Rock Chick

Some of you have met me in real life, whether at Sunstone, MHA, FAIR or a snacker. But very few of you have ever met my wife, Sandy. That’s largely because, while I find Mormonism endlessly fascinating and love to study and discuss it, Sandy simply doesn’t share that interest. Her passions in life are art and music.

Sandy was a year ahead of me in high school, and I first took note of her through her art. I remember seeing a pointillist drawing of a horse she had done for an art competition, which was hanging in the school library, and I was blown away that a mere high school student could have drawn such a thing. Her artistic talent was simply off the charts. These days she spends most of her time at Harper College, either creating art or working with the school’s art collection.

Her other big passion in life is music. She always liked listening to music, but this bega to amp up when I started attending law school at the University of Illinois. We lived in married student housing, and our first child, Emily, was still a baby. But there were two fateful circumstances that would change her life: our apartment came with free cable, and MTV was just starting. Sandy would often have to get up at night with our daughter, and there wasn’t much else on late at night so she would watch MTV.

It’s hard for me to believe that in those early days of our marriage I had still been to more rock concerts than Sandy had. That would soon change. The turning point was probably when we went to see Big Country at the Huff Gym in Champaign. The immediacy, the energy, the excitement, being that close to the action, and let’s face it, the late Stuart Adamson, all seemed to make something snap in Sandy, and she increasingly became a knowledgeable and well informed fan of alternative stripes of rock music.

When we moved to Chicago, all of a sudden there were shows all the time. At first I would go with her, but after a while I realized that I simply didn’t enjoy it as much as she did. We would stand out in the freezing cold for hours in line because she had to get right in front of the stage; once we got in there, I’d get beer spilled on me, stuff like that. The last straw for me was when we saw Bob Mould, and we were standing right in front of one of the speakers. It was so loud that I couldn’t hear right for three days, and I seriously said a silent prayer that if my hearing would come back, I wouldn’t go to any more rock shows. It did come back, and although I didn’t keep; that vow absolutely I did ratchet back my involvement quite a bit.

For awhile I tried to get her to take her brother with her, because I worried about her going into the City to not always nice areas alone and coming home at 2 or 3 in the a.m. But eventually she became such a pro at it that I stopped worrying. Her argument was that when there was a show there were always lots of people around, and she went to so many that she had gotten to know a lot of those people and they had become her friends.

Sandy is naturally very shy, and all things being equal she would prefer to sit alone in her room working on a project (she’s been that way since she was a girl). So at first she would go to the shows and not really try to interact with the artists at all. I remember when we saw Robyn Hitchcock at a bar in SLC (it seemed like such a coup, because in Chicago there would have been way more people there), she was too shy to talk to him, even though there was ample opportunity. And for a while she volunteered transcribing interviews for Jack Rabid and his Big Takeover, but when she first actually saw him at a record store she was too shy to talk to him. But over time, something magical happened; she somehow came out of her shell in that kind of environment. Maybe it was all the friends she had made, or the confidence that comes from deep knowledge and experience with a given subject, but eventually she somehow actually became friends with some of the artists she followed, which to me is quite a miracle.

In the last few years her concerta attending has slowed down; it’s harder for her to stay up til 2:00 a.m. on a weeknight and still get up for school/work. But even now she picks her spots and sees the shows she really wants to see.

When we first got married, I had no idea my wife was going to morph into a rock chick. It admittedly took some getting used to, but I’m very proud of her. Everyone needs a passion in life, and her chosen passions of art and music, which she pursues at a high level, have added a wonderful spice to our life together.

(Below is Sandy with British musician Chris Difford.)


  1. Yay for Sandy!

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    If anyone is interested, this is a website she maintains for the Jayhawks:

    She used to do one for the Replacements, but I think she stopped at some point after they broke up.

  3. This is awesome.

  4. Kevin, Sandy sounds like a wonderful and delightful person. Rock on.

  5. Color me blown away. I have visited that Jayhawks page. Little did I know.

    All in all, there has never in the world’s history been a better time to be a music lover or musician. I can hardly keep up with all the wonderful music being produced right now. I love knowing that there are fellow Mormons (I assume) who suffer from the same musical compulsions as I do.

  6. Indeed, rock on.

  7. Sandy is one cool lady. And I think she has impeccable taste in music.

    (still my fav photo is the one she got of Jess Tweedy with the little book character–what’s his name again?)

  8. You need to get Susan M and Sandy together! I hope I get to meet both of them someday.

  9. Tracy, I was thinking exactly the same thing. There are few things in life more exhilarating than being next to the stage at the right concert. Great post.

  10. Kevin, although I don’t really know you, you’re one of those online acquaintances I’ve thought I’d like to hang out with sometime. But now, I think maybe I’d have more fun going to a show with rock show with your wife.

  11. The Replacements? The Replacements? Have you listened to the lyrics? The Replacements? Uhhh….. I need a new favorite band. At least your wife doesn’t have a Gram Parsons fan page.

  12. But Kevin Barney’s Wife, Paul Westerberg is still making some heartbreakingly beautiful music. I feel kinda bad by letting you know, though.

  13. Whoa, Kevin, your wife has seriously great taste. I’d love to hear what her favorite shows have been.

  14. No, seriously, how does she justify track 9 on “Let it be?”

    In a slightly more jocular mood, I must confess, though, with CWC, this is some seriously serious awesomely awesome musical taste.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    agnes, I hate to tell you, but Sandy loves Gram Parsons.

