A Weekend for the Ages (that Managed to De-Age Me)

Ocean Lawn (North Shore, Massachusetts, New England, the U.S., planet Earth)

Picture, if you will, a one-decade-married couple strenuously quarantining for 18 months with their 2 small, sleep-dependent children. As a result of the quarantine, the parents: (1) haven’t ventured outside of a 70-mile radius of their home for one full year, and (2) haven’t taken a proper vacation in two full years; and as a result of the sleep dependence, they also (3) haven’t been away from both kids overnight since kid #2 was born three years ago, and (4) have not been alone for two consecutive nights in five full years (and maybe closer to six).

Now picture how it might feel for those two stir-crazy adult human beings to drop off their children and drive 7 hours to Massachusetts while listening to great music and enjoying uninterrupted adult conversation on a pristine September day, rock out to their favorite band for 2 perfect nights, eat some incredible food, meet some wonderful people, visit an idyllic bit of North Shore coastline, and then drive home while listening to more great music and enjoying more uninterrupted adult conversation on a somehow-even-more-pristine October day.

You might imagine that such a trip would be refreshing. And exhilarating. And re-human-izing.

You would, unsurprisingly, be quite correct.

There were a few things we didn’t know when we booked the tickets for this these concerts back in May. We didn’t know what the Covid situation would look like in late September. And we didn’t know for sure if Violet (2 at the time, 3 by the time of the concert), a mama’s girl to end all mama’s girls, would be able to sleep independently at Grandma’s house for a night, much less two nights in a row. But we booked the tickets in good faith that we would be able to wean her off co-sleeping. And in good faith that our favorite band and their chosen venue (in deeply Covid-conscious Massachusetts) would have every advisable pandemic protocol in place to keep all of us concertgoers safe.

In the end, our faith proved… good. And the result was a no-one’s-won-the-Powerball-in-months-sized jackpot of long-awaited respite (and rocking).

Below are some scattered snapshots of our epic weekend, presented for posterity. And also, perhaps, so that I can convince some lucky soul to check out Caspian — my favorite band, which also happens to be Danielle’s — for the first time.

I’ll start with the concert stuff, and then go on to the general weekend stuff.

  • I won’t bury the lede here. We met the band, you guys. We met the band! Well, we met 3 of the 6 of them. I had met those 3 (Phil and Jonny and Cal), plus a few former band members (Chris and Erin and Joe), in years past when I saw the band play in Denver (3x) and Philadelphia (2x). And every conversation I’ve had with any member of Caspian has been entirely memorable, and entirely unintimidating. These are the most accessible, unassuming guys you’ll ever meet in the rock world. I usually get awkwardly starstruck when I meet people I admire, but there’s no need to feel too struck by these guys. Because they don’t seem to see themselves as stars.
  • Caspian played two nights in a row, and both nights they hung out on the street outside the venue in the cool autumn air to shoot the breeze with their fans. Danielle and I talked to Phil (guitar #1) and Jonny (guitar #2), and I also talked briefly to Cal (guitar #3). All three guys are so down-to-earth that it felt like talking to old friends — or at least old acquaintances, if I’m inclined to show a little restraint — and they were visibly appreciative of the strong support of all their fans.
  • You know that thing guys often do that’s halfway between a hug and a handshake? I got one of those from Jonny! And I got a few hugs from Phil! Like I said: These guys make themselves accessible, and they are deeply grateful for their fans.
  • Then there was one of the high points of my existence so far on this earth. When the band introduced my favorite song, “Division Blues,” frontman Phil Jamieson said from stage, and I quote: “This one’s for Jeremy.” I have endlessly championed that song on Twitter and Facebook, since it’s a layered and deeply textured masterpiece that became my heart-bolstering anthem for the emotionally brutalizing Covid era. So as you might imagine, it was a truly dizzying honor to have Caspian value my love of their song so much that they gave me a shout-out. So dizzying, in fact, that I had to crouch down for a moment in the crowd to collect my bearings. That song is trippy, and that shout-out was a trip! Possibly the high point of our trip.
  • I met 3 fellow die-hard Caspian fans I had interacted with on a Facebook fan page for the band: Todd, Lauralee, and Doug. And all 3 of them were wonderfully warm, young-at-heart, good-humored, true-blue souls who I’m now honored to know personally. (Mike and Joe are my other two buddies from that page, and I can’t wait to meet them too.) It is a wild thing to have every single fellow Caspian fan I meet turn out to be a top-quality individual well worth knowing. It’s almost as if Caspian’s music is a force for good and for raging beauty in this world.
  • The venue, The Sinclair, was ideal. They followed multiple Covid protocols — vaccine mandates and mask mandates — to give all concertgoers a safe, fun experience during this ongoing Delta variant surge. And their layout was ideal: cozy but spacious enough, multiple tiered balconies, generous acoustics, and multiple accessible bar areas. (I opted for a local beer on night #1 and a non-local Pepsi on night #2, based on the vibe I was craving at each show.) There were 400-500 ticketholders each night, and both shows felt both packed and entirely unclaustrophobic. Nicely done, Sinclair. And nicely done, Massachusetts in general, which all weekend showed itself to be a place where a majority of people willingly wore masks indoors and didn’t seem to have their enjoyment of life remotely impeded by this fact. (Take note, Pennsylvania.)
  • On night #2, Circus Trees opened for Caspian. They are a trio of teenage sisters (18, 16, and 14) and they rocked hard. I was impressed by their songwriting chops, and I was also impressed by how supportive and absolutely un-condescending Caspian was in giving them a shout-out. They treated Circus Trees as the rock colleagues they were, not as teenagers for whom they were somehow doing a favor. Which made me love Caspian even more. They are un-ego-driven and egalitarian. They love deflecting attention to other bands, and to their fans as well. I endlessly dig their vibe. (But again, just to be clear: Circus Trees rocked, and they totally deserved the respect. It wasn’t charity.)

