Words and Guitar

Words and Guitar

“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.

“What? Why?”

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.

2 thoughts on “Words and Guitar

    1. Oh my god…just looked up the lineup for that and it looks amazing!!! The Pixies, TV on the Radio, Wilco, Avett Brothers?!? I’m so jealous. Wilco is coming to the 80/35 Festival in Des Moines this summer. They put on a great show! Enjoy it!


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