Radiohead and their immense light show last night in Newark.
I wasn’t planning on going to this show. Jane and I have tickets to see them in Camden a week and a half from now. However, I saw tickets were freeing up online and had to go for it.
You see, I’m a Radiohead-head. Think of it as an offshoot of Phisheads or Deadheads. I’m not ashamed of it. Over the years I’ve seen them somewhere around ten times in various states and theaters, and even once in London.
This show was a bit different. Not that it wasn’t a great performance. I may be (am) biased, but Radiohead shows are always head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen (the only exception being some Elliott Smith shows when he was in prime form). OK, enough bragging. Sorry.
This show was different because unfortunately, my dad couldn’t join me. You see, my dad has not just been a Radiohead-head with me (we’ve taken trips to Seattle, London, Santa Barbra and a few others to see them…and visit family), he’s helped shape my taste in music, and I’ve help shape his.
As a small kid, I’d set up my Fisher Price tape recorder and sing along to his James Taylor records. Later, he would introduce me to Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, The Beatles, and so many more seminal artists. This type of behavior is pretty typical in a parent-child relationship. Not necessarily involving music- but with the child taking to his parents’ interests.
The difference here though is that as I got a bit older and started developing my own taste in music, my dad didn’t dismiss it. He came along for the ride. As I discovered Elliott Smith, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, Sufjan Stevens, Spoon and so many more amazing artists, he listened and took to many of the bands as well.
Gradually, a pretty amazing music exchange formed. If I hear a new artist I love, I send him a song or album. If he finds someone new or rediscovers someone he used to love, he shares it with me. We talk influences, go to shows together when we can, and generally make music a much fuller and more meaningful experience for both us.
Music is the team we bond over. It cuts through the years, through the good times, and through challenging times. No matter the situation, It brings us back to being father and son. It brings us back to being friends.
So last night, as I listened to Thom Yorke belt out the lyrics to “Paranoid Android,” I couldn’t help but think back to all the shows we’ve been to together. I thought of that moment after our first time seeing Radiohead. Our minds completely blown, so much so that we got totally lost trying to find the London hotel where the rest of the family was staying, I remember him saying (and I paraphrase a bit):
"Wow, those guys are just totally in their artistic prime. They were in complete sync. It was like seeing Bob Dylan back in his prime."
I’ll never forget that moment. It not only connected me with a musical culture and past that I’m fascinated with, but it also helped me understand and know a younger version of my dad. It was one of the first moments I realized that we weren’t that different at all.
Of course, there will be more shows and artists to come for the two of us. There will be more connections made and history learned. But I can’t help but say that last night, I missed him.