Austin, Texas, has long been considered the “Live Music Capital of the World,” so it seems fitting that the city would attract musicians and music-lovers alike. The first weekend of Austin City Limits Music festival is behind us, but not to fear, the festivities resume with Part Deux on Friday. Austin City Limits is a culmination of everything Austin has come to represent: music, community and sorority girls who realize that they are totally indie after they listen to that Vance Joy song.
People shell out hundreds of dollars to participate in the drunken sweatshop that is ACL, and for the rest of the year, Austinites and tourists schlepp around downtown in search of live performances. In a city of music reverence, refusing to attend concerts and shows may result in a limited social life, and even if drinking alone is your thing, most bars subject their patrons to terrible cover bands, or worse, terrible original music.
Hating live shows may seem like a wildly unpopular opinion, especially in Austin, but having experienced a variety of live performances myself, I have theorized that most people only pretend to enjoy shows, just as I have done many times before.
Once I came to the realization that I am a live-music-hater, or “fucking loser” as it is referred to in some circles, I was finally free to decline invitations by my friends to see their presumably awful bands play at some disgusting venue.
I became accustomed to glorious silence and more tuned-in to the music-free world around me. Of course I still have to face my enemy from time to time. I will often hang out on the patio of a bar, seeking refuge from some live show inside, when I realize that my drink is empty or I have to pee.
I muster all of the tolerance and courage I can find within myself and march through the crowd, my fingers plugging my ears. I think of my poor mother when I made her take me to Korn’s Family Values tour, 1998 (she accidentally crowd-surfed).
Last time I went into a show while making a dash for the bathroom, I stopped and looked around to see my peers in the audience reacting to the band onstage. No one seemed to be having a good time. Some people half-heartedly bobbed their heads, but besides a few sloshed audience-members dancing euphorically just in front of the stage, everyone looked pitifully self conscious and unsure.
I couldn’t help but wonder why these people feel the need to subject themselves to this experience. Do they derive some masochistic pleasure from it all? There are several reasons why live music sucks, and to accept these truths is a step toward personal freedom and long-term happiness.
Going to a concert takes some preparation. It is necessary to curate an outfit that says “I fit in, but I didn’t spend a lot of time to achieve this look.” People spend hours contemplating which ironic tee to wear with which jeans, but it rarely pays off, because shows usually happen by the dusty light of a cold bar, and no one will know if you showed up to the punk show in a Ramones shirt (poser).
There is always some barefoot mess holding her Steve Madden pumps, because she just cannot endure another second of wearing the shoes she deliberately chose to wear an hour earlier. Sometimes there is the inexplicable bro in the audience, grinding on the alternative girls in front of him. The bro wears a tank top and represents some sports team on his hat. He is more admirable than anyone else, because he is perfectly content to look out of place.
I have recently noticed men, some of whom are very hairy, wearing crop-tops and kinky door-knocker chokers to achieve a “health-goth” look. It doesn’t work. None of it works. Especially because the second you enter a concert you are immersed in a world of filth and a roomful of body odor. A drink spills on your crotch; you sweat through a silk blouse. There is no appropriate outfit for self-inflicted torture, and this is also the reason why fashionable workout gear is stupid.
Concerts are too loud. No hearing person can claim to be comfortable with the noise level at any show, even an acoustic show. I have become so averse to loud sounds that sometimes charades is too wild for me. Shows are the perfect place to invite that friend who constantly yaps, because you don’t even have to pretend like you’re listening. When a girl confronts you for sleeping with her ex, you can politely walk away and chalk it up to the music being too damn loud.
While there are advantages to the absurd noise levels, most of the time, it’s a huge pain in the ass. I think of some of my funniest jokes while watching bands, and I want nothing more than to immediately tell them to the person standing next to me.
I laugh at my own genius and scream my joke into my friend’s ear, but she stares back blankly.
I feel a rush of humiliation, because she didn’t hear my joke, and to tell it again would be doubly humiliating. I have to scrap the entire bit, and my wit goes unacknowledged.
The noise at concerts also fosters sometimes painful misunderstandings. A while ago I attended a show at a popular gay bar. I was wearing a great outfit that, from a certain angle, makes me look like I have boobs, and I had consumed enough vodka to quell any self-hatred that came from my friends not being able to hear my funny jokes. A girl shoved me, and I looked down to see that her head came up to just below my shoulder.
We exchanged a few words when suddenly the cold slush in her cup hit my face and her little fist followed. This was all due to a very avoidable misunderstanding. She thought I yelled, “Move, bitch!” when I really yelled “Move, you bitch!” I was punched in the face as a direct result of the noisy show.
In Austin, musicians are about as common as fixie-bike-riding douche-bags, so it isn’t uncommon to befriend a few. In becoming friends with a musician, understand that you may be expected to attend their shows and pretend to like their shitty music.
This is easy enough, because there are so many excuses to employ when you dip early. My personal favorite is, “My dog has a UTI,” (it works because no one can contest it without serious examination of my dog’s urinary tract). Musician friends do not pose a real threat until they begin talking to you about their sorry plight.
Once you allow a friend to constantly talk about his music and use his band as a sort of status symbol, there is no going back. You must kill him…or suffer indefinitely.
There is reason to be wary of the friend who attempts to convince you into attending her boyfriend’s band’s show. I faced this scenario recently, and I simply explained to my friend that I don’t even care to see live performances by bands I like, much less by people I’ve met a handful of times. She was offended by my response, but then she and said boyfriend broke up, so our friendship is back on track.
Bands are problematic even when not comprised of people you know. Musicians are emotional and constantly seeking validation. Do not give it to them. When any musician asks you how you liked the show, just sneer and nod. Musicians are not human; they are succubi who feast on flattery and the kindness of those who subject themselves to the ear-rape that is live concert.
Of course there are incredibly talented and grounded musicians who understand that shows are for teens and peons. These musicians realize that people attend to support the music or to get trashed with their friends, not to experience the stresses of live performance.
Do not get sucked into the glitz and glamour of the live music scene. You will always leave the venues unsatisfied, with terrible tinnitus, and a loser on your arm.