Well, that was depressing.
I went to a show last night. Side project of the guy who was a founding member of KMFDM.
It was being held in the back room of a sports bar in the more suburban part of Atlanta's east side. In short, not exactly the venue you'd expect to find the Industrial Hordes at. Which is probably why there were about forty people there.
I nor my wife were the youngest people there. I think the drummer got a dispensation to be in the bar because he was working as a musician for the band. The keyboard/synth/running the iPad/iPod playing most of the music guy who looked like Rasputin with a haircut and showed up in priest garb (which hs slowly shed layer by layer as the show went on, which was an unintentional ironic statement) was maybe in his early 30s. Everyone else apart from us was north of 45, including the twin guitarists, both of whom were overweight and had the energy of 50something overweight men. Hard to shake your head and get into the groove of things when you literally look like an older Uncle Fester whose gut is peeking out from underneath the faded black casual shirt you're wearing. No offense to either musician, but you get my point - certain music genres have a definite age limit. There's a reason Henry Rollins sticks fo pontificating and acting these days rather than pretending to be an angry teenager on stage.
And the singer, the lead guy- shows up on stage in a faux fur short white jacket, in the Atlanta area in early September, in a bar. Suffice it to say that he decided to shed it early on and it kind of stuck to his arms from the sweat, making his attempt to shimmy it off in a rock star fashion not quite work. The Fester looking gentlemen (again, no disresepect to him, but he did look like a spear bald, shaven eyebrowed Jackie Cooper) had mic problems, but competent professional though he was, soldiered through it.
The crowd was an interesting bunch.
There's a bit in Trekkies where a young man is sitting in front of the camera in the same outfit Uhuru wore, the short skirt redshirt thing. And he sighs, saying originally it was cosplay as a fantasy to be on the Enterprise, but it "turned into this". He seemed comfortable but not quite comfortable - happy in women's clothing and comfortable in it but needing that second derivative something there to make it okay. I'm saying that because (and I have no judgments of animus against people who are trans- be that transvestite or transgender) because there were a few folks there in that mold it was unclear whether this was all part of getting out to a show, a late-in-life realization of gender identity, a love of transvestism without the money, or what.
There was a guy the wife and I immeditately referred to as "panel van" because her "avoid taking anything to drink this guy has touched" senses were going haywire. An awkward, balding fellow who just didn't seem to fit in in the kind of way that led you to believe that some day he'd be taken away in handcuffs and they'd be hauling boxes of little Mary Janes out of the crawl space with neighbors going "we never would have thought. He was such a nice, easy going fellow." He eventually found someone to speak to, a guy who showed up in a polo shirt and slacks we referred to as Tim from Accounts.
There was the aging Cat Lady with the wild colored hair and you couldn't help noticing that the wild colors on the girls were just in the realm of near-human hair color enough it would skate by corporate standards. Oranges and reds, as opposed to the greens and blues of their youth. More than one was wearing T-shirts that involved cats, Polished lesbian with her nicely pomaded undercut and gauges stood next to a very tall, very gangly not sure what the relationship is pretty girl in heels. A bored Asian lady all in black hung with a blonde guy with a wisp of curly hair peeking out above a receding hairline.
The woman standing behind me was a dead ringer for "Flo" from the Progressive Insurance commercials, and a Goth lady walked by looking a LOT like Sean Penn from that weird movie he was in when he played a Goth singer who'd retired twenty years previous.
The guitarist was furiously trying to get into it, the small pannus of his gut poking like a white fish underbelly through the slight part of his faded black casual shirt. The guy selling merch asked me if I was having a good time, and I said "I don't know, I just got here". He said "but you're going to have a good time, right?" And I was like "I guess so." He had a good eighteen inches of pannus hanging underneath his band T-shirt, and a septum ring.
The singer was phoning it in. He looked good for his age but was clearly reading the lyrics off an iPad mini that he had attached to a small stand, turning a languid landwave into a not-so-subtle page scroll. He was going for jaded ethereal but came across as "fuck it, how many more dates in this tour?" He clocked me standing there kind of bored (there were only 40 people there) and it seemed to piss him off. Not sure, that was his general demeanor anyway. I did notice that he didn't bend his knees more than about 20 degrees and seemed a bit slow on the back up. Time's a bitch.
I heard a song and immediately recognized it. Off "The Crow" soundtrack, "Juke Joint Jezebel". Even I knew that one, and joined in - my chorister voice providing the female vocal part about "sister Salvation". The crowd really went rowdy for it and soon the people playing pool were annoyed that the floor was starting to shake. Then they were back to the slow, lugubrious new stuff, and I checked out.
The singer ended with a "see you again in 15 more years, and it's been a business doing pleasure with you". He seemed to mean it. He got off stage faster than a teenager being let out of a school assembly. Of course it was all staged to have the encore, the encore was a song nobody knew and then a medium one. They should have ended with the KMFDM "Juke Joint Jezebel" however.
And then it was over. Lights came on and assembled people raced to their cars to get back to relieve sitters, and bladders. I was in the parking lot and remarked to the wife, "worst.... high school reunion.... ever." I felt like I'd been tossed into the clearance section of Hot Topic - the part where the hot properties of five years ago went to die in a half-thrown together bin that looked like the bread, bottled water and toilet paper aisle just before the hurricane arrives.
I am very glad that I am a jazz fan and didn't really belong to any subculture growing up - because... well, don't get me wrong. It wasn't a bad show - it was like a Cracker Barrel meal - utilitarian, competently produced, but you're eating a $6.95 catfish plate that's been focus grouped, you're not exactly going out for a meal on a date. It was okay. And like a Cracker barrel, people barreling from one stage in llfe to the other were served by people who're happy enough to provide a competent, no-frills service. I didn't feel cheated, but kind of empty.
The comedian Noel Fielding once described one's 40s as being like a helium balloon the day after, kind of hanging around at navel level, not on the floor, but not on the ceiling either, just sort of there, not sure which way to go. I see my own future in this and it brought about the first stirrings of a midlife crisis, methinks.