I’m getting old. I have a bad back. My knees grind whenever I take the stairs. My hair has receded clear off my scalp entirely. I’m starting to really feel the slow physical degradation that goes along with the aging process, every day of my life.
I tell myself that age is a construct, that it means nothing, that it has only the power you grant it. This is true to some extent, and while reminding myself of that does help, it only gets me so far. There is no denying my exterior travel casing is long out of warranty, and is starting to wear out.
To compensate, I try to do things old people do not do. I think of the oldest person I know, which is my dad. He has always been the oldest person I know. What would Dad never have done when he was my age, i.e., in his late forties? Would he have, say, spent a weeknight in a packed music hall while a hillbilly surf rock band threw fried chicken at the crowd?
I think not.
But preventing myself from turning into my father is not the only reason I still go to shows. I go because I love them. I love the crackling energy of the good ones, especially in smaller venues. I love the unpredictability of the performances, the beer spilled on my shoes, the low-key seediness of it all. I love spending two hours in the same room as the people who recorded some of my favorite music, sometimes close enough to cough on them. Live music makes me feel like I’m squeezing the most fun I possibly can out of life. It’s one of the best parts of living in San Francisco. I make it a point to catch a show whenever a good one pops up on the local events calendar. Right now that means not at all, because, well, you know why. (For posterity’s sake: Covid-19. Duh.) But I mean before that, before that.
When I lived in Florida, I did not have access to the surfeit of shows I have here. Florida is not on the way to anywhere else, so a lot of bands just skip it entirely. Those that don’t will usually stick to one or possibly two of the Miami / Orlando / Jacksonville triumvirate, none of which I lived in and two of which I actively loathed (Miami is seriously underrated though). I appreciate what I have—or have had, I guess—here in San Francisco, I really do.
Going to shows is one of the two or three things I miss the most now that we’re in semi-permanent lockdown status. I’ve been thinking a lot about the shows I’ve seen in my life—the good, the bad, the unexpected, the disappointing—and I’ve compiled a list of the ones that have stood out for me, and why I still think about them all these years later.
Here it is.