Over Thanksgiving break, two of my friends and I went to Portland because it’s Portland and none of us had been there before. It was supposed to be an escape from work and school. A grown-up holiday. Friendsgiving. Where we could make the rules and do what we wanted. No relatives. No worries. Just a road trip and an excuse to see something new.
I made reservations for a hotel online, a very nice historic building called the Crystal Hotel (which I highly recommend), and then looked for stuff to do in the city while we were there. Across the street from the hotel is a venue called the Crystal Ballroom. So I clicked to see if there were any shows or events going on during the few days we were going to be there. And sure enough, even on the Thanksgiving holiday, there was a show scheduled for the night we’d get into town. I checked them out on Youtube. They seemed just like your average poppy hipster-loving band. Seemingly innocuous. And tickets were cheap. So I bought them. A spontaneous purchase. Why not?
When we arrived in Portland, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel, had two or twelve drinks, and then made our way to the show. As we were walking, I read the ticket. It was an all ages show. This should have been the first warning. The first red flag. Well, maybe the one video I watched should have been at tip-off, but hey. We’re down for whatever, right? An all ages show doesn’t mean it’ll suck automatically, does it? Anyway, then we turned the corner and saw the line to get into the show. And who would you guess is in line to get in? Twelve-year-olds and teenagers with acne and awkwardness. Teenagers who have come to see this band because they love them. This band is their favorite band. I realized that this is not our show. This is not our concert. We are interlopers. Observers. Not of this fan base. Not of this world. But what are we going to do? This could be a golden opportunity to see somethings weird. Something unexpected. Something different.
We walked around the block again to compose and prepare ourselves. I smoked another cigarette away from the impressionable youth. Then we went inside. We weren’t carded. We were shooed right in. Normally, I quite enjoy getting carded. It’s a vanity thing. But in this instance, I was not offended. I was glad for being rushed through. We would discover that the age gap in this show would be significant, that it would make us want to drink more. Following the line of fans, we made it up to the floor where the show was going on. And then the masses parted. There were barricades set up with a row in the middle. The underage crowd was in the front by the stage. The aged concert goers stood on the back side by the bar, where the drinks could not be too expensive. I would have paid just about anything for a Jameson at that moment.
With our drinks, we found a spot in the big kid section and settled in to see what we were in store for. Then the music began. The cute little band members stood up on the stage, donning warpaint and all of the appropriate hipster garb, and the young crowd went wild. They were dancing and waving their hands in the air, they were jumping up and down to the music. They were loosing their shit. And then my eyes panned over the crowd to where we were standing. And as I looked at my section, my age group, I saw no hand raising. No jumping. No dancing or singing or smiling. The concert was divided. Youth and optimism in the front. Age and pessimism in the back. We were in the middle of a metaphor. We were not dancing, but we were not bored. We were not young, but not old either. We didn’t know where we were. It wasn’t our show. But I’m glad that kids that age will dance without fear.
Portland prides itself on being weird. And I couldn’t have asked for a stranger, weirder, more surreal experience than that pre-teen love fest concert.
If I ever travel to Florida, I will be extra careful when planning.