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The Old Man at the Concert: Seeing One of My Favorites in My 30s

I said in 2011 I would never do this again, yet here I am, standing in the same venue, seeing the same band. It’s only been four years, but I feel like it has been a lifetime since I made that vow. I turned 30 a couple of years ago, and if I was unsure of my claim before, it was then that I definitely decided I was no longer young enough to go fight for a spot at a concert. Now I’m standing at the back of the room, looking at my watch, wondering why the band is a whopping five minutes past when they were supposed to come on. It is a Tuesday night after all, and I have a lot to do tomorrow. I realize right at this moment that I am the old guy at the concert. Coming here might have been a mistake.

The lights go dark. Here we go. Finally.

It was a flurry of emails that led me here. Mike said The Get Up Kids were playing The Paradise in Boston this December. Before I could say I was still done with concerts, a bunch of my other friends said yes, making just a show into a night out for everyone. I didn’t want to be the one asshole that couldn’t get excited to hang out with his friends, so I said yes. Then everyone else did too. I don’t know how many people really wanted to go and how many felt the way I did. Buying tickets to something is the only way we can ever seem to all get together these days. Those pre-spent monies magically make it so no one is “sick” or “busy” when it’s time to hang out.

I have never, not once, been to a general admission show without getting there way too early (sometimes all day) so I could stand right at the front of the stage, but I don’t have the energy or desire to fight for that real estate anymore. We opted to get dinner first, where I told everyone this really is my last concert. The venue isn’t that big and the difference between the front and the back is probably only 50 feet. None of us ever heard of the opening bands anyway, so going in later is no big deal.

It’s a big deal.

Missing the first band already has me regretting everything about this night. What if they were great? How many bands, including The Get Up Kids, did I discover as an opening act, only to have them become an important part of my life? Plus, now that I am actually, physically here and standing at the back I realize it is definitely not the front. This sucks. I am looking at the heads of the people near the stage, wondering if they know they are in my spot. Why did I come? If I wasn’t willing to do this “right” I should have stayed home. To make it worse, Mike predicted all of this. I’ve already told him he was right, but he’s too bummed out to rub it in my face. We both feel roughly 100-years-old, and I’m having a mini midlife crisis.

The lights go dark. Here we go. Finally. The band looks older, heavier, beard-ier.

So do I.

The Get Up Kids are one of my favorite bands, and one that has been an important part of my life. I first saw them in high school, and they were there with me during some of my best moments, and also some of my worst. They are important to my friends too, like a member of the group that has been at every party and every road trip, from when we were teenagers to now. We just all see each other less these days.

I think they’ll open with “10 Minutes.”

They open with “Coming Clean,” the first song off their first album.

I found my place in the sun,
Lied my way there.
I’ve looked in your eyes,
I’m coming clean.
I’ve made up my mind.

God I love this song. The band sounds as good as ever.

The concert just ended. This place has a strict 11:00pm curfew. I’ll be in bed before midnight. I wish they could have played for another hour, though. I loved every song they played, mostly from their first two albums, along with some great B-sides and covers. It was like they knew what we wanted to hear.

I’m one of the few people here moving and bobbing with every song. In fact, maybe 5% of this crowd is doing the same thing. I don’t even see any moshing at the front. I’ve never seen that at one of their shows before. Everyone is into this, but the crowd is almost docile. I keep my hands in my pockets so I don’t bump the girl next to me, one of the many just standing still.

I don’t care about how loud I’m singing though.

I am standing at the front of my group of friends. I’m the one willing to fight off any late stragglers that may push us forward. I can’t see my friends during most of the show, but I can hear them. I can hear them singing just as loudly as I am. We could be in my car right now. Sometimes I’m not thinking about anything besides how loud I can sing these lyrics, and then I’m suddenly thinking about everything that brought me here tonight, with these people. I wipe my eyes and I’m glad to be standing in front of them.

I wasn’t the old man at the concert. I was positive I would feel that way since the day I said yes to Mike’s email. When I left this place four years ago, I felt awful, the hours of standing and waiting, and the energy needed to be at the front made me feel old then. Maybe it was smart not to get here so early and to just stand wherever I could. Maybe not. All I know is that I spent another night with my friends singing along with one of my favorite bands, something I swore I would never do again because for some reason, I was too old. That night I left saying that was it for me. Tonight, as we say goodbye, I say something very different.

“I’m glad I came.”

Maybe I’m not that old.

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