It is what it is: Paying for the experience

So, I did it. I followed the latest pop psychology trend and spent money on an experience, rather than a thing.


It was a cool experience, for sure, but I’m not entirely convinced that I wouldn’t have been just as happy to have spent that money on a thing.

Early last month, my 16-year-old son and I flew down to San Francisco to catch a concert at AT&T Park. The show, Called Bay Area Band Together was a benefit for communities impacted by the wildfires that tore through the region in October, leaving 43 people dead and displacing thousands.

With that in mind, the show had perhaps the most unique lineup outside of Lollapalooza: Metallica was the headliner, but there were also sets by Dead &Company (which includes three members of the Grateful Dead plus a few other musicians filling in for those who have faded away, so to speak); Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds; punk rock band Rancid; Oakland rapper G-Easy; and Raphael Saadiq, a Bay Area blues and R&B musician.

It was a spur of the moment decision to go to the show. My wife and daughter had attended a couple of big stadium shows over the past couple of years, but my son wasn’t exactly interested in Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran. He’s more of a metalhead; I think he actually considers Metallica to be easy listening.

Ironically, Slayer was playing at a different venue the same night that my wife and daughter saw Taylor Swift, but I don’t know if my son could’ve convinced his grandfather to take him.

So, we’ve been keeping an eye out for a concert for him, and with that lineup, this one seemed too good to pass up.

As a side note, it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve been to a big stadium concert, and in the interest of full disclosure, the last one I went to was Garth Brooks. Please don’t judge me; I was trying to impress a girl. I’ve now been married to her for 20 years, so I think it worked.

And in the same way my son missed out on Slayer, I’ve missed out on more concerts than I’ve attended. When I was in college, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were supposed to play on campus, but the concert was canceled on the day of the show. The school wanted the band to sign a contract that they wouldn’t encourage stage diving; the Bosstones weren’t having any of it.

Blues Traveler also played at my school, just before they hit it big commercially, but I missed that one for track meet. I wasn’t running in the meet due to an injury, but I was a team captain and my coach wanted me to be there for moral support.

But the biggest miss happened when I was just out of college, working for a company that built and installed the advertising signs around the field for professional soccer matches. We were doing a game between two Central or South American teams at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., and had to get the signs broken down and loaded on a truck as soon as the match ended for a game the next night in New Jersey. The next night at RFK was a Grateful Dead show — not just the Dead, but Bob Dylan and the Dead — and that crew was also supposed to get to work as soon as the final whistle blew.

However, the game ended in a lackluster scoreless draw, and the fans were not happy and came rushing on the field. Despite the mayhem, my crew got right to work breaking down signs, while the concert crew was frozen in awe of the scene unfolding. The concert crew supervisor was so impressed that he invited us to come hang out backstage for the show. We thought about it — my supervisor was a huge Deadhead — but the next stadium was a four-hour drive away, there was a lot of work to be done, and it just didn’t seem feasible. Besides, the Grateful Dead were going to tour forever, right?

Well, that was June of 1995, and Jerry Garcia died in August.

So, jumping back to the Band Together concert, that lineup was too good to pass up.

The fates did their best to try to get me to miss this concert, too — my daughter broke her arm the day we were trying to leave, and our connecting flight between Seattle and San Francisco was more than two hours late. But we made it in time for the start of the concert.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the show. My son was stoked that Metallica played a bunch of their older stuff (from the 1980s!) and I think he even enjoyed the Dead &Company set — or at least he enjoyed watching Grateful Dead fans twirl around.

The money we spent on the experience went to a good cause. The concert raised $17 million for an emergency relief fund, which we can certainly feel good about. And there is something about the energy at a live show that you just don’t get from turning the stereo at home up as loud as it can go.

And, as it turns out, I did get a “thing” from the experience — a unique concert T-shirt.

So I guess it was money well-spent after all.

Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at


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