In the chest of this 48-year-old beats the heart of a teenage concertgoer.
So I was astonished by an encounter one summer night at the Blink 182 show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. My assumption that I was blending in with all the buff young bods with their bare midriffs and backward baseball caps was, well, obliterated.
"Hey, you're too old to be at this concert," I was informed by an impudent 20-year-old. Out of the mouths of babes. What he couldn't have known was that this salt-and-pepper-haired fogy was standing alone on the festival-seating lawn because I was serving as chauffeur for my two daughters and three of their girlfriends -- all of whom had sprinted away from me the moment we passed through the entrance.
There is no segregated "parents' room" at this outdoor venue in Columbia. The few fellow parents I spotted were diverting themselves with newspapers or paperbacks. And menacingly, the emcee during his warm-up even warned parents that the show might not be to their taste.
Then Blink 182 took the stage against a backdrop of flaming letters spelling out a four-letter word. The crowd of 15,000 went berserk as I looked on contemplatively with my arms folded. The nonsensically named Blink 182, a punk-leaning trio of former skateboarders from San Diego, is riding an album that hit No. 1 in July with the quaint title of "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket."
The late-twenty-something musicians sport an arsenal of tattoos and body-piercings, and they like to run naked onstage and while making videos now sold on a tape called "The Urethra Chronicles." Their lyrics celebrate slutty girls and toss off insults to maternal sexuality. And their patter between songs is constructed around digestive functions and below-the-belt anatomy. My sweet young daughters just love them. Pictures of Blink 182 members Mark, Tom and Travis bedeck their bedroom walls, their schoolbook covers and the screen-saver on our family computer.
The girls fight to play their CDs in our car and scan MTV for their every appearance. Even my prim wife has succumbed to their charms, having taken to bonding with our daughters by riding around in the car shouting along with Blink's hymns to teen lust and angst. (It was only two Christmases ago that she wept in protest when I showed her the CD that Santa Claus was bringing our kids: Blink 182's parental advisory-stickered album called "Enema of the State," which features a porn actress gussied up as a nurse donning a sanitary glove.)
Hence it was on this night at Merriweather that I decided to give some ground. Blink 182 creates an impressive wall of staccato, big-beat sound, given that they use just one fuzzed-up guitar, a bass and an industrial-strength drum set. Their exuberant harmonies blend touchingly. And some of their impish sight gags draw giggles even from squares.
I admitted to myself that some of my repulsion at the band stems from a generational possessiveness. Hey, we baby boomers invented teen rebellion! (Well, perhaps Marlon "The Wild One" Brando showed us the way.) Who among the thousands of kids at this show understand that I actually attended the early-'70s Crosby, Stills and Nash concert at Merriweather that is commemorated on a sign near the gate? How many of them know that I was here the night Jackson Browne recorded his live version of "The Load Out" that capstoned his 1977 masterpiece album "Running on Empty"?
How do they expect a guy from my generation, whose rock heroes confronted the meaty issues of the Vietnam War and civil rights, to relate to a performing act that dwells on toddler-level potty humor?
The answer is, they don't.
Which is why I've determined to mellow out on the subject. I don't expect Blink 182 to have the staying power of, say, the Beatles, whose anthology topped the charts this spring, more than 30 years after their breakup. But my kids, like myself at their age, deserve some non-parentally approved pleasures in their lives.
As I waited for my daughters at the exit that night, I fell into conversation with another dad who, like me, had just gone for three hours without speaking a word to anyone. We traded complicated opinions on the meaning of the concert. But none of the rowdy, sometimes drunk Blink 182 fans who stumbled by and jostled us evinced any sign that they had come to hear us.