Punk orthodoxy demands that a band insist on playing or at least try to play all-ages shows, even though persons of all-ages may not like one’s band.
Last night, I played an all-ages show at the Green Project in New Orleans. The Green Project is a model all-ages venue. Run by motivated young people who have built a large, well-lit performance space with a decent sound system and a working toilet above a recycling center, the Green Project 1) feeds bands, 2) pays bands, 3) feeds bands, 4) somehow persists in a semi-devastated neighborhood on the border of NOLA’s very-devasted 9th Ward, and 5) sports a built-in crowd of motivated young people enthusiastic about music. However, few of these young people were too enthused about my band last night. No one heckled, but the response was, in the words of a Foreigner song, “cold as ice.”
I am 30 years old. I do not expect anyone, least of all teenagers who are probably smarter than me, to enjoy or even respect the music I make. Still, when an all-ages show I have struggled to put together goes awry, I am thrown into an emotional tailspin. I could play 100 terrible bar shows where I am heckled and assaulted and not blink, but when a bunch of kids isn’t into my band, I get bummed. “Godammit,” I think, taking Our Lord’s name in vain. “Teens are what this punk shit is about. Am I relevant?” I wonder for the 5,000,000th time. “What, in this society of the spectacle, does it mean to be relevant?” I wonder for the 500,000,000th time.
A former bandmate of mine once offered this wisdom: “It is ridiculous for a 30-year old man to get into the mind of a 16-year old.” However, against all odds and for no good reason, I will continue to pursue all-ages shows, even though—-contrary to popular belief—-they are ten times as hard to find as bar shows and (Green Project excepted) usually pay less.
After all, one can’t be too bummed about the reaction of the audience at the otherwise awesome Green Project. This question isn’t novel, but has anyone reading this been to New Orleans lately? Hurricane Katrina really fucked NOLA up! How do its citizens persist? I saw a kid riding a bike carrying one crutch—-just one. Why was a kid who needs crutches riding a bike around his devastated neighborhood, and where the fuck was the other crutch?