Should I be deemed ungrateful for living in Austin, dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World, yet loathing live music? How exactly did I turn from concert-goer to thinking shows were boring, annoying and altogether not worthy of my presence? I refuse to take this as a sign of onset senility or general crotchety aging, which, now in my mid-to-late 20s, is an omnipresent lament from my contemporaries. “Does this mean I’m old?” once sprang from my confusion and nonplussed reaction to the changing times in live music and performance, but I don’t think I’m “old”… maybe just well over the phase. So when did I realize that farewells were in order for my once cherished nightlife itch that begged to be melodiously scratched? This past weekend and oh, was it a s*%tshow.
In high school, I was into hardcore and punk music, to further prove how much my classmates and family “didn’t get me”. I loved being the first one who knew about this band, that show, this trend, that hairstyle, etc. And if I wasn’t, I’d visibly brush it off like it was no big deal. I’d go to exclusive shows – the more obscure and unheard of, the better. I went into pits and bragged about the bruise on my boob for weeks. I enjoyed the senseless pushing, shoving and absolute rage of it all and wanted to prove that girls are just as tough as boys. I’d take pictures of the hot guys with jet black hair, girl jeans and bandanas in their back pockets at the hardcore shows at The Door in downtown Dallas. (You couldn’t throw a stick without hitting a gaggle of these types ten years ago, and maybe even today?) I’d buy the band t-shirts, preferably black, and wear them with my Chucks, spiky white belt and skinny jeans. I was the ultimate scene kid.
Going into college, I still intended to keep my hardcore love alive. I took the bus 6th Street to see my very first Austin show at Emo’s, featuring Converge, and frequented the hub of music venues for several more years. SXSW, an annual Austin music festival in March featuring literally thousands of up-and-coming bands, happened and I was even more hooked. I was still under 21, so my best friend and I would mix vodka and Gatorade in the club bathrooms because…. wait, ew, WHY? I somehow found myself backstage to legendary punk acts at various venues as the years passed by. I got to see people dive from the rafters into a torrent pit of the young and angry. It was pure pandemonium and my spirit eagerly drank it up. Live music was getting better and better.
But just like that, it all changes. Music changes and bands break up. Your partners in crime move away or lessen their attendance and the venues alter their atmospheres and mark up their tickets. The vibrancy and felicity of live music shifts with every generation of music and its followers, and for me the anticipation faded and drifted off to the next young, budding enthusiast.
I still “attend” SXSW every year, meaning I ride my bike downtown and see free showcases with friends, but the charming curse of live music has been lifted from me. I can’t stand on my feet for hours, anxiously waiting through three terrible bands for the headliner. I can’t listen to more than 30 minutes of a band’s set because I get burnt out quickly and the initial thrill of seeing them with my own eyes has passed. Shows are LOUD, and even with earplugs in I will still hear ringing afterward. And crust punks smell bad, yo.
I went to a show with my boyfriend over the weekend at Red 7, a bar downtown with enough inked flesh to cover its walls. The act was one of his favorite high school bands that were still touring and are fathers by now. My experience was awful. My lower back was strained from standing for so long after working all day. The opening bands were so uninteresting that their songs started to run together in my mind into one desensitizing rift of mental pain. The headliner we had been waiting for played for almost two hours to please their longest and loyal fans, but I heard a couple songs ten years back and couldn’t stomach the 25+ songs now. But I’m glad I went because I got to hang out with friends and run into old ones. I realized that live music will now be a social destination for me.
Some people are and will always be up and open to checking out new bands. Some people gas out and refocus on other forms of entertainment as they mature. The latter half of my article has been drenched in complaints, but I legitimately miss the days I bounced around in earnestness, awaiting a performance to liberate myself in. Although my inclination towards live music has dropped drastically, I still appreciate the hard work that many musicians put themselves through to break even and fill their fans’ hearts with their own musical creations. I will still attend shows, dance to the beat and applaud bands; my enthusiasm just isn’t what it used to be and I’m genuinely okay with that.
Are you still into shows and concerts? What type of music do you love to see live?