For some, 2011 was just a year where seemingly every other girl/gay man in Brooklyn decided to shave a random swath of hair down to the scalp. But for me, it was a collection of moments that have inspired me to whole-heartedly evaluate the way I experience music and actually make something out of my passion.
My meditations on this began out of a repugnance for getting older. I had tickets to see Washed Out with openers Blood Orange and Grimes, but the night of the show, a Monday, everyone bowed out, citing the old “have to be up early for work” excuse. It dawned on me that while I was still serving tacos in a tiny Mexican restaurant, these people, my friends, had careers, and that these careers were so important that they could not waste hours of sleep to see a once-in-a-lifetime lineup play to a packed house, everyone with dancing shoes on. I wrangled a friend who, like myself, had few daytime responsibilities, or at the very least could handle being a bit sleepy the next day. We had a phenomenal time, but even so I was bummed. Was I somehow immature or unaccomplished because I enjoyed this sort of thing? On Thursday, aheart-to-heart with a friend who had bailed resulted in the followingconclusion: the two of us were at different places in our lives, andapparently I was not the adult.
The thing is, it didn’t really matterto me. If being an adult meant forgoing unexpected Bastille Dayfireworks over the Hudson after a free tUnE-yArDs performance so thatI could efficiently alphabetize files in a cubicle for a steadypaycheck, then I was content to sling salsa for at least a few moreyears. I wouldn’t trade losing my shit over those first hauntingstrains of Dirty Beaches’ “Lord Knows Best” billowing throughGlassland’s papery clouds to change a dirty diaper, because Alex Zhang Hungtai is the coolest dudewho ever lived, and that night he vowed to “croon the fuck out”which is exactly what happened.
I wouldn’t want to miss the chance tojump on the Music Hall of Williamsburg stage for Star Slinger’sclosing cut “Punch Drunk Love” or to witness Phil Elvurum on thealtar of the gorgeous St. Cecilia’s church, his soft voicereverberating angelically around the cathedral. Or to have folk heroMichael Gira kiss my hand after the Swans show, which was theloudest, sweatiest, and single most transcendent rock-n-rollexperience I’d ever had. Nor would I miss the incredible stageset-up as it virtually came alive to Animal Collective’s ProspectPark set, even as the heat and hallucinogens caused teenagers allaround me to pass out. Had I not decided on a whim just a day before the show, I would never have seen Dam-Funk shred akey-tar as we sailed around Manhattan on a ferry, the sun settingagainst the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty waving hertorch over the deck. I braved the pollution of the Gowanus Canal tosee a Four Tet DJ in a garden that managed to be verdant despite allthe toxins pulsing through the ground.
This was my fourth year at CMJ, and itstands as one of my favorite events because in that moment, you’reright with those fledgling acts, waiting to see a performance thatwill build their buzz or totally break them. This year, at a TrashTalk performance replete with band members flinging themselves frombalconies, a friend of mine well into her twenties found herself in acircle pit for the very first time. Later that week, I watched PatGrossi of Active Child strum a person-sized harp, its stringspractically glowing as they vibrated against his fingertips.
Fiercely loving music is one thing thatdoesn’t get boring for me. As I age, it doesn’t get old. Seeing aParty of Helicopters reunion performance at Death By Audio inFebruary proved that. I used to see them religiously when I lived inOhio. In my veins was the same blood that was present when I wastwenty, and every muscle, every cell, remembered what to do – Idamn near gave myself whiplash, working myself into a frenzy.
And despite spending hours researchingobscure bands for music supervision projects I freelance, I stilldiscover bands just by attending shows. While dancing my ass off atthe 100% Silk Showcase at Shea Stadium, I discovered a whole label’sworth of material harkening back to club jams of the nineties, andthe Amanda Brown vs. Bethany Cosentino debate was forever settledin my mind in favor of the LA Vampires frontwoman; Brown is avisionary while Cosentino is just cute.
In roughly fifteen years of attendingrock concerts, I’d say I had the best one yet. I’ve decided thatsince growing up is not worth the trade-off of giving up live music,or changing the way I experience the music that I love, that I willhave to marry the two. While this trajectory began years ago, thisis the first time I’ve felt any sort of mission behind the fandom. Iam the person people call and ask “are there any good shows goingon tonight?”, the person with extra tickets who drags friends alongto see bands they haven’t heard of, the person who brings a hugegroup of old friends together for a show, the person who barring allthat will go to a show alone and still have a blast. I am one of thethousands of people who log on to Ticketmaster at 9:55am forRadiohead tickets and still won’t get any. I’m the person at thefront of the crowd, snapping a few quick pictures for those whocouldn’t make it, and then dancing like a thing possessed for therest of the set. For me, it’s dedication. It’s all part of beingsomeone who was there.