headliner. My Chemical Romance was clearly better at whatever this music was.
By now, though, I was getting antsy. It was nearly 10 o'clock, and with MCR just starting I knew we weren't leaving anytime soon. I went to the lobby to check out the rock-and-roll posters.
Then something odd happened. I was standing on the center staircase in the lobby, looking at a marble pedestal with a pastel rainbow vase filled with flowers, when an older woman--well, older than most of the concert-goers--came up to me and said, "You have to turn the flowers."
"You turn the flower vase." Then she leaned in and whispered, "You're here for the Parents Club, right?"
She had a funny conspiratorial look in her eyes, almost like she was egging me on. So I said, "Yeah."
"Then turn the flower vase one quarter turn clockwise," she whispered again.
Suddenly, the curved wall spun around me, and I was in what seemed like a circular elevator car. There were two buttons. One said Lobby, and the other P.C. I pushed P.C. and was whooshed upwards to what I now know is the eighth floor of the Warfield Theatre. The door opened and I stepped out.
The room was lit softly. There were tables filled with hors d'oeuvres and canapés and what looked like those little quiches. A clean-cut man in a tight white T-shirt, with blond hair, a mustache, and pecs and lats that went forever, came over and said, "Are you here for a back rub or a hot tub?"
"What is this?" I asked.
"It's the Parents Club. Welcome."
"I'm a little confused."
"Is this your first visit with us?"
"Yeah, it is. Umm, what's going on?" I was getting a little nervous.
"Relax, sir. My name is Jason. The Parents Club is a place set up for the parents of our younger concert-goers. We provide appetizers, spa services, TV, movies...you know, whatever we think parents might like. What would you like?"
"Hmm," I bit my lower lip and reached for my wallet.
But Jason waved me off. "Don't worry, it's all paid for. Everything's included in the price of the concert ticket."
"Wha...how?" I frowned.
"Ticketmaster!" said Jason, smiling broadly. "You didn't think all those extra fees went into Ticketmaster's pockets, did you?
"Now, would you like shiatsu or Swedish massage? The concert's only going to last another 45 minutes."
"Great," said Jason. "We'll pipe in Norah Jones! Why don't you go into Room 29--Inga is available. She'll be happy to loosen up those back muscles for you."
I went into Room 29 and, sure enough, Inga was waiting. She asked me to take off my shirt and lie down on the massage table. Then she got to work. "You are so tense!" Inga said, as she kneaded my neck. "Ahhhhhh, that feels great," I told her.
Later, I soaked in the jacuzzi for a while. Then I loaded up on desserts--lemon pie, cookies, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a big piece of chocolate cake.
After the concert, I met my daughter and her friends on Market Street in front of the Warfield. Seeing my contented face, she asked suspiciously, "What did you think?"
"Well, the pâté was exquisite," I said as I started to walk toward the Muni stop. "Oh, and the massage and hot tub? Perfect."
She looked at me like I was an alien from another planet--a look I get a lot.
As I continued strolling down the street, I heard her shout, "What? You're making that up! Are you making that up? Wait!..."
Owen Baker-Flynn is a Noe Valley parent, street performer, and voiceover artist. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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