Monday, May 09, 2011

And I'm Over Getting Older

Well, it's obvious that thinking about the state and trajectory of the species couldn't depress me very much more, so maybe it's time to change the subject to something that is a madcap buzz of positivity and optimism, you know, like getting older. Thirty-eight and counting, and somehow, without realizing it, I've crossed over into crinkled-forehead, responsible adulthood. This sucks! I mean, what the fuck, how did this happen? How did it happen to me?

I was never huge into trendy music movements, but there were a few bands I'd try and see if I could, and I generally liked the experience of a good crowd enough to try and get out once in a while. I haven't gone and seen a big rock show for ten years now, and I'm not sure how I got permission even that time, but the last experience was typical. Waiting in traffic, watching everyone toke weed in the parking lot, a run to the beer tent to pleasantly remove the edge, sweat, noise, screaming, darkness, dancing with minimal rhythm. It was almost exactly ten years ago, and I tell you, there's nothing like being outdoors with a beer in a crowd on a summery evening. It's exhilirating. I've never seen a professional baseball game, but last weekend's concert had me walking the kids on the sidewalk outside of Fenway park right before the Red Sox game, and there was something similar. Since the last show though, my live music experience has generally been limited to bar blues (meaning the setting rather than the musical structure), and your more ecumenical sort of outdoor event (a number of bluegrass festivals in that last category). I've really come to appreciate the summertime show that can get multiple generations up there and dancing around. Somehow, I've drifted away from any venue where you might readily spot a defiant youth.

I went to my first "real" concert when I was 15, when a friend dragged me along to go see Cheap Trick at a small outdoor venue. Good times, enjoyable show, but there wasn't a lot of 'em I needed to see at that age. At 13, safe to say that I had no friggin' clue at all about the music scene. My daughter, well, hasn't been quite the same. She's been following a Canadian band for about a year, and in February not only got her chance to see them, but actually got her picture taken wih her favorite singer (supervised, thank goodness). Since then, she has become totally insufferable, branching out into an appreciation of the general scene, blasting the radio or plugging herself into it, and coming up with all these annoying expectations.

What's her music like? I'm googling up some descriptors of the genre, including punk, rock, pop, and emo, but I probably would have used none of those words. Or maybe you need to use all of them, either as some kind of post-generational fusion, or (depending on the artist) the usual approach to the lowest common denominator. I've found it to be musically competent (even if it failed to melt my face off, dude), and it doesn't suck out of the gate. I'd describe the sound as something resembling dance tracks that someone finally decided would be more worthwhile with actual instrumentalists playing them and with songwriting that actually aspired to care what the lyrics said. I'd warrant a guess that the fan community occupies some transitional ground between the factory-made teenybopper garbage and whatever the college kids are into nowadays. Or maybe it's the legitimate big thing--who can tell now that there's no radio anymore?

Suggestively, it rises to about an entendre and a half, which appears to fly right over the heads of the fangirls (and it's just as well). I can't tell if the whole thing has been strangled down to semi-authenticity by what's left of the music industry, or if they're all just resigned to not out-do their parents and grandparents. I mean, our rock icons have already got the sexual ambiguity, religious affront, tuneless shouting, drug culture, music comprised entirely of sampling, death iconography, creepy body art, and angry rebellion covered, so what's left to piss off the parents? All that hasn't gone out of style is the stuff that never will: sex and youth. I mean, if these guys were to pump their fists and scream how it's all bullshit anyway and fuck The Man, then Mom and Dad are going to be cheering louder than the kids are.

Anyway, I digress. Here's the scene from a couple weeks ago. "Please Daddy, my friend already bought tickets. I love this band, you can't say no."

Now, I am a pretty permissive parent, but telling me that I can't say no is right up there with telling me that that's all you can eat--I'll show her what I can or can't do. Also, I really didn't want to have to deal with it, so I thought that saying the dad thing played up nicely to the family gift for contrarianism and reverse psychology. "No way are you going to a concert without an adult. Thirteen years old? You must be joking. Hell no." (Yes! Triumph!)

Which how I ended up with a ticket to go see All Time Low on Friday, along with a couple of other bands a that fanned out a little bit in either direction on the teenager/adult spectrum. (The headlining band collected bras, which is a bit creepy given the fans' age, but I suspect they weren't removed at the scene. My daughter's friend brought some pajamas in her bag to throw, but we were too far to reach, and had a better chance at hitting the sound guys and so refrained.) As mentioned above, it wasn't the music that was so bad, but the crowd was definitely ...offputting. A two-hour drive with the Fenway traffic, and the beer was overpriced and crappy, but the line to the bar, as well as to the men's room, was non-existent. There were 13-14 year old girls as far as the eye could see, and I failed to pass myself off as a teenager, even though I tried to dress down. On the second-tier section, where we were, the kids all lined up along the along the balcony, and there was enough space behind them for the straggling minority of parents to mill around and look bored. The cheering was decidedly high-pitched.

