So, this weekend I made a road trip with my friend – have I given her a pseudonym or initials? If so, they don’t work because I don’t remember them…. I shall call her… Punk Rock Girl or PRG, for short. At any rate, PRG and I made a road trip to this festival and it was… well. We had a fabulous time. That’s the first and most important thing. But I swear to god I’ve not been to an event such as this since the early 90s. Because, you know, this is the sort of thing at which teens congregate. So some thoughts on that part of it:
- It’s super-weird for me that the kids today rebel by going to shows with people who their parents listened to, often with their parents. Dude, you’re wearing a NOFX t-shirt? You’ve got a Nine Inch Nails badge on your vest? DUDE. That’s like if I’d have worn an Allman Brothers T-shirt, or rocked a Led Zeppelin badge. And you couldn’t have caught me DEAD with those things when I was 16 or 20 or NOW. Get your own music, kiddies. Get your own rebellion. If you don’t, you’re just that guy I liked in high school who had a Jim Morrison poster on his wall. (And now has two kids and lives in suburban Akron… and feels like a failure.)
- I remember a lot more fucked up people at such things in the ’90s.
- The major difference, other than that everybody is mostly sober, is that there are a LOT more tattoos. Note to the teenager/early-20-something girl with the Anarchy symbol tattooed on her neck: I know you thought that this was an amazing idea and you believe that your values will never change, but WOW was that a mistake. Yes, I know tattoos are now a cultural norm and that I don’t have one makes me an exotic weirdo. But seriously: you could have gotten a half-sleeve down to your elbow and that would have been a better idea in terms of your future prospects. Yes, I’m an old fart, but I’m a smart old fart, and I’ve been around the block a time or two.
- Why, exactly, did I not dye my hair purple when I had the chance? And will I have the chance again when I earn full professor? Maybe just a streak of purple? We shall see….
- When did self-identified punks start playing fucking hackey-sack? Isn’t that for hippies?
- Because I haven’t been to a show like this for a thousand years, I’d forgotten about how exciting it all is, and about the energy that such a thing gives you. Dancing in the sunshine and singing at the top of our lungs? Something we all need to do a hell of a lot more.
The music itself is good. His voice is good. But it’s like Billy Bragg without the socialism and social conscience. “Punk” without the commitment. Folk without the commitment. And, as I noted to PRG, in my former life as a teenager, I was all about calling people out for being “posers” (not poseurs, as I had no idea that was a word when I was a teen), and I feel like I’d have called this guy out for that. I mean, he went to fucking Eton. And he describes himself as a libertarian, which… just feels to me like he’s refusing to take a position. It’s like when FL voted for freaking Ross Perot in 1992, which I will never forget and which I will never stop feeling like is possibly the lamest first vote anyone has ever cast. I mean, come on.
But then I saw Frank Turner live. And this is what he’s like live.
And it was a GREAT live show. AMAZING. And I actually met him after and he was a) not a dick, not even to the girl who was like “did you get my email? you didn’t respond to my email! I will send you more emails and you must reply!” b) not a dick to me, who clearly was just there because my friend wanted something signed and it was pretty clear that I really didn’t give a shit about him, even if I danced my ass off all through his set and my opinion of him had risen by that point, but not to “fan” status, as I’m a slow burn. Dude, he’s a guy who plays to crowds of thousands all singing along in England, and he still goes and talks to people after he plays, talks to them for a long time, and even pretends to care, in the US, even though I feel like that’s a totally shitty part of his job. He’s at least clear about the work that he has to do to get fans, and I respect that.
So, sure. I tend to like my music more political, or more experimental, or more SOMETHING, but seeing him live? AWESOME. And then, I found his version of “Build Me Up Buttercup” (a favorite of mine – WHAT!) on youtube, and I decided that anybody who could cover that without irony has a true gift :)
Seriously: Check out England Keeps My Bones, and then his earlier stuff if you like it. It’s worth it.
**That first video I posted? That was the song that he ended his set with. Let’s note how surreal it is to be surrounded by the youngsters saying that they will not grow up while you are singing that, too, knowing that, clearly, you have not.