Mary Dahl recounts and reminisces on her relationship with rock music growing up in 1980’s Buffalo. While presently she reels at the growing cost of concert tickets, she admits that standing side by side with her children, singing word for word the music of her youth, brings her a joy that money certainly cannot buy. Read her story below, and then head over to her site - facebook.com/maryclistadahl - to check out her other work.
Young adulthood in the Buffalo, NY area during the 1980’s was concert nirvana if you were a rock fan. There were several outdoor and indoor venues and, at any given time, there was a stellar act lined up to play in at least one of them. My friends and I grew up breathing rock music long before the word “classic” was its prefix and, once we reached high school, we all lived the same rite of passage- got a job and used all of our spending money on albums and concerts.
We would hear an announcement, be firstinline to buy the tickets, feel the crowd and enjoy the lengthy shows. My first concert was seeing The Cars. The day after she got her driver’s license, my friend absconded with her parents’ car (we knew they would say “no” if we asked) to drive ten miles to get the tickets. Her parents found out when I did a lame job of covering for her. Our pleadings to attend surpassed their anger; they forgave and let us go. It was the first in a long line of live shows.
At Memorial Auditorium, we were blown away by Jethro Tull, Queen, Journey, The Moody Blues, Eric Clapton, Genesis and more. Acts whose crowds were too numerous to fit the Auditorium hosted us at Rich Stadium- Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Elton John, Grateful Dead. I remember seeing The Who there.
A two-hour drive north would bring us to the Toronto stadiums for Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd and the Police Picnic 1982 (featuring Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, English Beat, Flock of Seagulls, and Spoons all opening for The Police). We celebrated with coolers and music morning, noon and night. Ticket price: $22.
The night that I walked out the door to see Ozzy Osbourne, my mother reminded me that he bit the heads off of doves and drove teenagers to suicide. Surely I was headed for hell, but at least the road was paved with good friends and even better tunes. Now that I’m grown and have my own kids, I can understand her perspective, but I’m not sorry I went.
Unlike today, back then we didn’t have to take out a mortgage to afford the tickets. The average price was reachable for teenagers who were not afraid to work part-time. Even the memorabilia was affordable: t-shirt and band button my personal choice every show. It is one of my few regrets that I didn’t hold on to the ticket stubs or souvenirs, but thankfully I had the good sense to keep the albums.
Fast forward to the year 2010. Memorial Auditorium had been demolished the previous year. It was announced that Roger Waters would be performing “The Wall” at the new arena. I took the bold step of inviting my high school sophomore daughter to attend her first live concert with me. She was familiar with some of the album, so she agreed, and as a junior reporter for the Buffalo News, she proposed writing a review as an assignment. It was an incredible way to introduce her to my music live. A few days later, when her two-page spread appeared in the entertainment section of the paper for all of Western New York to read, I could not have been more proud.
Two years later when my son reached his teens, he learned that Rush was coming and asked if I would take him. I wasn’t surprised by his request because he had - either by osmosis or genetics - inherited my love of music. The durability of the bands from my generation impressed him and he observed that the art of writing lasting and meaningful lyrics had not surfaced in many modern bands. During elementary school he was chastised by his peers for not having a clue about present day music. This trait turned its way into an asset when he reached high school and impressed the girls with his classic music prowess and Led Zeppelin’s Zoso tattoo on his forearm.
Having seen Rush twice “back in the day,” and embracing the mother/son bonding opportunity, I splurged for two tickets. It was one of the most rewarding moments I’ve ever experienced as a mom - to have my sixteen-year-old son gazing down on me with a wide and grateful smile, pumping his fist, and an endless shower of public hugs - was indescribable. But the best part was standing there thinking about the last time I saw Rush live. I never could have envisioned then how wonderful it would be to experience the same joy singing word for word along with my son beside me.
Recently, when he was taking his first vacation without me, “Subdivisions” by Rush came on the radio. Impulsively, I texted to tell him. His response was a line from the song, which I followed with the next one and so on all the way to the end.
And whenever I hear the stray notes produced by my vintage vinyl drifting up from his bedroom in the basement, I know that his passion for music is the one gift we share that I am confident will make it to the next generation.