A brief note: This newsletter and playlist are a little later than normal because of the ice storm and power outages that plagued Austin last week.
Since moving to Austin in 2018, the number of live shows I’ve been to has increased exponentially compared to prior years. Before 2018 I probably saw a show once or twice a year - now, it’s once or twice a month.
However, those shows are typically smaller bands at smaller venues. The largest venue I regularly attend holds about 2,750, but I maybe only see one or two shows here a year. The venue I go to the most holds 900. The average capacity of the venues I regularly see shows at is roughly 1,300. If I take out the two biggest venues that I only go to once or twice a year, that average drops to 850.
I point out the venue size because I primarily attend shows cramped venues stuffed with people to the gills. Since I’m seeing smaller bands who are up and coming in their careers, the audience usually skews much younger. So much younger. I often joke that I’m like one of the dads standing in the back while the kids watch the show. But it’s not a joke; the audiences at these shows are often 15 to 20 years younger than me. I’m the old guy at most shows.
My last show of 2022 saw the 90s alternative rock band The Toadies at Emo’s in Austin. Emo’s is one of the larger venues I attend semi-regularly at about 1,700 max capacity, and this show was sold out and very cramped. I usually hang out towards the back (read: bar) because I’m old (and like to get crunk at shows).
This show was the first time in a long time that the audience was mostly my peers - people my age, give or take five years. This makes sense because of who the band was and how long they’ve been around. The crowd was dressed similarly to me. T-shirt, flannel, jeans, Vans. Fashion stopped in 1996. Funnily enough, the grunge look is back in style in some circles.
But the biggest thing that jumped out at me, comparing a concert full of 20-somethings to a concert full of 40 and 50-somethings, was the attitude and demeanor of the crowds.
While seeing The Toadies, the crowd's focus was 100% on the stage. They were there for the music and to relive their glory days as teenage rock fans. If someone bumped into me, we both apologized and ensured each other was okay. There was no pushing, shoving, or fighting for a better view.
Comparing that to shows that skew younger, the crowds stand around and talk to their friends instead of experiencing the music. They leave their spots often to get drinks and push and shove their way through the crowds while leaving and coming back.
I recently also saw Modest Mouse, another older band, and the audience also skewed older. The crowd experience was similar to the crowd at the Toadies show, except for two younger girls, maybe college age, by us, who people repeatedly told to shut up in varying degrees of politeness to then yelling at them to “shut the fuck up” when they continued to talk through the set.
I don’t think younger people are ruder, and this isn’t a get off my lawn post. I’ve been to plenty of shows with older acts and audiences who have been just as rude. It’s likely recency bias as the smaller shows with younger crowds are what I’ve experienced most in the past 5 years.
What this is, is a let’s be nicer to people and respectable of where we are. If you’re at a show, movie, museum, or whatever, don’t talk, and don’t push and shove your way ahead of people.
Experiencing art is wonderful. Treat it, the artists, and the others around you with respect. The world is hard enough without your bullshit on top of it.
This month’s playlist features Charly Bliss, Wednesday, Marietta, Helvetia, boygenius, The National, Julia Jacklin, Pavement, Drugdealer, Riot Course, and more!
Listen to this month’s playlist on
Quick Listening and Other Links
Soccer Mommy hit the desk (for the first time) for her second NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert: