Ready to Rock
Always Up to See Springsteen
Everybody who knows Andy McCormick knows he’s a big Bruce Springsteen fan.
“He’s a walking encyclopedia on Springsteen,” says friend Cathy Beathard.
“Andy gives me books on Springsteen, like five books in the last year,” says Cathy’s husband, Dave, who’s no slouch when it comes to the rock superstar, having seen Springsteen in concert 10 times himself.
“Andy has read every book ever written on Springsteen,” his wife, Aileen, confirms.
In his law office, amongst pictures of his three kids, now grown, Andy displays a guitar signed by Springsteen (a gift from a client to commemorate Andy’s 30th anniversary of practicing law), two miniatures of the types of guitars Springsteen plays (a gift from another client), and in pride of place, a framed collage Aileen made of photos, ticket stubs, backstage passes, and a concert poster from the trip they took to Paris to see Springsteen for Andy’s 40th birthday.
Springsteen has been a long-standing interest of Andy’s. Aileen says that one of their first dates was to a Bruce Springsteen concert, almost 42 years ago. And Andy set up the living room of their first apartment as newlyweds for sound. “Andy had the biggest speakers he could find,” remembers Aileen, and their furniture was set up to best hear that stereo system. When a new album (of any artist the McCormicks liked) came out, they would make a night of listening to it. “It was kind of a ritual,” says Aileen, a ritual that often involved a specially frozen bottle of vodka. A new album in the days before music streaming “used to be a lovely experience,” says Andy. “You had to sit down and enjoy it and it was terrific.”
By his count, Andy has seen Bruce Springsteen in concert over 50 times, six times during Springsteen’s latest tour this year alone. Aileen’s gone about 25 times. Although she loves Springsteen too, she says, “Sometimes, he goes without me. I’m like, ‘Enough.’” (Since this article was published, that count has already increased. Andy and Aileen traveled to see Springsteen perform in his home state of New Jersey, where Aileen and Andy also grew up.)
Andy saw Springsteen’s one-man show on Broadway, called “Springsteen on Broadway,” twice, not counting re-watching it on Netflix.
He’s met Springsteen and other E Street Band members, been backstage, even met Springsteen’s mother. “She was lovely,” remembers Andy, “this little old gray-haired Italian lady. She started talking to a bunch of us, waiting outside before a concert, and said, ‘I just love my son’s fans.’”
Andy’s far from alone in his love of Springsteen. A reporter, reviewing Springsteen’s latest show in The Dallas Observer, wrote about “the level of dedication from his fans, who arrived decked out in Springsteen tour merchandise from across the decades, sharing stories and outdoing each other with the number of times they had seen The Boss – one guy, three times; one woman, 47 times; and another fan boasted that he was attending his 189th Springsteen concert.”
When Aileen took Andy to see Springsteen play in Paris for his 40th birthday, she arranged for them to go backstage during the band’s sound check where they got to meet Springsteen. “I thought Andy was going to pass out,” Aileen remembers.
For Andy’s 60th birthday, Aileen arranged for them to see Springsteen perform in Amsterdam. “I’m a really good wife,” she says with a smile. “In reality, I like to travel.”
They travelled again this May. The McCormicks, both now 64, went with a group of family and friends, including the Beathards, the McCormicks’ daughter Jenna and Jenna’s husband Joe, and Aileen’s childhood friends, Sharon and Jesse Thompson, to see The Boss perform in Dublin.
What is it about Springsteen? You know, besides the 20 Grammys, the Oscar (for best original song for the 1993 movie Philadelphia), the Tony (for “Springsteen on Broadway”), the two Golden Globes (for best original song for a movie, again for his song for Philadelphia and also, in 2008, for his song for the movie The Wrestler). Springsteen has, of course, been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and also the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s been awarded Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Maybe it’s his 21 studio albums, and all those songs? (Two years ago, Springsteen sold his music catalogue to Sony Music Entertainment for a reported $550 million in a deal The New York Times said, “may well be the biggest transaction ever struck for a single artist’s body of work.”)
But there’s more. Springsteen and the E Street Band are also famous for their galvanizing, high-energy live performances.
Dave Beathard was in high school at Strake Jesuit when he saw his first Springsteen concert. “It was the best rock concert I’ve ever seen, to this day,” he says. Springsteen concerts are “the best entertainment I’ve seen in my life.”
