Too Old for the House Show

My plan last night was to drive down to New Brunswick to catch a house show of up-and-coming Jersey sludge bands topped off with the final gig of Massachusetts duo Olde Growth‘s most recent tour. Also on the bill were Pharaoh (not to be confused with the trad metal band from Chicago), the previously On the Radar-ized Eternal Fuzz, and Dutchguts, whom I’ve seen kicking around Jersey a couple times and who run the multi-stage basement venue The Meatlocker in Montclair — where Olde Growth played last time they came through.

Being forever in the shadow of NYC as regards actual venues — that is, the second anyone’s big enough to fill a bar, they’re not doing it here anymore — New Jersey has a long tradition of house shows. In the mid to late ’90s, it was how frantic tech metallers The Dillinger Escape Plan and numerous others first cut their teeth, and it’s been the foundation of the state’s obnoxiously/admirably persistent punk rock scene ever since. I wasn’t a part of that scene. Too young. The place where this show was held was just an old house on a wide street full of old houses. They called it The Alamo, and I walked through the side yard and around the back and knew almost immediately I was too old to be there.

I’d left work at six, dropped the dog off at home and driven, hurriedly, an hour south to go to the show. I genuinely wanted to see it. But you gotta understand, these were kids. I played a New Brunswick house show a few years back, but it’s different when you’re not actually in a band, and it was weird. I had my camera bag with me, but as the first band was getting ready to go on — the dude I asked didn’t know their name but said they had the guitar player from Sonofabitch, which didn’t help much — my choice very quickly became clear. I could stand around and be the old guy no one knows at the house show, or I could split. There wasn’t going to be any middle ground.

The year I was born, 1981, is listed as the dividing point between Generation X and the Millennials, but the reality of the situation is, I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged to one generation or another. I turn 31 later this year, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I knew the freshmen were coming from someplace completely different. Most of my youth I spent trying to hang around with people older than me. I sucked at being young. But I never really hit a point where I could relate to the perspective of those older than me either. It’s an awkward middle-ground that feels half a decade on the wrong side of either place. Born too late, born too early.

I don’t have a problem with being too old for the house show. Like I said, I sucked at being young, and so youth — inasmuch as it’s something I’ve “lost” — isn’t something I really miss. Youth had a lot of dire-seeming bullshit that I hated, and everyone treated each other like a motherfucker. But being where I was when I was, I never had a scene like the one growing now in Jersey, and the lesson I learned last night was that at least in the capacity of going to the shows and digging on these bands as they come up and get their footing creatively and in terms of performance, it’s just not going to work. I can support bands the way I do (i.e. writing), but being a part of it, being actually in it and of it, is something I’ve missed out on.

And in another three or four years, assuming they can keep it together, these bands are going to slay. Dutchguts, Pharaoh. I haven’t seen Eternal Fuzz yet, but I can only assume from what I’ve heard on the recording that the same applies. They’re young and arrogant enough to have their discovery of bands like Eyehategod be a natural outcrop of post-hardcore, and not so self-aware yet that they’ve lost their edge. I heard a report on the BBC yesterday that adolescence, that brain development, continues until the age of about 25. If they can make the most of the freedom they have — and especially doing it in an environment where they support and encourage each other, as they seem to be — then New Jersey’s heavy future is bright. I’ll look forward to hearing those records.

But there are things you can do that come with age and things you can’t, and at 30, my needs and my desires aren’t what they were even three years ago, let alone five or 10. I made my way through the house and down the small entranceway to the old basement, a pipe coming down from the already-low ceiling that I had to duck under, and watched that first band for a couple songs. Two guitars, drums, vocals, coming through Sunn heads and a shitty P.A., grooving out slow riffs like they just invented them, and just knew I was in the wrong place. I didn’t even want to take the camera out of my bag to take pictures. I didn’t want to move except to leave. So I left.

Maybe it didn’t matter. I don’t live under the delusion that wherever I go people are automatically paying attention to me, but I stood out and it made me uncomfortable. I was older, I was bigger, and if I wasn’t going to enjoy being there, what’s the point? Everything else sucks, music doesn’t. If going to shows is going to be a pain in my ass, then pretty much I’ve got nothing going for me. I didn’t see the Olde Growth dudes, and I didn’t get to catch Dutchguts, Pharaoh or Eternal Fuzz, as I wish I had, but in that place at that time, it just wasn’t going to work. Whether or not I actually was, I felt like I was intruding.

On my way out, I spoke to Rich Bukowski from Pharaoh for a bit. He was a couple years behind me (of course) at Seton Hall, and I’ve seen him around at shows ever since, so we’re friendly enough to say hey when we run into each other. I told him I envy what’s happening with these bands right now, that I wished it had been going on six years ago, and that I was going home. And then I did. The band inside was just launching into a cover of “Sister Fucker Pt. 1.” I got back in my car, turned on the Yankees, and the dulcet tones of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman provided theatre of the mind for what turned out to be a shitty game as I made my way the hour back north to my humble river valley, where upon arrival I made myself a bowl of cereal, checked my email, and went to bed, kept awake yet for hours by the caffeine I’d ingested prior to heading out in the first place.

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13 Responses to “Too Old for the House Show”

  1. Dude Guy says:

    I feel the exact same way about youth. I’m only 25, so maybe I still count as “young”. But I don’t miss high school or college much. A lot of my memories from those times involve getting very stressed out about meaningless bullshit.

    I actually like getting older. I think some people are just born to be slightly curmudgeonly old wo/men. I have the slightly curmudgeonly part down… the old part will come in time.

    For the record, this is my favorite music blog in the entire interweb. Keep on keepin on.