(Late in the show, they put the Bruins game on in the bars, and sometimes male cheers would sound up out of nowhere, drowning out the kids for a few seconds. I think it pissed off the band a little, but you know, welcome to Boston.)

When I used to go to rock concerts, people would hold up lighters during the inevitable ballads. (The one Grateful Dead show I watched, the place looked like a Christmas tree the second the lights went down, as the lighters got to more normal use as well.) Now it's constantly-waved iphones and cameras, to similar audience effect. It's weird without the (absence of) smells, but smoking is now outlawed here in Massachusetts for just about all public places (the single most benevolent accomplishment of the nanny state), and it's weird without the general intoxication, but most of the audience was too young to drink. There wasn't much press of crowd up in the balcony, as I said, but it looked somewhat energetic down below. Kids still mosh evidently, to varying approval of the bands.

My daughter and her friend snapped about ten dozen pictures, and at least one bedroom now has a new All Time Low shrine. And of course I'm curious what it will grow into. But what's the rush? Older comes before you're ready anyway.

Close it out, kiddos:
Maybe it's not my weekend, but it's gonna be my year,
And I've been going crazy, I'm stuck in here...


Michael said...

July is the return of my old roommate Rocko and his band U2. Blogged about it last summer, as I'm sure I will again. Last year's backup band was Snow Patrol and I'm not sure who is backing them up this year but I'm sure I'll have the same reaction...

Rocko is 54, I'm 51, and the guys in U2 are just a little younger. The backup band, Snow Patrol, was made up of people in their early 20s, and their fans were in their teems. A little old than your daughter, but not by much. There was an absolutely palpable separation between the teenaged fans of Snow Patrol and the rest of the crowd, and they were glad about that. They wore their Snow Patrol swag proudly and looked at the U2 fans as if they were....well, old. Good for them in trying to have their own wave of musical heroes, but that's a tall order these days. Big shoes to fill.

I hadn't been to a concert since the last time Rocko came through Chicago, and one big change is just what you said. Cameras and smartphones have replaced lighters. My cell camera was working great, but the sound quality sucks.

Belle said...

The last concert I went to was a few years ago. It was Back Street Boys. I went with my daughters and their kids because we all love their music. Pretty sappy huh? We had a great time.
I wouldn't have enjoyed what you went through. You are a good dad to do it for your daughter.

Keifus said...

I remember that post, ya lucky bastid. (This band on Friday lists U2 and Queen as musical inspirations, and I can hear that a lot more than I get anything anywhere near "punk".) I get the feeling that the torch is being passed, which is great in a way, but it seems like there's not much music revolution in the kids these days. Or at least not in those kids--it couldn't be clearer that I have little idea what's fomenting beneath the surface (that's still young anyway).

And maybe I should give hip-hop more credit, but that's been around for awhile now too.

Belle, my musical tastes are, charitably, sporadic, but I try not to let that hold me back from being an opinionated blowhard. If the New Kids can bring the crowd together, then good on them. And if you had a great time, then what else matters?

Cindy said...

It's funny, but this is one area where I just couldn't make any headway with my own experience to help me in dealing with my kids.

My musical tastes and experiences when I was a teen were decidedly choral - I was in a great mixed chorus and a Madrigal group, and we did Broadway Musicals.

My first concert was Pink Floyd (Animals Tour) which I was horrified by (the pot!! the drinking!! the sex!!) and then I went to college and went to see Barry Manilow. Yes - and I loved it.

My kids?

How about T-Pain? Dave Matthews? Japanther? Mindless Self Indulgence? Primus?


No, wait.... that's wtf?

Although I did like the Dave Matthews band and his pre-show: Norah Jones.

T-Pain??? Really????

Cindy said...

Oh, and I did take them to see The Hansons in Atlanta ... Mmmm-bop. :)

Keifus said...

I don't have the slightest clue what T-Pain and Japanther are, and I'm happy to keep it that way. Mindless self-indulgence sounds like it'd be great for a short time, but no doubt you'd be embarrassed by it later.

Would've loved to see Pink Floyd live though.