I've been to two concerts at the Michigan Theater in the past week or so. Last weekend, Chris and I joined our friend Fara and her boyfriend Mark to see James Blunt and, while it was a good enough show -- it was basically like watching him perform the albums -- I was nearly driven batty by everyone using their cell phones all throughout the concert. Some people seemed to be calling friends and holding up their phone so they could here. More were either taking pictures or recording video, which always surprises me because the quality of that stuff is always lousy and I wonder who they're showing it to, going, "Look! You see that tiny little blurr of light on the stage there? OH MY GOD THAT'S JAMES BLUNT!" There was even a guy two folks down who kept recording portions of the songs. Copyright and piracy issues aside (especially since I'm not a saint in that department), it was just annoying and distracting -- at times the glow from the phones around me seemed brighter than the stage. It all seemed so contrary to actually being present in the moment, to actually experiencing being at the concert. It had me musing about how this younger generation -- kids today! -- can't seem to just engage with their surroundings without filtering the experience through some kind of gadgetry. It had me, most of all, feeling old.
Then, on Wednesday night, Chris and I went to see Steve Earle . I am not, admittedly, a big Steve Earle fan, but Chris loves him and the tickets were part of his birthday present. This time, we were on the main floor of the theater, rather than the balcony, and the vibe was entirely different. What struck me first and foremost was that, in sharp contrast to the previous concert, the Steve Earle crowd made me look like a spring chicken. I have to admit it was kind of a nice feeling. Somewhere along the lines, I must have gotten used to feeling old, especially in this college town where youth and its indiscretions are impossible to avoid. Save for a sullen teen behind us whose constant complaining suggested her mother had dragged her to the show across the year, I was the youngest person around me by far. Even Chris got into the humor of it, dubbing it "Steve Earle: The Cocoon Tour."
Oh, yes, they were old around us! The couple to our right didn't look like they could stay awake for the whole evening. When a large group entered after the opening act, Chris remarked that the bus from the group home must have been late in arriving. Oh, how we laughed. And then I settled into my seat. I pulled my Icy Hot pain reliever stick from my purse and applied to my neck, a necessary evil for me to sit still for any period of time. And then I pulled my knitting from my purse and Chris and I just looked at each other and laughed. There I was, poking fun at old folk and I'm the only one in the crowd stinking of wintergreen and knitting a friggin' sweater. Irony, you are a cruel, cruel beast.
On a side note, I should mention that I didn't not enjoy the Steve Earle show as much as I thought I would. He's still a tad nasally and twangy for me, although his last Grammy was for folk music and I can get behind some o' that. And I respect his politics (ol' lefty-style) and his recovery from drugs and alcohol (which he's pretty vocal about and committed to.) What I will say is that there were parts of it I truly enjoyed, especially his newer stuff. It was a really pared back show -- mostly him on stage with his guitar or mandolin or what have you. But for some of the songs, he was accompanied by a DJ and what I thought was going to be cheesy -- who plays the banjo to an electronic beat -- was at times really interesting. One might even say enjoyable. Enough so that I even put away my knitting and forgot, at least for a moment or two, to re-apply my pain stick. Kids today!