There’s this music venue a couple of towns north of us smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s open in the summer only and it’s literally a tent, albeit a highly specialized kind of tent. The stage rotates. There is a sister venue of similar type about 40 miles from here.
Over the 20 years or so that I’ve lived in New England, I’ve been amused at the kinds of acts that play there. It always seemed to be “old people” music. I know that comment is full of ageism, but we’re talking crooners like my dad used to enjoy back in the day. “The day” being the 40s and 50s. So, you know, old people’s music. It was a running joke between my husband and myself. An act that would, sooner or later, play at the venue, was one to look down upon.
Over the last few years, the acts coming to the venue have been more and more interesting and/or amusing. There are still the crooner types, and now there are several tribute bands on the schedule, and some other “interesting” revues (Bowzer’s Original Doo-Wop Party). There are some kids programs, some comedians (we saw Lewis Black there, and some artists that you would be surprised to learn are still touring (Kenny Rogers). But there also are, occasionally, some decent acts. We saw Bruce Hornsby there a few years ago. The small setting made it a lot of fun. In terms of it being an “old person” place, it seems I am being put in my place. Or getting old. Or both.
Anyway, there are sill some acts that you just do not expect to see on the schedule, and we went to see one of those acts last Saturday night. We saw Blondie.
Yes, Blondie. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein and Clem Burke, and some new support musicians. No Jimmy Destri, no Gary Valentine. It’s been 30 years since Parallel Lines was released, and this was an anniversary tour.
(I never saw Blondie in their heyday. My hometown was not exactly a hot stop of cutting edge music, thought I did see everything I could that did come through. I found my old pile of concert tickets recently. I’ll have to write about them sometime.)
When I told our sitter where we were going, she was a little incredulous, both at the fact that they were still performing in one way or another, and where they were playing. We joked about how she also laughed at acts scheduled at this venue. Thing is, she’s young. She can still laugh.
When we drove up and parked, we were a little amused at the demographic. No, a lot amused. There were couples milling about that you would otherwise imagine by their appearances as garden club member, golf playing, grandparent retirees. Which they also may be. You never – never! – would have imagined some of these people to be punk aficionados back in the day. The earrings that matched the shirt in an easy care fabric would have been laughed down the street had they shown up at CBGBs! There were, of course, younger fans, and older fans that looked a little more hip. We were on the younger side of the crowd.
As we sat on the a bench outside the tent, having a glass of wine, we cracked many jokes. For example, how this crowd might be a good test market for cocktails made with nutritional beverages. Tequila shots with an Ensure chaser, or a “Booster” or “Resource Breezer” blender drinks with umbrellas. We joked about how, thirty years ago, we’re sure Debbie Harry never envisioned that people attending her concerts would look into their Talbots and Ann Taylor-filled closets for something to wear, much less intentionally shop there in anticipation (Guilty! I bought a blouse on sale there on Thursday evening with the concert in mind.)
Once inside the tent, we dutifully listened to the opening act (not bad), though again speculated on how they landed the gig. Was a member of the opening band an offspring of the main act (that’s happening a fair bit these days)? Were these musicians even born when Blondie first played? We later learned the answers were no (Clem Burke, however, had helped produce a recording of theirs) and yes (but not all, and not by much).
When it was time for the main event, it was lots of fun. The crowd, though not a sell-out, was really into it, even the garden-club grandparent retirees. Ms. Matching Earrings was rocking out.
Debbie Harry has still got it. At 63, that is no small feat. Yes, Debbie Harry is 63. She may look like a slightly lumpy older woman walking down the ramp to the stage, but she’s clearly a real woman and strong as ever. She still has stage presence. Her voice is just as strong and she can deliver a lyric (others around her age are losing their voices, even though they still record – think Carly Simon, who is only six days older than Debbie Harry). I could do worse than look like Debbie Harry when I’m 63, really. She looked like she was having a lot of fun.
Chris Stein was his usual quiet self, same look on his face, concentrating, doing his thing. Clem Burke has the arena-rock drummer moves, which is amusing in a band with Blondie’s edge. Spinning his drum sticks up in the air in the relatively small tent doesn’t have quite the same impact as in the larger venues.
We had a lot of fun. I’m glad we went. I was surprised how many lyrics I could remember.
Oh, and another benefit to the older crowd? Less rowdy behavior in the parking lot after the show, and a relatively orderly and quick departure from the parking lot. Back in the day, Blondie never would have imagined that, either.