Ryan Cary here, Facets writer and lover of live music of any stripe. Blues, jazz, folk, marimba-Sousaphone duets…you name it, I will plunk down a little lettuce for any musicians willing to put it down live. But having come of age in the early ‘90s, my guilty pleasure remains indie rock. From the punk abandon of No Age to the electronica-damaged rock of Braids, I still love exploring fringe bands that always feel like they’re on the edge of changing the way we listen to pop music.
At nearly age 35, however, when I go to indie rock shows I realize I stand out in uncomfortable ways. You know, because I’m the guy who looks old enough to be a dad…maybe even of someone at the show. And though I’m wearing Puma clothing, I’m clearly not a bike messenger. But I have a scary thought for all the hoodied, bearded, skull-capped scenesters out there: I used to be you.
Oh, the stories I can tell. Pogoing with Kim Deal at Guided By Voices shows in Dayton, Ohio bars. Befriending Weezer on their first U.S. tour, telling them they would be the next big thing (much to their skepticism), then witnessing their debut album go supernova on the charts a month later. That transcendent 1993 Smashing Pumpkins Cincinnati club show referenced within the cover article of the April 21, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone? To ape LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge,” I was there! And believe me when I tell you that opening shoegaze act Swervedriver actually may have played the better set that night.
I realize, though, from a contemporary pop culture standpoint that these proud moments in my life now reside somewhere on the spectrum between a) irrelevant, and b) sad. While I’m begrudgingly forced to admit my prolific live music years are behind me, I know I’m not alone in dealing with the modern realities of being a post-hipster audience member. As such, I offer these basic rules to avoid being the creepy, old, indie rock guy in an obvious way:
- Dress appropriately. For example, never try to rock a track jacket if you’re 30 or older. Ever. On the other hand, that Screaming Trees “Sweet Oblivion” tour shirt probably is persona non grata as well.
- It’s OK to drink an upscale beer in the midst of the PBR crowd. Just make sure it’s a draft in a clear cup for the No Logo/Naomi Klein anarchist cred factor.
- No DayGlo earplugs. Either be discreet, or accept the hearing loss the next day. Per one of my favorite lines from the dystopian Children of Men, “The ringing in your ears is the sound of ear cells dying. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
- Don’t be caught openly discussing your mature appreciation for the back catalogues of Steely Dan and Dire Straits between sets. In fact, the only mention of these things should be vague hints in blog posts.
Have any other tips for how thirtysomethings and (gasp!) even older fans can fit in at indie rock shows? Feel free to share. Disagree with anything? Let me know that, too. I’m tough, I can take it. After all, I got dropped on my head one time while crowdsurfing at a Meat Puppets show.