Nothing prepares you for raising kids and just when you get past the fear and trepidation that grips your heart at their first babysitter, first day at school, and first time biking alone to the park, they drop a new surprise at your feet. Or at least my 17-year-old recently did, by telling me he wanted to attend the Obscene Extreme Musick (sic) Festival in Montreal.
Billed as a freak-friendly ‘In Grind we Trust’ concert, the event also included a Special Freak Body Piercing show and all the head-banging, grindcore, death metal music one could ask for in a 13-hour marathon session.
All my motherly instincts screamed “No!” at this one, especially when I saw the line-up that included bands named G.O.D. (Grotesque Organ Defilement), Putrid Pile, and P.L.F. “It used to stand for Pretty Little Flowers,” my son answered when I was naïve enough to ask, “but they changed it to Pulverizing Lethal Force.”
It would’ve been so easy just to say, “No sweetie, not until you’re 18.” But I felt my responsible honour student, who’s never given me a day of trouble, deserved an end of summer celebration so, credit card in hand and heart in my throat, I logged onto the site to purchase his ticket.
I dropped him off at the downtown venue that Friday with some extra cash for emergencies, instructions to memorize where the exits were, and the caveat that I would be checking in with him regularly via text message. Then I forced myself to walk back to my car.
So much of our daily human interactions are based on blind faith – we trust that people are not out to do us intentional harm and teach our kids to look up to what we think are respected members of society. I’ve learnt lessons along the way. Like the babysitter who I only found out years later was a convicted embezzler, the French Immersion teacher who decided it would be easier to teach the course in English, and the Scout Leader who used to leave the kids to their own devices as he snuck out for a smoke.
After restraining my thumbs for a few hours, I checked in on my son with a casual, “So? How’s it going?” and was happily told that the lead singer ‘Mel’ from a band whose name is unprintable in a family newspaper had autographed his hat, he’d been in the mosh pit a few times, and got a free band patch from one of the groups. Recognizing that he was comparatively young and there on his own, people looked out for him and one young man had struck up a conversation asking “Does my nose look broken?” following a crowd-surfing mishap.
There was at least one attendee’s dad in the crowd, greying hair, late 40s with the Grand Funk Railroad T-shirt and ear-plugs being a dead giveaway.
“Probably here to keep an eye on his kid, like a responsible parent would,” read my son’s zinging text.
It was midnight when we picked him up, letting him know we were nearby with a teasing text message warning him his dad was standing outside the venue wearing a Genesis T-shirt, socks, and sandals.
“Brutal,” he answered.
Tired and having a head-banger music-induced sore neck, but extremely happy nonetheless, he climbed into the back seat.
He’d had an awesome time and I was reminded not to judge a book by its black leather clad, chrome-spiked, blood-splattered cover.