Monday, May 21, 2018

Like father, like son: Bruce Springsteen is still “The Boss”

Michael Calistri ’16

Contributing Writer

Since I was young, Bruce Springsteen has always triggered a feeling of nostalgia within me, so when I heard he would be playing in Hartford at the XL Center this fall, I determined myself to trace my long musical history with “The Boss.”

My father first introduced me to Bruce when I was six or seven years old. I began to notice that the music playing from our living room stereo and my father’s car always sounded the same. It was then that I took an interest in figuring out more about this musician who had been eluding me for years. I’d seen tapes and old vinyl album sleeves lying around the house, and heard my dad talk about a man named “Bruce” as if they were best friends, but I was too young to connect all the dots on this musical mystery. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me and I inquired to my dad what song we were listening to in the car. He answered, “Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen”, and continued to explain to me how he’d been listening to this since he was in college. His simple explanation quickly turned into a passionate recollection of how monumental the album “Born to Run” was when it came out. It was at that moment that my father’s Springsteen-induced fervor passed into me. For the first time, I listened rather than heard the music flowing out of the speakers, realizing why my dad had treasured these euphoric melodies for so long. Needless to say, I was hooked. “Born to Run” was the only thing I listened to for months, and it wasn’t just because the music was so pleasing to my young ears, it was that this was my first album, my first taste of music. From that time on, my weekend mornings with my dad and sister at his apartment became defined by our mid-morning Springsteen jam sessions. Maybe more important than the music or the feeling it brought me was the pleasure it brought my dad. Even at seven years old I could recognize that my profound interest in Bruce Springsteen made him happy.

Fast-forward a few years to an eleven year old me, when my mom decided I was old enough to attend my first concert. It only seemed fitting that it be one of my first musical love: Bruce Springsteen. The concert was at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, near my family’s vacation home. It was a Bruce Springsteen acoustic set, and my mom spared me no mercy in explaining that this would sound nothing like the albums I’d been listening to for years. To me, it didn’t matter, acoustic or accompanied by a full band, he was still Bruce Springsteen, the man whose music had defined my childhood. The concert was far from a let down. Perhaps it was because my mom had set such low expectations for the evening, or maybe because in my adolescent eyes, Bruce could do no wrong. I was enwrapped in the spectacle of his performance, not just because his musical presence was able to fill the arena as if he had an entire band behind him, but because the concert gave me a taste of maturity. My mom had not only warned me to temper my expectations for the night, but to also be wary of the frequent expletives she claimed Bruce would use during the concert. I listened in shock as Bruce stood on stage between songs and let out a slew of words that an eleven year old boy wouldn’t even dream of saying. At first, being surrounded by grown men and women I felt nervous and out of place, wondering if my mother would reprimand me for even hearing those words. But she just shrugged her head, as if this was a rite of passage into manhood.

It was the songs he played that night that I didn’t know that hypnotized me, taking me back to my moment of revelation I’d had in my dad’s car a few years prior. It was as if I was hearing “Born to Run” top to bottom all over again, feeling the elation of a completely original and irreproducible experience.  Over Trinity Days, I was back home in Philadelphia when one of my high school friends announced that he was taking the trip from Fairfield to Hartford to see Bruce on October 25. To be honest, I’ve grown away from Bruce Springsteen in the last few years, although he’s always remained a staple in my musical portfolio. But upon hearing that he’d be performing so close to Trinity, I regressed into a younger version of myself, intent on finding a way to relive those pivotal firsts I had experienced so many years ago. On the drive home that night I cued up a few Springsteen songs on my car stereo and let the nostalgia sweep over me. Even after ten years, his songs still have the some touch as they did when I was a child, reassuring me that music never loses its nostalgic value.

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