Drifting away from the music

I might go to the Bright Eyes show this Thursday.

Then again, I might not.

This is how all of my concert decisions are made nowadays. I’m impartial to the act of going to a show – an act that I once respected and looked forward to unlike any other act in the history of acts. I’d go to every show – EVERY show – because that’s just what you did. You went to see Napalm Death even if you hated them. And you damned well enjoyed it.

In those days – for me, ages 16-25 – music was a deity. It was an ever-changing look into what life was supposed to be. My friends and I lived our lives for music – most of them playing music, me listening to it and critiquing it. Music was so integral to life that we filled every moment with sound, carefully choosing the right notes to play at the right times, as if coordinating the sound waves in a perfect organization could somehow make us into better people.

In college, the love affair continued to an almost obsessive level; an album would occupy my life for months, every song analyzed and every lyric memorized. Music drove the world; opinions were ripe for arguing, words sharpened for opposing tastes and praise heaped upon similar interests. My friends turned me on to new bands, and I did likewise to them. It was a time of discovery, for new sounds, for refining tastes and developing trends in listenership.

And then, eventually, I found myself a stranger – a hopeless piece of driftwood lost in a sea of rock music; aged and hollow, I floated along with the same currents I had always followed. When you excuse yourself from that culture of constant discovery, you end up falling farther and farther behind. It’s impossible to keep up without a sudden infusion of new music, and even then you spend so much time catching up you lose track of actually enjoying the music.

Every week, hundreds of albums are recorded, somewhere, and it’s impossible to keep up with them all. When I finally realized this, I found myself relieved. It’s as if I could relax and turn my back on my formerly obsessive nature. I was no longer in the discovery stage – I could now lie back and be blissfully ignorant of new music, catching it only on the radio or in a random new release sent to me by a friend.

Music has taken a different shape as I’ve grown older. It’s become more refined, more selective. Shoved into the background, music has become more of the clichéd “soundtrack to my life” – a backing track likened more to John Williams than Iggy Pop, quietly whispered throughout life, no longer taking center stage.

Music. I still love it – Kerrie will tell you that I still have moments of utter obnoxiousness when it comes to new music – but I no longer idolize it.

So it’s no surprise that, with a Thursday Bright Eyes show approaching in our dusty little villa, I’m still torn about whether or not I’m going. Simply put, I’m bored with rock shows. I go, I stand, I watch, and I leave wondering whether it was worth the time, the money, the halting of life to watch another life perform. Often times, it hasn’t been. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a really great show, and every mediocre show I see sends me further and further away from the scene.

There are bands I’d still like to see. Built to Spill. Radiohead. Bruce Springsteen. But I’m just not into that scene anymore. I’d find more fulfillment in an author’s reading, in a cleverly written television show, in a good book or even a brisk walk through the constantly changing fall foliage. Those things are more comforting. More my style. Dare I say, easier.

And that’s how I know I’ve changed. I used to plan all of my life around music. New releases. Shows at the Pomp Room. Trips to Minneapolis to drink and see great bands in their heyday, a weekend spend driving home in contemplative silence as we disengage from the extent of our overstimulation.

Now, while I still sing along and I still get excited about great bands and new albums and brilliantly worded lyrics, I don’t obsess. I realize it for what it is – music, a necessary element of life, so crucial I don’t know if any of us could live without it, but a function that’s as natural as breathing or walking – things not worth analyzing and obsessing about. I need music in my life. But I can’t focus on it anymore, not like I used to.

Music has become a true soundtrack, background driven instead of interactive. And if I miss a few shows because of it, I know life will continue.

So maybe we’ll see you Thursday, at the Bright Eyes show. Or, maybe not. Truthfully, I’ll just go where the music leads me.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 23rd, 2007