07/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rock Around the Clock

Karen Stabiner and Sarah Dietz are mother/daughter music fans, headed to Chicago for the Lollapalooza music festival August 1-3. Watch this space for more posts about the trip.

Karen Stabiner:Trust me, I do not belong to any demographic that Radiohead cares about, and Kanye West probably does not know that people like me exist. But listen up, boys: That's going to be me in the crowd at Lollapalooza, the Chicago indie music festival where they and a bunch of other bands are playing the first weekend in August.

I spent the first eighteen years and twenty-one summers of my life in Chicago, which means that I know much more about the heat and humidity than I do about the music. I'm going anyhow, which says something about my level of commitment.

This is how it happened: Our eighteen-year-old daughter wanted to go. She sized us up, musically speaking; my husband introduced her to classical music and to jazz, and I taught her Motown, folk rock, and a smattering of R & B. He was not going to enjoy himself, while I might at least not complain about what I was hearing. So she invited me to go along.

In my first flush of enthusiasm, I was as thrilled as a middle-aged parent could be. All those years of never uttering the words "You call that music?" had paid off. I was not marginalized. I had paid attention to what she listened to in a way my parents never did, and now I was being rewarded by an opportunity to remain in the mainstream, at least through the summer.

As the adrenaline subsided, I realized that she had invited me to make sure she got to go. We don't know what we would have said if she had informed us that she wanted to go to the festival with friends. She's travelled on her own, and she goes to school on the other side of the country, so we like to think we might have gone along with a responsible plan. She laughs. She says she knew for a certainty that we would say no, so the path of least resistance was to invite the parent who grew up in Chicago, who has nice things to say about it, who longs for the Herm's hot dogs of my youth, and who knows the difference between Sam Cooke and Sam and Dave.

Who knows? I might get acclimated and wander off to hear one group while she listens to another. Or I might try to engage her in an analysis of how a riff in a particular Wilco song hearkens back to the Beatles' "A Day in the Life." We were all eighteen, once, though part of being eighteen involves not being able to grasp the notion that your parents were ever young. That's okay. My first assignment is to visit the Lollapalooza web site and sample snippets of various performers, so that I can come up with a schedule of who I want to hear. I have protested that I'm happy to follow Sarah's schedule because I have no idea who I want to hear, but she is kind enough to insist that I give it a shot. Anyone who used to have taste, back in the day, might still be capable of discriminating between one band and the next.

Sarah Dietz:When I applied to college, I stated absolutely that there was no way I was going to go to school in California. I appeased my mother by choosing a school that was a direct flight away, which made her feel that if some disaster should strike, or if I were to have a cold for a day longer than she considered acceptable, she could hop a flight and be there in less time than it would take to drive up to Berkeley. She prepared as well as she could for my departure, talking to parents who had experienced their own empty nest, as if hearing about the trials of others that had happy conclusions would somehow promise the same for our family.

She's done pretty well with the whole thing, finally coming to understand that the reason I sleep until after noon whenever I can is probably because I don't go to bed at her preferred time of 11 p.m. But as my mother is prone to wake up at 3 a.m. to "think about things" or, as I say, to "worry about things," I try not to exacerbate this behavior by quoting specific hours, instead using "late" as a convenient euphemism. While I'm at school my mother trusts that I'm safe, convinced that the combination of strict security guards and RAs will stop anything bad from happening to me.

But while she might let me fly back and forth to school alone, there was no way she was going to let me go with a bunch of friends she didn't know to Lollapalooza, the music festival that takes place in Chicago in early August. Since tickets had to be purchased sooner rather than later, I decided this wasn't the moment to take a stand and fight for my independence. Instead I invited her along.

My mom has worked very hard to keep up with my music tastes over the years, listening to the radio stations I like, texting me to tell me that she heard the new Coldplay song and really liked it, dutifully watching "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," the Sam Jones documentary about the recording of Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." I think she likes most of it, although I've learned that describing something as "interesting" is her way of saying that she didn't really care for it. I warned her at the beginning that there was some music she wasn't going to like; I don't really see my mother singing along to Kanye's "Golddigger." Or maybe I'm wrong about that, which in a way is an even more frightening prospect.

Regardless of her true feelings about the music, she is coming along. In preparation I gave her a playlist of 407 songs to get her started. Whether she's listened to any of them I don't know, but I'm hoping the education will pick up speed in the last few weeks before the festival. I don't know when exactly to break the news that the 407 songs are just the tip of the iceberg, that they cover only seven of the bands performing. Maybe that piece of information can wait until she gets to song 407.

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