Ow, My Knee: On Getting Old and Going to Concerts
Went to a concert last week for which I knew sporting my cowboy boots would be appropriate. When my friend came to pick me up, she admired my decision: “Wish I could wear mine, but my knee still hurts” (from an earlier jogging injury).
Well. Over two hours in the car to a different city, three hours in a squashed stadium seat, and jeezus…ow…my knees. I may have inadvertently kicked her seat many times in an effort to stretch out, but she didn’t complain.
Before I lament the lost days when I could stand for six hours in a crowd anticipating a band I desperately wanted to see, I should clarify that only two days after that show I attended a brutal ballet class called Power Barre and came out the other end in okay shape, thankyouverymuch. Sweaty, but not destroyed. So I’m not that old. Nor am I pretending to be.
Nevertheless, let me compare last week’s concert with the performance I saw this week, Swan Lake. Canada’s National Ballet is running the production until Nov. 17. I got the last cheap ticket, which put me in the last row, off to the side. Not to worry: National Ballet shows now take place at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre, which boasts plenty o’leg room and a full view of the stage from every seat. Know why? Because the people who go to these shows…
No, seriously. They have money, they like these weirdo forms of art that nobody goes to see anymore, so they get the comfort of leg room and cushy seats. I’m not wrong in that assessment by the way (I mean, except for ballet being weirdo); for a little while, I thought I might be the youngest person in the theatre by 30 years, until the rest of the cheap ticket buyers – a herd of teenage girls – crowded into the seats around me. School trip.
An aside, or maybe not, considering the point of this post: These girls talked through a lot of the performance. While I might normally be angry, I got the sense that they were talking about the performance, whispering about the grand jetes and the precise entry of the swan corps. My suspicions were confirmed when they fell into a hush for this part:
And then erupted in cheers and applause when it finished.
If you don’t know ballet, then you don’t know that this is one of the most prized moments in the repertoire. Achieving that level of synchronicity, performing sixteen pas de chats in a row, it’s serious ballet.
So while the rest of the auditorium presumably stifled coughs and reverently watched in silence, these girls fully engaged in the show, cheering the tights-clad leaping men and giggling over, well, the tights-clad leaping men. Is that such a bad thing? Are the old generations of concert-goers just getting too old and stuffy? Are we forgetting the ways in which we used to enjoy concerts: drunk, loud, annoying, and pressing forward in the hopes of touching a guitarist’s feet?
My good friend Tim once wrote a blog about being the old guy at concerts. He goes to more shows than anyone I know, and good ones at that. But he’s in his 50s, seeing bands whose fan demographic typically resides somewhere between 25 and 35. He doesn’t care; why would he give up a chance to see acts he loves? Venue, time, standing room only; these things don’t matter to him. And of course, Tim is in his 50s, working full-time, in a dual-income marriage. He’s the guy that bands want at their shows. He buys the tickets, he purchases the music, he might even walk away sometimes with merch (though I have yet to see him wear a band t-shirt). Kids in their 20s who are carefully parcelling their remaining $15 out for as many watered-down beers as they can score are perhaps not the most desired consumers of the music. Economically, that is. But they’re the ones screaming and throwing themselves at the stage, weeping over seeing an artist for the first time.
(I know, I generalize. I know lots of people in their 50s with no money and lots of kids in their 20s with cash.)
We’re in a weird time, though, when aging boomers, who did it all first are being targeted as the demographic with a shitload of money and suitcases full of nostalgia, who are willing to sit down at their shiny laptops and log into the Front of the Line American Express ticket sales for the Eagles, the Stones, Dylan, etc., shelling out anywhere from $75 – $500 to relive their youth. Again, I generalize, but this is the stuff of reunion tours. And yet, you ask most of those concert attendees about a show and often the comfort factor creeps in. “Why did everyone have to stand? I couldn’t see the stage.” “I wish there was a separate section for dancers.” “This is terrible beer.”
I say this not to make fun of the boomer generation, because I see my own tendency to start peppering my concert reviews with these statements. Go early, get a seat. Pre-game so you’re not stuck with the Yellow Tail. Wait until the artist comes through town twice, then inevitably they’ve “made it” enough that they’re probably playing a soft-seater. I have many exceptions to these rules. Actually, none. If I want to see someone enough, I’ll go and stand at the front and get squashed by drunk kids half my age and twice my size. But I am starting to think the other way a little bit.
Something to consider as we nurse our aching knees.