Tales of an aging punkster

Once upon a time, I was a teenage girl with gauged earlobes. I drove my be-stickered 1987 Toyota Celica from rural Ohio to shows in Dayton and Cincinnati, and got in the middle of mosh pits during hardcore shows. Once upon a time, I frequently used the term "grindcore" and drove around friends' drum kits from venue to venue. Once upon a time, I thought I was pretty badass. But that was once upon a time. Since then, I've traded my plugs for a spatula, and my guitar has been sitting, dusty, unplayed for about two years.

I still enjoy going to shows, though. I like the tiny little halls with no seats that are always on the cusp of being forced to shut down. I love live music, and I love watching the kids get so excited over seeing their favorite band. But these days, the emphasis is on watching, and my recent experience at the Banner Pilot show in Madison last Friday reminded me that I am officially too old to hang with the kids at punk shows.
Banner Pilot was playing a four-band bill at The Frequency in Madison. I'd been to the Frequency before, and I really like it as a venue - bar area up front, enclosed from the show area in the back. It's small, but not cramped. There's plenty of room for dancing at the front, or standing in the back. The stage is about mid-thigh level high, which I would come to find out in detail later.

Because we were out with friends (and devouring Dise Burgers before), we missed the first two bands, but got to the Frequency in time to catch Madison punk favorites the Gusto. I'd never heard them before, but they played a really solid, fun set. You could tell the guys were having fun, and there was a large, enthusiastic following for them at the front of the stage.
After the Gusto finished, Eric and I did our usual "You got get a spot at the front and I'll go grab a couple PBRs" routine. Being right front and center of the stage at shows makes them 10 times more fun, and you really feel like you're part of the action. Because the shows we go to regularly are pretty small, it's never really an issue to get near the front.

Banner Pilot took the stage, and immediately, kids rushed forward, pushing to get closer and just dancing around to the uber-fun tunes. Banner Pilot has some ridiculous catchy songs, and they are really solid live. It was my first time seeing them, and I was impressed. However, when the crowd behind me got pretty dense and intense, I was pressed up onto the edge of the stage and pinned there pretty strongly. My thighs were getting pinched against the stage really hard, and it took everything I had not to fall face first onto the stage, at the band's feet. I might have employed my former-basketball player skills and boxed some kids out every once in a while.

How did I used to stay up there with no problems? How did I easily navigate my way through the bouncing kids without getting hurt? After a while, I was pushed so hard I ended up sitting on the stage, facing the crowd. I sat there for a while, somewhat awkwardly, but singing along and fist pumping all the same. Then I decided it was my time to exit, stage left even. I pushed my way through the hoard of singing kids and took refuge in an open little area to the left of the stage. 
After three songs, it was clear I just could not hang with the kids. I was content off to the left, where I happily snapped plenty of photos and watched Eric morph into a 16-year old, singing along and jumping around with everyone else. My legs hurt where they were pinned to the stage, but I was having a blast on the side, where I had a good view, free from elbows. (Side note: both knees and my entire right thigh are still covered in bruises - I'm such a little peach)

I'm not sad upon realizing I'm too old to hang anymore - it's something that happens to all aging show-goers. We stand proudly at the back, arms crossed, beer-in-hand, and take everything in. We appreciate the music, we are actually able to see the band play. We have fun watching everything unfold in front of us and then make our way, unharmed, back to the bar or straight home to bed. It doesn't mean we're into the music any less than the whippersnappers up front, it just means leaving being in the middle of the pit to the kids - who we once were. It's somebody else's turn to earn the battle scars - we've already got them.

Does this mean my days of standing front and center are over? Absolutely not. I just know when to exit and to understand live music and be just as enjoyable a few rows back. Then I'll grab my walker, hobble on home just in time for "Matlock."


  1. This is a reason that our Pabst Theater Milwaukee venues are such great places to see a show - a nice seat, good sightlines, and cheap beer!

  2. Pabst, Turner and Riverside are all great venues, for sure. I still love those dirty little places in questionable parts of town, though - the ones where you have to BYOB? That's the ticket. But for bands with larger followings and higher standards, Milwaukee's got some really stellar (and beautiful) venues for live music.

  3. I moved to the balconies ten years ago. One of the best moves I've ever made.

    Welcome to the Geezer Coalition.

  4. Geezer Coalition. Someone needs to make a t-shirt for that.

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