Musicians everywhere probably started as kids with toothless smiles and dreams of making it big one day. They were — and still are — just like us. They sat next to us in math class. They gave us the crust from their PB&J sandwich that one time in fourth grade. They grew up listening to the radio in the back of their parents’ car and learned the lyrics to their favorite songs without fully understanding what they meant.
The only difference between us and them is the stage (and to be fair, the musical talent).
In September, I went to a live performance at The Reef where an indie rock band called The Slaps was set to perform. College kids packed into the venue, standing shoulder to shoulder, heads banging and swaying. I noticed, however, behind the waist-high fence stood four adults, watching the stage intently. They clapped longer than everyone else when the show ended and received a special shout-out from the lead singer.
Those adults were the parents, aunt and uncle of the lead singer, Rand Kelly. They ventured out to watch him perform the final night of his cross-country tour here in Bloomington.
Seeing his family standing there was oddly jarring. Yes, of course, all musicians come from somewhere. They all have families and stories from childhood that are like our own. But seeing his family there made me realize something deeper than that. Performers rely on validation from their families, too. The screaming fans may amount to nothing if the ones who raised them are not cheering them on from afar.
This may be especially true for many of the bands that come through Bloomington — bands often just starting to make a name for themselves, just learning how to be adults.
Kelly for example grew up in Lexington, Kentucky alongside fellow band member Ramsey Bell, according to The DePaulia student newspaper. The two met Josh Resing of Elmhurst, Illinois while attending DePaul University in Chicago. They have been making music ever since they met in 2016.
Just like the rest of us 20-somethings, they are learning to navigate their lives away from their families for the first time. They really are just like everyone else; the only difference is they stand a few feet higher above the ground.
We haven’t quite completely figured out how not to rely on validation from our families, though. I wonder if one could ever grow out of needing it on some level.
It is a fact that our passions and interests develop in childhood. We dream big when we are children and discover what subjects we like in school. We learn about the world and we learn we must one day be a contributing part of it. We bring our report cards home to our parents and hope they will be proud.
We don’t just let go of that routine when we reach a certain age. It remains a part of us. A report card may turn into an EP or an album and instead of bringing it home to our parents, we text a link to them. We hope they will be proud.
When the rush of his 54-minute performance wore off, Kelly focused his eyes on the figures behind the fence. In a backyard full of yelling strangers, there were the four familiar and comforting faces he knew so well. They love him for who he has been and for who he will become, and no amount of fame could change that.
The five of them embraced in a hug as the concert-goers filed out of the gate.