When I used to blog heavily circa the early/mid-2000s, it was mostly about music. I would come back from a show at 1AM or whatever and then spend an hour talking about what I just saw. Openers described in detail, audience assessments (often about how Vancouver doesn’t support bands that I liked), and usually how awesome the band that I went to see was. Words like “angular” and “melodic” punctuated what was often a semi-factual first person account that was riddled with typos.

I would see so many bands each year. At my peak, I averaged about 40 gigs a year. I would drop by the record stores every Tuesday at lunch to pick up new releases (Scratch used to be my fave), scooping up 3 to 5 thanks to the new-found riches from a full time job. It was a great time to be around and paying attention to new music, when exciting indie bands were mainlined to you via this new ecosystem created by the internet, eventually leading to many breaking through to the mainstream.

This was in an era when the word “indie” still had meaning – as in their recordings were released on an independent record label that may not have the distribution reach and publicity machine to promote and sell records. The internet, with sites like Stereogum, PopMatters, and Pitchfork, plus reams and reams of blogs, narrowed that gap, helping build buzz for bands whose previous hopes for a media bump was the cover of CMJ, Magnet, or Paste, maybe a feature in Spin if they’re really lucky.

When the likes of the New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Metric, Stars, Final Fantasy, and Feist broke out in Canada, it was helped in no small part by online fawning, of which I was the tiniest of a part. I would do album reviews, gig reviews, and lament about how bands that I love continually get overlooked, not by the mainstream, which was a given, but by indie tastemakers who always seemed to favour brooding male-fronted bands. Rilo Kiley, Azure Ray, Mirah, all those twee bands – they never got their flowers as far as I was concerned. I especially hyped up local(ish) bands like Maplewood Lane, the Organ, and Immaculate Machine given there weren’t many blogs in Vancouver that talked about music. There was also this one local band that I would bemoan all the time because they opened for touring acts a lot, and I always found them boring. Their identity will be left as homework for the reader.

I was around at the beginning of the hype cycles. I was there for Interpol’s Vancouver debut at a sold-out club that maybe fit two to three hundred people – I didn’t see most of the set but that’s another story. I discovered the wonderfulness of the National only because they opened for the super-hyped Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. I saw the Killers open for stellastarr* at Richard’s on Richards in like 2004. I saw Death Cab for Cutie many times before Seth Cohen dropped their name on the OC, even gave them mediocre vegetarian food recommendations before their gig at the aforementioned Richard’s. I can go on. You know how we old people are like.

Suffice it to say, in my 20s, music was central to my life, and I was there before most were. That was largely due to the amount of free time I had in additional to the hardcore fixations folks at that age had. These days? I barely keep up with new music from folks I already liked. I do discover new bands now and then, but that’s more or less by osmosis than the active seeking-out I was doing back in the day.

Music, Now

I have a different relationship with music these days. When 90% of my time at work was spent coding, music would be playing constantly because that’s the kind of work I can do while the new Au Revoir Simone was (softly) blasting in my ears. Now, I do much more non-coding work that requires more concentration, which is not conducive to having music passively playing in the background. This results in fewer overall spins, which means new music get deprioritized. Further, as the roster of bands that I like get bigger, there’s just more volume to deal with. The aforementioned New Pornographers? I’ve only listened to their new record maybe twice through no fault of the material. I just don’t have time and there’s more to listen to.

So while I can no longer call myself a hardcore, I still do my best to support an industry that has brought me so much joy throughout the years. My show-going has dropped dramatically (going out at night while having 2 kids is… not easy), as have my overall spending. The convenience of streaming means that’s how I listen to music these days – though I know I am effectively no longer financially supporting the artists that I like anymore through listening to their music. As a result, I do try to buy as much merch, vinyls, and tickets as possible (even if I’m not sure I’m able to go). Anybody that make music that I like and has a Patreon (like Stars), I’ll subscribe to it. One day, I’ll give Torq or Amy that $1000 for a song commission…

I would say that even now, music is still a central part of my life – it’s just that as a percentage of time and attention spent, its magnitude has dropped. But unlike many hobbies and interests have fallen by the wayside or have been reduced to a minimal trickle (bye bye comics and video games, care-free travelling, and Whitecaps seasons tickets), I’m still listening to new music and going to shows, which is something. Maybe the fact that it’s still happening for me at 42 means I’ll die anticipating the 100th year revival of Lilith Fair? Yes, I plan to live that long. There’s too much good music for me to listen to for me to go that quickly.

2 Responses to “On Listening to Music at 42”

  1. Matt Avatar

    it’s so different than it used to be – with the ability to announce, “please play x” and then x comes on. it’s pretty amazing – and it’s led to listening to music from far more genres and times. And maybe we could team up on promoting a “new” “Lilith Fair” when we have more time on our hands – and maybe we could convince Sarah McLachlan to play it. Or we would have to convince BoyGenius and its members to anchor it these days – i still can’t believe they’re headlining the Gorge.

    1. Hanson Avatar

      re: boygenius – partly it’s due to the democratization of music because access channels are no longer controlled tightly, but the Taylor Swift effect cannot be downplayed. Phoebe is a legit star and while she deserves it on her own merits, having famous friend promote you to her fans is super useful.

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