Well, you guys. Saturday night had the potential to go down as the biggest fail since I tried to make cookies out of bread. We arrived at the Saint Vincent campus in Latrobe around 6:00. Henry made us wait in the car while he asked two college girls where the Carey Center was because we didn’t want Chooch to hear. “Look, Daddy’s talking to GIRLS!” Chooch squealed, and we laughed about that during the entire walk to the Carey Center, which I guess is their basketball court thingie. Chooch kept asking, “Is this a college? What are we doing here?” so for awhile I was like, “We’re enrolling you early, Doogie Howser.” There was a small gathering of kids outside of the building, waiting for doors to open, so I figured that was as good a time as any to reveal his surprise.
So I gave him his ticket and he just stared at it.
“Is this my surprise?” he asked, not even TRYING to mask his disappointment. (He was being a total jerkface to me a few weeks ago so I snapped and told him that I had a surprise for him but I was going to give it to an orphan instead. So he knew something was cooking.) I said yes, and he was like, “I want a new surprise.”
“You don’t want to see Never Shout Never?!” I asked, trying not to scream because I have a “cool mom” façade to uphold and there were too many kids around.
“Yeah, but I want something from Amazon,” Chooch sighed. WHAT THE FUCK. Henry was in the will call line (he waited until three days ago to buy his ticket) so I texted him and it went something like I DON’T WANT TO BE A MOM ANYMORE THIS SUCKS LET’S JUST GO HOME WHAT A FUCKING SPOILED BRAT HE IS.
Henry turned around in his line and just laughed at me. “It’ll be fine,” he texted back.
And you know what? It really was fine. It was better than fine. It was a fucking fantastic night and Chooch and I really bonded! We had a ton of inside jokes that would make us double over in laughter (Man Boobs and bubblegum) and Henry would laugh too but then he would say, “Haha, what?” and we would just say, “You wouldn’t understand.” And then he would frown and bristle his mustache and we would laugh harder.
The venue was perfect for a seven-year-old. It was literally a college gym, so there were bleachers adjacent to the stage, and the view was unobstructed. Before the show started, Chooch acted like he owned the place, catching the eye of various blond college girls and then shrugging it off like it was no big thing. And then someone near the front of the stage started batting around a red balloon, and everyone acted like they had never batted around a balloon before, while the rest of us acted like we had never watched anyone bat around a balloon before, and somehow it became wildly entertaining. Especially when someone accidentally made the balloon waft out of reach on the stage, and there was a frantic outcry. They kept trying to get various roadies to grab it for them, but their cries were unheard. Finally, someone on stage noticed and returned the balloon to the crowd amid ear drum-perforating cheers.
Chooch then decided he wanted is own balloon to bat around on the bleachers and wanted Henry to take him to find one. Grumpy Henry grumped, “No! There aren’t any balloons out there! THOSE KIDS BROUGHT THAT ONE!” Because he didn’t want to irritate his hemorrhoids by standing up and walking, I guess. But then two, um, “white balloons” appeared in the mix and Chooch lost his mind. “SERIOUSLY?! WHERE ARE THEY GETTING THESE BALLOONS!?” he cried. But luckily, the lights went out soon after and the show commenced before anyone needed to make up an explanation for the “pocket balloons.”
Maps & Atlases opened, and all three of us really liked them. Unfortunately, the slovenly middle-aged couple behind us who kept kicking us in the back did not like them and were very vocal about it. After the Podunk wife complained for the fifth time about how “boring” the band was, her hick husband drawled, “Well shit, they ain’t Iron Maiden” which made her cachinnate a mouthful of phlegm and poor English onto the back of my head. Turns out they were there were Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, who I can’t remember being so terrible, but they were pretty terrible and provided the only lowlight of the night.
During Maps & Atlases set, Henry nudged me and pointed to the side of the stage, where Christofer Drew was watching the band. I in turn nudged Chooch and that kid fucking FLIPPED HIS SHIT. He sat there and straight stared at him until Christofer eventually walked back behind the stage.
“I want one of their albums,” Chooch shouted to me, gesturing over his shoulder to Maps & Atlases. What a wonderful thing to hear from a kid!
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus came on next. I know of them, I remember when they had that One Real Big Hit a handful of years ago, but I have never really paid attention to them. And that Saturday night, I was assured that I hadn’t been missing much. I’m sure to a lot of people, this is a great band. And that’s fine. They seemed like they knew what they were doing up there, but it wasn’t my thang, you guys. It was boring and loud for the sake of being loud. It was cheesy guitar solos. It was Southern rock with boring vocals. It was a guitarist that looked like Taylor Lautner (Henry’s observation, and I laughed that he knew Taylor Lautner’s name) even though Chooch kept arguing that he looked like Justin Bieber.
Chooch was anti-Red Jumpsuit from the get go.
“Ain’t no one got time for that!” he screamed into my ear. And, “Oh, the horror! Kill me now!”
But the jerk-slobs behind us were stoked, that’s for sure!
After playing entirely too long, Red Jumpsuit finally left the stage and we all exhaled in relief. They totally threw off the vibe of the night, and Chooch was acting downright offended by them. He kept forgetting “Apparatus” and started calling them Red Jumpsuit Pfffffft, spraying me with spit every time.
But then Never Shout Never came on and my lord, I knew Chooch had a big-ass mouth, but I never thought a scream so 1989 NKOTB GIRLY could come barreling out of it like it did at the moment. That kid was going NUTS. He inadvertently punched me in the face a few times while overzealously waving his arms in the air.
