Heartstrings Attached, Plucked: Taking My Four Year Old Son to His Very First "Weird Al" Yankovic Show
I am not gonna lie. I started looking forward to the day I’d be able to take my child to their first “Weird Al” Yankovic concert well before Declan was even conceived. Going with my dad to my first rock and roll show, Al opening for the Monkees in Milwaukee in 1987, is one of my most cherished childhood memories.
Al set the bar for live performance prohibitively high that magical night, so high that the headliners could not meet it. I was mesmerized and one of the joys of the fifteen or so Al shows I have subsequently attended was looking around at the ecstatic smiles of the kids in the audience, many undoubtedly at their first show as well.
So you can imagine how exciting it was to see that look of pure bliss on the face of my own son when I took Declan to Al’s Strings Attached tour in Atlanta as his very first show. I was a little worried that a four year old with ADHD would not be able to make it through an entire two hour performance.
I needn’t have worried, because Declan was damn near hypnotized by the whole shebang. Al eschewed the frills and screens and costumes and parodies for last year’s revelatory Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour but they return with a vengeance on Strings Attached along with something new and wonderful: a symphony orchestra for each stop of the tour to lend “Fun Zone” the orchestral heft it angrily demands.
I kid but it is awesome to hear the instrumental that has long beckoned fans into the enchanted world of the “Weird Al” Yankovic live show getting the symphonic treatment. It produced powerful Pavlovian shivers of delight as my brain was suddenly overwhelmed with warm memories of every other Al show I’ve ever attended.
This was the first outdoor show I’ve seen Al play since that first concert in Milwaukee many lifetimes ago. It could not have been a more perfect venue or a more perfect night.
I similarly could not have been in a better headspace for the show. There are few, if any, more immersive ways to prepare for a concert by a favorite artist than by editing and revising and refining something in the area of 191 fairly lengthy, involved articles about that artist’s life’s work with an eye towards delineating just what makes them such a remarkable and singular for in American music and pop culture.
I have been living “Weird Al” Yankovic for the last month and a half or so as I aggressively edit the 162 or so The Weird Accordion to Al entries covering all of his fourteen studio albums and finish writing the remaining twenty five entries from his Medium Rarities obscurities compilation and “The Hamilton Polka” and “Captain Underpants Theme Song.”
The stripped-down version of the Weird Accordion to Al book will primarily cover the 15 albums in The Squeeze Box box set along with Peter and the Wolf, Al’s collaboration with Wendy Carlos but I’ll also write about Al taking on the two most important and acclaimed pop culture events of the past century: Hamilton and the Captain Underpants movie.
Due to my deep immersion in the world of “Weird Al” Yankovic every song he, his crack band and a motherfucking ORCHERSTRA played, from the sainted likes of “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” to “Word Crimes” felt simultaneously like a big part of my past, present and future.
They’re a big part of my past because I’ve spent much of the last two and a half years writing tens of thousands of words and nearly two hundred entries about the entirety of “Weird Al” Yankovic as a recording artist in connection with the release of his career-spanning box set. They’re not just a part of my life right now—they’re seemingly the whole of it as I work every day to finish out this project the right way and create a book that I can be proud of and you can be proud of and that will represent the best of what this website is all about: doing things out of love and passion and conviction rather than commercial calculation or a mad hunger for eyeballs and page-views and advertising revenue.
And they’ll be a big part of my future because the Weird Accordion to Al book, along with Weird Al: The Book will exist out in the world for anybody and everybody to discover in the years and decades and millennia ahead, a handy and extensive road map to the music and world of an American artist like no other.
It goes beyond that. Watching Al and his amazing band perform the biggest possible versions of songs that have provided the soundtrack to my silly, silly life made me hope that the potential success and visibility of the Weird Accordion to Al book will lead to others of its type, that someday there will be academic symposiums on Al.
A cumulative joy came with the realization that the Weird Accordion to Al book will be so much more than the sum of its parts, just as Al’s career and legacy is so much more than just the songs he’s put out and the shows he’s played.
The only disappointment of the evening was that it got too late and I wasn’t able to introduce my son to Al afterwards. We went backstage but had to leave before Declan could meet Al. Getting your picture taken with Al is such an essential, fundamental part of the “Weird Al” Yankovic concert experience, at least with every single person I’m friends with on Facebook, that I began to wonder if the whole magical evening had happened at all. If you don’t get the photo as incontrovertible proof that a magical meeting occurred,, did it actually take place?
Thankfully we all have our wonderful memories of that night. With the minor caveat that I don’t have a picture of Declan with Al to put all over social media the evening could not have gone better. It really lived up to all of my hopes and all of my expectations.
Besides, there’s always next time. By then The Weird Accordion to Al book will be a beautiful reality and I can have him sign this unique piece of “Weird Al” Yankovic merchandise for me and my son at the end of what will undoubtedly be another evening to remember. Al’s shows always are. Of course, I literally wrote the book on/with Al in Weird Al: The Book. Then I got carried away and wrote a whole additional book on Al but his shows are transcendent geek experiences even if you’re not quite as personally and professionally invested in the man’s work as I am.
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