Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend Flashback: How to Be an Aging Indie Rocker

[This item originally appeared back in September 2007. MyDogIsChelsea called it the "funniest M5000 post to date" at the time. It prompted Oklahoma megablogger Blythe to state that this blog was "underrated," although in her defense that was before the Great Movies project got underway. Here it is in its original glory.

But first, housekeeping items. Remember the great Diet Cola Reduction project? I should follow up here by telling you that is has been more than six weeks since ANY diet cola crossed my lips. I didn't really intend to go cold turkey, it just kind of happened. It has already saved me more than $100, on top of any health benefits that might be involved. And, yeah, I haven't been posting the Wednesday Weigh-Ins, but I'm generally almost exactly on target in my two-year weight loss plan. So that's good.]

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.



Morgan said...

Dead Milkmen are awesome.

The Calico Cat said...

congrats on the diet cola reduction. (I need to get back to that one.. Especially since I have been drinking the caff. free type.)

Rex Parker said...

Wang Chung was not crap!


fingerstothebone said...

"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."

So does that mean that if I'm not an indie rocker, then possibly I won't age?

fingerstothebone said...

And what's your take on aging belly dancers? Maybe you can just rewrite the statement to

Listen. You can be a belly dancer or not be a belly dancer. That's your deal. Take it, or leave it. But, if you are going to be a belly dancer, you are going to age.

Nichim said...

Thanks, I didn't read this the first time around. I can recommend, also, listening to college radio from time to time. Those kids, as you mentioned, have the time and youth to invest in knowing what is new and, in their opinion, excellent. And they often have their playlists online nowadays. The real bonus for me, though, is that every once in a while they'll play a Sebadoh song or something and I'll feel like my indie coolness is, indeed, eternal.

Jenners said...

I totally LOOOOOOVED this post! Brilliant piece of writing. Loved it! : )

Michael5000 said...

@Morgan: Yes, I know. I was there.

@Calico: It might be easier to make certain life changes when not caring for a newborn. On the other hand, I imagine you are making changes about everything else, so why not pack another one in.

@Rex: Well, I was certainly sympathetic to their desire that "everybody have fun tonight." Hard to argue with that.

@fingers: Now, you know how I feel about the belly dancing....

@Nichim: Dude, you probably have more indie coolness than anyone I've ever met.

@Jenners: Are you trying to sell me something? 'Cause whatever it is, I'm thinking of buying it.

The Calico Cat said...

Ahhhh, but I went cold turkey off the cola while preggers... (Only water so far today.)

DrSchnell said...

Still a goddamned funny (and true) post, and this is the third or fourth time I've read it.

Ben said...

Count me in with the first timers reading this post. Very funny and sadly true. Music used to be my world; I felt very sophisticated in regards to my taste (whether I really was or not).

My, how things have changed. I have to work at it to fit it into my life. I've even been known to complain that the music is too damn loud at concerts and parties. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Wow. No diet cola at all? That is impressive. Congrats on being on target with the weight too.

This was a fun read and it made me laugh out loud in class causing several young ones to ask what was so funny.