(Originally written Jan, 2013)
“Why didn’t you get reserved seats?” David asks with utter disbelief as we walk by the u-shaped balcony section lining the upstairs perimeter of the House of Blues in San Diego. It had padded seats and was nearly vacant upon entering, tormenting us with unattainable luxury in viewing pleasure. Ours was floor general admission and in this moment I realize, we are the old people at this Social Distortion show.
David is my husband, father of my child, best friend and enemy of nearly 15 years. This is a rare date night, which requires intense effort to plan and execute. With him having recently crossed into 40 and me approaching fast, we are parentally broken down, professionally over and under worked, I have a chronic problem getting out of my pajamas and it’s a Wednesday.
We just spent the past three hours at what we thought was going to be a rushed dinner before the show. As we were seated, the host explained that there was an opening act and that Social D wasn’t going on until 10pm.
What? Are they nuts? I thought we’d be heading home to get into our skivvies, watch something DVR’d and drink cheap wine by then. We initially sat confused. What should we do? Should we eat here, go somewhere else, walk around? Welcome to aged punk that is married with children – where the idea of having to re-park the car downtown and wander aimlessly looks far worse than sitting on one hard restaurant bench for an endless three hours when you don’t really want to be out in the first place.
I rebut David’s question about reserved seating as the person who does all of our financial management, “It would have been extra.” I mean, when did show tickets equal a utility payment? Back when we went to shows at dingy clubs like SOMA, when it was on Union St. Downtown, they were $10. What happened to anti-establishment punk rock?
He looked at me with wide exasperated eyes, “I stand on my feet all day at work!” This is what we have become – the old people at the show in the back of the room contemplating how much Two-Buck-Chuck we could have gotten for the cost of this evening. We were relieved that we were not alone in this endeavor, as other old couples with time-worn tattoos, clearly in our same situation, were silently motionless around us.
We spent a few minutes jockeying for position near the exit to actually see the stage during the last song of the unknown opening act. We proceeded to stand there for yet another 40-no-music-minutes waiting for Social D to come on as David impatiently repeated, “Why can’t they just come on?”
I imagined back stage – the band lounging on red velour sofas popping finger foods instead of pills and drinking complimentary beverages. Fuckers.
We entertained the idea of another drink while we waited, but neither of us wanted to weave our way through the crowd only to have to jockey for viewing position again. So we just stood there, quietly looking at each other, communicating telepathically over the raucous chatter in the air.
We ended up parked behind a guy and two girls, young enough to be annoying. One of the girls was precariously holding a full beer in one hand and drunk texting with the other as she squinted to very slowly find each tiny electronic letter and repeatedly push the siri button by accident. Since I was positioned to breathe down her neck, I had to stop myself from grabbing the thing from her. She was getting belligerent about people trying to get by, and as one guy came through and politely said, “Excuse me,” multiple times, she remained purposely unbudged. He finally had to push his way through her, to which she gave him the drunken stink eye. How dare he.
At one point, her one-handed phone trick was failing, so she turned my way, pushed her beer at me and slurred, “Hold this.” I acted obliviously occupied by something in the distance. In my younger days, I may have “accidently” spilled that beer on her face.
The minutes dragged on like hours. My feet were starting to hurt from standing in one place in my stylish MILF boots. The last time we were at this venue was to see Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, but that was pre-kid and over five years ago. Have we really changed that much? David and I exchanged many knowing glances and deep breaths.
Finally the show began. In what seemed like an SOS to the gods, cell phones raised over heads and fingers began furiously pushing camera buttons and sending Facebook messages. Look at me, look what I’m doing world! God I hate Facebook.
In an inwardly telling moment, I began to notice things I never would have as a former show-goer – the sound mix was off, the lighting design was boring. Since when did that ever matter? I spent time studying the drummer’s techniques and noticing the bass player seemed over it. I watched a young girl eyes-closed-thrash-dance and lazily high-five happily obliging strangers.
Most of my analytical time was spent watching the pit as sweaty shirtless guys aggressively slammed into each other, while the perimeter crowd gleefully waited to push moshers full force when they moshed by.
While I rocked out in an arms-pinned-to-my-side kind of way during classic songs like Ball and Chain and Bad Luck, I reflected on how much I used to love the slamming, the reckless disregard for public safety, how fearless I was; how David played guitar in bands in grungy basement clubs; how he sang at the top of his lungs in Blag Dahlia’s held-out microphone in the front row at Dwarves shows.
I watched as guys tried to crowd surf and security pulled them down; as two fighting incidences had a couple of agitated damp guys escorted out; as one girl was yanked from the crowd in a passed out lump; as an overly intoxicated guy harassed a group of rude drunk bitches next to us.
And here I didn’t even have a buzz on, but I was thankful that I would at least have full memory of the show.
I started doing the math – the last time I was in the pit was sometime in the late 90’s. Back in the day, I wore combat boots and jeans to shows while most other girls would be wearing their high heel hooker shoes and black punk rock costumes. I couldn’t understand how one could truly enjoy the show standing in the back looking pretty?
Now, over two decades later, I’m standing in the back looking pretty as a result of great effort with my curled hair, make up and painful shoes, contemplating if I’m enjoying the show or not.
What are we doing here? Yes, we love Social D. Yes, we are old school punk rock with fond memories of losing bras and shoes in NOFX, Bad Religion and Pennywise pits. Yes, Mike Ness is still up there, older than we are, respectfully rocking his ass off for the masses. But do we really want to physically be at this show, standing in general admission, getting bumped into and drinkless on a Wednesday?
Why do these bands of our youth not accommodate our old-asses with a VIP 40+ section complete with plush seating, table service and unobstructed views? They know full well we are all like them – former anarchist punks with no parental guidance turned attentive parents with jobs and mortgages who can rarely get out or afford today’s ticket prices. At least start the show at a reasonable hour so we can have sex afterwards before we’re too exhausted to disrobe.
We still love the music. We’re still punk rock to the core. We understand there are subsequent generations of angry youth needing an outlet for their rage. We just no longer have the energy, patience or stupidity to have no recollection of the evening, get pushed around or groped, share sweat, or lose our hard-earned shoes in a slamming fury.
Towards the end of the show, I leaned to David and shouted in his ear.
“Are you ready to go?”
He laughed and shouted in my ear. “Are you?”
“Kinda,” I shrugged.
“Let’s just stay for the next song and then we’ll go.” May as well.
As we left the building while Mike Ness played a tribute to Johnny Cash, I Hear My Train A-Comin’, we heard a young drunk girl shout, “This is my absolute favorite song ever!” She was likely confusing it with Social D’s popular cover of Ring of Fire. She probably didn’t know the difference, let alone anything about country or punk. I never realized how lame drunk girls are. David is a saint for still loving me throughout our 20’s and early 30’s.
We drove our punk-asses home, ears-ringing and sober, and promptly fell asleep on the couch… our one date night chance at child-free loud sex, gone. But not before he leaned over and said, “There is no one else I would have rather gone to that show with than you.”
The exhilaration of being in the pit has morphed into the delight in cozying up with a blanket and wine on the couch watching Janes Addiction, Flogging Molly and Tom Waits concerts on TV after getting the kids to bed. Hey… Ho… Let’s Go… to sleep.