Between sets, two people in the row in front of me go to the concession stand. Both wear tour shirts. Jagged Little Pill came out 25 years ago, well, now 26 with the pandemic delay. When I was growing up, I equated anniversary tour shirts with classic rock. I remembered standing in line at the grocery store behind people with shirts for the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Lynryd Skynrd.
It occurs to me that I am now classic rock.
During the first opener, I get a sandwich, sit at a table, and watch people. The humidity eases. People stroll by in a steady stream. I stare dumbfounded. I have not seen this many people together in a single place in years. This is my first large show since the pandemic started.
I did not listen to Garbage 2.0 immediately when it came out. Once I discovered it, I did not let go. “Special,” “Push it,” “Stupid girl” – all amazing. I sang along, as if speaking to my younger self. The intro for “#1 Crush” came on. This was the song I’d hope they’d play. The drum line thunders while eerie tendrils of sound stream above. Dark, stalky, and magic. I remember the movie in the 90s with Leonardo. They play “When I Grow Up” toward the end. I dance wildly, howling with laughter. When I grow up, I’ll be stable. You wish.
The crowd consists of a lot of hot moms. I mean that in a flattering way. I imagine all the girls I went to high school grew up, had kids, and we are now all at a reunion in a backyard with a very large lawn. Even though I see the moms first, plenty of people in their 20s and 30s fill the crowd. I wonder about what it was like to love the album without having a strong attachment to the time it actually came out. To not have the cultural memory of it. This may be another aspect of classic rock.
I do not consider myself a big Alanis fan. I never owned Jagged Little Pill. Still, it’s impossible not to know all the words or to remember how my jaw dropped the first time I heard “You oughta know.” A video montage plays during the intro. Alanis is stitched tightly into the fabric of the late 90s and early 00s, in a way that is difficult to match today. Late night, movie cameos, constant tv show appearances, all over the place.
Before I got the tickets, I looked at previous nights’ set lists. Encores consisted of Your House, Uninvited, and Thank U. I knew I would stay for the whole show. Uninvited has a thundering lower line of music with a tinkly piano soaring above. Dark depth plus rising. I will be exhausted in the morning, but hearing that song live is worth it.
For Thank U, the screen behind the band displays a series of tweets. Before the tour started, Alanis asked people to tag the album and say what they were thankful for. People posted pictures with family, friends they went to the tour with, their dogs. Some mentioned getting through the pandemic, losses they faced, and what had helped get them through. These now play across the screen behind the band.
I start crying immediately. The tears come unexpectedly and steadily, a slow but insistent faucet of emotion. They stream down, soaking into my mask. I am crying for all of it: the pleasant exhaustion, this landmark album and me becoming classic rock, my high school friends who are hot moms, seeing a lot of other people, and of course, gratitude.