The second song they played was “Trouble,” which is Chooch’s all-time favorite. He sang along to every word and his eyes were GLISTENING WITH TEARS. I thought maybe I was seeing things, but Henry and I discussed this on the ride home while Chooch was sleeping in the backseat, and Henry confirmed that he witnessed Chooch crying several times throughout the night. HE IS MY SON FOR REAL, YOU GUYS! I officially don’t care how much everyone thinks he looks like just Henry and 0% like me! He has all of my emotions!
God help us all.
I feel like a real douchebag. I used to make fun of Never Shout Never when Christofer Drew hit the scene six years ago (when he was only 16!). I thought he was so stupid-looking, like this weird emo-hippie hybrid who could pass as the second-coming of Jimmy from H.R. Pufnstuf.
And I never really gave his music a chance because it was too “happy-sounding” and we all know how doom n’ gloom I am. I skipped over him every time he was at Warped Tour, I was disgusted when I saw his parts in the Warped Tour documentary that came out last year because he was so negative about the scene. But somehow, one of his songs (“What Is Love?”) made it onto a mixed CD I made for one of our road trips last spring. I don’t know if I had the track on the computer from a compilation or what, but I put it on this CD (yes, I still make mixed CDs in this day and age OMG) and while it didn’t nauseate me, someone in the backseat REALLY latched on to it. I didn’t think it was really going to amount to much, but when I found out that NSN was playing Warped Tour this time around, Chooch said, “Thank god.”
But then he didn’t even really care! We stood near that stage for maybe a song or two, and then Chooch was ready to move on. But a few weeks later, he and I walked down to the Exchange because I wanted to buy the new Hands Like Houses and sometimes they get new releases there. They didn’t, and the girl who was working kept trying to look in the electronica section when I told her it was post-hardcore; way to know your stuff, dumbass. But they had a Never Shout Never EP there, and Chooch said he wanted it. It was $5 so I was like, “Whatever,” figuring that he would listen to it once and it would get thrown to the wayside in favor of Minecraft videos on his phone. But he played the FUCK out of that EP, and then I bought him the “What Is Love?” album and he played the FUCK out of that, memorized all the words almost immediately, proceeded to watch 259451259745 NSN videos on YouTube, and then found Christopher Drew on Instagram.
I can’t stress enough how important I believe music is. Yeah, I get: everyone thinks forcing young children to play some form of organized team sport is like THE FOUNDATION for a healthy childhood, but to me, music is just as important. Chooch is a really emotional kid, some of those emotions seem really advanced to me—this isn’t me bragging. This is me being legitimately concerned that my kid is suddenly not going to have an outlet for those emotions because some days he reminds me of Erin Rachelle Kelly at Fifteen. But seeing how connected he’s become to music is somewhat of a relief to me. I mean, this isn’t like a kid hearing an LMFAO song on the radio and singing along. This is a kid devouring everything he can find about an artist, poring over lyrics, asking me what certain parts of the songs mean. Music heals, you guys.
I thought Chooch’s NSN-mania was cute, and I was thankful that it wasn’t something really terrible like Fresh Beat Band or Katy Perry, but I still didn’t really get the appeal. After Saturday night, I think I can officially say that my mind has been effectively changed. That kid is a fucking PERFORMER. His banter with his bassist and drummer, and the crowd, was entertaining and not at all annoying. You know how sometimes it’s like, “OK STFU AND SING, YOU MOTHERFUCKER? I DIDN’T PAY TO HEAR YOU TALK?!” It wasn’t like that. The between-song hijinks were just as entertaining as the actual music and I even caught Henry smiling. HENRY—SMILING! I wish it wasn’t so dark in there so I could have photographed that, as well as captured video of Chooch going nuts.
They played for about 90 minutes, so we didn’t get out of there until around 11:30. Chooch started losing steam around 10:30; I put my arm around him (look at me, being a mom!!), but every time he’d start to fall asleep on my shoulder, they would play a song that he loved, so he snap his head up and start singing and clapping. Before one song, Christofer started to talk about how he used to smoke a lot of cigarettes. Chooch cupped a hand around his mouth and yelled to me, “‘Coffee and Cigarettes’! I know that’s what he’s going to sing next!” (Except that Chooch calls them “cigarats.”) And then when the band played the first few notes, Chooch smirked and yelled, “See? ‘Coffee and Cigarats’. I knew it!” And when he played “Can’t Stand It,” kids started breaking away from the crowd to dance with each other. And I gotta say, it was a refreshing change from the circle pits and walls of death that are prevalent at the shows I normally attend.
And now I kind of think that Christofer Drew is adorable. I guess I always assumed he was trying too hard, what with the warpaint he used to wear on his face and the wolf hat-wearing and the acting like he just stepped out of Henry’s wardrobe circa 1972. But this is who he is, for real. A walking, talking, no-shoe-wearing Woodstock representative in this scary 21st Century Land who just wants everyone to love each other. I get it now, Christofer Drew. I get it. I’m a fan. And I’m happy that I get to share this with Chooch now before he becomes a surly teenager who doesn’t want his lame mom to like the same music as him.
When we got back to the car, I turned to Chooch and asked, “So, now do you think this was a good surprise?
And in this earnest, sincere voice, he shook his head and quietly answered yes. He then proceeded to excitedly talk a mile a minute about the show before passing out for the hour drive home to Pittsburgh. Totally worth it. But I’m still not posting the video of when I gave Chooch his ticket because it pisses me off so bad! Even though Henry tried to explain to me that a concert ticket doesn’t mean the same thing to a 7-year-old as it would to a teenager, and I guess I understand that. Thankfully, the actual concert was another story!
I have a feeling someone is going to be asking for a ukulele for Christmas.