Ben Rector recap

So last night was my third and final concert of the year – Ben Rector, who I discovered last year and whose 2016 concert I passed on. It was at the Iowa State Memorial Union and put on by the Student Union Board.  As you might expect, it was full of college students. I wasn’t the oldest guy there, but I was definitely more than two standard deviations off the mean age.

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Not too shabby for showing up late.

I got there at 6:40 PM and I clearly underestimated Ben Rector’s draw because the line was snaking around the spiral staircase of the Union, through the cafeteria and down past the bookstore when I got there. It did nothing but get longer and longer – honestly, I have no idea where the end of the line was by the time they opened the doors at 7:15 PM. Even with my late arrival, I ended up getting a pretty good “seat” – quotation marks because it was another standing general admission show, the type I continually say I’m getting too old for but keep buying tickets for anyway.

The opening act was predictably lackluster – a band that was trying to combine Wilson Phillips with Dixie Chicks with only limited success- but the crowd really went crazy for Ben Rector when he came out.  He performed for about an hour, an acoustic set of just him and another guy. It wasn’t quite the show I was expecting – to be honest, I was hoping for a full band show but should have known better considering the tickets were so cheap. He played a 9 song set and, let me say this much, he has stage banter down to a science. I have no idea how much of it is scripted and how much is spontaneous, but it sure seems to lean toward spontaneity. It was a nice mix of old stuff plus a handful of songs from his latest record, Brand New.

I did manage to score the vinyl of Brand New, which is sold out on his web store and was exclusive to the Brand New Tour (the show I skipped last year.) At only $20, it was a steal.  The only thing that sucked was I had to hold on to it all night, and in a packed GA show, that proved to be less than fun. I asked the people selling the merchandise if he came out and signed stuff, hoping that maybe he would sign my record, but they assured me he didn’t. After seeing the crowd that came to the show, I can see why. He’d have been there till the wee hours of the morning.

It’s no secret that I recall my college days with equal parts fondness and aching regret. Being surrounded by all those college students last night reminded me of the college student that I was 25 years ago, except now everyone’s on their phones all the time and documenting ever last minute of their college experience. As I’ve said before, I have virtually no record of my college years because of the simple fact that we didn’t have cameras with us 24/7. Anyway, under normal circumstances, surrounded by college students with their whole lives in front of them, I would find myself willing to give a body part to go back in time and do it again, but this time do it right. What was weird though was I felt a sense of calm acceptance of being 45 and doing something that I would have wanted to do as an 18 year-old college freshman but wouldn’t have done because I was either depressed or didn’t have anyone to go with or just figured it wasn’t important. It’s part of the reason I do things like go to concerts and buy vinyl – it’s honoring that college kid that didn’t do that stuff when he wanted to but was struggling too much with mental health issues (mostly undiagnosed) to be able to believe he was worth it.

It *was* fun to watch college students. So many of them got all dolled up for the concert. I just wore a T-shirt and jeans, made sure my hair was reasonably combed and then was a hot and sweaty mess by the time I got there because I chose to walk 1.5 miles to campus from where I live. But it was even more fun to hear the life lessons in Rector’s music from the vantage point of my mid-40s because I think we really never stop learning and if we do, we’re dead.

On the way out of the venue, I remembered how, when I was at the Tuxedo concert in June, one of the guys I met was going to take the poster down off the wall at the end of the show.  Even though I was in a huge crowd of people and I was likely seen, I took the Ben Rector poster down off the wall outside of the Great Hall of the Memorial Union and stuck it next to my vinyl as I got ready to walk home. Walking out, someone stopped me and asked if they were handing out free posters. I replied, “No, I just took it off the wall.”  Their response was “Way to be!” I really have no idea what I’m going to do with it as I don’t have much wall space, but maybe it’s time for some of my Madonna posters to go into retirement.

So it was a good show, that reminded me of a good lesson. And I got the vinyl I really wanted and the poster I had no idea I wanted but got anyway.

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