When I first started this blog, and leaped back into being actively involved in the Phoenix music scene: one of my first concerns was skeege factor. For those for whom this term is new, allow a brief definition. Skeege Factor represents an individual’s likelihood of being dangerous, disturbed, or otherwise forlorn in their perceived appropriateness for the social interaction. Example: Is that forty something guy at the all ages local rock show safe? Example: Is that forty something guy who writes a start up blog safe to grant an interview to? Many of us who love music come to terms with something…. it is easy to age out of live music events, but a lot of music professionals, writers, photographers, radio personalities, are aging music fans.
So in my effort to launch myself as a local writer with both an interesting background, and an interesting enough perspective to be readable, it was immediately important to me to draw a firm line dividing professionalism and skeeginess. A professional spending time in the local music scene, ie a lot of bars, rumbling in on a motorcycle, and most of the time flying solo… needs to be concerned with the Skeege Factor.
The next logical progression on this slippery slope is how and where/ if and when a midlife crisis fits into it. Think of it like this: our lone-wolf writer, swaggers off the black motorcycle, pays his cover charge, and heads to the bar. He has managed to avoid rising above a 3 or a 4 on most folks Skeege Factor Meters; however, he is only half way home. Now, he is relatively safe from being seen as a Rufie Risk, but he is dangerously close to still being on the Pathetic Path, the poor single aging dude, trying to re-find his lost glory in a dark bar with people half his age… maybe.
As a 44 year old man, I have been semi-obsessed with the idea of a mid-life crisis now for a few years. Namely, what the hell is it? For myself, and most aging men like me, I imagine we can easily remember Chevy Chase, roughing up his hair while driving down the highway in the Family Truckster and ready to flirt with Christie Brinkley. The concept of a man losing a sense of his wild youth is easy as marriage, is followed by children and a minivan. So, the cliche of the midlife crisis is clear: a guy wants a sports car, a motorcycle and a younger model girlfriend…. right?
Not really. I mean I have been a pretty much motorcycle exclusive guy for the most of 25 years. I could really care less about chasing a mistress. I have no desire for a sports car. So, what exactly has been my midlife crisis?
Time. The compression of it. And the vacuum of it.
Now, bear with me, as it may take a minute to make the stream-of-consciousness of this to make logical sense. I was in high school for the last two years of the 80s and the birth of the 90s. It was a really interesting period of time, in terms of musical history, especially now with the perspective of years and looking backwards. Observe: If I am a post-punk goth kid loving The Cure’s Disintegration in 1988, I am still at that point only 24 years from The Beatles first appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Kids today, loving Nirvana and fueling a total resurgence in vintage rock fashion, are further from Nirvana now, than we were to The Beatles when I was in high school.
The second point, the second long drought from the immortal cup, is the changing music industry. Look around, do you see BMG Compact Disc Music Clubs? Do you see a get 10 CDs for $1.00 from Columbia House Home Music Club, with a contract to buy 10 more over the next year? No. You do not. Music sales in general, are not fueled by CDs at all, and album sales specifically are no longer a staple of a musicians income. I would argue that this change in the way we pay for music, ie the explosion and power of the music festival for instance, has moved the money in music to focus on touring. Festivals are expensive, and they are massively sought after gigs for the modern musician. My point, Depeche Mode is still touring. The Cure is still playing festivals. Rush just recently officially retired. Metallica is still going strong. U2 are still making headlines. Dwight Yoakham, Steve Earl and Lucinda Williams are a must see tour… in 2018. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are still touring. The Cult just toured with Guns N’ Roses. Why does this matter?
It constricts time. It creates this sense that the defining music of your adolescence is still relevant. The above pictures are of Depeche Mode, selling out summer concerts, in 2017.
Third point, open up, drink it down, this is what immortality tastes like. Popular music as we know it, is really not that old. Elvis Presley shook those hips in the 1954. The Beatles were here 10 years later. Rush came out of Canada 10 years after that. MTV was changing the way we listened to music 10 years after that.
Ask a local musician, struggling, playing great live shows, cutting fantastic records… how long 10 years is nowadays? Compare that time with the explosion of the flowing record deals of the 80s. Depeche Mode was on album number four, by their fourth year, and touring the world before they were 25 years old. The Cure is similar. So is Led Zeppelin. Bands had to continue to make music to get played on the radio, cut albums to group singles, and tour to support albums. Now, great musicians, fantastic bands, are on their second full length album, funded without record contracts, and still considered up and coming local bands as they close in on their late 20s and early 30s.
Ten years feels like nothing. And you realize that the history of fame, in general for an artist, is the ability to capitalize on a flash in the pan, ten years of cutting edge, daily work, and then…. they made it… or vanished. That model is no longer relevant. And it has effected, in general, the age of the average musician, music fan, and music professional.
