I never in a million years would have thought that one day I would be taking my seven-year-old son to a show at the motherfucking Grog Shop. Yet, there we were, 7:30 on a Wednesday night, with our kid at the Grog Shop.
I guess it must seem weird, or maybe even like shitty parenting, to some people. But you have to understand, he doesn’t have a mild affection for this band’s music. He has devoured every last song by Never Shout Never that he has gotten his hands on ever since this obsession started. He knows song names, what album they’re on, every last word in the lyrics. So I didn’t really have a problem with the occassional double-take we’d get from other fans at the venue. Are we letting him do shots of Jack at the bar? No. So STFU.
However, he still is only 7, after all, and his attention span reflects that quite clearly. So for the two openers (Front Porch Step and Nick Santino—both were wonderful, btw), Chooch was super ornery and whiny until Henry scouted an area by the merch tables where Chooch could sit. There was kind of like this long black wooden booth up against the window, and Chooch laid on his stomach back there and read his Simpsons book until Never Shout Never came on. It was kind of nice, because I was able to enjoy the first two singers in peace.
Around 8:30, manic outburts of “CHRIS, I LOVE YOU!!!” reverberated around the Grog Shop and Chooch snapped to attention. (He gets so annoyed at those girls though, and kept yelling, “NO YOU DON’T!!!”) They played until around 10:00, I guess, this intimate acoustic set full of quick banter and I realized that I really do like these guys. Thanks, Chooch! They’re entertaining as fuck.
Our friend Jason was at the show as well, and in lieu of a polite “hello,” Chooch opted to march up to him and demand, “I WANT TO MEET CHRISTOFER DREW!” He knows that Jason is the editor of a certain Cleveland-based music magazine, so for a second there, I was left wondering when I became the mom of Veruca Salt. Chooch is usually pretty good about not being a spoiled brat. USUALLY.
“Yeah, well I want to meet Christina Hendricks, but that’s not going to happen,” Jason countered. I was so embarrassed. I don’t like asking people for favors, ever, because it makes me feel like a user. So I gave Chooch a good rap on the head for that one.
So Chooch went back to standing on his seat (it was the only way he could see the stage) and trying to guess what each song was going to be based on the background stories Christofer would preface them with. He was so smug when he guessed “Piggy Bank” and I guessed “Sell Out” but he was right. So for the next 15,000 days, it’s going to be, “Remember when you guessed ‘Sell Out’ and were WRONG?!” Ugh.
At the time, I thought the highlight of the night for me was going to be when Chooch sang along loudly to Lost At Sea. I love listening to Chooch sing, and I wish I had recorded him that night, but I was too in the moment.
We cheered when they played “On the Brightside” and “California,” and Chooch got big ideas when Christofer hung upside from the rafters. (And I instinctively slapped my hand over my chest and panicked, because I’m a mom now and that is what moms do.)
And then Chooch kept screaming, “PLAY ‘TRAMPOLINE‘!!!!” and everyone in front of us would turn around to see who was screaming but Chooch would promptly duck and I’d be the only asshole left standing, so after the fourth time, these kids were probably thinking, “Dang, that old lady REALLY wants to hear ‘Trampoline’!”
(They never did play it. And this old lady really did want them to!)
“If I ever meet them, I’m going to ask them how to buy Sunflower!” Chooch spat, because he is very angry that their last album was released as a digital download. He likes to buys CDs and have the full, tangible experience of pulling out the liner notes and poring over the lyrics. In other words, he is certainly my kid.
Anyway, after the show, we milled about and chatted with Jason for a little while, and the guy behind the Front Porch Step moniker gave Chooch a free poster, which was totally sweet. I really wanted his album but asshole Henry didn’t have any cash left on him, SO HE SAYS.
Meanwhile, Jason excused himself, saying he would be right back. Because I’m super naive, I didn’t think much of it. Chooch wasn’t in any hurry to leave anyway, because once the crowd cleared out, the floor of the Grog Shop opened up into a gymnastic paradise, so he ran around doing round-offs and other scary parkour-y things, and we became Those Parents who bring their kid into a bar and let him do gymnastics. (In my defense, no one seemed to fucking care!)
So then Jason came back and asked me how old Chooch was. Still, my naivete prevailed. Until Henry was like, “He’s trying to get Chooch back there to meet the band, dummy.” So then I got all sweaty-palmed and panicky.
“Well, we’re going to have to try and get past all these girls,” Jason sighed, nodding toward the throng of salivating Christofer Drew groupies congregating in the tiny hallway outside of the backstage room door. This also happens to be the way to get to the restrooms, which Chooch had already visited once that night, so he was like, “Why are we following Jason to the bathroom?” I told him to just keep walking, and his mouth was going non-stop as usual. Seven-year-olds, right? They never fucking shut up!
