Romance and music can be tricky. This is why flowers and chocolates are recommended instead of concert tickets. A romantic dinner is practically a sure thing. Bringing a date to see your favorite band perform is not.
Two years ago, I had convinced myself that after seeing Guided By Voices at the Crescent Ballroom, my week-long engagement with my fiancé would be over.
I tend to always think about the worst case scenario. I’ve been guilty of overreacting. Yet Robert Pollard’s indie rock creation is a big part of my life. The band’s guitar-driven, alternative songs with beautiful nonsense lyrics were something I pored over in college. Bee Thousand was a gateway drug to the ’90s jangly noise-pop that would become legendary. I was convinced that the prolific band, who released six full-length albums during their brief reunion from 2012 to 2014, wouldn't keep their own expansive catalog straight. How could they possibly? Their modus operandi involves wheeling a cooler filled with beer onstage and playing until drunkenness renders the band useless.
Now I was going to share with my future wife a band she only knew about because I was a fan. It was a little scary, especially considering those of us who obsess over pop culture tend to believe that the way you relate to others is what you like, not what you are like. I was dating a strong, classy woman. I figured once she heard Pollard drunkenly warble standards such as “Teenage FBI” and “Echos Myron,” she would have second thoughts about the guy who put that ring around her finger.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me. More than 10 years ago, I bought two tickets to see Peter Gabriel on his comeback tour with the intention of bringing some young lady with me. After days of asking, I finally found a taker.
The catch: She was completely unaware of Gabriel’s timeless contributions to pop culture. She could be excused for not knowing that the progressive rock pioneer was a founding member of Genesis. I could even overlook her not knowing “Games Without Frontiers” and “Shock The Monkey.” Yet it seemed inexcusable that she went through life ignorant to the fact that it was his song “In Your Eyes” that plays during the iconic scene in Say Anything... John Cusack lifting a boombox over his head outside of the house of his true love is iconic to basic bros everywhere.
That night, Gabriel put on an amazing show. He marched into the audience like a magical piper singing about nonsense. Often, I would ask my date if she was having a good time. She responded with a nod. When it was all said and done, I had seen a great concert. My date said she had a good time and it was left at that. No kiss goodnight. Not even a sympathy hug. I concluded that while it was Gabriel who brought us together, he also tore us apart because she didn’t like his music.
As the Guided By Voices show approached, I searched my feelings on how I could prevent Robert Pollard from being our undoing. There was no YouTube, Facebook, or even Friendster when Gabriel ended a relationship for me before it even began. But, this time… This time I was living in the future. I had an expansive digital library of Guided By Voices at my fingertips and a social media wall on which to post their music.
For seven straight days, I posted GBV on my love’s wall. It seemed like a great idea to begin with their biggest hit: “I Am A Scientist.” Then take things up a notch with “Glad Girls.” She actually recognized “The Official Ironmen Rally Song” because they played it when she participated in an Ironman triathlon in Idaho. Finally, I closed things out with “A Salty Salute” since just about every setlist I looked up for recent shows had the classic as the closing number.
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The night finally arrived and we found a place to sit. The beer cooler wheeled onstage and I got lost in the jangle and guitars. As I did a decade ago, I often asked my date if she was having a good time. She replied with a smile and a “yes.” I sang along to “Teenage FBI” and played air guitar to “Buzzards And Dreadful Crows.” I raised a drink to Pollard and the boys as yelled “the bar is open” during the closer “A Salty Salute.” I looked at the face of my future wife and knew we would be together tomorrow. There was even a chance we would be together the day after that.
As I attempted to process everything we had just witnessed, I asked my date what she enjoyed the most about the concert. It was hard to hear her answer since I was experiencing some hearing loss, but she said, “You. I love watching you geek out over stuff. You have so much fun.” Then I realized that it didn’t matter if she liked Guided By Voices or not. She loved me because of who I am. She enjoyed how the right music can transform me from a quiet nerd to someone who forgets his inhibitions. The right kind of music can show others who we really are.
Friends sometimes ask me what to do when their significant other wants them to go to a concert they’re not interested in. I tell them to at least give the music a listen. If that doesn’t work, respect the performance. If all else fails, your companion will put on a spectacular show of their own. Enjoy it.
Then get your date something nice the next day. It’s a sure thing.