Hannah Montana and me

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By Tim Redmond
I suppose Child Protective Services will come and arrest me now that I’m about to admit that I took my kindergarten-age daughter to see a rock concert in Oakland, on a school night, and kept her up until well past 10 pm without a proper dinner … But what can I say: Vivian loves Hannah Montana. She has all the CDs. She watches the TV show. She puts on her best rock-star outfits and sings the songs, over and over, and dances and tells me that she’s going to be a rock star. She was Hannah Montana for Halloween. So when I learned at 4:45 pm Thursday that there were two review tickets available, I grabbed Viv, fed her half a cheese sandwich and loaded her on BART.

For those of you who don’t follow tween-age popular culture, Hannah Montana is a phenomenon. The Chron kind of blasted her a couple of days ago -- and for good reason: The hype is out of control. So are the ticket prices.

And yes, we live in a culture where parents will do anything to please the little brats, including shelling out a fortune for a performance that lasted an hour and 15 minutes (almost to the minute; Disney runs a tight ship, and unlike any rock show I’ve ever been to, this one started and ended exactly on schedule).

So I should probably feel bad that I’ve not only allowed my daughter to be exposed to this, but actively encouraged it. I should feel terrible about the materialistic messages in the songs and the over-sexualized image of a 14-year-old girl prancing around onstage with male and female dancers who were all at least five years her senior.

I should feel rotten. I should go seek counseling from some proper-parenting group. I should be ashamed of myself.

And here’s what happened:

The moment Hannah Montana came onstage, after an utterly predictable 30-warm-up by a boy band called the Jonas Brothers, Vivian was transfixed. Her eyes opened like saucers, and she got this smile on her face that I will never forget as long as I live.

And frankly, the kid (the one on the stage, that is) knows how to perform. I’m not a big fan of the Work, as it were, but you have to admit, for a 14-year-old, Ms. Montana has astonishing presence. She sang (I think actually sang, not lip synched) her songs with plenty of energy and managed to dominate and control the stage even when she was surrounded by as many as a dozen other seasoned professional singers and dancers, most of whom looked to be in the early 20s.

At least, when she was Hannah Montana, she did.

Halfway through the show, she went backstage, ditched the wig and the TV persona, and came back out as herself, Miley Cyrus. Somehow, the energy wasn’t the same; I think Cyrus has got the Hannah Montana thing down, but hasn’t quite figured out how to be who she actually is. The last few songs reminded me that the person up on stage was too young to drive a car and barely old enough for high school. For her sake, I hope the Disney thing passes pretty soon and she can stop being a pre-packaged icon and start trying to learn to be Miley Cyrus; she might even turn out to be good at it.

But overall, I have to say, Viv and me had a blast. By a few minutes into the first set, my girl was standing on her chair, dancing madly and singing along. The earplugs I’d carefully installed to protect her young ear drums were ripped out and thrown on the floor (“I’ll put them back in when I WANT to, daddy!”). She’d kicked her cup of soda water into the people behind her, soaking the jacket on the back of her chair. When the rather uptight mom behind me warned that the chairs were tippy and my daughter was in danger and had already spilled her drink, I smiled and said, “it’s all rock and roll;” the woman looked at me in horror.

The place was packed with parents and daughters; our seats were pretty near the bar, so I was able to grab a bud light or two. The tweenage shrieking was almost unbearable, but Vivian didn’t care, and as a veteran of many, many Grateful Dead shows, I have to say it was no more obnoxious than the spaced-out dudes swaying and mumbling “Jerry, man.”

I mean, it was a rock show. In every way that’s right and wrong, for all the best and worst reasons …. And I knew that my daughter would be tired and crabby the next day and her ears will be ringing and she didn’t finish her homework, but fuck it: She danced all the way home.