Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Be an Aging Indie Rocker

Why Be an Aging Indie Rocker?

Listen. You can be an indie rocker or not be an indie rocker. That's your deal. Take it, or leave it. But, if you are going to be an indie rocker, you are going to age. "Look out, you rock and rollers," said David Bowie, "pretty soon now, you're gonna get older." And the funny thing is, he said that about 30 years ago. And just look at him now!

What You'll Need

An appreciation for independently-produced rock music. This one is important. Unlike the more turbulant seasons of your life, when you could build an entire persona around your affection for, say, the Dead Milkmen, or Live, at your current age no one is going to give a rat's ass what you listen to. You can tell coworkers how you scored tickets to Wolf Parade all you want, and all you are going to get for your trouble is puzzled peers and a reputation as a really serious enviromentalist. You aren't going to be scoring points, so you better enjoy the sounds coming out of the speakers or you are just wasting your time, and lord knows you have less of that remaining every day.

Some money. Your days of catching three dollar shows at some rat-infested walk-in closet of a club are over, chum. Because of your inability to keep up with the scene -- more on which, below -- you don't even know where those clubs are. You certainly don't know the bands that play in them. No, you know the bands that have a high enough profile to surface on the various internet music services you so slavishly monitor. And these bands are just successful enough that you are going to have to surrender a twenty dollar bill or two in order to get in to the show. Plus, you are too old to know how to score free downloads, so you'll have to pay for that too. You might even go to the record store, which is quaint and all, but again -- it costs money.

Internet Access. Which you obviously have, since you are reading a "Blog." Which is short for "Web Log." They were popular about six years ago. I started mine this summer.

The Ability to Stay Up Late. This can be pretty painful. Many independant rock bands do not even start playing until well after most men and women of your advanced years are blissfully in bed. If you are past 35, it will take about a week after the show before you really feel rested again. No one said this would be easy.

Comfortable Shoes. That's right. No chairs. It sucks, but what can you tell these kids?

Some Sort of Ear Protection. Remember, in your younger years, how you knew and yet did not care that if you went to lots of really loud rock concerts you would lose your hearing in the future, when you got old? Well my friend, the future is now.


The Warp of Time. As you age, the concept of novelty stretches out with a weird relativistic flexibility. Back when you were secretary of the sophomore class, you realized that a song, a band, or a hep piece of def slang can be considered fresh, new, and relevant for a period of a few weeks or so. By the time you entered your twenties, you began to hang onto your songs and your groovy jive for months and then, with increasing persistance, years at a time.

And by the time you reach middle age, my lad, you have lost track of which decades events fell into. The sudden popularity of Seinfeld, the dot-com boom, the dot-com bust, young men wearing their waistbands around their knees, flags plastered to every available lapel and surface, "Achy Breaky Heart," the expression "talk to the hand," 50 Cent, all of these things crowd together in a murky eternal present. Because they came to your attention after you graduated from college, they feel like something that is happening, more or less, now. They are new, au courant, like something you might mention to a younger person to telegraph how damn hip you really are.

If you are approximately my age, you are all too aware that Nirvana seems, yes, like a band that had some historical importance, but also like a band that had some historical importance recently. You are still proud of how early you caught on to Nirvana, aren't you. You saw how catalytic they were going to be right away, when everyone else was still gaping. Does this make you cool? No, sir, this does not make you cool. It only makes you old. Most people at the show were not old enough to dress themselves when Kurt Cobain made his one-way trip to the greenhouse. Get over it.

Staying in the Know I: Volume. The college-age music fan has vast reserves of time in which she can go to shows, scrutinize obscure recordings, seek out the most ascerbic of critics, and in general educate herself about the minutia of her chosen subgenre. You can not hope to keep up with this. You, my friend, have a real job, and likely a mortgage, a marriage, land and property to keep maintained, and, god willing, a diverse range of friendships, interests, and involvements in the community. She, the college-age music fan, will discover two or three new favorite bands every week. Count yourself on an excellent pace if you can discover four or five every year. No, of course it's not fair, but frankly you don't have much time left to enjoy your new discoveries anyway. Buck up.

