Ten years ago, if I made a trip to the Smell, I would have made a detour or two to pick up friends. We would have searched for the last remaining parking spot near a street light, walked to the club huddled in a group and met up with a few other pals as we lit up cigarettes in the alley behind the venue. After the show, there would likely be a warehouse party to visit, and we would have to hit up some seedy all-night eatery before night's end. We wouldn't head home until at least 2 a.m., probably later depending on how much action we could find.
But that was when we were in our 20s, before the weddings and the kids and the demands of a steady day job.
On my last trip to the Smell, I went solo. My husband had plans with old friends. The one pal who I thought might want to go with me was otherwise occupied.
Maybe I should have called the night a bust and stayed home with Netflix, but ParallaxScroll, who was playing that night, had caught my ear thanks to someone much younger than I am, and checking out live music and club nights is part of my job. In various different capacities, this has been part of my job since I was 19, but a lot changes when you're nearing the end of your 30s.
When I came home, my husband asked if I was the oldest person there. I answered no, only because I thought I saw the venue owner walking through the crowd.
I used to roll with an entourage. By the time I hit my early 30s, that dwindled to one or two people. Now I usually go out on my own.
In the professional club-hopper and concertgoer's circle of life, we start out as weirdos and end up as weirdos. There's a brief window of acceptance sometime between college and our late 20s, when even the former popular kids are up for checking out clubs where the DJs play nothing you know. Then they move on to gastropubs, kid-friendly street fairs and the occasional night at a retro club.
Actually, the friends you thought were hardcore will do that, too. Your college radio pals, the kids who carpooled to goth nights with you, the musicians that you used to see play at DIY spaces — they all grow up. When they do, many of them will think that it's time to give up their party past. You will be left the lone weirdo in your circle of friends, convinced that everyone is cracking Peter Pan jokes behind your back.
But you're no ageless wonder. Around the time you turn 30, you learn that hangovers are an evil that becomes more vicious with each passing birthday. Then you realize that a couple hours of dancing is no longer enough to burn off the 2 a.m. Del Taco run and, now, your best tight pants no longer fit.
The closer I get to 40, the more time I spend looking in the mirror, wondering if I'm getting rock & roll face. Would I have that line at the corner of my eye if I put in fewer late nights? Are the dark circles hereditary, or nature's reminder that I should have settled down a decade ago?
I am too young to have seen The Smiths but old enough to have caught Morrissey at a time when people were baffled that some sad British dude was selling out Southern California venues in a matter of minutes. Even by nightlife standards, I'm not that old, but I'm starting to feel that way.
I can't avoid making the aging hipster references. I will happily tell you about the Smell when it was in North Hollywood, or the first Coachella festival, or that time The Cure played the Rose Bowl. There has to be some sort of credibility that comes with decades of music obsession. I didn't kill my chance of ever securing normal employment for nothing.
Sure, we all change as we grow older. Even I go out only a couple nights a week, and those nights end relatively early. But just because we take on new responsibilities doesn't mean that we have to give up the thing that kept us going when we were in college. There are still people making interesting new music and there are still places where we can go and dance with surprise in our step because we haven't heard the track a thousand times before.
I'm having a hard time relating to my peers. My Facebook feed overflows with cellphone photos every time there's a reunion show. It's cool. I like hearing about Ride's latest gigs but couldn't bring myself to get tickets. I saw enough comebacks during the '80s revival and have had my fair share of '90s flashbacks, too. I want to move forward. Can we talk about an album that came out this decade? Can we go see some bands that we've never heard?
As out-of-place as I feel with my friends, it's worse with the younger crowd. I don't understand why kids who aren't punks or goths dye their hair funky colors. When people mention Limp Bizkit, Marilyn Manson or 311 as a musical reference, I want to cry and vomit. They don't get why my animosity for these bands runs so deep. I have given up trying to explain.
I know I'm not alone. There are other people my age who still have music-related jobs, who still love checking out new things, who don't believe that growing up means giving up.
We just need to find each other.