The first time I saw The Beach Boys was in a sports coliseum with 20,000 other people. That evening, most of the band came on stage and started with a song to warm up the crowd. Before the next song, Brian Wilson, wearing a muumuu and with his guitar slung over his shoulder, walked slowly to center stage as Mike Love genuflected in front of him. I have apparently mentioned this memory at least a couple of times to my kids, because they bought tickets for me to see The Beach Boys when they came to town last week.
This time – 35 years later! — it was in a small venue of about 1,500 seats. Mike Love was the only original member performing. At the first show I was surrounded by a crowd that was slightly older than me, who all seemed sexy and cool. I wanted to be like them. At last week’s show, I spotted someone in front who I thought was one of my friends, with the same sparse gray hair and pot belly. Then I realized most of the guys in the crowd looked like that. Half of them stuffed plugs in their ears to protect their hearing. I glanced at my wife. We were still younger than most of the crowd, and this time I was happy about it.
Those weren’t the only differences. Back at the first concert, folks were smoking cigarettes of all kinds and holding their Bic lighters high for certain songs. Today, they’d get arrested for that. At the hall last week, we could bring beer to our seats, which would have gotten us at least kicked out in the old days.
Here’s what was the same: Although the group is essentially a cover band, with Mike Love as the main draw, the music was great. It was powerful, joyful, nearly overwhelming in the best possible way; it would have knocked me over if I weren’t hanging on. As the last set wound down a woman in front of me (who I otherwise disliked because she whooped loudly during the whole concert and blocked my view when she stood to dance) genuflected toward Mike Love.
This is why I am writing about my music experience for a blog on writing and business practices: The Beach Boys have adjusted, adding new members and accepting smaller venues, while providing a consistent sound over an incredible length of time. They deliver what their fans want. It’s a sustainable business plan. In that way, The Beach Boys are a good example for all of us.
Paul Steinmetz is the director of Community Relations and Public Affairs at Western Connecticut State University. He is also the principal of Writing Associates, offering writing services to businesses, organizations and individuals.