Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reflections on the Jonas Brothers... and getting old.

Kevin, Joe, & Nick.  
They seem to consume an inordinate amount of my daughter's attention.  There are many, many posters of these boys on her bedroom walls.  "Pop Sensation" doesn't begin to adequately convey their popularity with "tweens".  (For the uninitiated, a "tween" is a youth between middle childhood and adolescence, approximately 8-12 years old, usually referring to a girl.)  The Jonas Brothers are the latest incarnation of the spirit of John, Paul, George, & Ringo.  They are her generation's version of the Osmonds or the Jackson Five, and they have been produced and packaged with all the impressive slickness that the Disney machine can muster.  That machine has spent a lot of coin on perfecting the product, and I can only believe they are now reaping in the ol' Return-On-Investment at a staggering pace.  Sound like envy?  Maybe, a little.  But that's a whole 'nother story for a whole 'nother day.
On the occasion of my daughter's 10th birthday, I purchased two tickets to the Jonas Brothers concert, one for her and one for me.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to show her that her dad has a few ounces of cool, even if it was buried under pounds of lame.  Parents are never cool, I got that a long time ago.  I know that no matter how much I try, my kids will never think I'm cool.  They may love me, respect me, and if I'm really lucky (and careful), they may even admire me.  But I've never been under the misguided assumption that they tell all their friends that they learned about the latest fads, fashions, and lingo from their DAD.  Parents are lame (or square, or out-of-it), with just an occasional glimpse of cool.  
So, I'm reaching for the glimpse here.  Tickets.  Parking.  Showtime.  A VERY long line, just to get into the sold-out arena an hour before kickoff.  Souvenir T-shirt & concert program, and a long walk up to the nosebleed section.  Opening act, (disappointment that the headliners weren't first), and a brief intermission.  Then comes... the second opening act, along with a little more disappointment that it's not THEM.  "Dad, when are THEY coming on?"  "Soon, sweetie.  Just be patient."  Another intermission.  Then, one hour and eighteen minutes after the show began, the SHOW began.

Here's where it gets interesting.

I'm a pragmatist.  I'm also starting to lose my hearing.  I brought earplugs.  Smartest move of the evening.  I don't care if it detracted from my cool-factor.  I was putting the second one in when 20,000 girls started screaming.  My eardrum caught just a hint of the onslaught, so I knew very well the bullet I was dodging when the foam expanded in my right ear canal a moment later.
For the record, I've never used earplugs for a concert before, and I might never again.  I've yelled myself hoarse in arenas with Billy Joel, Elton John, Supertramp, Def Leppard (tell me there's no poetic irony there!), and even Harpo's with my cousin's death-metal band.  (Sorry, Brian, if it's not technically death-metal.  I'm too old to know the diff...)
I have, however, also heard what a few hundred inspired female teenage sets of vocal cords can do, and I assumed, correctly so, that a few thousand could very well cost me more that the ticket price would ever buy back.  Thus, earplugs.
The SHOW starts.  The lights go off, pitch black.  The stage is bathed in a dim purple glow.  The Jonas Brothers logo, a shield with the letters 'JB' inside it, is suspended over the stage, shaped in metal tubes with small holes all over it.  It ignites, first at the bottom, then the flame spreads along the lengths of tubing.

Their logo is on fire.  

It's also on 6 immense projection screens strategically located around the arena.
JB, spelled out in flames.  (This is, after all, the "Burnin' Up" tour.)
Wow.  The adult in my head says "That is SO hokey.  Too cliché, too gauche."
The kid in me says "Man, you are so lame.  That's not cliché, that's COOL!"
My inner child may have forgotten how to appreciate the noise level, but he knows that a flaming logo in a pitch-dark, sold-out arena quite simply ROCKS!
The Jonas Brothers are a family-friendly boy-band, comprised of three actual brothers, ages 16 through 21, each clean-cut and sanitized for your protection.  They've taken vows of purity, and they wear purity rings to symbolize their inability to let their hormones make their bad decisions for them.  I'm not sure (yet) who writes their music, but it's not bad.  It's not the best I've heard, but it's not the worst, either.  "Catchy, toe-tapping tunes" would be my best description, but music, like all art, is subjective.  They seem musically capable.  No wondrous displays of prodigious technical skills, but they didn't mess up either.  No, their real talent lies in knowing, and playing to, their audience.  Minor feats of acrobatics, batting their eyelashes, and making lots of eye-contact, especially during the slow love-songs.  Oh yeah, these girls were putty in their hands.  On two separate occasions, they even pulled a front-row girl up on stage to sing along with them, providing a wonderful memory of emotional nirvana to two lucky girls, and a basketful of envy to the rest.
So the nicest feature of expanding-foam earplugs is that you can still carry on a conversation in the middle of a screaming, singing audience.  You can also hear conversations being held in the row behind you, even if the words aren't meant for your ears.  Immediately after sharing his microphone, his stage, and his third chorus with one of the girl-guests, Kevin Jonas hugged her and kissed her on the forehead before returning her to her happy parent (who must have been happily reconsidering THEIR ticket-price's return-on-investment).  No sooner was that image flashed on the big-screen, than I heard a voice behind me yell, "OH MY GOD, Brittany, did you SEE that?  MY FUTURE HUSBAND just KISSED another GIRL!"

So where is all this rambling going?  (Hint: The short answer is "nowhere".)

I'm 43, and I'm amazed that one pop-rock concert can make me feel simultaneously old and young, happy and sad.
Old, because it's clear that I'm NOT the target demographic of what Joni Mitchell called "the star-maker machinery of the popular song".
Young, because I wanted to buy the new Jonas Brothers CD and start tapping my toes.
Sad, because my daughter is getting older, and so am I.  She'll always be my girl, but she'll never be my baby girl again.
Happy, because Daddy's girl didn't come down off her cloud for days.  She'll never forget her first rock concert.

Neither will I.


  1. Wow! Chuck, you should be a writer. That was well done. You are a good dad, "cool" to do that for your daughter.

    I really enjoyed it. Really glad to know you better now.

    Love, Uncle Ed

  2. All I can do is to tell you, been there, done that...... Being even "older" than you, I've experienced what you described a few times over - I have 2 girls.

    Just remember the good times, forget the bad - usually the good FAR outweigh the bad, anyway. Enjoy each moment, Dad, they are ALL precious!

    Love & Hugs,

  3. Always knew you could write. Now others will enjoy it too. Your daughter is as lucky to be your daughter and I am to be your Mom.

    With all my love.