My first rock festival — I am 47 years old.
As a rule, I try not to lead with my age. I believe it’s more about who you are inside than what this number, 47, says about who I am.
But when telling of my day at the Osheaga Music Festival in Montréal last weekend, I lead with my age. And I actually learned there’s a lot of good in that 47 number on days like these.
As we approached the front gate among a swarm of teens and 20-somethings, my 21-year-old niece opens her arms out to all the bodies surrounding us. “These are my people,” she proudly declares to me and then exhales happily as if saying, ‘It’s good to be home.’
Soon we were pressing toward a stage and I could see I was tied in the competition of ‘oldest person in attendance’. During the shows, the people around us were jumping, bumping and thrusting their arms in the air with wrists swinging down to the beat. We were jostled mid-dance, pressed by people pushing closer to the stage, and routinely descended on from above by crowd-surfers. Some surfers made it all the way to the stage. Others became victims of people watching the show, not the spectacle, and dropped quickly to the ground, usually leading with the back of their head.
One surfer-girl was losing the support of her peeps as she approached us and, in an instant, we made eye contact and urgently locked to each other wrist to forearm. After I eased her safely to earth, I was pleasantly surprised when she looked at me with a grateful smile and said, “Thanks!”. A younger-me may not have been coherent enough to react and catch her.
At one point, the three girls directly in front of us were lifted on their boyfriend’s shoulders converting our great view of the stage into a middle-aged man’s emergency drill of how to avoidlooking at a young-woman’s butt, short shorts, bare skin, tattoo, etc. Instead, I took in our surroundings; the waft of weed, clove cigarettes and Polo, accented with a shower from the firehouse-on-the-crowd sprayed from the laughing security guys front-stage.
We sat for a total of ten minutes to eat a burger over the course of the entire day. My feet ached as we stood for an hour in line for the Metro at 11 p.m.
I drank beer to hydrate – peer pressure, I know. A younger-me would have done Jaeger shots.
My niece waited until the third show to have a beer because she had been out the night before until 3 a.m.
Three different Osheaga bands, as well as others I’ve seen play here in Montréal, commented how the crowd was electric. I mean they were nuts – screaming, dancing, partying, flying!
I learned quickly about each band: Flogging Molly (Did you know you can slam-dance to Celtic music and drink Guinness for breakfast? Loved ’em!), Tegan and Sara (I attached to their 80’s look – my people — and their spot-on voices and harmonies), Stars (We walked a lot and bought shirts during – I recognized one song in the distance), Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (Surprisingly, I am now a fan of their story and their lyrics), Imagine Dragons (Reminded me of U2 circa 1981 – best show of the day), Beck (I was least excited to see him and pleasantly surprised as he transformed a sound from Bob Dylan, to hip-hop, to Steely Dan, to covers of Billie Jean and Tainted Love — I know, right? — , and then a unique mix of them all), and some rapper dude who used the F-word so much – at us – that I was happy to see the kids next to me were as offended as I was.
Things I did differently at age 47 vs. 21:
· I drank a few beers, not a few thousand. I’ll remember every minute!
· I bobbed my head lightly to some beats, rather than flailing shirtless.
· I didn’t small-talk with the girls in my port-a-potty line. I’m sure they’re glad for that, too.
It was a cool experience to be the uncle who escorts your niece to a rock festival, even if I did cramp her style a bit.
And I learned that an old guy can fit just fine into a younger crowd as long as he’s comfortable being the old guy in the younger crowd.