Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Spirit Al-minal: The Importance of Being Weird.


This past weekend, I took a day off and spent it at the Wisconsin State Fair.  While the cream puffs alone are a reason to be there, the entire reason I took the day off and went back after having not gone since I was a child was to see Weird Al.  I was super psyched about it, and after the show I realized it was more than just a fun, silly thing to do.  It was important to me.  Here's the kicker:  Weird Al is important to me. 

Lest you think I'm some kind of stalker fan, lemme splain.  Or at least let me sum up. 

I've got a weird name.  While I'm proud of that now, sometimes it made me stick out when I wasn't keen on sticking out.  For the record, I'm not *often* keen on sticking out, even now.  On top of that, I was an only child who was around adults more than I was other kids.  On top of *that*, I had one very close friend and we kinda stayed in our own world.  So I was weird. 

And I was called weird.  And when I was little, I remember how much it hurt when people would call me weird.  I think even as a kid we have a pressure to be like everyone else. Maybe especially when we're kids. We don't really have a sense of how ridiculous the argument "But everyone ELSE has L.A. Lights sneakers Mommmmm"  really sounds. 

Going to a very small private school didn't really help me much.  There's only one clique and as Heidi Klum tells us, "You're either in...or you're out."  

It's innocuous enough when she says it in her cute German accent, but when you're living it, it's a different story. 

Once my best friend left my school and I wasn't in...well that was the worst of times. 

But then came high school at a public school.  Hundreds more kids, tons of classes, tons of "types" of people.  Jock, stoner, band nerd (hey that's me!), drama kids, choir kids, student government...gaming club...standard nerds...just a lot of different types.  

I found a tribe, or a tribe was thrust upon me when I attended band camp.  Make any American Pie reference you wish to here, but what that gave me was confidence, because I had a skill.  It gave me a place where I already had something in common with everyone else.  As it happens, the high school I went to, band wasn't as "uncool" as people make it out to be.  In the week or so of camp, I met people, I worked hard with people, I sat around in the sun with people.  I talked about Star Wars with people (because I was TOTALLY obsessed at the time) and whipped out Cantina Band on my clarinet.    And on the first day of actual school, me, the little freshman...already knew 84 people.  I already had a table to sit at with people I knew.  Not only people, some of them were upper classmen.   

That was when I started to feel ok about being weird.  It didn't seem like such a bad thing all of the sudden. 
I'm not going to claim to be the kind of Weird Al fan who knew every song by the time I was 10. I wasn't. I knew of him, and I'd heard some things, but I wasn't this lifelong, die-hard, sing every word fan. 

Even in high school, though I'd have said I was a fan, I wasn't someone who had all the cds or knew all the songs.  I knew of him, and I enjoyed him.  I knew he was the guy who parodied everyone else's songs, and I thought he was hilarious.  As I got older, I got more and more "educated" on Weird Al.  In recent years I've heard lots of interviews with him that made me like him more and more, as a person and a performer.  By the time I got to the concert Friday night, I was a very big fan. 

See...the reason why Weird Al is my spirit animal is BECAUSE he's Weird.  
Hearing him in concert it's evident how talented he is.  The man can sing, and he can play instruments, and at 56 he can high kick above his head in leather pants (seriously? seriously.)

And he's unapologetic.  And he's NICE.  The man is genuinely nice, and you rarely hear him speak a bad word about anyone else.  

He's made a living doing something he loves to do.  He's silly and he's irreverent and he has insane long curly hair, and he likes intensely obnoxious Hawaiian shirts.  He plays accordion.  And instead of letting weird hurt him, he took it and made an amazingly successful career out of it. When Weird Al parodies your song, it's an honor.   Bands like Nirvana loved him.  And speaking of.... 

He does a pretty great Kobain.  I think Kurt would be just as happy with it now as he was originally. 

Al does costume changes after every song, and his Weird Al TV segments play in the interim.  Really, who else can wear things like this?  Ten guesses what song this was for...

Sometimes during the show, it struck me that he didn't have to *be* Weird Al.  He's talented enough to have pulled off a "normal" music career.  And he definitely has the rocker hair.

What I admire most is that he IS Weird Al though.  This is what he does. And he does it unapologetically. Whether it looks like this...

Or more like this.  It's hard to explain til you're there, but the concert vibe is so different than any other show I've been to.  I think you go in knowing the people around you have a sense of humor, and you go in knowing they might've caught some flak from their friends for going to see Weird Al in concert.  But they're there anyway, and they're loving it.  Everyone's laughing and singing along and it feels more like a living room situation than an arena situation. 

He's a chameleon but he's always still HIM. 

And on top of it all, he's a nerd.  A nerd who loves Star Wars. And plays accordion.  And dresses like a peacock.  And has a massively succesful and incredibly long-lasting music career. 

Weird Al reminds me that you *can* "dare to be stupid" and not take yourself so damn seriously. 
He reminds me that you can be successful without being a jerk, and that you can do your own thing, be your own person, and make it. 

So...if I have kids some day, and when I'm around my nephews (including my newest Caleb, who arrived today!! Happy birthday kiddo!!), they'll be life-long Weird Al fans if I have anything to say about it. 
I was joking on the way back to the car that I should put on an online dating profile that I was looking for a guy who was "Just like Weird Al" but maybe that's not that funny. 

I guess what I wanted to say with all this is just that this past weekend, with that concert and being with a really good friend...I remembered how good it feels to just be you.  Silly or serious.  Silly AND serious. 
Be weird.
Go forth, and be weird. 
Because weird is better than ok, it's good. 
And I'm not afraid of it anymore.

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