The Battles Of Aging
I am old. I don't feel it, but I know I am. And I know it because I'm where I've been before, reliving moments from my youth, and all I can think is how much the kids today have no idea what they missed out on back in my day.
"Back in my day..." just thinking those words is proof enough that I'm one of THOSE guys now... The old fogie who doesn't get the styles and the sounds of today... The old dog who doesn't get the new tricks -- not because he is unable, but because he just doesn't see the point.
I'm sitting at the back of the upstairs bar in the Masquerade in Atlanta, once the epicenter of everything worth listening to in music in the 90's. Every band worth a damn played there. I cannot tell you the number of shows I've seen in that building, because it's well past one hundred, and I threw out my collection of concert ticket stubs years ago. The bar is where the old folks sit. I remember as a teenager always looking at the bar as I walked in and scoffing; thinking to myself "Why even bother coming here, you old fucks, if you're just going to sit there and drink?"
I haven't been here since probably 2001... But it looks and smells and feels the same. The old wooden stairs leading up to the upstairs concert hall; wear patterns in the varnish from decades of young concertgoers marching up in excited anticipation to see their favorite band. The dusty rafters I swung from and got thrown out of the venue for climbing on more than one occasion. The perpetually broken sink in the men's room. Flyers for shows on every wall, stapled and taped over flyers for older shows from the past.
I don't even remember the last show I saw there. But I do remember that the last concert I went to was to see Battles in 2007. And before that? Battles in 2004. I've known those guys for years -- I built their first website, in fact. John (the drummer) and I go back all the way to 1996, when Mike and I toured the southeast seeing Helmet anywhere they played. We also followed The Rollins Band and The Melvins, traveling to any venue east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line to see them.
We're sitting here before the show, waiting for our friends to pop out and chat for a while. That's really the only reason we came. We love these guys; we support these guys. And even though our interest in seeing concerts and moshing and jamming out is all but gone, we still got excited about the idea of coming out tonight. It's a show with my buddy Mike. We donned the old attire -- a shirt from a band not playing that night, but in the same genre so you know that you're part of the scene, a plain-color hoodie to hide the shirt so you don't look like a scenester, cargo shorts and steel-toe boots.
And even though that's mostly what I wear every day anyway, some thought still went into the process of dressing for a show. It mattered SO much what you wore back in the day. It had to be cheap stuff that you could lose in the pit and not cry up top, but durable and tough stuff from the waist down so no one could pants you or stomp your toes. The band you represented at the show had to be legit. If you're at a Melvins show, you had to show your love for Melt Banana or Faith No More or Unsane. You couldn't just walk in there with a Nirvana shirt, or everyone would call you "Hot Topic" and you'd get your ass kicked in the pit.
And here we are, scanning the room and snickering at the tight colored jeans and button-up plaid hipster shirts. Times have changed... Oh, how times have changed. And as I walked back from the bathroom and the sounds of the band hit me in the back, and I see the stage lights blinking and reflecting off of all the faces of the fans facing the stage, I can't help but feel old. They're bobbing and nodding and dancing and everything I used to do in my youth, in this place... This hallowed hall of music, where youths are formed and tastes are refined and stories are made to be told for years ongoing.
And me? I just want to sit down and have another beer with my friend Mike, the only other person who understands the mental place I am in right now. My fellow veteran of the old concert scene, who has taken the same lumps and felt the same bruises and flirted with the same security girls to meet the same bands. I just want to sit by him, tip another beer bottle neck his way, share another smile, and wait for the appropriate amount of time to pass so that we can say we were there and we saw it all and not feel like old liars.
It all changes. And it all stays the same. And that's life. You mark your time by the changes you see, and you mark your ability to deal with it by the stuff that never changes. And in both cases, you enjoy what you've got while you've got it, and if you want to stay sane, you know when to say goodbye to times whose period have passed.
We've had our fun, and we've enjoyed the show. But this time around, nearly ten years after our last real concert at the stalwart, ever-present musical Mecca that is the Masquerade, the fun came not from being seen and knowing that everyone you know knew you were there, but because you were there with someone who matters... Someone you can relate to; who you've grown older with. And with nods and smirks and disapproving groans about hipster clothing and laughs over a few brews, two old concert veterans let the music pass over them and remember a time best left in the past.