Five dudes in an SUV on a Saturday night, heading to Chicago for a rock music extravaganza. As tunes from satellite radio filled the vehicle's interior, naturally the conversation turned to concerts.
"Last one you attended?" I asked my companions while steering the car through barely-crawling city traffic. "I'm embarrassed to say mine was Celine Dion."
"Mine was that guy who sings Sweet Caroline, countered Mitch.
"Yeah, that's him."
"Must have been a memorable show since you can't even recall his name," said Jeff.
"Pitbull," said Joe.
"Really? You went to a Pitbull concert?" we enviously asked in unison.
"With my kids."
OK, so the five of us, all over 50 or spiraling rapidly toward it, were a bit rusty in the live rock and roll blowout department. Hence our collective idea to relive our youths by attending a Boston/Doobie Brothers concert, two bands whose heyday occurred during the Jimmy Carter presidency, but who still command Obama administration prices ($80 for a bleacher seat at Montrose Beach on Chicago's lakefront). Their lineups have undergone more changes than CNN after a ratings book -- exactly one original member from each group remains -- but we didn't care. We were here to channel our inner teenager -- never mind that, as teens, none of us attended a concert with a 6:30 p.m. start time. We remembered waiting for hours to hear bands that teased their audiences by strolling on stage shortly before midnight. Or, if the band was Guns and Roses, not appearing at all.
"This is like the early bird dinner of concerts," I said.
But again, we didn't care. A little daylight meant it would be easier to peruse the clothing featuring our favorite band's logo. Would we purchase shirts and slip them on prior to the concert's opening? Would we deliriously rise up and scream, "Woooo!" when we heard the opening notes of "More Than a Feeling" or "China Grove?" Hoarse from screaming throughout, would we wave disposable lighters overhead (or cell phones since we don't smoke) signaling our demand for encores?
Maybe. But first we had to attend to one pressing matter.
"Anybody have to use the bathroom before we go in?" I asked.
"I should probably go."
"Sounds like a plan."
The Chicago Park District had eagerly anticipated the arrival of 3,500 concertgoers, the majority of whom now increase the volume on the TV when a bladder control commercial airs, by installing exactly TWO Port-a-Potties outside the grounds. The line snaked along the Lake Michigan waterfront ending, I assumed, somewhere around Gary, Indiana.
Jeff, Mitch and Ed trudged to the end of the line. Joe and I lagged behind.
"There has to be another one around here," I said. "Follow me."
We soon encountered a security guard who confirmed my suspicions.
"Walk about 200 yards to that gate," he said, gesturing to a private harbor packed with docked sailboats. "I'm gonna give you a code that unlocks the door to the bathrooms."
Lowering his voice, he whispered a three-digit combination that I dare not reveal. Within minutes we had completed our tasks and smugly returned to our companions, who were still in line and growing more uncomfortable by the moment.
"Just so you know, I scored," I said proudly.
"You scored what? Drugs?"
"No. A bathroom. I met a guy. Why would I want drugs?"
Finally we entered the staging area, passing a clothing stand on the way to our seats.
"You going to get one?" I asked Joe, pointing at a Boston sweatshirt.
"Only if I get cold," he said.
We took our seats. The Doobies came onstage. The opening cords of Jesus is Just Alright filled the damp air. A woman two rows in front stood up and launched into what could best be described as a 50-year-old version of twerking.
"She'd better sit down," I said. "I can't see a thing."
"At least we can hear," said Ed.
"I just hope I can hear by the end of the night. Don't you think it's a little loud?"
By 10:30 p.m., after the final notes of Boston's "Long Time" had faded, we were back in the car. No one suggested extending the evening. Our middle-aged bodies, we were again reminded, could no longer perform like the teenagers we once were. Deep down we knew that when we purchased the tickets. But is there a better time machine than one accompanied by a musical soundtrack? A chance to see the bands you grew up with still performing 40-year-old songs with gusto? I think not. As Neil Young famously sang, "Rock and roll will never die."
And as Neil Diamond sang, "Good times never seemed so good."