Why I'm crying at Bandquest when it's not even my kid
We see them beforehand, full of Maccas and bravado on the Square heading to the Globe Theatre as a crew, they’re all familiar by now. They’ve been there all day, hit soundcheck rockstar status and mentally placed themselves between the other bands.
I tell my girl to give it hundy and Steve, a friend and one of the music teachers, says softly - she never gives it anything else. It wasn’t his intention but I’m put in my place, I know that better than anyone - or do I?
That’s the last we see of them until we arrive at the theatre with 10 mins to spare (a wild achievement) and hustle up to our seats in the sky - I got the last 3 together and I’m stoked, best view in the house!
The lights dim, the MC wanders out, she’s young but has the confidence in her voice that makes me think she’s on the radio. There’s cord shuffling and banter, the stage crew do what only they can and the first group comes on.
They’re so tiny.
We’re in the sky, the theatre is full and they are so tiny.
They start to sing, I forget the song and I forget the faces but I think of their parents, I think how their hearts must be bursting and mine bursts for them. I’m already WOOing at the top of my lungs, Fergus jabs me in the side with one arm and covers his face that he’s just about dropped into his lap in shame
muuuuuuuuum BE QUIET.
I spend the next few minutes with my hand cupped over his ear whispering
it’s ok to be excited for people
it’s ok to make big noises!
nobody out there knows it’s me, but they can hear that on stage and it feels good to have someone cheer for you!
they’re being brave up there and we need to be brave as well and support them
He lifts his chin and tucks his lips inside his mouth and gives a tiny nod in that little gesture of getting it.
The next group comes on, one of the vocalists gets into a chat with the MC, she asks how he’s feeling
^ that's the guy, and those are the kids from School of Rock
Oh, what are you most nervous about?
He points straight down - both my parents are here right in the front row!
The MC calls for the parents to make themselves known.
If I say wacky-inflatable-flailing-arms-man, I’ve said enough. It was glorious. I felt that too. I remembered myself at that age. No stage, no parents in the front row, I thought about how there would be more kids like that. I made a note to WOO as much as possible.
They launched into Teenage Dirtbag. I thought how they were maybe 13 if they were lucky, so 12 yesterday and 5 the day before that. I thought about my girl and her little trio of friends, all the years and birthdays they’d shared. Their little faces around the birthday cakes and the other friends that came and went and came, as this little trio held their bond, even if from a distance sometimes.
That’s it, I’m screwed. It was only a matter of time.
I try to keep my body still, my breath even. I clench my cheeks and just let the tears sit in my eyes. But Ferg has clocked me. A hand on my shoulder, he looks at me laughing and like, caring but with almost a head shaking kind of expression - Mum you’re crying aren’t you. It’s not a question and he’s not surprised.
My heart shreds thinking about how they were now the least dirtbaggy they’d ever be as teenagers. I think omg you’re not a teenage dirtbag you’re a gorgeous little baby. So not cool, mum.
I wipe my face, chuckle to myself, WOO my heart out and adjust myself in my seat for the next band. There are 14, my girls’ band is #14 on the run sheet.
Each band is a little different, my heart is just exploding at the different personalities, the voices, the way they grow in confidence and forget themselves in the short few minutes under the lights. The voices that come out of these tiny humans and the swagger it seems like they're born with.
“Mum, after we performed I just wanted to keep going, the feeling was so good!”
My attention shifts to the photographer and the videographer, I watch them dance around the stage. I know they have 3-6 minutes per band to get a hero of each kid, capture their energy while trying not to block the view or distract from the show or go arse over shoulders over a cable while ninja walking down the stairs. I think how I love shooting gigs, I wonder how their shots are looking. I wonder what their rates are for this kind of thing or if they do it cheaper because it’s awesome. I wonder about our own rates and the way we would capture this event - I think I’d be grinning so wide and crying the whole time.
A sister yells from the crowd “I LOVE YOU ALICE!” I fall in love with her immediately. I wonder if it’ll seem like copying if I follow her lead when it’s my girl's time.
One band fumbles a bit. I want to yell “You got this!” But I don’t. They do got this. Calm down, mum. It makes me think what if my girl fumbles, will I yell YOU GOT THIS BUBBA! Will I be brave enough? Will she want me to? Ooh I shouldn’t say bubba should I. But she is my bubba though. Yea but I don’t think she’d appreciate it. The band wraps up, I WOOO.
I keep recognising faces - look! Why do I recognise them?! Ah! That play we went to! School of Rock! Faces from Te Horo, Otaki, Levin. Faces we know. Our kids. OUR KIDS.
A massive ensemble comes on (Reckless), there is a brass section, the drummer is on fire, the vocalist feels like she was born on the stage with a mic in her hand. I can see them like the Freddys. They do an original number. It kicks off with some kind of puhoro* (as I’m reading this back I double-check that, it’s actually ‘puoro’) The vibration captures us all, the room is electric and the waiata courses through the veins shaking all the happy places. This is the power of music.
I think a bit about how music is tied undoubtedly to the place and time it came from but it travels forever through the feelings, the life experiences of so many different people at different times. Music doesn’t need to mean, because it feels. It strikes a teenager in 2023 as it did a middle-aged man in 1987 but for reasons completely unrelated. It’s magic. It’s anchored but its reach is endless. I’m rambling. It’s ok.
Next is something like a 6-minute eerie Filipino song, it felt like an indie tune - the kind only the cool kids know about. The drummer is driving this jam. The drummer is a girl, the drummer sings. I love life. I tear up.
Finally it’s time for my girl and her band. I hear all of Otaki light up in the stands. I’m emotionally exhausted. My throat is destroyed. I’ve been toning it down the last 3 acts because I didn’t bring a drink bottle and I don’t know if I have enough moisture in my mouth to make the upcoming WOOs - my throat is sticking to itself.
They walk out, I get to WOOing, Dad gets to whistling, Ferg screams GO KAIA!
They look at ease. She looks excited. She looks out. Wacky-inflatable-flailing-arms-lady. If I had any emotions left I’d fall apart.
They’re awesome. They were the most confident I’ve seen them. The music was amazing. Definitely the top version of Seven Nation Army we’d heard that night ;)
We’re glowing. That’s our girl. Those are my friends' kids. I’m feeling so hard for them.
They’ll be adults before we are.
So if you see me crying at any kind of event ever, this is probably what’s happening. The inner monologue is working over time and I’m deeeeeeep in the feels.