I have many memories from the moment Boone was born but one of the most vivid was hearing a door open and seeing my previous life walk backwards out through it, to the sound of water going down a drain. When I turned around, my life had divided in two and I saw that we had a baby. Huh, a baby, I thought. Wait a minute, we have a baby! This baby and we have to take him home with us and look after him! With that, everything stopped and came to a joyful, basic level. There were just two things we all needed to do in order to survive: eat and sleep. And since we didn’t get any sleep, we barely survived. Over time, the sleep deprivation ate away at my personality, my sense of humour, my interests, my ability to hold a conversation. Out of necessity, any form of entertainment that did come my way had to be light and convenient. In a word, mediocre. So, I watched the forgettable films (but I’m at the cinema!), arsed around on the internet (but I’m reading something!), and went out in the boring, atmosphere-less suburbs (but I’m out! yay?).
Eventually, the fog lifted but I had no anchor. The endless months of sleeplessness and the way they had made a year disappear, the new life we had as parents, and the fact that my previous life was no more all led squarely to an identity crisis of epic proportions. Katie in Coronation Street said it best when, panicked by new motherhood, she found herself standing in HMV not even knowing what music she liked anymore. I had this feeling about everything from clothes to books to music all the time. I literally did not know what I liked. Cue the deranged postpartum closet clear out because nothing was “me” anymore, the inability to read anything besides non-fiction. If I did like something, I was confused as to whether I actually liked it, or whether I liked it because someone cooler than me liked it. Confusingly, this was all coupled with a desire to feel “like myself again” but, you know, not like I did before.
Once my brain stopped melting and folding in on itself, the desire for words and music and fun resurfaced and I decided that I had to start somewhere. Since I’d lost a year, I went to all the best of 2011 and 2012 lists and started there. I even liked some of it! It felt good to listen to modern—albeit heavily influenced by the eighties and nineties—music.
Then, somewhere along the line, Thomas Mars became my boyfriend. Swoon!
First: Phoenix. When I started listening to their music, I was not impressed. In fact, it was the exact same reaction as the one I had the first time I ever listened to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. As in, what is this inconsequential but pleasant-sounding but also sort of maddening music and why can’t I stop listening to it? I think I went through a phase of about three months were I listened to Pet Sounds and nothing else. Sure, I’d try to play something different but those Beach Boys wouldn’t let me. No, no, I was going to listen until I loved it. Once I did indeed love it, I found their music quite touching and moving in a way I can’t really explain. Same goes for Phoenix.
So, a few months ago, I see somewhere that there’s going to be a festival in Marlay Park—the same Marlay Park of playdates and playgrounds, mum and baby boot camp, coffee and cakes. Oh, and Phoenix were playing. Holy crap I wanted to go. Naturally, before I could be practical and buy tickets, I had to go through a series of vacillations that went something like this: Am I not a bit too old? Are festivals my kind of thing? Will it not just be full of hip young things? Are mothers allowed? Am I cool enough? What would I weeaaaaaaaaar-uh? This went on for a couple of months until Doireann texts me, asking if I wanted to go. Yes! Plans were made, tickets were bought and the topic of what to wear was dissected in earnest. There were only a few weeks left before the festival, so I started a frantic listening of the rest of the line-up and I began to get really, really excited—to the point of (PMS-fuelled, it has to be said) neurosis. All week, there were surgical grips on my chest that I liked to call “anxiety” but Joseph kept reminding me that was I was actually feeling was excitement.
As excited as I was, though, I could never have anticipated just how great it was going to be. Every minute was fun, fun, fun; from when we first arrived to the taxi-ride home, every single minute. The weather was glorious, the toilets were clean and fully stocked with toilet paper, and with every band we saw, we worried that each song was the last of the set. We danced, we bopped, we said “this is brilliant!!!” over and over again. I marvelled at things very near and dear to my close to mid-thirties heart: fast-moving queues for the bar, rows of taps, a perfect, not too loud sound level. The atmosphere was nothing short of dreamy and while there were plenty of young hip things, there were also a few parents with kids about, treating the whole event as though it were no different from any other day in the park.
Next thing we knew, time got all slippery on us and since we couldn’t be in two places at once, we had to make some Very Difficult Decisions. This is how we ended up foregoing music to become a giddy mess—Doireann for Foals, me for Phoenix—as we watched them being interviewed for a radio station. Eeeeeeee! Side note: my boyfriend wore pink-striped, what looked like silk, underpants. Little did I know that in a couple of hours, I’d be at the front of the crowd and in very close proximity to said underpants as, stupefied, I’d realise that Thomas Mars had just stage-dived right beside me and I had no clue what to do. My youth was wasted at the back of concerts, clearly. Then they did some sort of sound effect that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and I thought: life doesn’t get much better than this!
Here is what I learned from this, the most fun of days:
Nothing beats the live music experience
I am cool enough
I’ll never be too old.