“Live music is pointless.”
This is what my husband’s co-worker said when my husband told him we were going to Columbia, Missouri, to see the band Sleater-Kinney.
My husband was dumbfounded. He is a man who had his glasses smashed in the mosh pit at a Nirvana concert and wears that fact like a badge of honor, so this statement just didn’t compute.
His co-worker shrugged. “I have the recording. Why do I need to see them perform it live?”
On one age-spotted hand, I could kind of see his point. For some people, there comes a time when it’s not cool to have your glasses smashed, even if a living, breathing Kurt Cobain is providing the soundtrack. Your home is comfortable and glasses are expensive.
I also might have been more receptive to this guy’s agrument because, honestly, I didn’t really want to go. In fact, I actively avoided planning the trip, which is weird for me because I love to control – I mean, um, plan things. My apathy led me to do things like encourage my husband to book us a room at a bed and breakfast and stop at a winery along the way. Woo. Rock and roll.
I didn’t want to go because I wasn’t a fan of the band, and I felt bad about it. I wanted to like them. I tried to like them. I felt like I should like them. I just didn’t.
Sleater-Kinney was one of the original “riot grrrl” bands back in the 90s. They were fierce and smart and punk. Being a young woman in the 90s, they were exactly the type of band I should have been into. Unfortunately, the closest I got to being a “riot grrrl” was an Alanis Morrissette CD, a pack of Marlboro Lights, and a tattoo…of a butterfly…on my ankle. At that point in my life, I didn’t really know where I fit in. I was stuck in this weird space where I admired both Mariah Carey and Courtney Love.
There were certain aspects of the band I was into – mostly the girly stuff like how they dressed – but sonically I just wasn’t there. Deep down I thought their music was noisy and abrasive and felt some of their lyrics were just flat-out stupid.
But my husband loves Sleater-Kinney and I love my husband, so I agreed to drive four and a half hours, pay $56 for tickets and stay in a bed and breakfast in a college town I didn’t want to be in to see a band I didn’t really like.
As we hurtled over the Iowa border and through Missouri toward Columbia – anti-abortion billboards, fireworks emporiums, and businesses with names like Curly Judd’s Motors flashing by – we put in a Sleater-Kinney album and I tried to work up some enthusiasm.
When we got to the venue, I realized it was a general admission show, and it made me feel about a hundred years old. No seats! How was I going to make it through the entire show? The opening act wasn’t due to come on stage for another half an hour and my feet and back were already aching. I found myself wondering if I should have grabbed the free earplugs off the nightstand at the bed and breakfast. Once I started thinking about our room, I started thinking about bed and how tired I was, and I just wanted to leave.
As soon as Sleater-Kinney took the stage, though, it was like I snapped back into place. Corrin Tucker’s vocals weren’t abrasive. They were powerful. Carrie Browstein filled up that stage in a way that would put Mick Jagger to shame. And the drummer – Janet Weiss – oh my god. I couldn’t stop watching her. This is embarrassing to be saying in 2015, but I have never seen a woman play drums live outside of marching band. And she was beating the shit out them.
I was into this band in a way I hadn’t been into a band in a long time. I was surprised to feel music so intensely. When I was younger, I could lay on my bedroom floor and listen to music for hours. At that age, you feel everything so deeply – maybe because you’re falling in love and getting your heart broken on a seemingly endless loop so all those sappy love songs and rage-filled anthems just make sense to you.
But, you get a little older, and you get a little more comfortable in your life, and music can become like wallpaper. It’s nice to have it there, but you don’t need it to be there.
As I watched those three women kick ass on stage, I felt that old rush. It was like I was hearing the songs for the first time. The whole thing was mind-blowing. And I wasn’t drunk. No way was I going to pay $7 for a beer.
I also had fun watching my husband enjoy the show. He nervously bought a t-shirt and pulled it on over his button-up. He didn’t want to go the bathroom for fear of missing a single song. He bobbed his head to the beat. He jumped. He hollered. It reminded me of one of the reasons I fell in love with him in the first place. He got music the same way I did.
So here’s where my husband’s co-worker’s logic is flawed – I was not a fan of Sleater-Kinney before this weekend. If my husband put on one of their albums, I would generally leave the room. But about two songs into the show, I was in love with them.
Going to this show made me experience things I never would have if I had just stayed home and listened to their albums in my living room. It blew my mind. It made me crush on my husband again. It made me love a band I previously hated.
Live music did that to me.