I arrived too early. I had too much time. The first band had not even started yet.
When Porchsleeper finally took the stage, my ears were battered with 5th rate Big Star aping. Guitars too metallic and loud, no dynamism between the songs and a particularly (memorable) terrible lyric somewhere along the lines of “I can’t get over all these coffee shop kids. When I was young, kids didn’t drink coffee.” I definitely understood the presence of “sleeper” in the band name. I yawned. Time wasted.
Siddhartha didn’t really take the stage or properly start a song as they were more ambling around, slowly, calmly setting up before inconspicuously rumbling into what felt like a jam made up on the spot, complete with lyrics about the Chinese shooting down satellites. And not far behind was the song where they all shout “Revolution!” and they pretend, along with the crowd, that revolution is really what we want. The dual guitars made for tasty licks and more than once Marlon Hauser’s vocals dipped into Lenny Kravitz territory. I thought it was funny when he started repeating “nigger” over and over again into the microphone, but then again, I missed the context.
The Sights were the Sights. Although playing new songs, those new songs sounded exactly as the Sights have sounded ever since Bobby Emmett joined the band almost 4 years ago. Even with Pete Ballard on second guitar (occasionally pedal steel) it sounded like the same old Sights. Which is wonderful, as I love the band. They were drunk and a handful of people explained their disappointment in the performance. Someone came up to me and said “What do you think of the the new poppy, radio-friendly Sights?” and I thought they were joking. There is nothing different here. Mrs. Baranek (Eddie’s mom) and I were in clear agreement that they could do with far less drinking and f-bombs. The repeated requests from the stage for booze or brews gets tired and depressing quickly. And the overzealous expectation for the crowd to sing along to “Scratch My Name in Sin” was discomforting…I sincerely felt awkward. But the teaser three-seconds of “Got What We Want” snuck into the ending of “Nobody” was clever and made up for previous discomfort.
By the time the encore rolled around I didn’t really feel one was deserved. Eddie invited a bunch of people onstage to sing the backing vocals on “That Ain’t Right”, mainly members of the Decks and the Displays, junior achievers in the current crop of Detroit rock. But they took forever to start the song…I’ve always felt any momentum for an encore needs to be quickly translated into a song or else, just don’t fucking play. What I though would be hackneyed and embarrassing was actually wholesome and sweet. The Displays are all of 12-years-old and the Decks are (probably) still teenagers and they were all into it. Eddie handed his guitar over to one of the Displays boys (Brandon?) for the last verse, a simple “bam-bam” guitar part executed to-a-T until the chord change, where a wonderfully mangled noise came from the guitar. I don’t think anyone was expecting the kid to get the change right, and I’m sure Eddie probably didn’t think to tell him the next chord, but it was all light-hearted and fun. I laughed not because the part was played wrong, but because everyone was enjoying themselves.
They closed the with “Jealous Night”, their clear-and-present lift of Van Morrison’s “Moondance” that I lovingly released on LP. It was at this point my jealousy reared its ugly head.
A Sights show is one of the rare events that can make me simultaneously feel young and old at the same time. With the Sights decidedly East side crowd I would run into all sorts of characters that bring teenaged memories swirling back into my head. Hell, Eddie (the only East side member of the band) and me go back to when his band was called the Same and was still playing suburban coffeehouses. Anyway, I saw no less than 5 people I went to high school with. Kids who I had to write raps with in speech class. Kids who asked me what records they should buy from Car City. Kids who sat the bench with me freshman year baseball. Kids who had shitty bands that sang songs about “South Park”. Kids who’s driveways I painted with Grape Mad Dog 20/20 vomit.
Most alarmingly though were the actual kids that an all-ages show is wont to bring out. These young ones made those high school memories quickly swirl away into the ether and instead made me wonder about my impending loss of medical insurance, the jaded feelings creeping into my being, my usual of staying in on Friday nights and what in the hell I actually plan on doing with the rest of my life.
Where I went to grade school, 1st graders and 7th graders (along with 2nd graders and 8th graders) were paired off into a “buddy” system. The elder pupils would read to the younger ones once a week, we’d attend mass together and make crafts with each other. Shit like that.
Because I was deemed “responsible” my 7th grade year I was paired with a hellion by the name of Matthew Yee. It was thought I could be a good role model for him. He was just spazzy, nothing inherently wrong with the boy. I’d later find out his dad went to high school with my parents and was the photographer at my sister’s baptism. A few years later I tried to pawn off a VHS of some Cinemax boob-core on Matt and one of his pals for $5. He lived in the neighborhood and rode his bike past the house often. I have no idea how the subject came up. They had to have asked me as there’s no way I would’ve approached them…I hope. Something along the lines of “You got any porn?” with me thinking I could milk some $$ outta the kids, my entrepreneurial teen spirit glowing through any morals or compunction I may have had at that point. But thank God the transaction didn’t go through. Oh the delinquency of minors…
Anyway, it wasn’t Matthew Yee I saw at the Magic Stick. It was a girl who was in his class. A girl who’s the daughter of the man who would’ve been my Spanish teacher in high school had I actually taken Spanish. I understand the age-difference is six or seven years at the most (making her 17 or 18), but the feeling of seeing someone who seemed who distant before, hanging out right behind you, in the same spot I was ten years ago…I realize that youth is slowly dripping through my fingers.
My sister, 16 months my junior, asked me what age 24 is like the other day. I told her 24 feels like the first time people actually expect something from you. And talking to high school buddies, I could understand why. Auditor. Television cameraman. Deliveryman. Human-resources director. And me, whatever the fuck I am.
I find myself missing being the young guy at the shows. For years I could always find myself as the youngest one at shows at the Magic Stick or the Gold Dollar. It seems like I spent three years of my life being 18 years old. And it was all so brilliant and bright, a time unrivaled in my life where everything was fresh and exciting. Consequently, I wouldn’t want to be 18 years old in the current local musical climate. I am so thankful for being around the White Stripes and Detroit Cobras and Rocket 455 and the Hentchmen, when all of these bands were playing the small bars almost once a month and there were no more than 100 people there to check it out. I just can’t see myself getting excited about a Hard Lessons show in the same way if I was a youth nowadays. Maybe you just make do with the hand your dealt? Regardless, irregardless, I would not trade my time for any others…forget the Grande with the 5 and the Stooges, John Lee in the Black Bottom, Little Stevie at Motortown revue…the late 90’s Detroit rock scene is still where I’ll put my money any day.
Two guys I graduated with walked right past me. I am unrecognizable in my 4-month-old beard and I both relish and abhor it. I had to shout to get their attention. They kept up on my stuff in the Metro Times, agreed that Cat Power’s latest record was shitty. Asked why I didn’t have the Raconteurs on my top ten list. They’d even started a band.
We realized it’d been 10 years since we first met during freshman year of high school. All three of us were now sporting full, admirable beards. Standing there, bearded, the lights brightened to drive the drunks out like roaches, the uncomfortable lapse in conversation amongst old-time friends and newfound strangers was an apt end to a jealous night.
Where has the time gone?