The Rant

We Are Ugly, But We Have the Music

Trying not to be the old guy at the club is hard when you're the oldest guy there

“We are ugly, but we have the music.”

That line, from Leonard Cohen’s classic "Chelsea Hotel #2," was one of the first lyrics of a song that affected me on a deeply personal level. He had defiantly put forth in song a battle cry not of music as a consolation prize for the outcasts of the world, but as a beautiful expression of strength and a prize worth fighting for. At the time I discovered his music, almost none of my friends were listening to him. Seeing artists perform for the first time is my best chance to experience transcendence, and it’s that possibility to see something great that keeps me going to see live music.

This desire often leads me to smaller club venues, which I like, because you can be in the back of the room and still feel close to the stage. There’s an intense intimacy there not found in stadium shows. For years, I went to live shows all the time but, admittedly, it happens less frequently than before for a myriad of reasons. I’ve noticed changes in the audiences and myself over the years. It’s not getting easier to hang out at these shows when I’m a decade or two older than most of the crowd.

I’m not trying to turn into a cranky old man, but it was a lot easier to tolerate drunken music fans bumping into and spilling drinks upon me when I was doing the same thing. I am torn between the comfort of a larger concert — where I can sit and enjoy a show — and the energy and excitement of being pressed into a ball of humanity at a small rock club. Aside from youthful drunken exuberance, there is also a newer trend at shows that drives me nuts.

Everyone at concerts nowadays thinks they’re Martin Scorsese making the “The Last Waltz” on their smartphone. The lights go down, and up comes the klieg light of smartphones held up and pointed at the stage. Watching a live concert on a tiny screen while the actual event goes on directly on the other side of the screen is not a form of entertainment I need. A shaky video and bad audio recording will never be able to capture the mood and feeling of that show.

Like all things that over time get a high gloss finish from the airbrushing power of time and nostalgia, concerts I’ve been to live strong in my memory. I don’t think seeing the actual show on a bad phone video would add to that. The memory of my first crush, my second grade assistant teacher, was recently tarnished forever when my parents sent me all my old yearbooks and saw a picture of her. She was not the vision of beauty I remembered and, really, how could she possibly live up to several decades of fantasy building?

You should never look back on second grade crushes or old concerts, except through the edited versions created by your mind’s eye.

So the next time "@indierocker92" tries to film a concert, he or she better hope I’m not blocking their shot with a defiant fist raised in the air ... until I get tired and have to go sit down.


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