Getting Real With David T. Bruce
My eleven-year-old son and I ventured to Cleveland on the 15th of November to watch Judas Priest in concert; Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society opened the show. As anticipated, we both left the arena with some pleasant memories and much to discuss for several days afterward.
My initial concern prior to attending the concert was that the behavior of some audience members at metal concerts can potentially be graphic, perverse, and in general, socially unacceptable. As parents, we often struggle with what we opt to expose our children to. In this instance, I took the chance to expose our son to the possibility that people would behave outside of his comfort zone, guiding him through unpredictable scenarios. My message to my son prior to entering the arena was that for the few hours that we shared the spectacle of favored bands of everyone that was attending, we would withhold judgment of those who chose to curse, smoke, and so on.
Without turning this into a review of the concert, it is worth mentioning that we did indeed have a great time. We both enjoyed listening to Thin Lizzy more than we thought we would, we both agreed that the sound mixing for Black Label Society left their lyrics unintelligible (which relieved me to a large degree, as their lyrics are those with content that tends to be more mature), and we both agreed that the entire production by Judas Priest easily equaled (if not rivaled) that of their metal peers. Both of us had a wonderful time, bonded in a way that we have not had the opportunity to do before, and are still talking about it.
Recalling my initial concerns, the concert was not nearly as chaotic as I had anticipated. The only incident occurred during the beginning of the concert, when one fan drank too much, too soon, finding himself ejected from the arena before Thin Lizzy concluded their set. My son was left with an interesting vision of what a person looks like who finds his or her party at the bottom of a glass, and he was left with a little beer on his pants from the enthusiastic gyrations of this person trying to jam and hold a drink at the same time.
The audience in general participated plenty during the concert, giving my son a template from which to model. By the end of the show, he was screaming, singing, and pumping his fist to the beat of the music. The diversity of style caught my son’s eye, too; he noticed a variety of different metal shirts and hats, and he noticed hair styles, piercings, and tattoos. He had the opportunity to talk to and get to know some of the people, finding that they were more alike in spirit than not, regardless of how they were decorated.
The time spent away from school did not harm him either. He learned how to work ahead, how to budget his downtime during the road trip and before the concert, and he learned how to catch up on remaining school work and responsibilities. More important, he learned that it’s okay to take a break from daily responsibilities that benefit the body and the mind to do something that will benefit the spirit and the heart.
We are raised in a society that demands that if we are to be productive members of society, then we must work as many hours as possible, keeping our noses to the grindstone. Many of us are afraid to call in sick, and we are threatened with job loss if we do not comply with scheduling preferences. We are discouraged from taking time off from work.
But my son did not merely spend two days away from school just to enjoy a rock concert. He learned new ways to behave (and not behave) socially. He learned that he could manage his work time and play time effectively. He learned that it’s okay to put his needs and wants ahead of others in a world that demands more of him, while often giving less back. He learned the importance of balance. He not only walked away with fabulous memories, but he also walked away with a souvenir that you cannot buy: the band set list from the stage.
We talk about balanced diets and a balance at home in terms of how much television we watch, but we rarely talk about a balanced lifestyle. We virtually never model such behavior, instead doing whatever we can to get ahead by working longer hours and sacrificing more, typically sacrificing time with those we love.
With our two-day vacation to see Judas Priest, my son will have memories of an event that he will never forget. At the same time, he learned more about himself and his environment. Hopefully, he will come to realize that education can happen outside of the school, and that work does not always have to come first.