How old is old?
The other day someone asked myself and a few other (over 30) friends what it felt like to be the older person at shows. He was thinking about the shows he used to go to when he was 16 and there would always be a couple of weird older guys there (probably in their 30s, which must have seemed ancient at the time). He remarked that he thought to himself back then, "I don't want to still be doing this at their age."
I don't want to turn this into another rant about "the kids"... it's true that I have a hard time relating to teenagers these days, and that's only right. If I'm old enough to be your father, I shouldn't be able to relate to you. It's like those 'cool' parents that try to be their kids' best friends - the kid doesn't need another friend, he needs a parent. However, there are plenty of people in their 20s that I can relate to on a number of levels. Working at MRR brings me into contact with plenty of cool folk, both younger and older, that are an inspiration. So yeah, I often feel a bit out of place at a house show with a bunch of underage punks, or at Gilman. The alternatives for people my age seem to be to either stop going to shows altogether, to only go to reunion concerts of old bands, or to only go to bar shows, where everyone will be over-21 and you can drink overpriced beer or cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. And to be honest, those over-21 shows are starting to be a lot more attractive. Some of my absolute favorite shows of 2006 (Fucked Up and Hard Skin) were at the Hemlock Tavern, a cool bar/venue in the Tenderloin. I'm not ready to give up on the DIY all-ages shows yet though, especially because I believe in principle that all shows should be all-ages. In practice though, either can be fun.
When our first band Teenagers From Mars broke up because the bassist and drummer didn't want to ever play shows, Sandy and I put an advert up in Rat Records in Glasgow looking for new people to start a band with. The only person to respond was this guy Angus. He was pushing 30, about ten years older than us, and the first cool older person we'd ever met. He had as much energy as anyone else we knew. He was an amazing bass player, he loved skateboarding, and he was one of the few people we knew with a full-time job (which he put to good use, eventually using his savings to put out our records). He also had a large record collection, through which I was exposed to loads of great stuff I am still into to this day. He dedicated himself to booking tours, putting on gigs in Glasgow, having bands stay at his house, etc. Eventually, he even bought a van and used it to drive other bands around on tour. Angus is a father now and I don't think he's in a band any more, but I think he can still be spotted occasionally at the new skatepark in Kelvingrove Park. He was the first person to demonstrate to me that there was an alternative to conforming to expectations as one gets older. I know he felt frustrated that many of his friends abandoned their youthful passions once they hit their thirties. I can certainly relate. I think he also felt a certain amount of frustration that we (the younger kids) were squandering our time and energy, not realizing how finite it was.
In the years since then I've encountered countless other older people who have been an inspiration, many of whom still inspire. Tons of people from MRR's 'Punks Over 30' issue (from 1992!) are still active, maybe not in punk music, but in some kind of creative pursuit. So let's hear it for the OAPs. If Mike Watt, Nomeansno, The Stooges, The Ex, Mission Of Burma, Bruce Roehrs, Al Quint, etc are still going strong, I've got a few good years in me yet. I also draw inspiration from the many people close to my own age who show no signs of slowing down. This doesn't necessarily only mean those who are 'lifers' in the punk scene, but also people who have grown up as punks and are taking the lessons of independence into other realms, whether it's art, journalism, education, whatever... just not turning their backs on their options. Cheers!
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