Life is a journey of growth and change, but one thing will never change:
I will never stop complaining about getting older.
The interesting thing about aging is that we truly do learn something new every day. In my case, every new day brings to me the knowledge that something that I used to like is now something that I like way less. It’s a matter of waking up each day with an assumption about yourself and then finding that assumption to be suddenly untrue, contrary to years of evidence. I’ll give you an example.
When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters. Loved them. When we would take family trips to an amusement park, I would want to ride the roller coasters over and over and over again. I couldn’t imagine anything more exhilarating.
One day in my mid-20s, I went to an amusement park with some friends. We decided to hop on one of the roller coasters. I was so ready to have an exciting and fun time. I quickly learned that I actually have a shitty time on roller coasters and want to die the whole time I’m riding one. This was a real blow to my perception of who I was.
It was one of my first times realizing that the aging process was eventually going to fuck everything up for me. As we go on living, all of our cells are constantly dying and being replaced. Sometimes the cells that die are the really cool cells, and they get replaced by cells that suck in comparison. They get replaced by cells that read the nutritional information on the back of a food package.
This has been a substantial preamble to build to the following point: You will relate to things that you loved to do when you are younger in different and sometimes contrary ways as you get older.
And let me tell you, did I ever love a Big Rock Show when I was younger.
I love Deftones. Even when I don’t love Deftones, I love Deftones. I’ve seen them a number of times over the last five years and they always put on an extremely engaging live show. I’ve had such a good time at previous shows that I’ve kind of made a pact to myself to try to see these guys every few years for as long as possible.
This summer they’re on tour and played Toronto at the Budweiser Stage (formerly the Molson Amphitheater). This is the biggest and dumbest of Toronto’s concert venues. I decided to go with some friends. Here’s how that all went.
Sitting Through An Opening Band
It’s important to note that I did not sit through this show’s true opener, which was some band with something about tigers in their name. The fact of the matter is that there were four bands on this bill and one thing that you can’t put up with when you get to be in your 30s is having your time wasted by some promoter that thinks that it’s a good idea for four bands to play in a row. Slow down, bud! Spread those bands out over a couple of weeks, maybe!
The opening band on this bill with actual name recognition was Thrice, a band that I’ve written off for 15 years and only decided to give a chance to when I heard they’d be opening this show. Thrice is a band that you think is an emo band, because that’s what they were at one time. It turns out that this band has been a number of different kinds of band over the years, some of which are pretty good and some of which aren’t very good at all.
For the majority of their set, Thrice landed in the “pretty good” category of Thrice. They played a few songs I recognized and a few I didn’t. They played the one song that I definitely for sure knew, and it sounded pretty great. The vocalist does a hell of a job, and there was plenty of good work done by their guitar player, John Wick.
All in all, Thrice played a succinct set that was not difficult to sit through. I literally sat through it, though, so it couldn’t have been that good.
The Main Event
Alright, I’ll level with you. I would have continued sitting clear through the rest of the concert if the entire crowd hadn’t stood up when Deftones mounted the stage. I am getting older and sitting is rad.
Deftones are also rad, and they were in full rad effect for their Budweiser Stage performance. They rocketed through a healthy pile of tracks from their increasingly deep catalogue of great material. One of the great joys of seeing this band perform is how much fun they seem to be having. For music that sounds super pissed off, these folks have been smiley and sunny about playing each and every time that I’ve seen them. This show was no exception.
I could go on about the band’s performance, but I’ll save that for another time as it is not the purpose of this piece of writing. Deftones are a treat to see live, as they’re both playful and intense. I’ve had a huge smile on my face each and every time I’ve seen them.
Now The Rest Of It
The impetus for writing this post comes not from the music or performance of the above two bands, which – as I’ve said – was at least very good. It came from feeling like an old man at this show on a level that I had not previously felt. It came from catching myself numerous times thinking: “Oh, man, why are any of us even here?” It came from calculating transit time to get home while a band was still playing.
In short, it came from attending a Big Rock Show in my 30s. Here are some things to think about all of that.
Before entering a big venue like the Budweiser Stage, it’s pretty standard to receive a pat-down. I suppose it makes sense to make sure that people aren’t smuggling in guns and dogs.