In other words, your 40s really are in many ways the new 20s. The opportunities one is working towards are still possible… they simply take much longer, in most cases. I would argue, that in general, that has extended this period of fierce creativity that perhaps would have been constricted to a person’s 20s in an earlier time. Seriously, look at Jimi Hendrix. His entire fame, and contribution to the world stage, was about 18 months long. 60 years ago.
Are you still with me?
So…. I am a pretty crazy music fan. I listen to music absolutely all of the time. I have artists from the 50s, the 60s, obviously massive amounts of my discography cover the 70s through the 90s…. but what is different about a music fan, a real student and dedicated follower of the fashion of music… is what if music never STOPS BEING RELEVANT? The more you listen to, the more connections you find, the more influences are exposed, the more internal layers and meanings are derived, and the more music you want to find.
Yes, Vista Kicks, out of Los Angeles, California, are the new American Beatles. You heard it here first… I think. Test me. Give em a listen.
We all know, especially in a world where so many topics have become absolutely divisive, everybody loves talking about music. Even on a Facebook page as politically explosive as mine is, I can unite people across the spectrum with a battle of the bands poll. When you are able to talk to folks 30 years older than you about Elvis, old timers 50 years older than you about Chet Akins, your older siblings’s friends about Led Zeppelin, appreciate Paul Rudd in, well everything, but especially I Love You Man, understand the connection between The Cars and Weezer, debate the significance of Green Day’s Dookie, and still talk about Vista Kicks being to The Beatles as Wyves are to The Rolling Stones.
Test me….. I dare you. Phoenix’s own Wyves are to The Rolling Stones as Vista Kicks are to The Beatles.
I LOVE MY WYVES….. CLICK THIS, NEW ALBUM COMING SOON… PHOENIX, WORLD….. I AM TELLING YOU…… WYVES are legit.
Music becomes your Delorean.
Sometime after my college years, music stopped being generational. Sure, The Cure’s height of American Fame was Disintegration, and their music defined a generation of black-clad malcontents, but the band still has massive importance on the world stage 30 years later. When I was younger it was easy to immediately judge people, like in the movie Dazed and Confused. Music was defined by the teenagers that listened to it. They grew up, started families, became Clark Griswald, and stopped listening to music. That could not be further from the truth as I approach midlife.
I am more excited for new releases this Fall from Jane n the Jungle and Wyves, than I am for new albums from Halestorm and Shinedown. I write about them. I connect their contribution to music and art to the greats that came before them. Going to see these bands live, is not, and has never been, about the social whirl or chasing dates. My Road to El Dorado has always passed through the shadowy venues of the local music scene.
Visit Jane n the Jungle… you will not be disappointed! CLICK THIS LINK NOW !!!
In the mid 90s I went to Long Wongs on Mill to watch Stephen Ashbrook every Thursday. Tonight he plays in Phoenix for the release of his first wine from Ashbrook Cellers and Brenden McBride, the bassist for Wyves, is playing bass with him.
Tonight, Stephen Ashbrook releases his first official wine, Geronimo at Cactus Jack’s in Phoenix. Dead Hot Workshop will open the show. Talk about a TIME MACHINE !
The music world stops being generational. It stops being stuck in time. It comes this living vibrant community of artistic people navigating this journey together, and sharing that road with each other as they grow and change.
We all love Psycho Steve! The owner of The Rebel Lounge is one of the best guys in town for supporting local music and trying to bring other up and coming acts to town. He is part of what is Phoenix’s vibrant live music scene. But, the guy is a baby. So the illustrious Dani Cutler, KWSS DJ Extraordinaire posted a picture of the flyer poster for Lolapolloza 1, back in 1991, with the question, “Who was there?” It was the summer before my senior year of high school. It was one of my first concerts. Some others of the Arizona old guard popped up, and then here comes Psycho Steve…. “I was eight.”
Several days later, my Amigos the New Chums are playing the Rebel Lounge, and I post this clip of Nirvana, playing The Mason Jar (hint, kids…. The Rebel… used to be the Mason Jar), and I send a message to the great lefty guitar man, Matt Lloyd, “Hey man, look who you are sharing a stage with! Just don’t ask Steve how old he was, lol.”
Without missing a beat…. “I was seven.” Thanks. Thanks Steve.
The point of these anecdotes and stories, is to show, that music, live music, attending concerts, taking your wife out for a night WITH your kids, experiencing LIVE, PERFORMANCE art…. is not creepy. It is not skeegie… as long as you aren’t. You do NOT HAVE TO AGE OUT OF THIS. It really does become about community, pulling for each other, and trying to pay it forward…. all while feeling a little younger.
I still feel like Peter Pan, and hanging out with my teenage kids at local rock shows of bands that are getting ready to explode out of Phoenix is cool, and somehow…..
It has led me to discovering that being able to talk to anybody…. anywhere…. about music…. is the fountain of youth.