Staying in the Know II: Proportion. It is easy, especially with the decentralized distribution that the Internet hath wrought, to follow bands without having any real sense of how popular they are. Here is a "current" (i.e. only 2 1/2 years old) example from my own journey, to illustrate: In a two-week period, I went out to see Jim's Big Ego, Guided by Voices, and the White Stripes. Not having scrutinized the tickets, I figured that Guided by Voices, an established band with a dedicated cult following, would be the biggest show of the three. JBE, being just so stinking awesome, would be the middle show. The White Stripes, kind of a concept band that was only just then coming off of a breakthrough record, should draw a small but enthusiastic crowd. I hardly need tell you how surprised I was by the arena crowd for the 'Stripes, or by the (basically) living room that JBE played in. [For the record, all three shows were scorching great. I didn't feel truly rested again for about a month.]


I like this band, she likes this band.... Aging Indie Rockers who hit on young indie rockers are not, sadly, always unsuccessful. They are, however, always pathetic. If you are just that attracted to someone twenty years your junior, perhaps you might inquire if her mother is available.

Obsession is not pretty. Your neighbors and colleagues will meet your fanaticism for a band, sub-genre, or club scene with the same numb tolerance that they would extend to a trekkie, Hummel figurine collector, or avid breeder of ferrets. If you can talk about a range of other things as well, it will help a lot.

The Rock and Roll Lifestyle. At 24, putting away that much alcohol was rakish, daring, rebellious. At your age, it's just sad that you haven't got your little problem under control. Drugs? At 20, they made you kind of crazy and edgy. At your age, they make you a derelict. Trashing the place? Dude, you've got assets. They'll sue your ass. Go home and sleep it off. You'll feel better in a few weeks.

The Rewards?

None, really. Take it or leave it. The rock music available today is incomparably better than the crap that we listened to when we were kids. You won't have to dig very hard to find some really great stuff that you'll enjoy a lot. But on the other hand, so what? It's not like it's important or anything.



Anonymous said...

Hands down, this is the funniest M5000 post to date. You crack me up!

PS, how sad is it that at 25 I identify with the aging indie rocker more than the youngsters? Kurt Cobain died before I hit double-digits (I think) and yet I can't stay up past 11 pm.

Michael5000 said...

@mydog: You're kind. I think it was funnier in my head than it is on the screen.

At 25, you DEFINITELY qualify as aging in this context. You are, like, 3 years past your rocker prime. Grandma.

The [Cherry] Ride said...

Wait, is this a post where you are writing from experience?

Michael5000 said...

@[cherry]: Why, in fact it is. Maybe I should put together an expanded version that incorporates the experiences of others, though. With only my own experience to draw on, for instance, I've got nothing on stalking the musicians. Or capes. Proper!

Rebel said...

I spent much of 2005-2006 as a Wannabe Aging Indie Rocker. This of course was completely unrelated to having a major crush on an Aging Indie Rocker. I went to several awesome concerts, and finally got to feel like one of the cool kids in high school... except for, you know... being 30. =/

It was fun for a while, but it's a tough gig to keep up. I gave it up when the A.I.R. got himself a girlfriend. C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

...plus the sacred responsibility of an aging indie rocker to pass the ways of rock to the oncoming generation. the spirit of iggy need not wilt along with the flesh. share what you love and kids might suspect you less, and possibly share back.

a contrived eccentricity may mask vicariousness. a cane. an anachronous hat. sculpted facial hair.

woxy.com and kexp.org are rich sources. portland local 94.7 is unadventurous.

Dug said...

I tell ya-all music these these days is crap! It's just a bunch of people with weird hairdos and piercings screaming their heads off! And the lyrics-filthy and disrepectful's what they are. And these kids play it so loud they can't even hear how bad it is. I've gotta go take some more Alka Seltzer! Sorry, I was just channeling my parents-or am I becoming them?

Anonymous said...

What the hell is this indie rock you speak of?

Michael5000 said...

@rebel: It's a bittersweet story. You lost the boy, but you get to sleep like a normal.

@austin: Interesting point (your speciality). I recently sent an "indie care package" to Niece #2, but have been a little afraid that listening to your oddball uncle's music on the schoolyard might not be the right way to build high school cred. Happily, she is taking to the Arcade Fire, which seems like a good bet.

What, Portland has radio stations?

@dug: Aw, go back to bed, Grandpa.

@Critical Bill: Welcome back sir! The answer is, it is much like rock music in general, except less popular.

blythe said...

your blog is underrated. more later.

Bridget said...

I believe the preferred term is "trekker" not "trekkie."

(I totally wanna win DorkFest '08! w00t!)