Dear Rob Dickinson (formerly of the Catherine Wheel):
When I was 15, I did something stupid: I went to a show in Philly with a friend, and we threw our bras at you. I didn’t understand then what I know now: that it was a silly, immature thing to do; that, if you and your bandmates were different kinds of people, it would have been a dangerous thing to do; that you probably thought we were ridiculous and even a little annoying.
But you were unfailingly kind when we met you, spending a few minutes talking with us, signing whatever we asked for, and hugging us on the way out. It is a memory I have alternately cherished and been embarrassed by, and I’m only now, 16 years later, figuring out why.
Last night I took my 15-year-old cousin and her best friend to an all-ages show in Philly for her birthday. It was strange to be on the “chaperone” side of the concert-going experience. I am still young enough, at 31, to remember vividly the energy of going to a show: dressing up in my coolest clothes; being too nervous and excited to eat; feeling like I would just pass out from sheer tension during the opening act; dancing during the performance I was really there to see; hoping at each interlude between songs that the next song would be that song, the one I really wanted to hear (“I Want To Touch You,” in case you were wondering). I watched my cousin do this last night; she bounced her way through the entrance line and envisioned every single moment of the show before we got to the door. It was contagious, and I felt the little swoop of butterflies in my own stomach all over again. I remembered that hot August night in 1995, when I put on a pair of jeans and my favorite thrift-store shirt (because that’s what was cool in 1995). I remembered standing in the semi-darkness at the TLA, listening to Wax play “Ticket To Ride” in their opening set and feeling like I just couldn’t wait for you to come on to the stage. And I remembered the overwhelming sense of enjoyment all the way through your set.
On the other hand, I am now old enough, at 31, to recognize the risks of a show like the one I went to last night. The bar was small, crowded, too hot. Two teenagers passed out during the headlining band’s set. The mix of teens and young adults was contentious; there was some beer-fueled machismo happening, and a little weird underage-girl-ogling.
But at the end of the night, my cousin walked up to one of the guys in one of the bands to tell him she liked his set. He was, I would guess, about 22; handsome; a bit like a frat boy. My cousin is a beautiful girl, but offers nothing of interest to a 22-year-old man who has his head on straight enough to know that 15-year-olds spell nothing but trouble for him. I imagine that, after months on the road, a little human contact is appreciated–but this guy probably wanted that contact on an equal level, say with a woman his own age.
Still, he was unfailingly kind to her. He hugged her, wished her a happy birthday, thanked her for coming to the show. His smile was genuine, and for that brief moment his attention was entirely on her. The moment felt so familiar, and I was so pleased for her to have found something similar.
So I guess what I want to say now, Rob Dickinson, is thank you. Thank you for being kind, and for being respectful, and for being patient with my ridiculous 15-year-old antics. Thank you for recognizing what I was and what I wanted, and for giving it to me. Thank you for being a role model to other musicians. I have no idea if this guy in this band last night ever listened to Catherine Wheel. I don’t know if he knows who you are. But when you treated me with respect, like a person, you helped set a standard of behavior for other musicians, and you helped ensure that my now 15-year-old cousin, like me, gets to live her dream a little.
And I’m sorry about the bra.