Okay, onto the weekend highlights that didn’t involve Caspian’s music…

  • I spent 58 straight hours with the sharpest, most scintillating, most erudite, most sharp-humored woman I know. A woman who would have fit in perfectly at nearby Harvard. And who, in theory at least, could have snagged a date with any guy she wanted there. I won’t go into more detail than to say that I felt lucky, because I am lucky, to have Danielle at my side during the whole weekend. (And how cool is it to be married to someone with an exactly equal interest in the NFL, The Office references, and Caspian? Pretty cool, right?) And now, on to non-Danielle matters — since she would likely say I’ve already said too much about her…
  • On Friday, as I happily recovered from the previous night’s headbanging workout, we did some Caspian-themed sightseeing. One of the band’s earliest songs is “Sea Lawn,” and it turns out it was named after an expansive, grassy spot on the North Shore (north of Boston) called Ocean Lawn, overlooking the mighty Atlantic. Danielle and I hiked across this vast, un-mowable lawn and along the rocky beach on an intoxicatingly pristine day. And I realized that inexplicably, due to some kind of massive oversight, we had never in 12 years together seen the Atlantic! So we ended that drought in the best possible way, and in the best possible place. The shoreline was gorgeous and contoured and incredibly peaceful, with (lucky us) not many fellow beachgoers on a Friday morning. It was just what our tired, pandemic-wearied souls needed.
  • We also drove through Beverly, Caspian’s hometown, to see what we could see. But our time was limited at that point, so we just stopped at a bookstore (and bought a cute kids’ book about RBG for Greyson and Violet). As is my custom, I enjoyed an animated conversation with the jovial woman who worked at the bookstore. From what we could tell, the town of Beverly had a 21st-century Mayberry vibe — but perhaps a bit more, shall we say, politically progressive. It made perfect sense that our sensitive, peace-loving, hard-rocking guys would hail from such a low-key, wide-awake New England enclave. Yet another reason to dig them.
  • We managed to track down some stellar food over the course of the weekend: On Thursday, top-shelf bagels from New Jersey and a vegan meatball pizza from Stoked (that ranked among my top 3 pizzas of all time)… on Friday, a bagel and a scone from a coffee shop and sumptuous vegetable korma from an Indian place called Nirvana… and on Saturday, both breakfast (biscuits & gravy and pancakes with caramelized banana butter) and a to-go lunch (a mouth-watering seitan-and-tofu club sandwich) from Veggie Galaxy, a paradise for herbivorous taste buds. We spent the equivalent of 3 months’ worth of our usual dining-out budget, and it was worth every penny. After all, it’s nice to treat oneself once in a while! (Especially when one has spent the lion’s share of a year and a half in one’s house.)
  • With the 8-9 hours we had available for sightseeing, we only managed to see Beverly and the Ocean Lawn. All the many great Boston and Cambridge recommendations we received from friends went un-visited. But life is long, and we are still quite young. What I can say about the area, though, is that I deeply savored briefly being in a college town where the population was vibrant and erudite (Harvard, anyone?) and progressive. Beyond the Covid-conscious stuff I’ve already mentioned, it was just wonderful to be surrounded by people who share many of our values, nearly all of whom also seemed like amiable souls. So… God bless Cambridge. I wish we could live there. But I’m guessing it’s pretty expensive. So maybe we’ll stay in Dillsburg for now.
  • As awake and exhilarated as I felt, I managed to avail myself of myriad conversational opportunities over the course of the weekend. A few guys at a gas station in New York, the aforementioned woman at the bookstore in Beverly, a guy at the parking garage in Cambridge, a bartender at Stoked while we waited for our pizza, the owner of Veggie Galaxy, the father of the three Circus Trees sisters (who ran their merch table), a few fellow residents of our Airbnb building while we stood outside during a false-alarm fire alarm. Life is just packed with chances to rub shoulders and swap notes (and smiles) with our fellow human beings. We just have to be awake enough to notice. Which is hard to do when the state of the world is as volatile as it currently is.

But that just makes it all the more meaningful when we are awake enough to pull it off.

And Caspian’s music is one of the preeminent things that awakens me.

So thanks, Caspian. Thanks for our hands-down best weekend in 2 years, and probably one of our top 10 in the last 10 years.

We owe you. But I know that you’re gracious enough to think that, as your die-hard fans, you somehow owe us.

So the feeling is warmly mutual. And I can dig that.

Long live Caspian.

And long live live music.

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