  2. Head Ov Metal says:

    I used to wonder what older folks were talking about.
    Then I hit 40 a few years ago. Ugh!
    I need lots of naps.
    Sometimes just driving to a show is exhausting, and then standing in line or standing around, or realizing there’s not going to be much sleep before work in the morning.
    I’ve left shows early and felt bummed out.
    I’ve been insulted by some for leaving early.
    Oh, well. They’re not in our shoes at that particular moment.
    We support the scene as much as we can, and that should be enough.
    We’re not complaining or looking for any special consideration.
    You can’t always maintain that level of enthusiasm, and I appreciate your blog.
    It is a great way to find good music, even from the comfort of my lounge chair.
    Keep on keepin’ on!

  3. Joe says:

    Hey, I am one of the residents of the house you came to last night and member of Eternal Fuzz, I found this on Google today and thought I’d leave a comment.
    First off, I’m sorry you had such a strange experience. I’ve had similar experiences where I walk into a show and don’t feel right and leave. I’ve had it happen for several reasons so I can relate to that “off” vibe you characterized in your post. It can be very weird to interact with a group of people for the first time that you feel you lack some common ground with (i.e. age).
    That being said, we do have a lot of older friends who come to shows on a regular basis (one I can think of who is over 50) and we are not a judgmental group and never intend to ostracize people because of their age, so I’m sorry the vibe wasn’t right for you and also sorry in case I inadvertently contributed to your negative experience. I’m sure you noticed there were some (clearly) high school age kids at the show last night too, new faces for us as well. Also, the opener was playing out for the first time ever!
    I’m personally happy when people come and have a good time listening to the (younger and older) bands that we bring through, and as there are no legal all-ages show venues in the area, this is the best we can do.
    I enjoyed your post but genuinely hope that you won’t allow this one experience to permanently prevent you from enjoying shows in places like this in the future. I know a lot happens in one’s life within the age gap you perceive, but whether its 5 years or 15 years, there are still many things (at least I hope) we can all relate to in casual settings like these!


  4. mr says:

    i dig the above post. well said joe.

    as someone that rides the line between house shows and “venue” deals, i must say the i get all sentiments expressed in your blog and have felt the same way at times, but once you break through the awkwardness (like anything) its gets easier and easier….

    see you at the next Olive Garden show in Philly….Bu Bear will slay us and we will drown peacefully in a sea of schaffer and jack

  5. goAt says:

    Hey man, somebody has to be the Wooderson of the doom scene…

    …but I totally dig where you’re at. Unless I have a sixer before a show, I can’t even be bothered to be driven anymore…at the age of 36, what the fuck else do I need to see? I’ve seen Pelican play in front of 10 people who didn’t give a fuck, I’ve seen IsIs when Aaron Turner had dreads, I saw High on Fire/Mastodon play together in front of 30 people for $8, I watched Neurosis play for two hours as the crowd dwindled in a basement club as Scott banged away during a tribal drum bit, saw Boris close enough to see the sweat on Wata’s cute little titties…watched as Josh and Nick turned their heads, trying to guide their BRAND new drummer into the set at Lupo’s, felt the saliva from Wino hit my cheek as he spat the lyrics to a Hidden Hand tune…I could go on…

    I love being old. FUCK THE KIDS!!!! :)

  6. Leaving a Reply says:

    I’ve heard turning 30 is a kind of turning point in life. Maybe that could be part of it?

    30 isn’t even old though, in my opinion. I’m 26, almost there. I wouldn’t let it worry you. A 30 yr old dude like you seeing some heavy shit, that’s cool. Anyone that gives you shit about it is just an idiot.

  7. Mazzereth says:

    I’m 36..I started slowing down a couple of years ago as it seemed the ‘right thing to do’ I have started getting into the groove again.

    I realised that I would rather be tired at work but knowing that the night before I had just seen a good band/played a good gig/ recorded a good song, than not be tired at work but feeling empty and devoid of the nourishment of the rock and rolls.

  8. benhoog says:

    Man, you gotta rise above it. Im 40 and don’t give a shit who like it. I go to less due to geographic/financial reasons these days but I also look forward to seeing Caltrop next weekend. I think it’s a function of being comfortable in your skin man. Perhaps, in time, that’ll happen for you.

  9. Skill-it says:

    I remember 10 years ago when I was the youngest least tattooed and least hairiest guy at the doom/stoner shows. Now I’m one of the oldest but still the least tattooed/hairy so I still feel a bit out of place. I too wished the scene was bigger and shows more popular and populated back then, now thats its happened (but a few years too late for me to take advantage) I’m at a loss of what to do. Its tough to keep up with all the good new bands and keep tabs on the classics.Its tough to go out and balance responsibility on a week night. tough tough tough.

  10. Woody says:

    “If it’s TOO LOUD, you’re TOO OLD!” – my high school year book quote (1985).

    • It wasn’t actually all that loud. A week and a half before, I stood up front by the 013 P.A. and had Al Cisneros’ bass feel like it was rattling my bones while Sleep played. That was so loud my ears rang after even with plugs in. This I could take. Seems I’m too old despite the volume.

  11. It’s always better to bring a friend to a house show, but I should have given you my cell #. We’d have hung out with you and made some introductions happen. Definitely next time. We’ll also make an effort to play in NYC soon, probably at St. Vitus.

  12. Slevin says:

    When you gotta go, you gotta go.

    Fact is, basement/house shows are hard to feel comfortable at if you don’t know someone directly related to an owner of said basement/house, unless you’re too young to be self-conscious about things like that. Then again, if you’re not that self-conscious at all, good on you. But understand that some people find it hard enough going into a local store they’ve never been in without getting an outsider vibe.

    Ever go into an antique store in an area you aren’t familiar with?

    Your experience may, and will, vary.

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