Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Column #23: A music lover searches for the perfect venue

It's not too loud, but I'm starting to feel that I'm getting too old.

Now that the music industry has been destroyed, can we agree that such concepts are outdated? The idea of "selling out" by licensing your song to a car commercial sure went the way of the Edsel, and many a band has made their name in the background of a tearful "Grey's Anatomy" sex-with-a-ghost scene. Do we still have to chastise folks for committing the crime of aging past 30?

In my parents' era, a popular notion was that "You can't trust anyone over 30." What's today's equivalent? You can't trust anyone who doesn't have a Facebook profile? (OK, maybe you can trust 'em, but how else will you find out about their dating history, or whether or not they "like" "Saying 'dude' when you get excited about something"?)

It’s not too loud. I’m much happier listening to extreme Japanese death metal than Sheryl Crow. However, I’m also a lot more interested in some other things – cooking, gardening, yoga – than I was 6 years ago.

There’s nothing wrong with that, is there? It would be wrong if I was still the same foolish 20-something, staying out drinking all night and dating the wrongest people available.

In my 20-year career of attending live music performances, I have rarely been impressed by the way in which they are presented. My earliest concerts – Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Chicago – were all in the enormo-domes which are today saddled with corporate names like “The Mayor McCheese Amphitheater.” (Yum!)

My gateway concert was seeing the Dead Milkmen, outdoors on the campus of the University of South Florida, at 5 in the afternoon. At 16, I was beginning to soak up the non-commercial sounds of the weird and wacky punks of the time, but hearing those cassettes was nothing like walking into a field of weirdoes with colored hair, odd piercings and torn clothes. Even then, though, while I enjoyed the spectacle, I knew that I could never truly be one of them.

I’ve never felt comfortable in any one clique, an unfortunate circumstance probably exacerbated by moving amongst several cities. I’ve always been too punk for preppies, and too preppy for punks. My athletic abilities peaked when I was 9, but theater never held much appeal, either. Piano lessons were abandoned, though not as quickly as guitar lessons.

Otherwise, as a listener, music has all but replaced religion as my religion. The search for the perfect song can never end, and that is wonderful. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, no matter what Sting or Rod Stewart do to it.

From classy concert halls to some dude’s beer-soaked basement, from coffeehouses to progressive churches, from radio station rooftops to the back rooms of Mexican restaurants, I’ve seen some transcendent moments - from the surprise triumph of the Buena Vista Social Club in their full glory to Monotonix tearing up the Pour Haus - and, in hindsight, witnessed some bittersweet history (Nirvana’s last tour, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s last tour, an unintelligibly wasted Elliott Smith six weeks before his death).

But here’s the thing. At most of these times, I’ve always wanted to be some place more comfortable. Perhaps there’s a contradiction between wanting to lounge while watching crazy Israelis empty trash cans on the drummer’s head midsong, but hey, that’s how I roll.

I haven’t become too old. Internally, I’ve always been too old. I’ve always preferred sitting over standing, especially over many hours. Also, I’m not Jack Bauer – I’m not doing anything extremely important before 11 p.m., so feel free to start playing your songs shortly after dinner, OK? If the music’s good enough, it’ll sound just as good at 7:30 as it will at 1:30.

Will I one day be able to watch every concert on demand, at home? Will I miss anything meaningful? If so, will it be more exciting than playing with my cats and not paying $12 in “convenience fees”?

c. 2010 Velocity Weekly

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