Still a big fan of rockin' out, but not past 11 p.m.


As a baby boomer who still goes to a fair amount of rock concerts, let me say this: It sure ain't the Age of Aquarius anymore.

That point was driven home again after a recent trip to see the great Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Va.

(By the way, if you've never been to Bristow, the best thing to do is go online, call up MapQuest and type in: Middle of Nowhere.

(OK, technically it's in Northern Virginia. But once you get off I-66, this place is so out of the way, Osama bin Laden probably has a hideout there.)

One thing I've discovered about being older and attending concerts is that your priorities change dramatically.

I used to go to concerts thinking: Gee, I hope the band puts on a good show.

Now I go thinking: Is this thing gonna be over by 11? 'Cause I'll be fading big-time after that.

My other overriding concern at these concerts is: Gee, I hope the seats are comfortable.

Thirty years ago, I never even cared if I had a seat at a concert, since we pretty much stood and sang and whooped the whole time.

Now I'm good for, I don't know, 20 or 25 minutes of standing, singing and whooping at a clip.

Then it's: OK, that's enough of that. Time to sit down for a few minutes.

I should mention that there's also plenty of lawn seating at the Nissan Pavilion, for those so inclined.

But the problem with sitting on the ground for three hours when you reach a certain age is, you may never get back up.

Yeah, you might save 15 or 20 bucks on ticket prices by sitting out there. But you'll spend 10 times that in chiropractor fees to have your back straightened again.

Look, I'd be all over the lawn seating if they had La-Z-Boy recliners or wing chairs or something.

But three hours on a blanket on the hard ground?

Uh-uh. You might as well schedule me with a spine specialist right now.

Another thing that's different about rock concerts these days is the outrageous prices they charge for food and drink.

The whole time we were at the Petty show, I kept thinking: Can you believe $7.50 for a beer?!

And not even a real beer!

It was $7.50 for a Miller Lite!

What is this, Camden Yards?

Seven-fifty for what's basically water with a strand of barley waved through it?

But we had a great time, and Petty and his band were terrific, bringing down the house with raucous versions of their monster hits: "Listen To Her Heart," "Free Falling," "Refugee," "Don't Do Me Like That," "I Won't Back Down," etc.

For "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," "I Need to Know" and a few other numbers, the band was joined by Stevie Nicks, who's still into that whole long-golden-hair, flowing-dresses, crazy-hats look she had with Fleetwood Mac.

But she still looked great for her age, at least on the two huge video screens that flanked the stage. Whereas if you flashed my picture up there, the crowd would be thinking: Oh, look, there's Stevie Nicks' dad!

Occasionally, the smell of marijuana wafted through the air, as it did when I first started going to rock concerts 100 years ago.

But now if someone passes a joint to a baby boomer, he's liable to say, "No thanks," and turn to his wife and ask: "What time is that colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow?"

Anyway, after a raucous hour and 45 minutes, the band played its last song, waved and left the stage to a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,000-plus.

In the old days, rock fans would scream and hold up Bic lighters to request an encore.

But now they scream and hold up the lit screens on their cell phones, something I still can't get used to.

To me, it looks kind of creepy, like some sort of mass salute to Verizon Wireless or Cingular.

Finally, after a few more tunes and a spirited finale of "American Girl," the lights came up for the last time, the band took a bow and it was all over.

Then it was out into the parking lot to face the great nightmare of a Nissan Pavilion concert: getting out of the place.

Yeah, it's a wonderful venue, but there are definitely a few traffic-flow issues to work out.

In fact, the best way to describe the parking lot after a show is this: Imagine the crowd had just been told that a wave of North Korean nuclear missiles would be striking in five minutes.

That's how nuts it gets. The traffic was so bad we didn't even attempt to get out of the parking lot until 90 minutes after the concert ended.

Did I mention we didn't get home until 2:30 in the morning?

They should really start these shows much earlier.

Because some of us need our rest.

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