Two weeks ago, from the orchestra section vantage point of the BJCC Concert Hall, Rett and I shared one of those kindred married moments, when your spouse turns to you and says out the loud the very same thing you were just thinking.
“This music means more to me now,” he said, squeezing my hand as we sat there soaking up the earnest heartland rock of one John Mellencamp.
That night he closed out the show with “Cherry Bomb,” and I couldn’t help but laugh when the audience enthusiastically joined him in the third verse:
“Got a few kids of my own,
And some days I still don’t know what to do.
I hope that they’re not laughing too loud,
When they hear me talking like this to you!”
At 37 and 42, respectively, we can really hear and appreciate the lyrical wisdom of simpler times and generations past that permeates so much of his music. No offense to our twenty-something former selves, but we just didn’t “get it” back then.
In my college years, somewhere between the demise of compact disc retail stores and the dawn of Napster, I wandered into the Tuscaloosa Coconuts and paid 15 hard earned dollars from my student-work gig at Gorgas Library to purchase Mellencamp’s “The Best That I Could Do” album.
One of the best features of the 1998 Corolla I drove at the time was the stereo’s CD repeat button, which I immediately set for Track 4 – Jack and Diane – and left alone most of the summer of ’99.
It’s cute and catchy and clever, but beyond that, I never gave the song or the rest of the album much thought.
But now, nearly two decades later, this music endures. I can still listen to these songs and find something new and compelling and relatable. Not that I don’t love me some Mother Monster, Pitbull and that entire cadre of highly manufactured “music” that has its rightful (workout playlist) place on my iPod. But as infectious as those songs of the moment may be, the time between that “turn it up!” sweet spot and “turn it off!” saturation point is extremely short lived. I’ve got plenty of $1.29 iTunes downloads I wish I could return.
Here in our hometown, we’re hardly the “Small Town” of Mellencamp’s imagination. But we are blessed with countless venues in and around our city to take in the thought provoking, toe tapping, and good old-fashioned fun experience of hearing live music.
From the edgy and upcoming artists out there to those we know and love, musical artistry surrounds us.
In the words of Mellencamp himself, Check It Out.