  16. Plus I cannot believe she is also a Robyn Hitchcock fan. Why don’t I know her? Oh, yeah (delete comment that will get me deleted here.) I just saw him with the Venus 3. Pure heaven in a tiny space. My only regret is that he didn’t sing “Victorian Squid,” but we all have our regrets.

  17. Darn darn darn darn darn (holey socks all around.) All right-thinking people understand the almost cartoon southern gothic genius he was. I got nothin’.

    Wait? Has she seen Deerhoof? Deerhunter? (Brandon Cox was not in a gold lame miniskirt, but otherwise one of the best shows ever Deer Tick? John McCauley was in the most charming kilt-ette. And could he wear it. OK. Over and out.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Amri, that was Flat Sydney (based on Flat Stanley). Our little niece who lives in Phoenix was doing a school project; she drew a picture of herself, cut it out, and it became Flat Sydney (her name). She was supposed to send it different placed and get pictures of Flat Sydney (sort of like the gnomr in Amelie). So her dad sent it to Sandy, and she went all over Chicago taking pictures of Flat Sydney around the city. She got one of Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) playing Sandy’s guitar with Flat Sydney looking on.

    I’m guessing her grade school class had no idea how seriously cool some of those pictures were!

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    agnes, Sandy saw Deer Hoof once at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago opening for Wilco.

  20. Sign, yet another potential friend that will never happen. Send me a neutral mailbox (you have my email) and I’ll send your wife my Christmas mix.

  21. I love Robyn Hitchcock. I am truly envious that you saw him in concert. A great tribute to your wife.

  22. smb, where were you and all of the other Mormons when I was of a somewhat more impressionable age?

  23. I also find it interesting that so many of us who inhale the bloggernacle have spouses who aren’t interested.

  24. I don’t know the first thing about contemporary music, but I love it that you and your spouse each have your own passions, and that you support each other in them.

    Stephanie, my husband couldn’t have less interest in the bloggernacle, either. I think part of it is that he left Mormonism behind some time ago, but even if he hadn’t I just don’t think it would be his thing.

  25. Way to support each other, Kevin and Sandy. That’s fantastic.

    Most of the music I regularly listen to is over 100 years old (like Handel’s Messiah, for which I played the viola part tonight), but it seems that the effect the music I love has on me is similar to the effect Sandy’s music has on her. It’s wonderful.

    Also, it doesn’t take leaving the church to think that the Bloggernacle is pretty boring, as my wife would attest.

  26. Kevin, I never thought I’d say this in a million years, but I envy your wife.

    Seriously though, she would get a long with my wife really really well. Exact same interests and disinterests.

  27. Very fun post, Kevin.

    While in high school, I discovered the high school radio station and spent every possible hour there improving and refining my on-air persona. I loved radio broadcasting and was fortunate to meet a lot of up-and-coming bands. Our station was one of the original “alternative music” formats in the nation.

    My wife humors me and lets me go out and play whenever a band I like is in town. I rarely miss a 311 concert in Phoenix or miss an opportunity to pretend that I can still mosh with the younger kids.

  28. Kevin, pure awesomeness.

    Brian, I hope you don’t stage-dive.

  29. I’m a little jealous that she has a pic with Chris Difford. Squeeze is a special band and Difford and Tillbrook are one of the best music writing partnerships I’ve heard since Lennon and McCartney.

    Does she blog at all? I’d like to see more from her in regards to her passions. Any artwork samples that you could put up?

    This was a fun read. Thanks.

  30. This was interesting. Thanks, Kevin.

    Your wife’s journey into rock is perhaps repeated at some level many times in Mormondom. Many of us grow up “in the world but not of the world,” and then, go on missions where almost all popular music is forbidden. I came home from my own mission at age 21 and immediately felt like I didn’t know what music these dang-blasted kids were listening to. And the divide has only grown over the years.

    Anyhow, recently, NPR’s All Songs Considered podcasts have been a great resource for me to get up to speed on new music/new bands. I’m nowhere near your wife’s level of expertise, but it’s been very enjoyable to become acquainted with new music recently. Thanks again.

  31. once we got in there, I’d get beer spilled on me, stuff like that

    Stupid Ute fans. They are even in Chicago?

    Fun post, Kevin. Your wife sounds very cool.

  32. Some people change for the better after marriage. Others change for the awesome. \m/ \m/

  33. Kathryn, I would stage dive, but Lawrence Welk doesn’t tour anymore. ;-)

  34. Who knew there were so many LDS Robyn Hitchcock fans? My wife and I saw Robyn & The Venus 3 in Dallas at a nice small-to-medium sized venue. We had great seats on the second row. During the intermission between the opening act and the V3, I noticed that the couple behind us was talking about General Conference (I was skipping PH session to see the show).

    It was an interesting show for a couple of reasons: 1) I had never seen Robyn before, even though I’d been a fan since the ’80s. The band was really tight. and 2) We stayed after and got merch signed by Robyn and Peter Buck, and I realized that I’m not as wowed by celebrity as I once was. They were both really nice and all, but I just wasn’t starstruck like I would have been when I was younger. I was about the hugest REM fan around in high school and probably would have embarassed myself back then. Here it was just, “Hey, good show.” “Thanks.”

  35. Matt Thurston says:

    Wow. I love the Jayhawks. Great site. Never would have guessed.

    Wish I had her concert-going discipline. I stopped going because my wife doesn’t like to go. Now that seems like a lame excuse.

  36. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Now I have “My Wife and My Dead Wife” stuck in my head.

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