When the guy started waving his cane as the Doobie Brothers rocked the stage at the Festival at Sandpoint, it became clear.
Rock ‘n’ roll will never die.
No, it will migrate to the nursing homes with the generation that grew up on it.
It will send wheelchairs swiveling.
It will be played at retirements, then 50th wedding anniversaries and, finally, at funerals.
For the future of rock ‘n’ roll is linked, like one of those electronic collars for convicts, to the once-wild and carefree side of a whole generation of men in suits and women with grown children.
Classic rockers, the polite phrase used to describe those whose memories still light up when they listen to music of the 1960s and 1970s, have made many old bands incredibly popular again.
Foreigner, Jimmy Buffett, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Steve Miller, and the Doobie Brothers are living second childhoods (if they ever left their first ones) thanks to the generous ticket-buying habits of classic rock fans.
Classic rockers filled Sandpoint’s Memorial Field a few nights ago. The 2,500 tickets to the Doobie Brothers concert sold out quickly and the football field was filled by 7 p.m. with balding men and near-menopausal women who left their day jobs early and drove to Sandpoint in mini-vans with bumper stickers that read “My Kid is an Honor Student.”
Buying the $25 ticket for a rock concert was easier today than it was 25 years ago. The ticket provided an easy way to rekindle a bit of the past and charge it on your Visa card.
Complete re-entry into the pounding, three-chord world of rock ‘n’ roll, however, wasn’t as smooth.
Take, for example, the decibel level.
I don’t recall ever seeing a pair of ear plugs 25 years ago when the Doobie Brothers played.
In fact, I seem to vaguely remember that the choice spaces were those directly in front of the monster truck-size speakers.
At the Festival at Sandpoint, many an ear sported a squishy pair of ear plugs.
Or were those hearing aids?
And there was the issue of wild dancing.
When we were young and still had long hair, the concept of wild dancing with fluid, free-flowing limbs seemed natural and easy.
Time takes a toll.
At the Doobie Brothers concert, wild dancing looked more like the first 10 minutes of an aerobics class.
Slow sways of the hips and jerky stretches of the arms filled the aisles.
Half ticks of the neck, as if the chiropractor were watching.
Rapid toe-tapping and rhythmic clapping seemed about the same, except for the guys who were off the beat. But they were off 25 years ago, too.
Sandpoint, being a wonderful old ski town with truly stunning lakeside views, harbors remnants of what one friend of mine at the concert called the “always-beens.”
These are the aging rockers who really haven’t changed. They still ski in the winter, pick up odd jobs in the summer and dance as if they were 18, not 43.
The “always-beens” provided nostalgic memories to those who ventured out for a night with the Doobie Brothers.
More than one of the guys in golf shirts and women who now have pictures of their grandchildren in their purses silently wondered, “What if I had just moved to Sandpoint instead?”
There is no going back, of course, but the enduring charm of rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t require it.
The Doobie Brothers sounded about the same as 25 years ago. Luckily, Tom Johnston, the man who created “Listen to the Music” in 1972, still sings it like the very first time. He might even be better, thanks to a long life on the road that has added a husky tone to his voice.
The aging rock fans, unlike the corporate sponsors and the good sports who showed up for the Doobie Brothers, knew the words.
They pulled themselves up on tired feet.
Even the guy with the cane got up.
He waved his stick with pride, and a touch of nostalgia.
He was rockin’ at a slower speed, but he was there, and he remembered, and that was satisfaction enough at this stage in life.
It was a good set.
Sandpoint remains one of the great treasures of the Northwest.
The festival is back and that is very good news.
That, and the fact the Doobie Brothers set ended early so we all could get back home for a good night’s sleep.
, DataTimes MEMO: Chris Peck is the editor of The Spokesman-Review. His column appears each Sunday on Perspective.