Music Brings People Together: A Live 8 True Story

by Ellen Ann / 2527 days ago / Comments

My first thoughts when my then 15-year-old son asked me to take him to Live 8 on the Philadelphia Parkway were filled with anxiety.  An entire day in the hot July sun; we will get dehydrated; we will get migraines.  We would have to drink so much water that we would have to constantly use the porta-potties.  Oh my God; porta-potties.  Crowds.  Thousands of people pushing and shoving to get a better view.  No thank you.

Then, I thought about it.  What a terrific way to be a "cool mom" and make awesome memories with my oldest son.  Of course, we would go.  My one caveat was that when I had had enough he would not argue with me and we would come home.

Live 8 was a free mega-concert/fundraiser taking place in several countries around the world.  July 2, 2005, saw not just thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway leading to the stage at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  The crowd was estimated to be between 800,000 and one million.  My son, my 19-year-old niece, and I were there. 

We caught the SEPTA R-5 regional rail train at 6 am.  I made sure we had backpacks with water and snacks.  I brought beach/camping chairs.  My son actually scoffed at me regarding the chairs.  While on the train, more and more people were getting on and I had to point out that many of them had chairs.  By the time we made three or four stops, the train was packed with concert-goers.  It was no longer a local train; it was an express train to center city Philadelphia.  Even that early in the morning, the excitement was top level.

We walked the few blocks from the train station to the Parkway.  There were already hundreds of people lining the street.  The concert was not scheduled to start for another three hours.  We kept walking toward the Art Museum and couldn’t believe how close we were getting to the staging area.  The concert in London had started several hours before and was being streamed on the jumbo screens scattered up and down the Parkway. 

Out of nowhere a young woman called to us.  “You can sit here”.  I have no idea why she singled us out.  We took her up on her offer; there was plenty of space at that time.  She and her girlfriend had flown in from California just to see Bon Jovi.  At the time I thought that was a bit excessive but have come to realize the importance of that decision.  I am so thankful she decided to come to the Philadelphia show, for reasons I will tell soon.

The concert was hosted by a hometown boy, Will Smith.  It was so exciting to see him perform in person.  When he and DJ Jazzy Jeff performed “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, the crowd went crazy.  He was our very own Fresh Prince.

The Black-Eyed Peas opened the show appropriately with “Let’s Get it Started.”  Each band played three or four songs.  We lost track of time as Destiny’s Child, Kanye West, Maroon 5, Sarah McLachlan, Linkin Park, Keith Urban, just to name a few, entertained us.  There were many celebrity presenters also, including Oprah Winfrey, Steve Carell, Richard Gere, Jimmy Smits, again, just to name a few.

I was so happy to be able to be there with my son and my niece.  It turns out my nephew was also there.  He was about 50 yards behind us.  I must have passed him and his friends on my way to the dreaded porta-potties and did not even know he was there.

When Bon Jovi finally took the stage mid-afternoon, the look on our new friend’s face said it all.  When they launched into “Livin’ On A Prayer” she turned around to us and smiled so brightly.  I will always remember that.

We had so much fun that day.  We saw many exciting bands and other celebrities.  We did not make it to the end of the concert.  When we started getting tired and cranky, we decided it was time to go home.  We missed Richard Gere introduce Stevie Wonder.  The band list includes Don Mclean and Neil Diamond, however, I do not remember seeing them.  Was I just too awed to remember?

We walked back to the train station, stopping for bottles of water and Live 8 t-shirts.  The station was hot and crowded.  The trains were not running on time.  We finally got on an air-conditioned train!  We were so tired but so hyped by all the experiences we had that day.  I know I made good memories with my son and my niece.  It has been twelve years and we still talk about that day.

We also made a good friend that day.  The young woman who loves Bon Jovi kept her promise and kept in touch with us.  My niece and I flew to California to attend her wedding.  She flew to Philadelphia, bringing her husband and children with her, to surprise me for my 50th birthday.  She helped me through my divorce; I helped her through hers.  She has watched my children finish high school and move into adulthood.  I have watched her children grow from little kids to the beautiful 5, 12, and 15-year-old people they are now.

She helped me through my sister’s illness and death 2 years ago.  At this point, I was living in Phoenix, as was my sister.  She came in, not once, but twice, to assist me with settling my sister into hospice and clearing out her apartment.  The second week she came in, she brought her children to help also.  She is the most kind-hearted person I know.  She has not only been there for me when times are tough.  When I won Bon Jovi concert tickets several years ago I knew I had to take her.  She drove in, stayed with me for a few days, and we had a blast at the concert.  There was no one else I would have wanted to go to the concert with. 

She understands my anxieties and panic attacks but she doesn’t let me totally give in to them.  She knows when to push me through my anxieties.  Like the time she came to Arizona for a Wade Hayes concert in Flagstaff.  We drove up on Friday; the show was Friday night.  I remember it snowed the next day and we were trying to decide if we should drive back to Phoenix, or stay another night.  We were listening to the radio and heard that the Swon Brothers were going to be playing in Chandler, AZ that night.  The decision was made.  We were driving back and going to Chandler.  I was a nervous wreck.  We got lost on the way to Chandler.  It was raining.  I was cranky because I was anxious.  She got on the phone and Siri got us to the concert.  We got to meet the Swon Brothers after the show and I had just attended my first "Swoncert".  I would have given up when we got lost, but not her.  She is determined but not in a pushy, obnoxious way.  She understood where I was coming from and talked me through it.  That is how she is.  She always encourages me to step out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes I listen.  She has given me opportunities I never thought I would have.  I thank her for that.

Last summer I visited her in California three different weekends.  They were typical visits for us.  One weekend I developed a kidney stone.  One weekend she ended up in the hospital with a severe allergic reaction.  One weekend we actually made it to the beach!  She has since moved to Nashville.  I am not sure when I will see her again in person.  That makes me a little sad, but I am so happy that she is living her dream.  I know I will see her again; it’s just not as easy as it was.

We come from different religious backgrounds.  I am old enough to be her mother. We are completely opposite politically.  None of that matters.  We respect each other’s beliefs and feelings.  We do no let our differences affect our friendship.  That friendship is just too important.

I really cannot explain how important this woman is to me.  That may sound strange to some.  She is like the daughter I never had.  She is like the sister I do not fight with.  She is like my best friend.  Happy 12th friendiversary!

I am so grateful I decided to give my son an amazing concert experience. 


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About Ellen Ann

Ellen Ann Journalist

I grew up in Philadelphia which is rich in the culture of music and arts. I played the cello for 3 years in elementary school and for a short time I was a part of the Philadelphia Children's Orchestra. I believe every home should have a piano whether anyone plays it or not. Someone will almost always try to learn and there is always a friend or relative who will just sit down and play. I enjoy most music, live theater, and live comedy. Music brings back memories, soothes the soul, changes my mood and outlook. Sometimes all it takes is a favorite song to make the day beautiful! I now live in the Phoenix, AZ area where I am a not-so-boring accountant. I try to make time to travel, explore the area where I live, the music and arts in the southwest, and just, in general, learn who I really am and who I want to be.