06 November 2013

"Suitcase of Memories...": November 5th, Cyndi Lauper

"What was the first concert you attended?"

Being a PhD candidate on the job market, I often wish this could be a question I might be asked in an interview. Not necessarily because I think the question would lend to any pertinent information about my potential as a scholar, but rather, because I am always excited to answer this question. My first concert was Cyndi Lauper. I was in the 2nd grade. My mother took me. She bought me a t-shirt. Yes, I still have it, albeit in storage in mom's attic. As I stood in the audience (Wait, was it at Ovens Auditorium? Could that be possible?), my only real memory of the show was when Cyndi sang the song "All Through the Night" and dedicated it to all the people in the audience who loved the color purple. See, I was clearly a child of the 80's. I loved purple. I'm pretty sure I was wearing a purple Members Only jacket. While I clearly loved the album She's So Unusual, I'm pretty sure the reason we ended up at that concert was because my mother also loved Cyndi. 

And I suppose, my love affair with music probably began at that concert.

When I found out that Cyndi was playing in Nashville at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the release of She's So Unusual, it was with little thought that I spent 80 dollars of the last 100 dollars in my bank account to buy a ticket that placed me right in the middle of the sixth row at the concert hall. Trust me, I struggled with the whole 30-years later part. However, I was quickly sold on the concept that Cyndi would perform the album, in its entirety, only to be interrupted with personal stories about the songs. Wait, what? Cyndi, performing all of the songs off of She's So Unusual? Yeah, I could eat cheap noodles for weeks if it meant seeing her perform again, after all these years. 

Like any good over 30-year old, I listened to the album in the days before the show. While I listened, I heard all those memories come bubbling to the surface. I heard my sister and I singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" at Myrtle Beach, while my stubborn southern accent forced me to pronounce the word fun in two syllables. I remembered my stepfather waking me every single fucking morning while I lived at home singing the song, while telling me, "If you don't wake up, I'll continue to sing Cyndi Lauperhead songs to you." I heard the times when I belted out "When You Were Mine" in my old car with Jennie Ann and Charlotte. I heard all the many, many times that my mother reminded me that the song "Time After Time" was our song. And, even, more recently, I remembered how I thought "He's So Unusual" could have been written about a young man I met in Puerto Rico. 

It seemed, like she sings in "Time After Time," there was a suitcase of memories in that album for me. And even, while I sat at the bus stop waiting to go to the show, I could hear the songs and they were taking on new memories. 

And then, there was last night.

Upon my arrival, I had to immediately find my way to my seat. Once I sat down and go settled, I introduced myself to the older gentleman sitting to my right named Gary and his partner, Steve. Shortly after the opening band started, Gary and I decided to make our way to the upstairs bar for a glass of wine. Luckily, Gary and I hit it off immediately. And Gary was a badass, he wore these red pants with a pair of red and black cowboy boots. We laughed the entire time we were in line. We got along so well, we decided to hang out in the lobby while the first band played.  

Once the first band finished and settled in our seats, my seatmates to my left arrived, Josh and David. For the 30 minutes we waited for Cyndi to come on stage, me, Gary, and Josh acted like we were all old friends. We joked about what would happen if the event people saw us taking a picture (as the warnings were brutal and we suspected some sort of ejector seat). When Josh wanted to talk to his friend who was seated 13 people down from us, I gave him paper and pen and we wrote a note that read "Look Left L.T., Pass it On." As the paper passed from person to person the three of us sat and anticipated the excitement when the note finally reached L.T. We screamed in delight when she looked up, then spent another 10 minutes joking about how we were really taking it back to 1983 by passing notes instead of text messaging. 

See how much fun I was having? And this was before the show even started. 

But one of my favorite moments was right before Cyndi came out on stage and Josh leaned over and said, "Aren't you so glad there aren't any people under 30 here?" To which I replied, "Gawd, yes." And then he said, "And we'll probably be home and in our beds by 10pm, isn't that fantastic?" 

There was nothing that could prepare for the moment when Cyndi finally walked out on stage. Nor, could I be prepared for the wonderful ensemble she was wearing that combined leather, spandex, lace, fringe, and a corset. She looked beautiful. They immediately began to play the song "Money Changes Everything" and it was magical. The folks over at the Nashville Scene posted a great review of the actual show, so I hadn't planned on writing up about every song, but rather a few select moments that resonated with me personally. Here is the link to the Nashville Scene article. 

One of my favorite moments was during the song, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." In the breakdown towards the end of the song, Cyndi had the audience repeat lines after she sang them in a call and response manner. She would sing, "when the working day is done" and then the crowd would call it back. During the first round, when she sang, "And, girls just wanna have fun" and the crowd called back, she stopped us. She told us we weren't loud enough. She wanted it louder. And then she said, "Sing it loud enough so they can hear you in Washington, D.C. Do this for the girls." 

Another moment that resonated was a story about a song that I can't now recall. It was in the latter half of the album. She told a story about how originally she was told by the producers and label that she needed to change the song. They didn't like the drums. They didn't like the lyrics. And she described the process of changing every part of the song to try to please the people around her. And she remarked, "But, then I realized I fucked the whole song up and it was fine the way it was." I had never really considered the way that writing and editing songs is so similar to the work that I do in my career. And it was interesting to think about how sometimes you do need to change things, but sometimes it was already okay at the start. 

At some point in time during the show, a woman in the crowd screamed out, "I love you Cyndi!" At which point in time, Cyndi remarked, "Well, you don't know that. You don't know me! I mean I know its meant to be rhetorical, but you might be a bitch! I'm a bitch! But that's what we are hear doing, all working on ourselves, aren't we?"

At the end of the show, I exchanged cards with my new friends with hopes that we'll grab brunch together sometime. It was quite a special night and the only way it might have been better is if I had my mom, my stepfather, and my sister with me to share in the memories of each and every song. But the one thing that remained me once I went home was just how much Cyndi Lauper as a performer shaped my life. I have no doubt that I inherited some of my style from her. I'd like to believe I inherited some of her fearless approach to life and her career. But mostly, I think I inherited her ability to weave together her fearlessness with a childish curiosity and wonderment to enjoying life. 

04 November 2013

November 4: Emotional Tidal Waves on Monday

I haven't figured out exactly what project I'm doing over the course of November, but I suspect it might put me back to posting about music for the month. More later. In the mean time, go get broody on a Monday to these emotional tidal waves by Typhoon on NPR's Tiny Desk.