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Columns > John Zinkand - Improvise

Published: 2006/11/18
by John Zinkand

Nobody Left to Run With Anymore

Its funny how life catches up with you. When you are younger, you think things will last forever and you will keep on keeping on in the same manner you have been. But as life moves on, you realize this is not necessarily the case. Not that Im pining for the past, but its very interesting to see how things change over the years. When I was younger, getting a group of friends together to go see some live music was a non issue. If the Dead or Phish were in town, it was a given that youd be attending that show with your friends, your friends friends, some random people you had just met recently, etc.

Even when seeing smaller bands in college, there was never any shortage of people to come along to the show and share the experience. And a special show like a New Years Eve Phish show would bring friends, freaks, and random folks out of the woodwork. When Phish played New Years Eve in Worcester in 1993, I lived in town since I was attending college in Worcester and my apartment was packed. Waking up in the morning on that first day of 1994, there was barely enough room to walk to the bathroom due to all the friends and wayward travelers strewn about the floor. While that was fun at the time, I dont really miss such chaotic scenes. But as life moves on and on and the teen and college years fade away into the hazy mists of memory, its apparent that folks drop out of the live music scene pretty quickly.
I dont mean for this article to serve as a whoa is me rant, its more of a documentation of what happens in life as a serious live music junky. This is not groundbreaking stuff at all. If anything, let this piece serve as a confirmation to the older heads that have already experienced something similar to what Im describing and also serve as a vision of the future to the younger jamband fans. People start dropping from the scene like flies. There will always be a few sturdy heads that are intensely into seeing live music and will do so through much of life. These are the folks that seem to need live music to live and will do whatever it takes to get to a showeven if they have kids, a big business meeting the next morning, or some other serious and adult responsibility. They need the live music and will get their fix come Hell or high water. But most people slowly drop out of the scene as other interests in life pop up and become more important to them than some live music show at the little dive bar in town.
And its not just the fans, either. Many bands fall victim to the same fate of slowly fading away. It takes a lot of time and youthful energy to be a small touring jamband and that can really wear on folks in band. How long can a group of guys and gals travel around in cramped van, sleep on floors, and subsist on fast food and cheesy poofs? Usually not that long. If the band becomes steadily more popular, the chances increase that the band will last. But if the band continues to be mired in relative obscurity after a few years traveling the country, chances of disbandment become exponentially higher. And if one of the members gets the itch to be home with a loved one more often, start a family, or get a real job you can kiss that groovy little jamband goodbye.
And so it is for the live music fan. In high school and college there is never any thought about whom else will be going to the show. Who WONT be going is a better question. And even when college ends and folks are in their early 20s, its usually easy to find a friend to join in for some live music debauchery. But this is the time where the first signs of a drop off in interest become readily apparent. Suddenly some friends who used to love the music as much as you do would rather get to bed early so they can be their best at work the next day. Or they decide it would be better to stay in at night and spend some quality time with their fianc
And the trend continues as we get older. The baby factor is huge. Once we hit the late 20s and early 30s, its baby time. Suddenly friends are having kids with reckless abandon. After a night with very little sleep, a full work day, and full evening at home taking care of the youngins, a former jamband fan turned parent would much rather get some sleep than try to stay awake for a show in a smoky bar that starts at 10:30pm. So as the baby factor rises, the number of friends willing to attend a rock show with you decreases drastically.
Of course, none of this really matters to the true jamband fan. For those of us with an unwavering passion and commitment to the music, friends are just icing on the cake at an intense show. Its nice to have someone to relate to, but its not necessary, really. In some cases, I prefer seeing shows alone. Theres no other person to worry about so decisions about where to be inside the venue, when you want to leave, whether you want to sit or stand, etc. are made without any haggling. Also, once inside the show, there is no shortage of like-minded potential friends there to hang out with. Of course, the potential friends in the house are suddenly a few years or even a decade younger than you, but its all good. Personally, I love making friends with younger music fans and feeding off their energy as they rabidly devour the music.
And so it goes. Life moves on. If you are becoming one of the dinosaurs in the scene and just cant seem to get enough live music while your friends move on to other interests in life, it can be disconcerting. You may ask yourself, am I immature? Should I be moving on to other pastures, too? Only you can determine the correct answers to these questions. Personally, I think expanded horizons and new activities and interests in life are very important. But to me, live music is like food or aira necessity, not an option. So while I will try something new like taking a scuba class or a salsa dancing lesson, I will also continue to see live music in all its invigorating glory. Eventually I will be the one old guy who appears out of place dancing wildly next to the young kids who are giggling or pointing at me behind my back. Bring it, whipper-snapper.

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