Middle-ager of the year – How to really establish you’re old, a try hard tale of my attempt to relive my youth…
‘You’re going to see some pixies?’
‘No Dad, it’s THE Pixies’
Just this conversation exchange alone takes me back…to last week when I was explaining to my dad exactly what I was up to that warranted his childcare services. Although it could quite easily have taken place 20 odd years ago, around the time I heard my first Pixies track. I’m 34 and I’m writing as though I’m about to draw my pension BUT after seeing The Pixies live, the self realisation that I am not that hip and cool youngster I once aspired to be, hit the bullseye of my consciousness. Anyone who is familiar with said band will know that their hay day arguably was in the early 90s, however, after a recent change of line up and release of a new album they are back on tour. Is this some kind of gig review? Well no, more a lamentation of the fact that my youth is spent..
For a start I didn’t go to a gig, I went to a concert – the fact I call it a concert is the first demonstration of my age. I used to say I was going to a gig, but nowadays I simply cannot bring myself to say it anymore. Along with not being able to address anyone as ‘dude’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with either of those words, or other people using them. My problem is purely self centred, it’s how I sound when I say them. A new level of try-hard wrong, are the words that pop into my head when I listen to myself attempting to nonchalantly drop them into conversation. It reminds me of the time my English teacher told us to pick a writing style and she demonstrated this by using the type of language one might find in a teen magazine. With a stern expression she proceeded to give us an example:‘Yo dudes, wanna know the lowdown?’ she said in a slow, monotone voice, causing much hilarity amongst the class. This is the only frame of reference I have for how I sound right now, like dear old Dr Vance – who I believe frequently moonlighted as a Bond villain – attempting to sound like she’s mastered that new fangled youngster patter…badly.
So back to my former ‘gig’ going years, I would have arrived before the doors opened and queued needlessly for around 40 minutes, drinking snakebite or whatever alcohol I could syphon into a bottle (pending me being able to actually buy any as being only five foot tall, I was unable to buy so much as a lottery ticket well into my mid 20s) Then, once inside, I would join the throngs vying to get as near to the front as possible, only to find myself 15 rows back and standing behind the only giant in attendance and would then spend the next 3 hours getting jostled and occasionally crushed, in the mosh pit. Looking back I’m not sure why I ever bothered, but I would never come away disappointed or short changed, I loved every minute, even when I had to miss the last few songs to make the last train home.
Yet it’s all change now – on this occasion, I upgraded my snakebite procured by wiley means to now, having developed enough wrinkles to actually stand at a bar, I purchased my own snakebite..sorry I mean gin and slimline tonic, without needing to reluctantly proffer my passport. My group of friends and I no longer know or care who the support acts are and so take our time in the pub and then stroll over to the venue. We are the height of organisation, we purchase our Pixies t-shirts before going in while the band merchandise stand is quiet, knowing it will be rammed when the concert is over. So far the only experience that seemed vaguely rock and roll was in the ladies toilet, which of course I sensibly made a point of visiting before the band came on, where a queue was forming due to one of the 4 cubicles (yes Hammersmith Apollo that’s 4!!) being occupied by someone vomiting. I almost felt a little relief, it had all been far too linear up ’til now. Is it wrong that the echoes of someone retching should make you feel, just ever so slightly rock and roll? Of course I felt for the person making conversation on the big white telephone but I couldn’t help a half smile.
The actual concert was beyond incredible with the band playing every song back to back without so much as a pause of breath. They even continued to play once the lights came on having obviously gone over the noise curfew. They started with their new album and then ripped back through their classics, one after another, making sure we got our money’s worth and some. They were slick, professional and I’m sure could have conducted the entire show blindfolded (and is entirely possible they were as I, as usual, couldn’t see).
So at this point my plan was to have a humorous dig at me and my fellow concert goers. I wanted to comment on how over-the-hill we all looked and behaved. I wanted to poke fun at the fully grown men and women leaping about like buffoons, the ‘dad’ dancing accompanied with overly dramatic fist waving. I want to ogle those who’s wardrobes still remained effortlessly and immaculately, trapped in the 90s and say ‘seriously, I mean, seriously’ I wanted to have a good old chuckle at a middle aged crowd, so much more sedate and resolute compared to the energy generated by a room full of kids, who really do know where it’s at, and with just one pulse of life lift the roof off. Yet I cannot do it. I hope I can provide an efficient explanation as to why this crowd was and is the best of all and to compare it to anything else would be wrong and unfair.
Look at it from front man, Frank Black, aka Black Francis, aka Charles Thompson III’s perspective: Imagine you could fill a room with people that have loved your work for nearly 30 years? Where you created the music that didn’t just provide the soundtrack to their adolescence but was the first song at their wedding, that they played to their baby in utero to see if it made him dance (I recall Wave of Mutilation having surprisingly calm effects on our newborn son) that their teenage children rolled their eyes to or in some cases, joined in with?
It is hard to describe the energy that can be created by a room full of loved up, moshing kids. However, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the sheer passion of an audience of old time rockers. Who aren’t just there to impress but have been in it for the long haul, who don’t just cheer when they hear their favourite song but begin to openly and unashamedly weep, because of the sudden clarity of memories that suddenly come rushing back or just in pure, unrequited rapture. Some people were present who would have been on their first night out for months, due to family commitments. Some of those leaping around probably hadn’t danced for years. Not because they didn’t want to but the opportunity doesn’t often present itself. Because life changes – it is life that becomes more resolute and sedate, not us. This concert was on a whole new scale, it was a ripping the plaster of sensibility off of those who had quite forgotten what it was like to boundlessly prance around to their favourite song. This wasn’t a crowd of music lovers but in fact music worshippers. Quite how, as a band member, you stay grounded whilst receiving such transcendent adulation I have no idea. Am I saying old people love concerts more than young people? No of course not, but if it were possible to bottle the raw passion of this dedicated crowd it would generate atom splitting energy that could power a continent and it should never be scoffed at.
Also these concert goers were professionals – there was no rushing off to get the last tube, despite the band going over. These people knew their stuff and their pre booked cabs awaited them. Wish I’d thought of that.