Like many people who are past the 30 mark, I’ve found that I’ve been immersing myself in nostalgia lately. It’s hard not to, really – so many “˜90s bands now find themselves with the ability to fill huge venues they never could have booked in their heydays are doing anniversary tours. As a huge music fan, there’s no way I could turn down the opportunity to see Pavement or Teenage Fanclub or Evan Dando with Juliana Hatfield. Living in a medium-sized city, I didn’t get to see most of these guys in their day, and focusing on the music of my youth is just so much less work than keeping up with what’s new.
Unsurprisingly, I found myself at a Pixies concert last week, one that celebrated the 20th anniversary of the band’s masterpiece album Doolittle (which actually came out in 1989 – they’re on the second year of their “anniversary” tour). Also unsurprisingly, many in the crowd were in their 30s and 40s. I remarked to my husband as we walked in, “Man, there probably isn’t a babysitter to be found in this city tonight.” As I took a closer look around, however, I realized that was doubly true, because in addition to all the parents of young children being at the show, the babysitters that they usually hire – i.e., teenagers – were there in droves as well.
Among the gray-haired men and women in leather jackets and combat boots were teenage boys and girls, also wearing “˜90s-style garb. “What the what?” I thought to myself. “Shouldn’t these kids be listening to some kind of young person band I’m not privy to? Or at the very least, Lady Gaga?”
Then my mind wandered back to my own early high school years in the late “˜80s/early pre-Nirvana “˜90s. Before the internet and the alt.rock explosion of the early “˜90s, I was too cool to be into mainstream pop and not cool enough to like indie rock pop pioneers like The Replacements or Husker Du. I dabbled in some early R.E.M. and The Smiths, but without the Internet, I didn’t have the resources to get to the lesser-known stuff that lurked in the realm of college radio. So, I rounded out my ninth grade listening habits by turning to classic rock. Led Zeppelin, The Zombies, and The Kinks, plus classic punk bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash. This is what got me through my teenage angst. It got me through until I discovered Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr., and yes, The Pixies.
The Pixies. Standing there at the 20th anniversary show, I realized something. The Pixies are these kids’ classic rock band. The Pixies are to them in 2011 what The Zombies were to me in 1989. Which means that I am to them what the baby boomers were to a teenage me. My mind was blown, and I suddenly felt very, very old. For the very first time I felt a generation gap in which I was on the Northern side.
So, music fans, young and old, do you feel any of that tension when you go see “nostalgic acts?” Normally I wouldn’t care about age gaps, but for so many of us, music is so intrinsically tied to our early emotional growth that we tend to get greedy about it. Do you resent older audience members who feel possessive over the music of their youth? Do you wish those crazy kids would find their own damn music and leave you to relive your glory days? Or should we all just stop focusing on albums that came out 20 years ago and move on to the new?