Someone pointed out to me that the last post made me sound crotchety and perhaps older than I am. I am twenty eight years old. I am not a forty year old Smiths fan with a wife and three kids who's finding it hard to fit live music into my already hectic schedule of coordinating Pump It Up parties. I am single and without responsibilities, save feeding and clothing myself.
Admittedly, I may have lazily adopted a cranky tone. If I'd been more self-aware, I might have been more deliberate about making myself sound cool and young. But is there something about merely suggesting shows start earlier that makes me sound old? Why doesn't it make me sound like someone with a day job who likes sleep, which is actually the case?
One of my abiding examples of peaceful iconoclasm is my friend Matt. I first encountered Matt when we were both college freshman and he lived next door. Matt liked B-horror movies, Arkansas, hardcore music, and having coffee at 7am before heading to the library and retrieving the morning paper. A man of habit, he continues that last practice to this day. He feels no need to behaviorally conform to any subculture. He is the Switzerland of status quo.
I'm not quite there yet. I run on a fuel that's 90% peer-approval, so I'm a little embarrassed to have outed myself as the "old" guy who's wiped-out by midnight. That doesn't change the fact that the ethos by which one becomes known as "old" has more in common with MTV Spring Break than it does with music.
My upstairs neighbors don't sleep nights. I know this, because from about 11:00pm to 6:00am every night, I endure what sounds like someone obsessively shoving a recliner to alternating corners of their loft, ceaselessly, like a meth-addicted, interior designing Sisyphus. I mention this because it directly contradicts my own schedule. 11:00pm to 6:00am: sleeping. 8:30am to 5:30pm: ceaselessly pushing numbers and text from keyboard to printer to outbox, like a necktied Sisyphus. But still, like a contributing member of productive society, which is more than I can say for my laz-e-boy shoving upstairs neighbors.
Historically, productive members of society ask very little at the end of the hard work day: a cold beer, good conversation, and a little romance if they're lucky. Why is it, then, that the musical community had drifted so far away from the working man's pace? Why do shows scheduled for 9:00 start at 10:00, labor under half-hour sets and hour-long sound checks, and finally end at 2:00? Why do shows so often consist of comatose hipsters and maxed-out sound systems? And why is this all so rigidly now the standard for performed music? Who is this working for?
I read an autobiography of a man who, as a child, lived through the Southie busing riots in Boston in the 70s. The author's mom actually cultivated a sustained Boston-wide reputation during this period by arousing the anti-establishment sentiment of the neighborhood with music, performing sharp, angry folk tones in local bars to the delight of Southie's working class just as they left the day's work behind. The shortsighted outrage of that particular situation shouldn't be envied, but the basic picture still appeals to me: accessible music for the working class on their terms.
It's a question of audience, or maybe even potential audience. If shows start at ten or eleven and drag on till two, then that's a situation where artists are making music for artists or at least for tweekers who move furniture all night. Those people need music too, but on its face, this rigid night owl policy is patently anti-populist and ghettoized. What about the welders, mechanics, maids, or even the accountants, pharmacists, engineers, etc.?
One would wonder what it might be like if shows started at, say, eight. If there were never more than three acts. If the sound person would switch the EQ dial from "party" to "music." If the music ended at ten, the lights went up, and everyone still had about an hour to converse, discuss the music, dialogue thought.
Maybe this is all impractical. Maybe I should capitulate to the sophomoric machismo that dictates coolness: insomnia, vomit, self-involved oblivion. Whatever I do, I'm not going to turn folk just so I can go to bed at a proper hour. So c'mon, Rock and Roll, we can figure this out.