For years now, I’ve tossed around “rock ‘n roll” as an adjective.
Sure, it’s a popular musical genre that evolved in the United States after World War II that combines African American rhythms and blues culture, country and gospel. And yeah, its instrumentation is typically guitars, bass and drums (typically a boogie woogie blues rhythm with an accentuated backbeat). But that’s just academic.
I’m talkin’ loud, fast and out of control; unshaven, unshorn and uninvited; wrecked hotel rooms, Lamborghinis and lives. I’m talkin’ out all night, awake for sunrise with shots for breakfast. Rock ‘n roll is rebellion, indecision, and contradiction. It’s black and white and gray streaked blood red.
Rock ‘n roll is a beautiful mess.
I’m not sure I’ve ever really been very rock ‘n roll, though I’ve certainly endeavored towards it. I’ve been electrocuted by beer-soaked microphones. I’ve done bong hits out of contraptions nearly my height. I’ve taken anonymous horse pills from a nefarious studio engineer. And I’ve tried to live a semi-unconventional life, neither buying selling, nor processing anything bought, sold or processed — or repairing anything bought, sold or processed. You know, as a career. And I wear jeans and Chuck Taylors lot.
No definition is etched in stone, though. Times change. Perceptions shift. Context is everything. So before I knew it, rock ‘n roll wasn’t just Boone’s Farm Strawberry between sets, bottomless two-dollar pitchers and knock down, fall down finales.
It’s my allowance (or acceptance) of this evolution (or eventuality) that found me ordering two dozen, egg-shaped shakers from Musician’s Friend last week, and hand-crafting a Benjamin Wagner Songbook — part sing-a-long, part set list, part clip-art coloring book — in anticipation of Saturday night’s all-ages, sippy cup and pint glass-fueled Rockwood Music Hall performance.
And it’s my allowance (or acceptance) of this evolution (or eventuality) that found me laughing my way through my own lyrics as my nephew, Ethan, intently colored a smiling dragon on the pages between “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Radio” bright green while his brother, Edward, gazed wide-eyed towards Chris Abad and Ryan Vaughn. Over Edward’s shoulder, their sister, Ella, projectile vomited a few ounces of fresh-brewed breast milk.
Later, as food-stained children, hipster friends and gray-haired parents alike joined guest star Casey Shea in his rousing cover of “Twist & Shout,” I thought, ‘If this ain’t rock ‘n roll, I’m just not that interested.”