Wednesday, January 12, 2011

musing on 27

The first time I really felt old happened at a house show. I was in Greenville, North Carolina, a shitty town in the no-man's tobacco plains between the college metro areas to the west, and the barrier islands of the Outer Banks several hours further east. Maybe it wasn't as shitty as it appeared on this particular day, one of constant drizzle, the whole atmosphere remaining a cold, steely gray through all waking hours. It was early November, and we were on tour.

Played in a house like this. Maybe this house? Add soiled mattresses against the wall, elbow-to-ass crowd, and sour puddles of beer and cigarette butts.

Summer is prime touring season for any number of reasons. Weather is great for driving long-distances, bands full of college-kids have extra free-time, people like to go out more often, spend more money, get more drunk. November is not prime touring season. It is cold, or rainy, or close to the holidays, impressing their moral glow on social activities. And the November immediately following one of the biggest recessions since the 1930's, well, let's just say this might have been the worst-timed tour possible. I was burnt out from working a full-time job and trying to book shows that we wouldn't completely lose our ass on. The van had died in Texas more than a year previous, thus we'd be packing all of our gear into Dave's mom's minivan.

If I had the choice between buying booze and forgetting myself, or buying records and thinking about the human condition...fuck it, I'm going to buy booze. Idealism fades in the face of shitty economic conditions, especially when any media source you can hear or see is inundating you with fear. Fear of disappearing jobs, fear of government, fear of your neighbors, your boss, fear of change, fear of anything that could change your shitty way of life.

Insert 5 dudes (the smallest, me at 5'11" & 160 lbs). 1 full drumset. 2 guitar amps. 1 bass amp. 1 keyboard amp. 1 box of cables. 3 guitar cases. 1 keyboard. 1 keyboard stand. Sleeping bags, food, coats and hats.

So, everyone there got drunk. Raging drunk, set-piles-of-stuff-on-fire drunk, pour-a-Forty-into-the-donation-bucket drunk. But it was a good-time buzz, enjoying the bands. We turned in a sweaty set marred only by Dave breaking strings and sitting down in the room's only floorspace--directly in-front of the kick-drum.

Outside, the fire now composed of treated lumber pallets, its sinewy, chemical smoke trail twisting up to the streetlight illuminating the sandy yard, we sat on broken benches, salvaged chairs, overturned objects. Kids (twenty-somethings, really) were buzzing about while Titus Andronicus set up for their guitar-army overdriven punk sound. Their van shone somewhere in the distance, a reminder of how far we hadn't come; 25 years old and still borrowing someone's minivan to pile in.

Titus Andronicus. This show did lack crowd-surfing, since the room was barely wider than the length of a body. Nice dudes, they offered to trade albums, and were a bit taken aback when we told them we had five. One asked, "How old are you guys?" I spent most of my time outside coveting their van and probable-hotel-money.

A couple songs into their energetic set, I was squeezed out of the bedroom-sized space by jostling bodies. Scrambled back through the fetid kitchen to the fire, still burning. From inside, the chords began playing a note-for-note cover of Weezer's "The Sweater Song." Kids in the yard, kitchen, street, immediately exclaimed, dashed in noisily to fill the room even more beyond its breaking point.

I stared into the fire, put my hands deeper into my pockets, watched the bodies stream in until the yard was quiet save for the brief sounds of traffic, moisture popping, snapping as the fire leached into the sky.

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