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The First Time … Taking My Sons to a Rock Concert

AARP’s deputy editor introduces his kids to the sounds of Phish

spinner image a father with his teen boys at a rock concert
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Not all teen boys are about sports, video games and girls. My two sons, five years apart in age but thick as thieves, were far more about science, nature and small circles of loyal buddies. Attempts to take them to pro sports games were futile; suggestions that they head out on Saturday nights ignored. Drugs or alcohol? No way, Dad, never. A parent’s dream … yet utterly different than their unrestrained mom and dad were as teens. As a father, I didn’t want them to be reckless, but a little wildness? That’s called growing up.

So I hatched a plan. In car rides, I started playing songs by Phish, the famed jam band that has lyrics as odd and amusing as their solos are often soaring. They were reeled in. So when Phish came to town, I suggested the three of us go — their first rock concert. A little frightened, they said yes.

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The tie-dye, bra-less, bearded hippie-chic crowd set them back at first. But this was one friendly cross-section of humanity; settling into our seats, everyone was talking with each other. When those around us learned this was my sons’ first Phish show, they were instantly popular; everyone enthused on them. Joints were offered but declined. It was all I could do to say no as well.

Then the music started and continued … and continued … and for three hours we were dancing and hooting and grinning at each other. I think they enjoyed seeing their dad being a teenager as much as feeling the most powerful waves of sound and human energy they’d ever experienced. And the hugs and smiles from our many new friends as the show ended was a beautiful side of humanity they had rarely seen.

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Afterward, my boys didn’t change. But as a story to tell and a lesson to be learned, the concert remains a small but important stretching of two beautifully unique minds and hearts. As for me, the night was a much-needed reminder that a fun-loving teen remained dormant inside, a part of my soul that I vowed to bring to surface more often. And damn, those guitar solos!

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