Friday, July 20, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

My father stared at me, unsure. He wanted to know if we had to drive to Miami.

But I knew better. When LiveNation offered a $20 ticket promotion for Thursday's concert with Enrique Iglesias at Amalie Arena, I'd landed the perfect Father's Day gift for the biggest fan of Mr. Worldwide I knew. I just had to remind him.

I don't quite remember how or when it started.

But I remember car rides and sullen teenage silences punctuated by my dad, the same guy who introduced me to Cat Stevens and the Beatles, recognizing signature Pitbull characteristics in songs on top 40 stations: counting in Spanish, the "heheheh," the "oooo-OOOO" squeal, and of course, his self-referential nickname, Mr. 305. I remember sharing the music with my sister, only to have our dad overhear our antics.

One year, I turned on a New Year's Eve special with my mom while my dad was downstairs.

"Pitbull!" My dad said. "My man!"

My sister and I would always laugh at our dad's apparent Pitbull fanaticism. Anand Kumar, a first-generation Indian immigrant, raised us with somewhat prudish values. He had no idea what the lyrics were about as Pitbull gabbed on about a mami with an "a-- like a donkey."

My father, 55, moved to the U.S. from India in 1989 to earn a PhD. He's a marketing professor at the University of South Florida, and is as professorial as one might imagine. As a toddler, I learned the word "dissertation."

And as the concert grew closer, I started to worry what it would be like to actually go with my dad. We'd gone to shows as a family. We'd seen Neil Diamond, the Kingston Trio, when I was little, only to be elbowed for snoring. We saw Demi Lovato when my younger sister was obsessed with Camp Rock.

But seeing Mr. Worldwide, in the flesh — and, indeed, there was plenty of flesh — would be, different.

I texted my dad that morning, asking if he remembered the first Pitbull song he'd heard.

"Also, do you actually like Pitbull?" I added.

"Yeah," he responded. "I used to like him because his songs were generally upbeat. I know u want me, nanna nananana *laugh till you cry emoji.* That is the song."

At the concert, the discounted tickets offered discounted views: a side angle of the stage, and a pretty clear view of backstage.

My dad pointed to a man sitting at the end of our row. He sat stoic as his companion, and most everyone around him, danced to Miami DJ Laz. The two of us, both fairly reserved in nature, nodded our heads a bit.

"That dude is like us," my dad said.

For an hour, Iglesias seduced the audience with selfies and kisses, poured drinks straight into cups, and worked a series of extending stages to the back of the arena with hits like Subeme La Radio, Bailando and Hero. My dad, like the rest of us, was enraptured by the crooner's high-energy stage presence.

As we waited for Pitbull, I thought, perhaps Mr. 305's background wasn't all that different from ours.

The son of first-generation Cuban immigrants who grew up in Florida, a man who has often called the poet Jose Marti an influence, a lyricist who seamlessly dives in and out of Spanish and English, the rapper valued around $65 million who can convincingly sing about being late on rent, Pitbull is a master at weaving between worlds.

Because of the discount seats, we were able to catch a glimpse of him backstage. He seemed calm, almost stiff. He was Armando Christian Perez, a father himself and charter school advocate. He seemed believably, well, like us, drinking water, hugging a dancer as a few others stretched around him.

But it only took three songs for a flock of scantily clad dancers to appear. Mr. 305 began bopping down a line of gyrating bootys as though they were bongo drums. Maybe we still had some differences.

My dad sat still through this. Later, he asked why the artist ruined his own good songs with all the butts.

As Pitbull raced through a medley of hits from Culo to Fireball, I found myself grateful that much of it probably went over my dad's head. Then again, perhaps it didn't matter. It was hard to sit still and it was hard to spot a person not dancing.

Even we danced a little bit.

"All this is why I like him," my dad said, pointing around the arena.

And as the rapper himself told the audience, "We're not as different as people put us to be. Music breaks down barriers, boulders. Music brings everybody the f--- together the way it's suppose to be... Music to me is a universal language."

As we drove out of the arena together, my dad said he enjoyed the show, liked the fun and energy of Pitbull. But, he said, he still sounded better to him on the radio.

   
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