Besides the achy feet and sore back that go along with standing in one place for too long, being at concerts in this phase of my life means being able to enjoy the music without getting distracted by my age. I once read the music we listen to in our 20s has the greatest influence on us over the span of our lives. There are many reasons that might be true. We do so much self-discovery during those years and having a soundtrack for that time adds poignancy to those moments.
The first time I experienced an outdoor music festival, I was in my early 20s and completely smitten with my then-boyfriend/future husband. I would have done just about anything to get up-close time with him that summer—when we were separated by distance and summer jobs that sent each of us to our respective hometowns. Even though the chaos and grubbiness of a festival was intimidating, I went anyway.
I remember how exhilarating it felt to stand beneath a star-filled sky, while we listened to music soar into the space above us. He held my hand and kept me close, knowing I felt safer when he did. By the time his favourite band took the stage, I was feeling brave enough to tell him to move in closer. He found a safe place up on a hill and told me to stay there until he came back. I watched him disappear into the crowd and knew the best way to experience music would always be with him.
And music did play a big part in our early relationship. He took me to concerts in dark basements and on top of parking garages; I took him to feel-good shows in theatres. He made mixed tapes of his favourite songs and mine and sent them to me in the mail. There was always music playing when we spent time together.
Even as we left our 20s behind and got lost in the busyness of family life, we didn’t outgrow the need to have a soundtrack in the background. Two years ago, we went to a really moving comeback performance by an artist we both listened to in those early days. Driving home that night, we made the decision to make our own comeback from parenthood and whatever confines we had allowed our age to impose. We’ve been on an incredible one-concert-a-month mission ever since.
This summer, we took a big leap and attended a huge 3-day outdoor music festival that took place in an open field in the middle of nowhere, like the first one more than two decades back. Crowds of young urbanites and millennials surrounded us, as they revelled in the music and the chance to be close to each other, and it was like watching us all over again. There were bare feet and sunburns that made it hard for me not to parent. But it felt so good.
The energy in the air was more of a reminder of our youth than our age. This time around, we remembered our sunscreen and hats. We kept ourselves hydrated with water, and we packed protein snacks to keep us going. We stood for a lot of the sets, but also felt okay about moving back and spreading out a blanket. We wore sneakers instead of flip-flops and brought a change of clothes for when the sun went down and the air got cool.
And when my man’s favourite band came out and I caught sight of his profile, illuminated by the joy of being in the moment, I let go of his hand so he could rush to the stage. And while I waited for him to come back, I added the moment to the soundtrack of our life.
Louise Gleeson is a journalist, blogger and mother of four. She writes about parenthood, relationships, food and her addiction to concerts. She does whatever she can to avoid acting her age and is on a mission to flog the Internet with optimism and joy. Louise blogs at www.latenightplays.com and can be found on Instagram and Twitter @louisegleeson