The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

April 4, 2011

Rock n’ Roll or Miss n’ Sippi?

The Goo Goo Dolls gave a free concert in the Ole Miss Grove tonight

Question: How does an American in the 21st Century know he or she has hit midlife?

Answer: When responsible parents bring their kids to see a rock band they dig.

Tonight, the Goo Goo Dolls gave a free performance in the Grove at Ole Miss, and the crowd, at least for Mississippi, was packed.

What was surprising was how many families came with small children to hear the band.

I have surely lived long enough to have some rock n’ roll fantasies fulfilled.

I danced one night on stage in a go-go cage in Paris on stage with Elvis Costello and the Attractions.  I had a front row seat, was inches away from Alison Moyet when she sang at the Olympia.

I also have had a few awful rock ‘n roll experiences as well.  One night at La Courneuve in France I went to see David Bowie perform, and there were violent skin heads in the crowd who started swinging spiked knuckles into the crowd, terrifying most of us and starting a near stampede.  The movements of the crowd were so intense, they unbuttoned my blouse, not in a sexy way, and I nearly got trampled to death.  I remember after things calmed down being close to the stage, where Peter Frampton, still with good hair, was playing his guitar in Bowie’s band, and he was fantastic, but I was sobbing so hard I could not fully appreciate his masterful licks.  Later that dawn, my brother and I caught a ride back to Paris in a butcher’s truck making pre-dawn deliveries to restaurants.  I remember we were crowded in with lots of kids wearing the same black bomber jacket (I had one, too), and we were nearly overpowered by the smell of raw beef.

Rock n’ roll is kind of like pizza.  Even when it is bad, it’s still wonderful in its own junky way.

Tonight, though, was a first.  It was a major band playing a college gig, but there wasn’t one bomber jacket in the crowd, neither any black of which to speak.  There were a bunch of women with small children, diaper bags, dogs, hula hoops.

Maybe it’s midlife, or maybe it’s Mississippi.  Maybe this is, despite being the birthplace of Elvis, not really rock ‘n roll territory.

Me at the Grove earlier tonight. Am I losing my edginess?

I barely smelled any marijuana at this concert.  I remember the first rock concert I went to at age 12 — the smell was overpowering to the point I thought I would pass out.

There was not a mosh pit.  I was never much of a mosher, anyway — but I was all about the edgy message.

Maybe I was watching a band that the regents of the University of Mississippi were pretty sure would not trash the stage or knock up any co-eds.  After all, the lead vocalist of the Goo Goo Dolls pointed out that they have nine studio albums.

“That makes us old,” he said before he launched into tracks from the latest release.

I admit I did not dress in black, either.  I remember days when my girlfriends would dress sexy and get as close to the front of the stage as possible in the hope of attracting the attention of the band members.  I remember how gorgeous my friend Liz Coy was the day she went and saw the Rolling Stones when we were high school freshmen — long, naturally curly red hair, a low-cut halter top, and tight, tight jeans on her utterly perfect body.  I remember my friend Silver, who now goes by Sarah, so utterly perfect in her beauty that she was once photographed for Vogue, and she told me how she ended up giving Iggy Pop an onstage dirty handshake while the crowd looked on.

Me in the gogo cage — well, Elvis and I were on the most civil and platonic  terms. Diana Krall has nothing to worry about.

But there I was,  sitting on the grass at the Grove, no makeup, a t-shirt, and I was text-messaging my step-daughters, 16 and 20 years old, wishing they were with me.

Yes, it’s Mississippi, and no rock ‘n roll fantasies have taken place here since Elvis moved to Memphis.

But I seem to have moved on, too.  I’m happy with who I am, but I miss my go-go self, in no way evoked among the Goo Goo Dolls, who delivered their brand of blaring guitar sentimentality, urging us to let it just slide.  And so we did.  And so I must.

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