Knowing it was high time I got out of Gloucester for an evening over the weekend, my buddy and all around super cool dude Joey said, “Let’s go to NH to this hardcore show. It’s at a Chinese food place, so, you know, Mai Tais.” Sold. This is how I grew up, after all – crappy bars that let underage kids in as long as they weren’t drinking, screaming punk rock played at top volume and somewhat varied in quality – anywhere between “moderately terrible” and “sorta listenable”, where there was always someone in a mohawk manning a merch table of buttons and cassette tapes.
The good part about having a lot of tattoos, pink hair, and an enviable, rainbow assortment of Chuck Taylors is that it allows me to shapeshift, somewhat and fit in with a younger crowd. I’m 31, for the record – which is actually a fucking weird age, these days. But when I got to the show I realized that sure, I look like these kids, I’m even the same age as some of them; but times have changed for me.
There’s a line from Scenes From an Italian Restaurant, a barely-passable Billy Joel song, about Brenda and Eddy, who got married young (in the summer of 75!), and then divorced – and struggled with their identities after that, not being able to return to the lives they led before they got married. “They couldn’t go back to the greasers, the best they could do was pick up their pieces.” And for whatever stupid reason, that line keeps echoing through my head…like a life lesson I’m about to learn the hard way. Not that Billy Joel should give anybody life lessons.
I got in to the bar, which was unbearably lit, and immediately ordered a drink. Turns out it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a bar that tapes the empty cardboard 12 pack boxes to the wall to let you know their current beer selection. I’m kind of used to charcuterie plates and small-batch locally crafted cider, because I’m a dick. I dug through my wallet for cash. After all, I couldn’t go giving the bartender my Platinum Cashback Rewards Card, that says “Member since ’06” along the bottom, because they’d be on to me right quick, sniffing me out as a total square. Nothing says “punk kid” like a solid line of credit nearly a decade in length, right?
Damnit. I really could have used the cashback rewards.
Pushing on into a small, square room with a parquet floor, a band started up which I swear to blog was playing the exact same chords, the exact same style, the exact same unintelligibly growling vocals as the last show I’d been to. It was like I had walked away at the age of 19, and the entire underground, young, hardcore/punk scene had just paused, awaiting my return. The outfits were the same as everything my friends and I wore back then – a teenage girl wearing a spiked vest with a Casualties patch, someone with a Crass tattoo, two or three G.G Allin shirts. Of course. Of course! And why not? It’s not like my generation invented punk rock or even improved it. We were mimicking our cool older cousins and siblings, uncles, and aunts. And so down the line it goes, the same as it was before and probably always will be.
I was nostalgic, I admit. I even drank a PBR. It was fun to watch these kids, still full of zeal and hope, do their thing. Until the mosh pit started. Oh, those. Yeah, they’re still happening. I moved further and further back, while Joey enjoyed himself knocking against other people’s fleshy parts and bones, until I was in the rear, up on a chair like I’d seen a family of wharf rats scampering across the carpet, wondering how much insurance this place had in case someone snapped their damn neck. This used to be fun! I used to do this on weekends! What was I thinking?
But time, marriage, kids age you. My life is elementary school pickups, trash day, and the detritus of separating my life from my former husband’s after an entire decade of togetherness, the first adult decade I had. What separated me from that crowd isn’t all about my age, it’s about being in a world where my kids are always begging to play Mario Kart before they’ve finished their chores, property tax hikes, writing deadlines and nagging back pain.
In the end, it was nice to be punk rock KT for a night – surrounded by kids (and adults) creating music, and a scene, and being noisy and imperfect and ALIVE, but it’s a world I can’t return to.
But I’ll find a way to get by.