About a week before Parent Weekend, my mom texted me out of the blue: "Do you want to see Record Company at the Fillmore on 10/20?" With the football game and associated Penn Band halftime show on Friday night, she had two days in Philly with me and not much to do.
"Sure," I shot back. "I like concerts." Meanwhile, I was busy googling The Record Company.
I shouldn’t be offended when my mom discovers a band that I’ve never heard of. She had a life before me, one that included judging my grandmother for being alive in the era of the Doors and Led Zeppelin and never going to one of their concerts. She was the one who got me into music from a young age, letting me listen to Kelly Clarkson and Amy Winehouse while I played solitaire on her iPod Nano during rehearsals for the plays she would do after work. Her gift to me for my twelfth birthday was a vinyl record player, and with it came a crate of her old records, everything from live Joan Baez performances to the Muppet Show soundtrack.
Things started to change once I got a Spotify account and the algorithms started working to recommend new bands to me. I was coming out of my eighth–grade baby punk phase, where I listened to nothing but Green Day’s American Idiot for a month, as well as Irish folk music. Spotify took the two disparate things I listened to and introduced me to Flogging Molly. About a year and a half later, I would introduce her to the band by dragging her to their concert. We’ve both seen Flogging Molly seven times now, and only five of those were together.
I controlled the aux cord all through our high school road trips and subjected her to every phase I went through: ska punk, melodic hardcore, indie rock, anti–folk, blues rock, prog rock, even dashes of alt metal. Most of it she likes, some of it she tolerates (try as I might, she’ll never be a fan of the Mountain Goats). Every so often she’ll fall in love. Last summer, I got 45 seconds into “Bury Me Face Down” by grandson before she excitedly asked me who the artist was so she could listen to more of their work.
It sounds silly coming from a college student, someone at the age where we want to separate ourselves from our parents, but my mom is my perfect concert buddy. She has the same ethos that I do: get there at doors, buy a shirt if the design looks cool, and stand right at the rail, usually offset to the right. We have matching shirts from 2016’s Boston to Berkeley tour, featuring her Rancid and my Dropkick Murphys. At the Milwaukee show we attended, pit passes weren’t offered until shortly before the show. In the Facebook event, one mother lamented that her teenage son would be disappointed in their assigned seats, but she was too old for the mosh pit. My mom, meanwhile, immediately sold our tickets on StubHub to buy two pit passes.
Besides where we stand and when we arrive, she and I also share an ethos on what concerts to attend. Next day’s obligations are irrelevant when a band we like is in town, or even nearby. While most kids were getting their backpacks together for the first day of high school, we were driving back from Chicago after seeing Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5. Now that she works a block away from a local concert venue, she’s impulsively bought same–day tickets for bands she’s heard on the radio: if a ticket is $20 and she likes the songs she knows, why not?
Since I left for Penn, every time my mom and I link up again, a concert seems to be involved. We drove down to Chicago for Flogging Molly last New Year’s Eve, and the first thing I did when I came home in May was take her to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Our trip back to Philly was planned around Frank Turner’s tour stop in Pittsburgh; we had both seen Frank open for Flogging Molly on my 16th birthday, but she got into him before I ever did. While family weekend was marked by The Record Company, we’ve already planned to see the Menzingers together when she comes for Thanksgiving.
I don’t know why it happens this way, that we always end up in a pit when we see each other. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact that we both like concerts, and there happen to be a lot in Philly and Madison. Maybe, as I grow up and we start to grow apart, it’s a way of reconnecting, an easy thing to do together that reminds us of when we did everything together. Or maybe we just want our old concert buddy again, the one who will stand on the rails and pass the time before the opening act.