Once upon a time, I used to like going to live rock shows. A lot. Small bars, theaters, arenas—you name it, I’d go. I feel like I’ve seen almost everyone I’ve ever wanted to see (except Radiohead) and, quite frankly, it would take a lot to get my butt out of a comfortable place to go see someone in this day and age.
However, I decided that I need to go out more. And I need to do things I like. And, as I used to enjoy going to rock shows once upon a time—and haven’t done so for years—I figured I’d take a little trip down memory lane and go see a live rock show.
It did not take long to remind me why I despise going to see live rock shows.
The artist I saw, who shall remain nameless out of respect, is someone I really like—like I listen to their music probably at least once or twice a month and am always pleasantly delighted when it pops up on my iPod shuffle. He’s good. Like insanely good. This is the type of artist who is so talented it blows your mind that he’s playing some tiny dive bar for $12. Let’s just say he’s the spawn of Nashville royalty, writes kickass songs, has the voice and cojones to deliver them himself, and carries a few generations of genuine heartache to go with it. If this guy decided to cash out and write songs for other crappy Nashville artists, he’d probably be comfortably wealthy by now, driving a Cadillac and sipping prime tequila with Miranda Lambert wannabes.
As it is, this guy is kind of tragic. The kind of artist who is so above and beyond talented, he’d never stoop to writing a crappy song for a Rascal Flatt or sit in a session band. Think Townes Van Zandt talented. However, he is also past his prime years, fading into obscurity and arguably (and the only reason I say “arguably” is so I won’t get sued) battling a pretty hefty addiction to alcohol.
All told, what was once rock’n’roll greatness—wearing a powder-puff blue polyester prom suit, peeing with a bottle of Jack Daniels in hand before commanding the stage at Stubb’s at SXSW—is now helping set up his own merch table at a shitty dive bar in North Seattle. I about cried.
Perhaps it’s cause I’m dealing with a lot of questions of my own mortality and how I spend my time and trying to claw my way toward a useful, purposeful life—you know, one that isn’t filled with superficial events, interactions and people.
I’ve seen enough rock shows to note all the clichés: The group of hardcore alcoholic party boys who are past 30 but still doing whiskey shots at 9 p.m. trying to prove something (I’ve been there). The too-skinny blond who shows up overdressed in a tight black cocktail dress, fancy necklace and cowboy boots with the uglier wing woman in tow. This one’s a staple, the girl who obviously fucked the star once or twice upon a time and makes a point of showing up at every show to “say hello and support the band” even though it’s clear she wants another go—and the star does not (sadly, I’ve been there too, sigh). To the 6-foot-plus linebackers who show up late, drunk, to only shove their way to stand directly in front of myself and another short, small girl who had been camped out in our spots forever. One of them even had “Asshole” printed on his hoodie.
Oh, hell no.
“You do know that you’re standing directly in front of us and blocking our view,” I said.
“What? Well, move…it’s a rock show,” one guy says.
“No, how about you move to the side or the back and not block half a dozen people’s views cause you’re taller than everybody else,” I say.
“What the fuck? Have you ever been to a rock show before?” he says.
This is where I lost it.
“Are you fucking kidding me? I used to write about this shit for a living! Do not fuck with me!” I was yelling and the dudes started to look a little freaked out. One moved. One did not.
But I really think it was toward the end of the show, when our bloated, beloved star—who did put on one helluva show, btw, the night’s only saving grace—mentioned that there was an after-party and shouted out the address. I guess back in the day I would’ve been tempted to go, but I’ve seen that scene before. Some 23-year-old’s shitty apartment, overflowing dirty ashtrays, cheap, barely cold beer and a strong possibility of getting crabs from just sitting on the couch. Oh, and watching a 40-something man with kids get drunk with those 23-year-olds who enable him. It was all too sad to bear.
So, after the show, I promptly took my sober, tired ass home. And remembered a line one of my friends recently delivered about his band friends still living the dream and touring and crashing at strangers’ pads, “Man, you’re what, 32, 33?…Time to get off the floor.”
After that experience, I bought tickets to the symphony’s opening night. It was terrific. Everyone was clean and civilized, the music was spectacular, no one was drunk or rude. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s lead percussionist is a total fox. And I got to wear a fancy outfit.
See, maybe I am getting older but fuck it. These days, I want to read my book, screw my man, drink my tea and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
And that is why I despise going to live rock shows.