I was standing behind a man wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt. On the back were a list of tour dates and cities from the Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness tour that took place in 1995. He looked young. I was born in 1985. I was nine years old when Kurt Cobain killed himself, on my birthday (April 5) I would later learn. This seemed significant to me. It still does.
It was now March 22, 2017, and the ‘90s were most certainly alive in this music hall. There was a mixed gathering of flannel and facial hair waiting for Dinosaur Jr. to come on stage. I had bought a ticket because I knew it would be an important show. It would be important for me to finally hear “Freak Scene” live. I did and then suddenly I realized it was 11 p.m. I found myself leaving the show early to go to Taco Bell so I could have something to eat while taking a bath before going to bed.
I walked into Headliners Music Hall as the opening act Easy Action were half way through their set. I immediately felt like an extra in the remake of the 1992 classic Singles. Except the men on stage were now in their fifties. There was a breath of lethargic air circulating throughout the venue, which seemed to make sense. While there were a variety of ages, mostly I looked around at men who wanted to remember what they were like in the early ‘90s. The kind of men who worship at the altar of Steve Albini.
I also noticed that there were more women at this concert than I had expected. And then I began to wonder why this would even cross my mind. I bought a ticket not because I was a lifelong fan, but because anyone who cared about music the way I do would be there. And they were. As a woman at a rock concert, I will always be outnumbered. Rock and Roll has always been a boy’s club, and I’ve always wanted to be one of the boys. I wondered if the other women at the concert thought this way too. I wondered what their motives were for liking this band. I wondered how they thought they fit into this industry of cool.
I am always curious about people’s relationships with their favorite bands. Especially women. Last night felt like a shadow of nostalgia. Perhaps their presence was political, a response to the opaque sexism of the ‘90s. After all, we deserve more choices than Lilith Fair. As a lifelong Courtney Love fan, I realize as I write this that she’s subconsciously probably one of the reasons I decided to come to this concert. Alone. Her ferocity has taught me over the years to be a strong and independent woman who doesn’t need to rely on the male gaze.
Despite the high volume and energy of the show, I could tell J Mascis was tired. This was simply routine. It’s not 1992 anymore and the audience knows this because they have aged too. Keeping this in mind, it begs me to ask the question, how many times can you play a song and still have it matter? “Freak Scene” is really the only Dinosaur Jr. song I have a relationship with, and when they quickly worked it into the set the stamina I knew was suddenly drained. And so was I.
I left the show early, ears buzzing and unsatisfied. Perhaps I didn’t care enough about the band as much as I cared about the significance of remembering how things used to be. The significance of being part of a culture that refuses to be erased. I made my way through the disaffected crowd and back into the cold evening air of 2017.
It is worth mentioning that for a sold-out show at a venue I tend to acknowledge with less than flattering words, the crowd was one of the most courteous I’ve ever experienced. Everyone kept to their personal space and if someone accidently bumped into me they would immediately apologize. This was probably due to two factors: everyone has gotten older and the instinct for civility has finally kicked in. Also, we still like to smoke pot.
At the end of the night my question was, how do bands like Dinosaur Jr. stay relevant? Simply to comply with the nostalgic neediness of music lovers? Just how important is relevance? Perhaps it is the romance of the familiar. Men and women understand this, and often it is what helps us understand one another and bring us together. This notion is certainly something worth singing along to.