Like Father, Like Son – a Mother-Daughter Adventure

I took my ten year old to her first metal show last week. Yes, I subjected her 100+ decibels and 10,000+ rowdy, sweaty (and a few inebriated) fans.

But before you snatch away my Mom-of-the-Year Award and stomp it to bits with your sensible shoes, hear me out.

There were earplugs involved. And backstage passes. And amusement park rides. I couldn’t resist.

Little Miss M is no stranger to concerts. She attended many a moe. show in utero, and had her first 3-day festival experience at nine months old.

Baby's First Backstage Pass

All Access Babyphoto credit Mitch Cohen

When other kids are tagging along with their parents to office buildings and cubicles on “Take Your Child to Work Day”, we regularly give her a taste of our livelihood each summer as she witnesses stages built, lighting trusses hung, catering set up and crew running around like headless chickens with Maglites. She has happy reunions with other band kids who, like her, don’t exactly realize how rare it is to play house in a tour bus, to play tag backstage and to fall asleep side-stage while the band plays on.

Iron Maiden, Camden NJ 2012


So I knew she would do OK in the concert environment. However, she has never stood in gen pop, watching a stage ignite in pyro flames and fireworks, with a skeletal mascot leering out from ever-changing backdrops and making 3-D appearances in statues as big and impressive as an Easter Island Moai.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, the metal show was Iron Maiden. For those of you who aren’t aware of my admiration for their frontman Bruce Dickinson, you might want to click here.

Iron Maiden, Bristow VA 2012


It’s been over twenty-seven years since I first began seeing them live, and I never imagined they would still be touring well into their 50s and still performing top-notch. They never just phone in a show on auto-pilot, it’s always 110% effort and genuine.


And I always tell people: as long as they keep playing like this, I will keep going to shows.  This is no nostalgia act. For them, or for me. But realistically, I know the time is, as Bruce would say, running low.

So I thought it was time to show my daughter something I really love and enjoy, and to introduce her to the friends I have made along the way.

Ready for the show, maybe.

The band was playing 40 minutes from my house – the closest they’ve been since 2005. No borders to cross, no planes to catch. The shed was part of a local amusement park, so first there were rides:

Good thing she had my friend Dawn as her partner in crime for the rides!

Then there was the backstage part. With root beer.

Then came a weird and wonderful opportunity – I introduced my child to Bruce’s child. Like his father, Austin Dickinson is making waves with his distinctive voice in his own band, Rise To Remain. They are one of the many bands on Warped Tour this summer, and they happened to have a show the very next night at the same venue. So Austin came down to watch his dad’s show.

He was charming and gracious and I think he gained a new fan! Now the Dickinson-Topper circle is complete…until maybe the day when my grandchildren are famous and Bruce’s grandchildren want to meet them.

Oh, and the show? She loved it! Earplugs and all. Bruce (wearing a shirt on stage designed by his younger son Griffin, who recently launched a clothing company, Griffin Allstar) and the rest of the band thoroughly entertained and enthralled her.

“What is the most important thing in life?” an attendee of the Forum IAB marketing conference in Warsaw, Poland recently asked the guest speaker after his riveting 40 minute lecture on Customer Value Management. (Yes, I said ‘riveting’ and ‘marketing’ in the same breath!)

“Your children. Your family.” The speaker replied. The speaker was Bruce Dickinson. And the crowd hung on to his every word. (Told you. Riveting!)

Sadly the Youtube video containing the informal Q&A has been made private, but you can still watch the speech itself here and here. I wish I had transcribed what he had said about supporting and taking care of your children, as it was pretty wise. Spend time with your kids, pay attention to them. Show interest in what they do. We cannot all model our kids’ T-shirts in front of 15,000 fans each night, but we can love them and take an interest in what they want to do in life.

If my kid decides she never wants to see another metal show again, I will be OK with that. I’m glad I got to share a part of me she hadn’t been privy to before, and I hope she will always remember the side of me not defined by “mom” standards. I hope her own interests and passions and beliefs continue to expand and I will always fight my way to front row and center to cheer her on.


Everyone Should Meet their Heroes

I don’t think there’s an exact quote out there, but you may have heard the old “Never meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint you” motto before. No one you worship can possibly live up to such high expectations, right? It would be like going to heaven and catching God up there smoking pot.

Well, maybe not. But I really think it has to do with the height of the pedestal and the width of their swollen ego.

I’ve got several heroes (Hi Mom! Hi Dad! Hi Dalai Lama!) but today I’m talking about about the big kahuna, my majordomo of heroes. The chance of ever really meeting him (outside of a hi or a handshake) made him the Holy Grail of heroes in my mind for many years.

My hero is a graduate in History of Queen Mary College, London (and holds an honorary Doctorate from the same institution). He’s written two novels and a movie that premiered at Cannes Film Festival. He is a championship fencer, once ranked #7 in the UK men’s foil disciple. Oh, and he flies planes, too. And not in the “I’m rich and I pilot my private jet” way. More like licensed Boeing 757 pilot. In fact, the airline he works for recently promoted him to Director of Marketing. He was also chosen to narrate an entire Discovery Channel documentary series on flying planes. And somewhere in there, he also had time to moonlight as a DJ on BBC 6.

He geeks out on anything William Blake and Dr. Who, and (bless his heart) hates reality television.

And he also looks great in spandex pants.

I admire a man who defies stereotypes...and who can fly me places.

My hero, ladies and gents – who is all that and a bag of chips – is Bruce Dickinson, the singer of Iron Maiden.

He’s gone by the moniker Bruce Bruce in past. He’s been called “Conan the Librarian” because he is a smart powerhouse of a guy. But his most famous nickname is “Air Raid Siren”, as it’s said he shattered a glass globe once with a well-placed scream.

You’re free to pooh-pooh and tsk-tsk, or write him and his band off as devil worshippers in a music genre so old it fell off a dinosaur’s paw. But you would really be doing yourself a disservice.

And besides, this is about me meeting my hero. Not a pissing contest of “my hero could beat up your hero”, etc. So back to the story.

Yes, that’s him on the stage between the Xs! And that’s me up in the seats, admiring him from afar.

I’ve wanted to meet Bruce since I was twelve years old. I wrote the letters that never left my keepsake box. I plastered my room with posters. I sang along with every lyric and brushed my teeth with a toothbrush embossed with his name on it. And when the concert rolled into town, I practically broke my fingers dialing the rotary phone trying to win backstage passes through the local radio station.

And I cried when I didn’t.

Then my father said something to me that I carry with me to this day. “Don’t spend your life waiting to meet Bruce Dickinson. Do something with your life so Bruce Dickinson will want to meet you.” Go dad! Awesome words. So profound, I actually found myself telling Bruce those exact words when I met him in 2005.

Bruce and Jess

He was charming and gracious and witty, a perfect gentleman. He joked with me and my friends, asked us questions and listened intently. Hard to believe not two hours before this picture was taken, he was bringing down a packed house of 12,000 screaming fans. I don’t expect him to ever remember me, or to remember that night like I obviously do. But I do hope to one day do something great in my life that would make him want to meet me, for a switch. Or at the very least, let me make him a sandwich.



noun (plural heroes)

  • 1 a person, typically a man, who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities
  • (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.
  • 2 (also hero sandwich)North American  another term for hoagie

From Oxford English Dictionary