This guest column is written by Liz Summers, a multipotentialite if there ever was one. She is a scientist by day and a lover of rock bands no matter when. She also owns and rides horses and loves nature. Speaking of the latter, she will be contributing a periodic post on that topic for I Start Wondering. Stay tuned!
I made a pilgrimage recently – leaving in the early workday afternoon to drive, with steadfast conviction, the 183 miles from my place of work to the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas, TX. The inexorable lure propelling this drive was a concert being held by the iconic hard rock group, Black Sabbath.
The Dallas show was part of the final countdown – less than 20 show dates remain until the Grand Finale outro show on a tour succinctly titled “The End.” The fair-thee-well show will be held in Birmingham, England – the formerly grim, working-class town where it all started nearly 50 years ago. Remarkable, despite decades of prototyping and test driving the excesses that came to be known as the “rock and roll lifestyle,” the four original members are still alive, although only three – Ozzy, Geezer and Toni – will be playing in Dallas.
I went to Dallas to pay respects and homage to the aging founding fathers of “my” genre of music and to celebrate. I celebrate good fortune at having been alive during the remarkable period in musical evolution from the late 60’s to the early 80’s that saw the development of progressive rock/art rock/hard rock/heavy metal as a grass roots, organic process, fueled by youthful energy, imagination and drive, and whose innovation, nuances, artistry and technical mastery are likely to never be emulated again.
The assumption for many years was that the dynamic wellspring of creativity was part of the “how it is” of life – like snowfall and rain. It was taken for granted that bands like Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Styx, Yes, Foreigner, Kansas, Genesis, Iron Maiden, Rush and more would either be around forever or would be replaced by sonically similar bands. Never a huge concertgoer, I let several decades pass without going to a single concert of any kind. Let’s just use the trite but accurate excuse that “life got in the way” – with studies, marriage, kids, careers and the slight logistical issue of living more than 2 hours from the nearest concert venue dominating all decisions…. At the back of my mind during those busy decades was the assumption that there will be time in the future to see at least some of my favorite bands.
Then in 2011 I woke up out of the “must behave like a socially dictated grown-up must act” trance and realized the expiration date for my bands was approaching. The founding members of these bands are my old friends growing older, with surviving artists now in their 60’s, and 70’s. There is no way to change the past, only to change my actions now.
To rectify this oversight as best I can, in the last several years I’ve seen Rush (9 times), Yes, UFO, KISS, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Joe Walsh – and more – whoever I could possible squeeze in or drive to. Remarkably, concerts are more fun and exciting than ever – the unparalleled raw power of live hard rock fed through stacks of Marshal amps, the adrenaline surge, the awe-inspiring mastery of their craft.
Ultimately though, it is the fans that are the best – people whose lives converge in celebration of a sonic style of musical prowess in the autumn years of its natural expression. The new age of social media has opened the door to making permanent connections with equally obsessive fans, whose musical tastes intersect mine. This has been a true joy – connecting with people I feel I’ve known all my life, because the soundtracks of our lives are the same. Let’s just say — if the boys are back in town, go see them now!
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