Monday, September 29, 2008

Musical Notes by Bob Duskis: The Oldest Guy in the Club

A few months ago I was in line to get into one of San Francisco's hottest new clubs, Temple. Seeing that the group in front of me was being asked to show their IDs, I started fumbling in my pocket to get my own driver's license.
When the bouncer who was carding people saw me, he quickly waved me in saying in an amused tone

"Don't worry about it, you're good."

The implication was clearly- "you're so old, there's absolutely no reason you need to show me YOUR ID"

I tried my best to shrug off the indignity and proceeded into the crowded club, nursing my slightly injured pride. After about an hour of being jostled by throngs of 20 something dancers and being enveloped by incredibly loud, bass heavy music, my buddy Frank (one of a very few "Dad" friends that are close to my age who will brave the SF nightlife with me) turned to me and said

"How much longer do you think you'll be able to do this?"

It was then that I surveyed the room and came to the stomach dropping yet inescapable conclusion that I was without a doubt... the oldest guy in the club.

After that night, at other clubs or concerts, I started to consistently check out the crowd, hoping beyond hope to find a few other geriatric revelers like myself. With the exception of Six Degrees related events attended by my business partner Pat Berry (who, THANK GOD is older than me!), it was the same story. Nine times out of ten- I'm...the oldest guy in the club.

Last week I celebrated my 49th birthday (feel free to send lavish gifts). As I stand poised at the threshold of the gaping maw that is my 50's, I have to adjust to the fact that I am a relatively old person in what is traditionally a young person's game. Being older in the music business is a slightly surreal experience. I clearly remember the president of a major record company once telling me that he doesn't trust any A&R person over 25. This executive (who by the way was way into his 60's) felt strongly that only young people had the ability to have their fingers on the pulse of popular culture. Obviously this is much more pronounced in the youth obsessed world's of pop and hip-hop music but the stigma of age follows all of us who are in any facet of the music biz.

Some of this simply boils down to a question of stamina. I know of very few people in my age bracket who still go to live concerts on a regular basis, let alone dance clubs where the main act frequently doesn't even come on before 1am -and when they do the music is served up at pummeling volumes. When I try to rope my friends into going out with me the excuses are predictable. It's too late, it's too crowded, it's too loud, it's too smokey, blah, blah, blah... All of these are of course true but if you like to see DJs in clubs, they simply come with the turf. I can't say the smoke, the crowds and the late hours don't drive me nuts, I'm just willing to put up with them to get to the music. As far as the loud volumes go, one of my favorite things about going to a club is hearing great, well produced music being played REALLY loudly through a good sound system. There's simply no substitute for the way electronic music sounds in a club. It is true that I can no longer stand up for hours at a time the way I used to (damned sciatica!) but if I can find a spot to sit my old bones in every once in a while, I'm still good to go.

The more pointed issue surrounding growing old in the music business is the assumption that age translates to "out of touch". That record exec that I mentioned earlier felt strongly that once you had kissed your twenties goodbye the likelihood of you finding "the next big thing" was zilch. There is no doubt that the older we get, the more entrenched we get in our tastes and the less we feel comfortable in pushing boundaries but this is not something that is incurable. Experience and perspective come with age and short selling those two virtues has resulted in record companies sinking huge amounts of money into a lot of music that is vacuous, disposable and sometimes downright offensive.

Going back to my friend Frank's question of "how long can I keep doing this" I have to give a definitive answer of "I have no friggin' idea". I do know however that as long as I'm still having fun and I'm excited by the new music that keeps popping up (and as long as I can occasionally find a chair to sit down in), I'll be out there rocking with the young folks.

Maybe some of you older music fans want to consider joining me more often. That way when I check the crowds at night, I'm not always...the oldest guy in the club


Anonymous said...

Nice to hear the observations of another "Old Guy In 'Da Club". I also believe in the notion that Music (esp. live music) keeps ya young. There's something about experiencing the music as it happens, and when everybody is digging it, getting hot 'n sweaty over it, that is intoxicating.

And for those who think that their @ss is too old and gray to get out there...

Shake your butt now, for it's hard to do it when you're worm food! :)

Global Noize said...

Amen to that!

Sebastian said...

Keep on going Bob, you are showing a great example to all of us that even if u grow old you can still take the strength in sound and be open to development of music.

I'm turning 30 next year, and would love to go to clubs more often if there ever would be something worth hearing in Finland, and if I ever get rid of this buzzing noize in my ears I got last time I was in the club two months ago. The cure is there, I just need to find it.

Thank god all indoor places in Finland are smoke-free now, I just hate that cigarette cloud full of toxins that messes up my lungs and stomache. No way to protect myself against it but to avoid it.

It's usually the young folks who come up new ideas and fresh sounds, but mature talented artists are the ones who really can make most out of the new inventions. Everybody should be co-operating instead of competing.

Global Noize said...

Thanks for the comments Sebastian. I'm looking forward to making it out to Finland sometime soon and checking out the club scene over there first hand-