"Because you're too old to rock and roll, but too young to die."--Ian Anderson
I am here to confirm that truer words were never spoken. Gathered a group of people to go to a Jason Isbell show on Saturday night--age mates, if you will, or at least only 1 generation in front of or behind me--with fairly disasterous results.
Don't get me wrong. The show itself was fantastic--packed to the ceiling, hard-rocking, Isbell clearly into it, audience knew all the words, great little venue. Those of us who made it through weren't sorry, I'm sure. In fact, I now have a household of 4 committed Isbell fans, so that's a win.
But along the sides, it was a strange evening. Here's why:
--one couple showed very late and left very early, stayed for a whole of 45 minutes max.
--another couple never came at all because the wife's driver's license had expired, and since they didn't feel like going all the way home and come all the way back (which I get), they went to an upscale restaurant and had wine and appetizers instead.
--another friend went to the bathroom and never came back, said he was weary, that he liked parts of the show, but that the crowd annoyed him.
--another friend sold a ticket to another friend who then turned around and bought two more tickets and then decided he didn't need the ticket he'd bought from the first friend and so stuck him with it until another friend made it clear to him that it was a douche move.
--another couple never even got to the ticket-buying stage because it was a standing show and his back would not tolerate that amount of standing (I told him there are always seats along the side, but anyway...)
NOTE: These are observations, not criticisms. These are observations, not criticisms. These are observations, not criticisms.
My realization from this small sampling is that even as rock continues on, whether those be venerable ones like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young or The Rolling Stones, or newer ones like Jason Isbell, many of the people who grew up with rock, who grew up rocking, no longer find themselves suited to experiencing live the music that once defined them.
The rockers may not want to give up, but their listening peers often do--too tired, too crowded, too inconvenient, too plebian. They say that you never forget how to ride a bicycle, but I am here to say that, apparently, you do forget how to rock.
I'm weird; I know it. When my friend Jeff finally got me back to a Springsteen show, my shock was how old the audience was, not how young, how easy it was to get a beer rather than have to sneak a mixture of boozes from a parent's liquor cabinet in a shampoo bottle hidden in a sock.
I must concede that we skewed far older than most of the Isbell crowd, that our collective group that made it to the show was far less able to sing along, that quarters were tight and that young, exuberant (and drunk) fans are not what we are necessarily used to.
But I've said it before and I will say it again: live music is always worth the effort. Saturday night confirmed that again. But, as folk-rocker-that-I've-grown-up-with Steve Forbert has been known to sing, "You cannot win if you do not play." And if you are too old to play, then what do you have?