Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Fountains of Wayne concert is worth 100 blogs

A crappy camera phone photo of Fountains of Wayne.
I have two X's on my hands. I'm in a car and my shoes are caked with muddy sand. My dad is sitting next to me, fresh off an airplane and we're both dead tired, but floating on air.

This is what life should be like every day - and how appropriate that I get to write about feeling this way on the 100th blog post of The Songs of Spring.

I don't go to concerts quite enough. Granted, that isn't for lack of interest, it's for lack of options. Of the probably 50 shows I've been to in my life, the factor that they've all shared has been that I've been completely enamored with every musical act I've seen. And though I sometimes feel gypped at not getting the opportunity to go to cramped venues and sway with a bunch of drunken teenagers, when I think about the situation again I remember how lucky I've been to go to any concerts at all.

Today was one of those nights.

We got to Wicker Park in the evening. My dad, having flown into Chicago this afternoon, drove to my school to pick me up, from which we set off immediately into the city to get to the show on time. Managing to arrive in the area near the venue in record time (an hour and a half before doors opened), we ate at a vegan restaurant and browsed around a record store.

The lead up was perfect. A not-so-crowded record store with "Up the Junction" by Squeeze heard over the speakers, a bunch of hipsters laughing as I purchased an LP of Little Shop of Horrors - how appropriate since I just wrote a 7-page paper on the film musical - and a dinner of organic vegetables and nutty protein.

Usually I don't like to spew about my day, but after a mediocre morning at my work study job and a dull afternoon in a discussion section during which I developed nausea and a migraine headache, there wasn't much hope for the rest of the day.

Had I chosen not to mention the 21 and up Fountains of Wayne concert to my dad a few months ago, maybe my day would have ended as boringly as it began. But instead, I had one of the most memorable nights of my life.

It's not like anything particularly spectacular happened. I didn't even meet the band after the show - the younger me would scold me if she could.

For the first time in my life, the concert itself was enough reason to feel unfathomable happiness. Entering the theater was an adventure as everyone pulled out their drivers' licenses and displayed them to the ticket takers. We had been informed earlier that we needed a copy of my birth certificate to prove that a parent would be supervising me during the show.

Anticipating that we would be shown to the back of the venue to watch the show from a separate section, we prepared for the worst. I even hid my birth certificate, hoping they might assume I was 21 and not ask for it. But they were carding everyone, and they forced me into the theater with two black X's (like scarlet letters, but slightly more hardcore) drawn on my hands in Sharpie ink. There was no mistaking I was not of drinking age.

We were taken to the side of the stage at the very front of the theater. Only two other people, a mother and daughter, ended up sitting next to us and the location was even better than standing on the floor, considering we were given stools to sit on and we weren't crowded by anyone (here I will admit I don't actually enjoy the swaying with drunk people thing, in fact I hate it).

The show was beautiful. Beautiful is not the right word actually. Wonderful. Enlivening. Mesmerizing. Incomparable. If you could choose a better set for any band - well you couldn't. For those who only know Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom," it's time to get your heads back into the early '90s and '00s music game and try listening to this band who has since created some of the best pop/rock anthems of the last few decades.

The best moment of the concert was when the band invited a couple of audience members onto the stage to play percussion. Maracas sounded and soon they were playing the best song of their repertoire (in my opinion), "Hey Julie."

If you've seen J.D. rock out to it in Scrubs or if you know anything about Fountains of Wayne, you know "Hey Julie." As Chris Collingwood began singing the song, everyone in the crowd started chanting along. For a relatively calm gathering, it was an amazing moment of kinship where we all joined together to jovially lip sync to what was becoming - and now is most definitely - my favorite song of all time.

Later in the show, there was a great moment during "A Road Song" (another one of my favorite FOW numbers), where the line "today was Green Bay and tomorrow's Chicago" drew an ecstatic scream from the audience.

I've spent the better part of a few months fielding questions like "Who are Fountains of Wayne?" and "Do they sing anything other than 'Stacy's Mom'?" every time I've brought up the fact that I was going to the concert tonight. But when I was there, I realized I'm not alone in my admiration of this band. The show ended up being sold out, and for good reason - it was so perfect.

Maybe I just haven't been to any concerts in so long that I have no proper gauge of what makes one objectively fantastic. But regardless, Fountains of Wayne, however simple their production is, however small their venues are, however unknown their songs are by the general public, made for one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Aside from that, getting the chance to have my dad visit so we could both enjoy the music of one of our mutual favorite bands was something I wish I could experience again and again. At one point in the show, during "Mexican Wine," I looked over at him, nudged him and we started singing along to the song together. Later during "I-95," we sang together again. For those who haven't gone to a concert with their parents before, it's worth it just for the chance to lip sync with them and realize that the gene coding for musical obsession is one you share.

I had a wonderful day to cap off 100 days of blogging. I may be tired and I may not have any homework done for the weekend yet, but I have a life event to scrawl across my calendar, my blog and my dorm room wall - with a setlist from the stage (woot) - and that's infinitely more exciting.

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