Andy didn’t even like Springsteen when he went to his first concert as a teenager. Springsteen was playing at Princeton University near where Andy grew up in New Jersey. A buddy had two tickets but no car. He offered Andy one of the tickets if he would drive. “And that was too good of a deal to pass up,” says Andy, “so we went, and it was crazy.” Springsteen hung from the scaffolding while performing. He climbed up onto a stack of speakers, each one the size of a desk. “He started swinging back and forth and making them move. I thought, ‘This son of a gun is going to die,’” remembers Andy. “It was the best thing I had ever seen. I was hooked right then, and anytime I could see him, I did. It’s just been fun. Really more than anything else, it’s been fun.”
Years later, as an adult living in Bellaire, Andy and a friend decided to travel to New York City to see Springsteen perform at Madison Square Garden. Problem was, they didn’t have tickets, even as they were riding a train from New Jersey, where they had visited Andy’s mother, into New York City the night of the concert. “We were in the very last car of the train, and I said, ‘Well, let’s give this a shot,’” remembers Andy. The two men went from car to car, asking if anyone had extra Springsteen tickets. “People were giving us a hard time, saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” says Andy, but when they got to the very first car, two women said they had extra tickets.
Turns out their husbands had ended up having to work that night. “They said, ‘Listen: we’ve never been to a Springsteen concert and we’re scared to death to go into the city and do this alone,’” Andy says. While Andy and his friend offered to pay for the tickets, the women refused to take any money. “We had such a good time,” says Andy. “There are thousands of stories like that, with just nice people at these concerts.”
And for the McCormicks, it’s not just about Springsteen. They love going, often with friends, to live performances, both of big-name acts and local artists performing here in Houston. McGonigel’s Mucky Duck is a favorite local venue. They recently saw Tanya Tucker, who they have seen before, this time at The Heights Theater. Aileen will be seeing Pink this month with some friends. They’ve gone to see bands their kids and friends have recommended, such as The String Cheese Incident from Colorado and Shane Smith & The Saints from Austin.
The Beathards too see a lot of live music, often with the McCormicks. Dave estimates that they see a concert once every couple of weeks. When it comes to local artists, “we’ll go see someone we’ve never heard of,” says Cathy, “and it’s always been a good experience.” They’ll be going to the Austin City Limits Music Festival this October to see, in particular, the Foo Fighters, one of their other favorite bands. Cathy says that while (cover your ears, Andy) Springsteen is up there on her list of favorite bands to see, her favorite is U2. And she just saw Bono, U2’s lead singer, in his one-man show, called “Stories of Surrender,” in New York with friends.
There’s something magical about music, particularly about seeing it performed live. Neuroscientists have found that listening to music, even when the listener is not a musician, activates more parts of the human brain than anything else. Parts of our brain that deal with sound, of course, but also with movement, language, emotions, long-term memories, and social bonding all light up. Listening to music, researchers found, floods the human brain with dopamine, which has been called “the feel-good neurotransmitter,” and oxytocin, also known as “the love hormone.” “Everyone at a Springsteen concert is on their feet from start to finish,” says Dave. “Everyone’s singing, and everyone knows the words.”
Music can also create and strengthen relationships. The McCormicks and the Beathards, who originally met while traveling in 2013, are able to share their love of music, concerts, and travel. The McCormicks also go on many of their concert trips with Sharon and Jesse Thompson. Sharon and Aileen have been best friends since the sixth grade back in New Jersey. “We’ve seen Springsteen together a lot,” says Aileen, “in Paris, Dublin, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and New Jersey. We’re very fortunate we all can do this. We’re all healthy, we can afford to, and we can nurture that friendship. We’re able to pick up right where we left off.”
And a love of music plays an important part in the McCormicks’ relationships with their adult children, Jenna, 32, Drew, 29, and Sean, 25. “Seeing Springsteen is kind of a requirement in our home,” jokes Aileen, though it’s not an onerous one. When Jenna was still in high school, she saw Springsteen for the first time at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2006 right after Katrina. “She was 15 years old and I’m sure she thought, ‘What am I doing listening to this old guy?’” remembers Aileen. “But then she made her way right up to the front, and a new fan was born.” Jenna, now 32, and her husband Joe Calhoun went on the trip to see Springsteen in Dublin. The two generations swap musical suggestions. “All of them have really gotten into it,” says Andy. “It’s been pretty cool.”
Whether it was seeing Springsteen in Paris, Amsterdam, or Dublin, going to a concert becomes, for the McCormicks, an excuse for gathering family and friends and going on a trip. For instance, after seeing Springsteen in Dublin, most in their group went on to do a four-day inn-to-inn hike of the Dingle Peninsula on Ireland’s southwest coast.
Looking back over the years, Andy says, “I’ve got so many stories.” He pauses, thinking about them and smiling. “It just seems like nice things happen when you go to concerts.”
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