When I was 13, and when Def Leppard’s "Pyromania" album ruled the charts, the band’s official sleeveless Union Jack T (with "Def Leppard" tastefully printed near the wearer’s heart) defined rock ‘n’ roll cool for a circle of friends in my rural Central Illinois hometown.
Some had more access to the source of that cool than others. I, for instance, didn’t have permission to travel to Peoria for a Def Leppard concert on Aug. 19, 1983, but I really wanted to wear the band’s version of the British flag on my back.
So I gave cash to a friend who attended the show, and asked him to buy a shirt for me.
While I’m confessing to being the opposite of cool, I should admit I did this more than once. The same friend brought back a "Kilroy Was Here" tour shirt from Styx in Chicago. (Remember "Mr. Roboto"?)
Looking back, it’s easy to tag myself as a fraud. I remember someone at summer camp seeing the Styx shirt and asking, "How was the show?"
"Pretty good," I mumbled, keeping it vague and hoping for no follow-up questions.
On the other hand, I was a decent fan for these titans of mainstream rock. Loyal enough to advertise their work in public, and I had an inkling that something special happened at big-time concerts.
I finally made it to a show of my own choosing around 1985 or so, when I checked out Survivor at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.
Survivor didn’t have much going on beyond "Eye of the Tiger," and the band’s reputation has dwindled to footnote status. But at least rock ‘n’ roll treasure Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels opened for Survivor that night.
Three decades later, I’ve experienced the rush of live music hundreds of times, something I don’t take for granted as a new summer concert season arrives.
With a few dozen people, I witnessed the Avett Brothers play an afternoon show on the porch of the Monkey’s Tale in Broad Ripple in 2005. I was part of a similar-sized crowd when Indianapolis singer Josh Kaufman performed at the Rathskeller Biergarten as part of the 2001 Midwest Music Summit.
The Avetts are now stars headed back to Indianapolis for a June 14 concert at the 7,400-capacity Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park. I wrote about Kaufman’s Rathskeller performance in The Star, but it frankly slipped my mind until he made "The Voice" TV show this year.
In 2005, I caught a memorable Keith Urban show at a packed Indiana State Fair Grandstand. The country-pop star took his act down to the racetrack and into the crowd, causing a line of Indiana State Police officers to run to protect Urban from his fans.
Urban will return to Central Indiana for an Aug. 2 show at the 24,000-capacity Klipsch Music Center. Def Leppard, not quite as cool as back in the "Pyromania" days, will share a bill with Kiss on Aug. 22 at Klipsch. And Mitch Ryder, now 69, will visit this year’s Indiana State Fair on Aug. 12 as part of the "Happy Together" nostalgia tour.
My favorite aspect of live music is that every performance is self-contained and singular. The Miranda Lambert concert on Aug. 16 at Klipsch is the only time she will present that show for that audience at that venue. In contrast, all of America will watch the same "X-Men: Days of Future Past" movie this summer. A screening in Indianapolis will be identical to a screening in Missoula, Mont.
On these pages, The Star’s "Summer Playlist" outlines more than 90 concerts at nearly 20 venues between now and Sept. 27. Hopefully, you can attend a show or two — and purchase your own T-shirt if you’d like.
I wish I knew what happened to the souvenirs of the 1983 concerts I didn’t attend. Someone on Etsy.com is asking $120 for an original version of the Def Leppard shirt, and someone on eBay is asking $155 for the Styx shirt.
More Summer Playlist coverage
>> May shows: Hagar, Aldean and Hardwell at track
>> The venues: Concert sites range from cozy to colossal
>> June shows: Veteran faves Paisley, Matthews and Buffett are back
>> Celeb selections: Notable Hoosiers pick shows they want to see
>> July shows: Motley Crue exits; Babyface returns
>> Missing out: What about the shows that won’t play here?
>> August and September: Luke Bryan back-to-back; Coliseum in full fair swing
Call Star reporter David Lindquist at (317) 444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.Tags: concert, movie, music, singer, tour, tv