Last week, during our visit to Santa Barbara to celebrate our respective birthdays, my wife, Lisa, and I learned that Olivia Rodrigo, a young pop music star, would be performing at the Santa Barbara Bowl. About a year earlier, I had read a complimentary piece in the New York Times discussing the song album, Sour, that Ms. Rodrigo had recently released. The article had piqued my interest. Needless to say, however, my attempts to buy tickets online or by phone were futile. Because it was not too far from where we were staying, we went to the box office at the Santa Barbara Bowl and were told there were no tickets available for the concert.
Given what I had told Lisa about Olivia and our curiosity at going to an event at the Santa Barbara Bowl, we decided to go before the show began last Saturday evening. We found ourselves at the back of the line that was growing in size waiting to see if there were extra tickets available at the last moment. We were surrounded by teeny boppers, practically entirely female. Inasmuch as the likelihood of gaining admission to the show did not look good, we agreed that I would roam around and see if anyone might have extra tickets to sell.
As it was evident, that no one approaching the Bowl had extra tickets, I asked one of the parking attendants, if anyone had spoken of having a few spare tickets. Sure enough, he led me to a woman who had two tickets she needed to sell. She told me that she had bought them months ago for her granddaughter who could not go because she was studying for her final exams. She wanted $500 for the two tickets. To me that seemed high for, at most, an hour of entertainment as the opening act was already in progress. She refused to come down in price saying that she had paid $1000 online for them months ago and wanted to only lose half of her purchase price. My wife confirmed my uneasiness at paying so much for a concert whereupon I declined the woman’s offer.
As the evening progressed, we were in the middle of the line with still quite a number of people (i.e. teenage girls) in front of us. We had arrived at about 7 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 and Olivia Rodrigo to come on at 8:40. By now it was about 8:15, and with no hope in sight, I suggested to Lisa, we call it quits and go for a drink. Not one to give up when she had a goal to reach, in this case what looked like the impossible, she remained on line with the teeny boppers. Suddenly, out of the blue appeared two men, one somewhere in his fifties, the other about 20 years younger. The older gentleman walked up to the line of us waiting and said he had 19 extra tickets mentioning a price of $150. When one of the younger girls said that was too much he said fine I’ll take a $100 per ticket. I heard murmurs of “he must be scamming us.” But at this point knowing we had nothing to lose Lisa and I followed them with a few other girls and then, spontaneously, many other girls broke from the line and went with us.
We reached the turnstile where one of the attendants asked Lisa and I for proof of vaccination and upon showing it to him let us through. Although we had been admitted, neither of us actually had the tickets in hand so we waited for all to go through the turnstile. Then, our sugar daddies, introduced themselves as James, the older of the two, and Michael. Because we only had a few minutes to get to our seats, they gave us their phone numbers; James told us we were on the honor’s system and we could pay them the next day. James made sure we would not be sitting on the ground when he gave the two of us the tickets. A trolley was parked waiting to take us up the ramp toward our seats in the nick of time. Lisa and I, amidst a packed crowd of young teenagers, the majority by far being girls. We located our seats about three or four minutes before Rodrigo came on.
It had been years since I had attended anything remotely similar to this type of event. I made two quick discoveries: 1) The teeny boppers that were there knew all the words and were singing with Ms. Rodrigo and 2) Practically everyone at the Bowl was standing the entire one hour of her performance. Fortunately, the two girls in front of me stood far enough apart, as they sang, allowing me to see Olivia from a sitting position. Although I had difficulty at first understanding the lyrics, I was able to adjust to the surrounding noise and tune in to the words sung by Ms. Rodrigo. The contents of these songs followed the theme of young love, turned sour, Sour, being the title of her album.
The songs capture the pain of her being left for someone else. But it also points to her wanting so badly to be accepted that she does what she believes her partner wants. In the song, Enough for You, Olivia writes:
I wore makeup when we dated
‘Cause I thought you’d like me more
if I looked like the other prom queens
But later in the same song, she declares:
I don’t want your sympathy
I just want myself back
These lines express quite accurately the conflict that adolescents have in trying to impress others without forgetting who they really are. Perhaps before taking on identities to please others, it is best to look ourselves in the mirror and ask the very complicated question of: Who We Are? Complicated because adolescence represents a stage of development where each new experience offers a different meaning, a different way of seeing those in our world. It is a period that has been referred to from the German: Sturm and Drang (Storm and Stress). Rodrigo’s songs speak to the vicissitudes of the emotions that ring true for so many adolescents today. Moreover, the peaks and valleys of adolescence are further magnified by the ubiquitous nature of social media, so much a part of teen-age culture. Regardless, to the fans that resonate with Rodrigo’s songs, she is more than a prom queen.
Let me conclude this blog on a positive note. The next day I called up Mark and paid him the money I owed. Expecting to be one of the few that paid on the “honors system,” he surprised me by telling me of the 19 people only two had yet to pay. He also told me that both James and he had received texts thanking them so much and comparing them to Santa Claus.