So all these girls are like “WTF!?” when the guy guarding the door steps to the side to let us through, and Chooch is still clueless. Jason knocks on the door, and Chooch is still rambling away as we all walk into this small room. I stepped out of the way to give Chooch an unobstructed view, and that was when he realized that he was about 3 feet away from Christofer Drew. He looked like he was going to melt into the floor.
We all moved aside so that Chooch could step into the middle of the room and everyone stood up to greet him and shake his hand. Aside from Christofer, there are just two other guys in the band, Taylor and Hayden, and they were all so kind and sweet to us. But when Christofer was standing in front of Chooch, shaking his hand and asking him questions, Chooch absolutely clammed up. I think he literally lost the ability to speak, you guys, and I have never, not once, seen my kid that speechless. Not in 7 years. And then he started doing this thing with his hands, placing them on his face and pulling them in opposite directions, like he was actually trying to rip his skin open and step out of it.
There was a moment when he quickly turned his head away from Christofer and closed his eyes shut real tight and his face became flushed. I could tell he was fighting tears, and my heart broke in a million shards. This kid was in some fucking state of agony, and suddenly I began to recount all the times I got to meet bands that meant so much to me and lost my voice while standing in their presence. It’s beautiful torture. And somehow, my son is experiencing this at a very young age. I don’t know if I should be happy about this or pity him.
So with Chooch being speechless, I had to do the talking but I was nervous as fuck too! I could hear my voice shaking but I powered on for Chooch, and told them all how much of an inspiration they’ve been to him, how I have never seen him with such a vested interest in music before them. I mean, he likes other bands, sure. He likes Pierce the Veil and Chiodos, the Summer Set and We Came As Romans, but not anything that even comes close to matching this. Their music makes him thoughtful. We talk to each other about the lyrics and what they mean. They’ve opened up this emotional outlet in him that most kids probably don’t discover until they’re teenagers, I’m sure.
But he’s seven, and he doesn’t know how to tell them that. So he stood there in stunned silence. And then he held his wolf hat out to Christofer who took it from him and said, “This is a good style” before swapping out his own hat with it, and then placing his mini-top hat on Chooch’s head.
I’m pretty sure Chooch might have pissed himself. Just a little. Christofer pulled two guitar picks out of his pocket and gave them to Chooch, and definitely he pissed himself then.
Then Taylor said he likes his shoes Christofer said his Never Shout Never shirt was trippy, and Chooch was so overwhelmed by this that he had squeezed himself into a corner in between my back and the door. Taylor set out a folding chair for him in case he changed his mind and wanted to come out of hiding. And then he offered him a bottle of water, which Chooch was surprisingly able to activate enough of his motor skills to take from him.
“I’ve literally never seen him so quiet,” I told everyone.
“Oh, I know!” Jason remarked. “He was talking non-stop out there!”
Chooch kept whispering to me, “Mommy, I’m so shy. I’M.SO.SHY.” But he’s not shy. He was starstruck. I think the closest I ever came to that feeling as a kid was when I wrote a letter to Melissa Brennan, who played Jenn Horton on Days of Our Lives (I have been referencing this damn show so much lately, what the fuck) and she sent me back an autographed headshot with a hand-written letter thanking me for my support. I thought she was the fucking Queen of England after that. But I can tell you for a fact that my awe back in 1988 was nothing in comparison to what Chooch was feeling in that precise moment on 12/11/13.
I wonder what would have happened if I had told him beforehand that he was going to get to meet them. Henry thinks Chooch wouldn’t have been able to go through with it. I kind of think it was fun to go the sneak-attack approach.
We got to hang out with them for about 20 minutes and I can’t stress enough how incredibly generous they were to make time to meet with Chooch. Between them and Jason, they gave Chooch such a great gift and I will never be able to thank them enough. Jason didn’t have to go out on a limb like this for us, and those guys certainly didn’t have to say yes. This may have been the best moment for me as a parent, to date, and I just want to start sending everyone fruit baskets or something. What the fuck is wrong with me!?
This is what matters. This is the shit I want to give my kid. Not Xbox and whatever the “in” toy is this year. I want to give him memories and experiences, things that he’ll look back on as an adult, things that will shape who he becomes. I promise you that nothing he could unwrap on Christmas morning could take his words away like that.
After promising them all that we would be careful driving back to Pittsburgh, they all shook our hands again (mine was SO HOT OMG, I’m sorry Never Shout Never) and we had to re-brave the hoard of girls outside the door.
We parted ways with Jason outside the Grog Shop after thanking him profusely for literally making our kid’s dream come true. After we walked about a block away, Chooch totally lost it and started SOBBING.
Kid, I know the feeling.
In the car, I jokingly said to Henry, “We should have told Christofer about how Chooch screams that he wishes he was his dad every time he gets mad at you.”
“Yeah,” Henry laughed. “That wouldn’t have been awkward.”
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