Guest Blogger Liz Georges Goes To The Smithereens!

The First Essential Scary Truth

Plus ça change…

So I went to see the Smithereens Saturday night.

Liking The Smithereens at one point and time was a mark of cool, an indication that you were in the know musically. Kurt Cobain listed them as an influence, and their reinvention of rock and roll tropes from everyone from Buddy Holly to the Beatles to The Who brought them fame, admiration and ridicule all at once.  It remains to be seen whether The Smithereens will be revered in the annals of rock in the chapter marked “Most Underrated Bands of All Time” (alongside The Kinks and The Jam, but that’s another story for another time).

I’m not really here to talk about The Smithereens (though, for the record, they still know how to rock the house down, and they are one of the few bands from their era whose material doesn’t sound dated today).

I should probably begin by saying that I spent much of the 1980’s and 1990’s eating, sleeping, and breathing alternative music. By the mid-90’s, I had perfected my persona as the Indie Rock ChickTM.  I was familiar with every beer-soaked hole in the wall where all the good bands played, had earplugs in the pockets of every jacket I owned, and knew exactly where to stake my claim on a venue floor to hear and see the show to its best advantage.

As I looked around The State Theater at the crowd watching the Smithereens, I was shocked.  When the fuck did we all get so goddamned old? The crowd was graying at the temples, paunchy, dressed like suburban dads and moms who used to be cool but made the decision somewhere along the line to be adults, with all the sartorial compromise implied in such a choice.  For a moment, I despaired.

After a while, however, I realized something.  We all might be graying. Some of us no longer know how to rock a leather jacket. But as I watched, I realized that I recognized all the same old people I used to see at every rock show.  Concertgoers might get old, but apparently, whether we’re 22 and fresh out of school or 52 and ready for our AARP membership, going to a rock show you will always meet the same people:

The Couple Who Must Snog Through the Entire Show: There they are, camped out right in front of the band, but they don’t really care about what’s happening on the stage. They are way more focused on each other. And it’s not in that cute “staring into each other’s eyes” way. They are playing tonsil hockey. He’s got his hands all over her ass, her breasts, basically any body part he can get a fistful of.  She’s probably drunk, because if she weren’t, she’d be a little more embarrassed about the bemused and patronizing looks she’s getting from his friends.  After all, two weeks ago, he was snogging with a different girl in front of a different band, and two weeks from now, he’ll have blocked her from his Plenty of Fish account.

The Irritated Girlfriend is in a committed monogamous relationship with the guy she’s standing next to, though probably not for very much longer.  Recognizing her is easy.  She is standing, arms folded, and that rum and coke in her hand is not going to do anything to alter the scowl on her face. She is not interested in the band.  She is looking around at the venue, which, like most rock and roll joints, is a little run down.  She is not impressed. When her gaze does come to rest on the band, there is no hint of comprehension. She will make wan attempts to sway to the music, especially if her escort looks her way. After all, she did agree to come here, having been cajoled by him because this is his favorite band ever in the whole wide world, and she is trying to be a “good sport.” Her discomfort is palpable.  And if her guy avoids the doghouse when they get home, it’ll be a miracle.

The Oblivious Drunk Flailer is usually part of a posse of guys, most of whom are in some state of inebriation.  They are having an evening of bro-dom.  The Flailer is just trying to rock out to the band, but has no idea how much space his body takes up, and is constantly encroaching on the personal space of everyone around him, much to their annoyance.  It is quite possible that the Flailer will find himself flattened by one of his fellow concertgoers who has lost patience with him bumping into everyone.  He bumbles about, apologizing, trying to put on a benign face, hoping that his drunken charm will save him from the black eye his behavior is begging for. His pals are too drunk themselves to understand that their friend is making an ass of himself. Your only hope is that the group has a designated driver willing to play babysitter. (There is a belligerent sub-species of this particular archetype.  He’s usually guaranteed to get in a fight before the night is out.)

The Tall Guy Who Stands Right in Front of Me I would have more sympathy for this guy if I didn’t run into him at every show I have ever gone to in my entire life. He is the reason I miss the things I really want to see onstage.  He has a knack for stationing himself in the perfect spot so that I have to stand on tiptoe and crane my neck to see anything at all.  Under ordinary circumstances, I would believe he didn’t know he was doing it, were it not for the fact that his capacity for obstruction is uncanny. It simply has to be deliberate. Motherfucker.

Dude Who Knows ALL the Lyrics is having the time of his life.  This is the BEST. SHOW. EVER. The band is his favorite, and he’s gonna prove his love by shouting out the lyrics to every single song, fist-pumping every so often to show he really means it. And it does not stop.  Because he’s such a fanboy, he knows ALL the lyrics, to ALL the songs.  Even the obscure B-side to that single they put out in Japan that’s only on the set list because the lead singer’s girlfriend is in the audience and she begged him to play it. Dude doesn’t care, because he loves that song just as much as she does, and is going to belt it out just like all the others. Because he’s THAT much of a fan. He will also wait around the stage door after the show and insist that the band sign his t-shirt from that show they did in Philly last fall.  He will refer to the band members by their first names, as if he actually knows them.  (He may even know the lead singer’s girlfriend’s name too.) If Dude has the means to do so, he will show up at every show that’s in reasonable driving distance from his home. He is frequently accompanied by The Irritated Girlfriend.

I saw all of these people at the Smithereens show.  Now that I think about it, I have seen them at every show I’ve ever been to.  At this point, they are old friends.  Actually, probably more like annoying cousins at a family reunion.  They are instantly recognizable members of the rock and roll concertgoing tribe.  They are how I know I’m home.

— Liz Georges


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments