It’s been a busy September. During summer break I always try to schedule as many fun outings as I can while I have the kids’ attention. For whatever reason, this summer was quiet. I kept searching for concert tickets, movies, whatever I could find, and everything I found kept being in September. I’d buy tickets, and then a week later, find myself looking for more to do with the kids and buying more September tickets.
That’s how we wound up going to PAX West, a show at the Moore with one of our son’s favorite YouTubers, then a show at the White River Ampitheater with a YouTuber that both the kids like, all in the same week.
Yep, ticketed theater shows with YouTubers. It’s a weird world, right?
A couple of years ago, as our son started to really develop his own unique taste in music, he gravitated toward YouTube instead of the usual radio fare. He liked songs about his favorite video games, and I’m not going to lie, they were often cringe-inducingly poorly performed, filled with crude humor and not at all our favorite hits to listen to. (Though, as I repeatedly reminded Jason, our parents thought much the same of our music – did anyone’s mother ever really approve of Ozzy Osbourne?)
Jason, resident dad and playing the role to the nines, would roll his eyes and announce that real music was dead, real talent was dead, and YouTube was ruining culture.
This week, I’ve been thinking about that stance, and I couldn’t disagree more.
When we went to see the first YouTuber, a game reviewer known as Jack Septiceye, I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that his show, though not quite like anything I’d ever seen before, was essentially a kind-hearted brand of stand-up, mixed with audience participation bits that had kids coming up to play short segments of certain, much beloved games in front of the crowd. He’d ask them for the names of their YouTube channels and have the crowd chant their channel name, granting them a real shot at finding connections with others at the show, for the budding YouTubers in the audience.
The message, at the end, was that whatever your dream, with hard work and focus, you can make it happen, and while the show had its share of crude humor (with Jack urging the crowd to chant ‘FartBarf’ while one young girl tried her hand at the enormously popular and in generally poor taste ‘Happy Wheels’ that ultimately was Jack’s vehicle to YouTube notoriety) there was no doubting that his ultimate message was sincerely delivered. “Don’t let them tell you that you can’t. Follow your dreams.”
Flash forward to the end of the week, when we made the trek down to Auburn to see Lindsey Stirling, a classically trained violinist who performs upbeat songs of her own composition, as well as songs from video games and pop culture.
As we watched her perform, my kids were both enraptured – 13 and 15, and they wanted to go and see a show centered on violin. It was a great show, full of energy and fun, and several times, Lindsey stopped to share what was now becoming a familiar message. “Follow your dreams. You can succeed.”
It seems to me like this generation of stars who were made, not by execs and record labels, but by direct engagement with fans through these new media like YouTube feel a stronger connection to the world that made them, a sturdier responsibility to pass that message on to the next generation.
The best part, perhaps, came late in the show. There were three or four grown men at the show, sitting directly behind us. I don’t know why they bought tickets, but they were not at the show they thought they were coming to. They were rude, and loud about their opinions about the value of the entertainment, and made several inappropriate references to the only real value they perceived up on that stage – the beautiful young woman who was performing.
My daughter, 15, was trying to listen to a heartfelt message about Lindsey’s struggle with self image during her teen years, a message I could tell was having an impact, when the men behind us started up again, opining that they hadn’t paid to hear Lindsey talk, and falling back again into lewd descriptions of what they wanted to do to her. I was just thinking it might be time to say something to them, when my daughter turned around and shushed them.
They responded rudely, with a “No, you shush” as the music rose again for the next song, but that was the last of it. They quieted.
I tried to imagine myself at that age, facing down a trio of drunk and disorderly men, and the image fails. But then, my heroes never looked out into the audience and told me that I was important, that my dreams mattered, and that I should follow my heart.
I don’t know what the next generation will be, what will drive them or how they’ll interact or work or live. I know that there is a great deal of concern that they won’t know how to communicate with each other. We hear all the time that they only know how to tweet or text or snapchat, that they don’t know how to master the good old art of face-to-face anymore.
I’m here to tell you that they are communicating with their heroes in a way that we never did, and that their heroes are communicating back and telling them to stand up for their dreams, to stand up for themselves, and in a very loud and crowded theater, at least one young girl did just that.
Think what you will about YouTube (and if it’s that some of those video game parody songs are terrible, I will agree with you) but something tells me that these kids are going to be just fine.