U2 Bonnaroo show leads to ‘aha moment’
In the months leading up to this year’s Bonnaroo, I had a lot of expectations.
I expected to fight the latest battle in my never-ending war with the Southern heat. I expected to fall in love with at least a couple of new artists and pay way too much for a beer and a slice or two of Spicy Pie. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with friends and, of course, I was eagerly anticipating the people-watching opportunities. Most of those expectations were met or exceeded and, thankfully, my weather-related dread ended up being largely unfounded.
For those unfamiliar with the phrase, an aha! moment refers to a sudden epiphany or realization that hits you like a thunderbolt. Although, honestly I think the realization I had a few songs into U2’s set on Friday night could be more accurately characterized as an “oh crap! moment.”
I love U2. Always have. The band has been a part of my life for literally as long as I can remember having an interest in music that wasn’t one of Grover’s songs on “Sesame Street.”
While other kids in the neighborhood were singing “Karma Chameleon” and “Billie Jean,” I was singing “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” I was too young at the time to have any real understanding of what the song was about. But the fact that I knew nothing of The Troubles in Northern Ireland made no difference. The song just felt important, thanks, in no small part, to The Edge’s signature guitar sound, Larry Mullen Jr. pounding out that militaristic march on the drums and the urgency in Bono’s voice. I was hooked instantly and I’ve been a fan ever since.
U2 has been at the top of my must-see list for ages, but circumstances had prevented me from seeing them live until last week. I think I made
my first honest-to-goodness adult decision as a broke college student in 1997, when I decided the little money I had at the time was better spent on buying groceries and putting gas in my car than buying a ticket to the PopMart Tour. Although that was undoubtedly the right decision, I’m still bummed about it all these years later. When am I ever going to have a chance again to see a gigantic disco ball shaped like a lemon?
When I heard U2 was going to headline Bonnaroo this year, I was beyond stoked. Finally all my years of patience and sound financial decisions (stop laughing, mom) were being rewarded. And then my excitement turned to euphoria when I learned they’d be playing “The Joshua Tree” in its entirety.
So, last Friday night, a couple of friends and I picked our spot on the grass in front of the What Stage and eagerly awaited the start of the show.
The fellas did not disappoint, kicking the show off with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “New Year’s Day” and “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Thankfully for anyone near me, the speakers were more than loud enough to drown out my horrible singing voice, although I guess I do owe an apology for anyone who had the misfortune of seeing me dance. With any luck, I helped a few people check off the “horrible dancer” square on their Bonnaroo bingo card.
And then, it was time for “The Joshua Tree” to start, beginning with “Where the Streets Have No Name” and that famous guitar intro that ranks as my all-time favorite. I was in my glory, having a moment that is probably as close as I’m likely to get to a religious experience.
Then, about halfway through the song, my reverie was broken by the sound of people talking around me. I took my eyes off the stage, scanned the crowd around me and was horrified.
Instead of appreciating the magic that was happening on stage, many of the Bonnaroovians in my immediate vicinity were gossiping and laughing while trying to take selfies in the dark. I wanted to grab them all by the shoulders and shake some sense into them. What was the matter with them? Did they not understand the significance of what was happening right in front of them?
And that’s when the oh crap! moment hit me like a ton of bricks. They weren’t being disrespectful, they honestly didn’t understand. These 20-something kids (yes, I’m heartbroken to admit that I actually thought the word “kids”) have no frame of reference for “The Joshua Tree.” I was even more depressed when I did some quick math in my head and realized that most of the people around me were younger than the album, which is the centerpiece of U2’s current tour honoring its 30th anniversary.
Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, I’d become an old lady. An album that I love and can remember hearing on the radio all the time like it was yesterday was released three decades ago. Three decades! Where did the time go? Suddenly I had an appreciation for how my mother felt when I’d just shrug my shoulders when she’d talk about how much she loved The Beatles and The Righteous Brothers. I actually thought to myself “they just won’t ever get it,” and felt sad for all the whippersnappers around me were missing out on.
But then I had another epiphany. “Who cares?,” I thought. There was no way I was going to convince an untold number of millennials that they should put their phones down for a second and pay attention. And every minute I spent marveling at their apparent lack of interest was a minute I was missing the concert I’d waited so long to see.
Once I accepted that my fate may very well be to become one of the Bonnagrannies in the not-nearly-distant-enough future, I was able to enjoy the show again and soak up every moment of the performance by the biggest band on the planet. That “get of my lawn” mindset lingered on the drive home Friday night, and I comforted myself with the thought that the playlist in my room at the nursing home was going to be awesome.
So go ahead and take all the selfies and post all the Snapchats you want, youngsters. Your own oh crap! moments are inevitable. And at least my generation will never have to explain to our kids why EDM was ever a thing.
Andrea Agardy can be reached be email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @swimswithsnark.