I found this text from my Gig Zine in an old email. It's still true :
I spent some time with an old friend recently. He runs a punk record
label and has been devoted to his music for as long as I've known him- jeez, 13 years. He's stayed the same in many ways. We talked about how people at 18 are really just how they're gonna be in the future.
There's no big personality shift after your teen years (excepting the
odd born-again/casualty/conscience-stricken). He is who he was. I am certainly who I was. All that has changed has time - and it has taken away lots of my old comrades.
You see, Steve's passion for punk music fed into him seeing the gigs
of his mates, his heroes, inspirations, and wacky variations thereof.
For years he'd follow his brother's band (joe 90 as was) and after he
left newcastle (like most of its student generation does - moving to
leeds) he got even more into the band scene where he was in leeds.
Working 9-to-5, getting a mortgage on a house, wearing slippers in the house (actually he always wore slippers, even at 18) - this actuallywent quite well with seeing bands locally, putting up touring bands and cooking them vegan suppers. Sometimes he'd travel with the bands on his label and I'd see him back drinking Jennings in Newcastle. His website grew, and he added politics and comment. He'd even be found down punk nights with bands he didn't rate, for the crack and with his mates. When I'd visit I'd be the token long-hair dancing to snuff or whatever in some basement.
So last week, what had changed? Same long-term girlfriend (who he says is waiting for him to ask her to marry - he probably will, as long as his cousins don't have to come to the wedding); a new house in the country outside Harrogate, convenient for work, lots of space. They muttered against the Tesco that's coming to clog up their road. The paintwork is beige with wooden flooring. The rocking chair has been sold on ebay for a tenner, they should probably get a bigger freezer.
The garden is great and this year they've started growing veg. They
use a wormery and produce very little waste. Steve is still vegan. His old starwars toys are gone, but in his office upstairs there are
transformers ones to replace them. And the box room, that one day may be the child's room, is filled with boxes and boxes of cds - the back catalogue that takes so long to shift (especially when 3 bands in a row split up as soon as he releases their record).
But. Gigs. He admits now that if he sees a band it's one from the old
days, the only place he sees mates from his generation. A younger
crowd are putting on gigs now, the LS6 and punk scenes have slid apart again - he doesn't know about them, those he didn't see cos it was a long drive, that one would've been good to see but he didn't know anyone else going. Age - and our response to age - puts us into an ever-decreasing circle of gigs, gig-friends, new discoveries, real experiences.
Chez, her way of putting it was she was sick of shit gigs. Once she
was the only friend of mine who saw more bands than me - in fact she inspired me to go see more, to take more risks, to stop by venues on the way home from town. She doesn't know of any decent new bands.
Which is rubbish, but when I persuaded her to pop into bernaccia or the cluny just in case the unknown was good, it wasn't. Now she's left town. I hope she burrows into another scene in another city, that she finds as fulfilling as she once found Newcastle's. But I wonder if age is hitting her too. Sick of shit gigs. Doesn't know any decent new bands. Decreasing circle. Ears closing. Tired joints.
The last year was an odd one for me. It threw me out of my pattern,
sent me to London and lost me my Newcastle base. But I'd come back on the weekends and go straight from the train into the Head of Steam, sometimes even wearing my suit. I'd desperately crawl thru the crack and narc listings on my weekly train journey, searching for something to look forward to. My diary was filled with gigs I might see if I was in that town, the other. London itself I found disheartening. Of course I made friends, saw gigs, appreciated something of its magnificence. But the cultural scene t here is dead. It's so knackeringto travel across town that you only see things you already know, or friends you're already close to. Only the newcomers and the sheer mass of numbers keep their 'cultural capital' going. But mostly people just get really provincial and narrow, reducing their mega-city into their own borough or well-trod circuit. It's a rubbish place to see new music. Costs too much in time and money to be possible, and then the sheer scale and anonymity of the place makes it feel slightly pointless to have heard a nice sound, also. You'll never see them again, never wander past a collaboration with someone else you once saw, never get a sense of 'growing' within a music community.
Nah, London is rubbish for gigs. I would sit there on the tube (or the
train out to the dead Essex swamplands, eyugh!) and be holding upto my face to decide what venue to tell my girlfriend to meet me at
when I got back to town. And hundreds of miles away, I'd feel a loss
when I learnt that, say, A Woman of No Importance split up. It was
odd, and pleasing, like I was part of a village community reading up
on the local news from a continent away - 'ooh, the co-op's got a new
owner. Well I never, sounds like Trillians is the same as ever'
So whatever slide away from live music and the gig scene that most of my generation may be going through, my last year had the opposite effect. I saw as many gigs as I ever had, most of them in Newcastle (some London, some Leeds). They were not all great, but pretty much every one gave me something special. The shiny-faced life and exuberance of a teenage band that have really found a sound, crowded round by their friends and old schoolmates - that's a magical intimate moment! The depressed banter of an old-timer on his 6th local band, realising he's never gonna hit the full-time lifestyle - but secretly loving this place he holds on stage, his words listened to, guffawed to, jokes recognised and laughed back at. These are the gems of real life. Admittedly I'm neither the teenage schoolfriend nor the old drinking companion of those acts - I'm just a punter, an atom in the audience - but in those moments I am included in that social world. I, you, the audience member, are an accepted part of a momentary, intimate social interaction, and community, that you could never buy at the Sage or get as a shiny gold-lined box set over the internet.
Even when I'm heart-broken and lonely, or knackered and
embarrassed at my skin, I feel blessed by what I get from gigs. They bring some meaning or, or some kind of revelation of what the passing-of-time really means. What's valuable, who I am, what ears mean. Bass passing through my body tells me what structure means - bone and fibre and blood. Eyes looking at me when I can't face returning them, and I look to my pint, it reminds me I am amongst a mammal community. I can't get lost entirely.