I wish I had a photo to go along with these stories I am about to tell. Alas, digital photography did not exist and we didn’t carry cameras with us. Or if we did, I don’t have the prints…
In October 1986 my parents dropped me and my friend Elissa off at the Wendy’s across the street from the State Fairgrounds on McDowell. (My mom does not remember this, so maybe Elissa’s parents did the dropping. Also our friend Jennifer may have been with us, still trying to verify that fact. Also our friend Vicki thinks it was 1985.) There are always pretty big concerts at the fair, because Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum is smack dab in the middle of the Midway. Back then it was open seating for anyone who purchased admission to the fair, so you had to arrive early or risk not seeing the show. (I think now you have buy a separate ticket. I don’t really go to big shows like this anymore so I’m not certain.)
I was 14 years old. We somehow convinced the ticket agent we were ten, and we got in for 50 cents. (Why they didn’t question the fact that two ten year old girls were entering the fair by themselves is funny to me now. We would likely be surrounded by cops in 30 seconds flat if that happened today and we would show up in the papers.)
We made our way into the venue and felt lucky to get seats to the right of the stage. We were seeing Howard Jones (!) This was before OMG became the way to describe pure excitement and joy, but we were probably saying the 80’s equivalent to OMG to one another the entire time. (Does anyone remember? What did we say in 1987?)
That energy is living inside me, even now 27 years later sitting at my desk listening to Howard on my Jambox bluetooth speaker from my ITunes playlist on my IPhone. (Slightly more convenient than records. Or worse, waiting for your favorite song to come on KZZP) I close my eyes I am that 14 year old girl experiencing something I couldn’t even imagine. I was walking out of Plato’s cave and seeing Howard in person. His giant yellow hair bouncing around, his hand-held keyboard, his amazing voice surrounding us all. (And yes, I did know about Plato’s cave back then. Even though we went to public school, we managed to learn a lot.)
You’ve been to concerts like this I’m sure. You know every lyric to every song, and every word speaks directly to you. The crowd is dancing, singing, and generally acting like some kind of crazy religious cult. We are pretending the water is champagne, Howard, we are, I swear. We will not try to live our life in one day. And I can certainly tell you at that moment we were enjoying the here and now. Yes. The future will take care of itself somehow.
Life was different for me when I left that concert. I was different. That was the day I became forever hooked on live music.
Seeing an artist in person will certainly cement your relationship with them. Howard Jones and I are forever connected, even if he doesn’t know it.
By the time I went to my next concert I was 15. It was at Compton Terrace – an outdoor amphitheater near Firebird raceway. I feel like we went there in July, which is not necessarily a great time to be outdoors in Phoenix. (I checked, and it was actually July 22.) It did not matter to us, we were going to see Erasure (!) My boyfriend Chris and I loved Erasure. Somehow we convinced his dad to drive us – and yes, drop us off – at the venue super early. It must have been hot, but I do not remember that.
I do remember Chris’ dad driving us to the venue, and the cars were backed up along the dirt road. He commented that it looked like a bunch of lemmings. I did not know what a lemming was, and didn’t really believe him when he described these tiny animals hurling themselves off cliffs just because their friends did the same. This seemed like such an improbable and strange story, I’m certain I told him it could not possibly be true.
I also remember seeing the band with their synthesizers and their British accents. They were the opening act for Duran Duran (I had to verify this information as well. I could not remember anything other than Erasure. I loved them. Did I mention that?) Again, they sang songs I knew, but right in front of me. They sang Oh L’Amour, out loud, right there. It’s a song about the heartbreak I had not yet known. At that moment in my life, one I can also conjure with my eyes closed, the world would always be great and fun and we would grow up to be happy and live out all of our dreams.
I recently learned that Howard Jones and Andy Bell (from Erasure) are touring around the US together. It is impossible for me to imagine why they aren’t coming to Phoenix – they could sell out Dodge Theater (or whatever it’s called now) in three seconds flat. Instead, Howard is coming alone to Tucson.
I briefly considered flying to Portland to see them all on August 25, but I have a business trip the following day. I could drive to LA that Friday and see them all at The Greek Theater. Or fly to Saratoga and see them at a winery….
In the end I opted for Howard in Tucson. I booked a room at Hotel Congress where I only have to stumble up the stairs after the show.
Back when I was 15 I really did believe I had everything figured out. When I listen to this particular set of music (my own personal mix-tape on my IPod), I once again feel like I will grow up to be a poet and change the world. I can no longer imagine what I thought it would be like to get married, although I’m quite certain I did not consider the amount of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and horrible Disney shows that would be in my life. When we talked about growing up and being together forever, I’m guessing in that dream we had enough servants to cook and clean while we laid around and listened to music.
Happy Sunday everyone. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rain. Maybe one day we can convince Andy Bell to come to Phoenix. Probably not again in July though.