Truth be told, I’ve never really felt all that inconvenienced by getting patted down, because I never do anything wrong. I’m never smuggling anything in. And perhaps that is exactly why I felt inconvenienced this time when I got patted down. I’ve spent 35 years obeying every rule and I still have to get frisked like a petty thug? Fuck you, Budweiser Stage. Does my hairline look like that of a young scofflaw?
Getting frisked sucks.
One big reason why they frisk you is that they don’t want you to cut into their liquor sales by sneaking anything in. If you sneak something in, you might be able to avoid what amounts to a 600% mark-up on beer. Tall cans of beer at a venue like this are $12.
My love of (need for?) beer is well documented on this website. I wasn’t not going to drink beer. When I was younger and perhaps less conscious of the fact that I live in a city where money is fleeting and precious, I didn’t care as much about cracking out the ol’ credit card at a show to spend a week’s wages on four beers. Now? I mean… I could literally drink myself to death at home on my couch for that amount of money, and then I’d feel like I’d really gotten my money’s worth.
Big Rock Shows are fun for young people because young people are stupid and always want the most of everything. This is why young people will drink enough to puke it all up before they even go to be instead of drinking just enough to sleep for 10 hours and then wake up to puke. So young people love the excessive and powerful sound that can be experienced at a Big Rock Show.
Older people? Less so. Older people who are smart will wear earplugs. Older people like me won’t do that and then will complain about the tinnitus that they’re still grappling with three days later.
I’ve also run into a problem with excessive bass. The kick drum and bass guitar during Thrice’s set made me feel like my chest was going to cave in and it made me very anxious. I think that even five years ago, I would have just thought that it was really cool.
Boy, is there ever a lot going on at a Big Rock Show. These bands have some money, so they spend it on crazy fog and strobe lights and it’s all very overwhelming. This is probably great for the younger kids because 100% of younger people are all on drugs and people on drugs love flashing lights.
What they don’t see, though, is their own minds being warped by the subliminal messaging cooked into all of these lighting displays.
It’s a sick culture.
Being Around Lots of People
I don’t complain all week about how terrible it is to be around loads of people on the subway just to turn around and love being around loads of people at a concert. Having to walk slow because there are thousands of people around you is the worst!
Too Many Bands
As I said, four bands is too many bands. There was a time that I might have stuck around until the end of this event in order to get my money’s worth, but I would actually pay money not to see the headlining band, because Rise Against is a bad band. It was great to get out of there early, actually. So maybe having too many bands on a bill is fine, as long as you leave before the last one.
I’m not saying that I’m never going to go to another Big Rock Show. Hell, I’m going to go to another fairly big rock show in August. I’m just saying that the experience (and how I relate to the experience) has changed in a number of ways for me, and the old feelings are never coming back. The old feelings are like the hair on my scalp that way.
I’ll leave you with another example that illustrates my point.
Years ago, I attended an Iron Maiden show at this very same venue (which was called the Molson Amphitheater at the time). We showed up for this concert already kind of drunk and had loads of beer during the opening band, Dream Theater. I went into their set not caring about Dream Theater and came out of it thinking that keytar solos were the greatest thing in the world. By the time Iron Maiden took the stage, we had entered a state of full-on revelry. It was a life-affirming experience.
We stumbled away at show’s end and wandered into the summer night. Although the concert had ended, we were just beginning. We wound up at some party under some bridge somewhere. It was literally a party under a bridge. It was an amazing night. I was hungover for days.
This time? I had a beer in the afternoon before the concert and it made me sleepy. We showed up late in order to catch less music. We had two drinks to save money and because it was a Sunday we left around 9pm. I got a good night’s sleep and felt fine the next day, which is essential because adults don’t call in sick due to getting hammered at a rock show.
Neither of these two scenarios is inherently better than the other. They are just different ways of approaching something and both approaches can be meaningful and worthwhile.
Going to a Big Rock Show in your 30s is just fine!
I’m just saying this to make myself feel better. One of the two above scenarios is clearly better than the other. Big Rock Shows are amazing and being in your mid-30s is terrible.
Here’s a note to prevent me from being some photo-stealing-no-credit-giving asshole. The Deftones photos featured here were stolen from this link: https://aestheticmagazinetoronto.com/2017/06/12/photos-rise-against-deftones-budweiser-stage-toronto/
The Thrice photos were stolen from some schmuck’s instagram account, so fuck them.