In 2009, on my first birthday spent with my latest boyfriend, I received a gift. Printed on an 11x17 glossy colored print out from Kinkos was a multi-colored spreadsheet. Each small box contained in the spreadsheet, which was one of about 10 colors, contained the name of a song. The colors created a sort of pattern that you noticed if you held the paper away from your face.
Oh gee, thanks.
It turns out this was more than just 200 small song squares. This was the result of an algorithm that pulled every set list from Bruce Springsteen’s last music tour. The algorithm results were pulled into an Excel spreadsheet, which calculated the probability of each song to be played at the next Springsteen concert, based on the patterns in this historical data. A color-coding scheme was placed in the spreadsheet so when complete, the colors would help visually show which songs were the most likely to be played at the next concert.
Oh gee, thanks.
Of course along with this 11x17 piece of paper came the understanding that my boyfriend and I would be attending the sold out Bruce Springsteen show at Giants Stadium – one of the last events ever to be held at this venue before it would be torn down – a sentimental moment only “The BOSS” could precede by figuratively tearing the place down during 5 sold out shows. Or so I’m told.
At that time my exuberance for these Bruce Springsteen tickets that accompanied the (nerdy) spreadsheet was sort of a residual effect from the abundant excitement I felt from the first relationship I ever wanted to put any effort into. Therefore, his excitement and passion was my excitement and passion. If he lived and died for Bruce, then I lived and died for Bruce. This concert, in turn, was the best thing that ever happened to me.
But at the time, I knew Bruce Springsteen only from the mainstream radio replays of “Born to Run,” “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Glory Days,” and I was only slightly amused. Bruce was just another rocker in tight jeans with a raspy voice, singing All-American rock ballads. Great for tailgates and summer road trips with friends, but that was about where my loyalty ended with Springsteen.
Nonetheless, I listened to the burned CD Brian carefully compiled for me as many times as I could during my work commutes. I was determined to impress him when he asked me which songs were my favorites.
Out of nowhere, I started to become a little bit of a “fan.” The fun but mostly bland and overplayed Born-to-Run-Type-Songs led way to a discovery of “Rosalita,” “Brothers Under The Bridges,” and “Stolen Car.” I started to learn just how talented Bruce could be in his songwriting and vocal efforts. Now looking back on the Born-to-Run-Type songs, they were better than I’d thought. The common, raspy rock voice was now sexy, passionate and commanding.
My favorite song quickly became “Thunder Road.” I enjoyed the faster version, taking note that it was the best song I had ever heard without a chorus, and each time I listened I got wrapped up in the words more and more. Adding to its likeness for me was the fact that my boyfriend could play the acoustic version on the guitar.
Concert weekend arrived and we packed the car and drove south to New York City, as we were going with my boyfriend’s good friend and his girlfriend who lived near Central Park. This would be our first big “road trip” with just the two of us, the longest getaway we had since we started dating – a whole weekend! We arrived in NYC, and on that cool October Saturday night took the train to New Jersey.
Well, it turned out that the algorithm was proven wrong that night, as The Boss took his hosting of the final 5 shows at Giants Stadium as a chance to play a different (full) album at each show. We attended the third show and heard the Born in the USA album, a set list even the best algorithm and color-coded 11x17 could not predict.
The night was magical. 50 yards away from Bruce, 1 full album, 3 full hours, and 5 encore songs later, I was hooked. He even played “Thunder Road” during the encore – yet another algorithm mishap. Only The Boss could so gracefully defy the odds of probability.
As “Thunder Road” began slowly with my favorite piano melody, I gave my boyfriend a light nudge in front of me.
He was wearing a leather vest – one that he wore to the four previous Bruce shows he had the privilege to attend. He turned and I offered a sweet smile, knowing he loved this song as much as I did. Then in half a second our gazes detached and turned to the stage, each of us wrapped up in our own love affair with Bruce.
Three years later I await the arrival of Bruce’s concert at the beloved Fenway Park in Boston for his summer Wrecking Ball Tour. This will be my second Bruce show, and I’ll be attending with my husband. The show is sold out.
I will receive a color-coded spreadsheet as an early birthday gift, and Brian will be wearing his leather vest as we wait for Bruce to surprise us, like he always does.
I'm Kim. I like to work hard but not enough to stop having fun and enjoying life. I hope I never stop learning and exploring. Other people inspire me to be and do better every day. Read on for reflections on work and play.