14 Year Mile
Posted on March 24, 2015
March 24, 2015 | by Dave Klyman
Aspiring to be an artistic musician is a great idea. Aspiring to be a professional artistic musician is a terrible idea. There is a large divide between passion and responsibility, love and logic, dreams and reality. These aren’t opposites; they are coexisting contradictions. Some success stories you hear are complete fantasy situations in which a whirlwind comes through and takes those artists out of their normal lives and throws them headfirst into the purported “dream.” You know the ones. They go on to have lofty careers that end in eventual retirement (often into obscurity) or they flash bright quickly and burn out tragically. That’s all well and good and it plays in the press, but that situation is not the life of a typical musician looking only to eke out a humble existence in an incredibly fickle, fleeting, and unforgiving creative business. If the former is ascending a narrow mountain peak, then the latter is looking for a comfortable plateau. One of the hardest reconciliations is the valley between youthful drive and aging acceptance. How old is too old to continue the perceived climb in audience size and creative awareness? When does rationality overcome blind devotion to craft?
I started playing guitar in seventh grade at age 12. Not too long after I was playing in bands, almost always some subgenre of punk (because as we all know it doesn’t take any sort of genius to cover a Green Day song). That knowledge eventually reshaped what started as a hobby into the pursuit of a career. I’m not sure when that shift in mindset and intentions occurred, but here I am in Restorations, having just gotten off one tour and heading out on another, with more already planned. Am I making a living? Sort of. Is it just through my music? Nope. At 32 I still don’t see myself wanting to do anything different. But there’s a stigma that comes with being over 30 in this scene. It would seem that 30 is the age at which, all of a sudden, you start becoming too old to play in a touring “punk” band that isn’t paying all your of bills. It was the age when some of my friends and all of my family stopped inquiring as to my band’s progress and started openly questioning the economics and pointing out compromises I’ve made to keep it going. Ain’t getting any younger, right?
As I said, I started playing in seventh grade. The year was 1995. The Get Up Kids also formed as a band that year. So, coincidentally, we’re both having anniversaries this year. Twenty years of playing music that’s been called punk, indie, post-hardcore, and (bleh) emo. None of us knew at the time that it was already too late, that our lives were inextricably tied to this entity. So, If I’m considered an aging denizen of punk, The Get Up Kids could be considered elder statesmen. The Greatest Generation? There’s hesitation putting a qualifier like that on it. There’s also the matter of them being part of a supposed second wave of bands playing this sound. Also because this tour has our SideOneDummy labelmates, PUP. They represent the young up-and-comers, the “carefree stagedive” to our “nursing a bourbon in the back.” So, if the first wave of emo (bleh) would be the Greatest Generation, then The Get Up Kids are Gen X, Restorations is Gen Y, and PUP are the scrappy Millennials. If that places us as the middle children on this run, that’s just fine. And to be clear, this is not a judgement of any sort on the intentions of our tour mates. I’m not ageist in either direction and analogies are never flawless. PUP should not change their name to “Puppies” and “The Get Up Men” just sounds weird.
I can remember with a surprising amount of clarity the first and, up until now, only time I saw The Get Up Kids. The year was 2001 when my freshman year of college was spent at Bloomsburg University in western Pennsylvania. If you’ve never been, don’t go. A very purposeful transfer made sure I didn’t spend another year there. I’d already been there too long when I saw a flier up on campus for a band seeking a drummer. I got that gig when they found out I could play a NOFX style punk beat for more than ten seconds without tiring out. My new bandmates were seniors and, as these things go, they would have parties at which I could drink underage. We bonded over AFI, Bouncing Souls, Jawbreaker, and The Get Up Kids. And our band sounded like a slightly more hardcore Dead Kennedys. Considering Bloomsburg isn’t exactly a cultural hotspot, the local shows my college band played are a whole other story on sub-suburban and rural punk. By necessity, we took field trips to see bigger punk shows (good thing I made friends with seniors that had cars). I remember two such outings. The first was us driving a couple hours to the Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia to see Death by Stereo support AFI. That’s another show that merits a whole other story that space here doesn’t allow. The second outing was another road trip to Lancaster to see Thursday support The Get Up Kids at the Chameleon Club. 2001 was a great year to see both bands. Thursday was supporting their then breakthrough record, Full Collapse, and The Get Up Kids were still touring on Something to Write Home About. That was 14 years ago. In 2015, I will share that very same stage with The Get Up Kids.
Does calculating calendar math and typing out the number of interim years make me feel old? You better believe it. But this is where that odd sort of perspective thinking kicks in. I can see myself 14 years ago watching that show, dreaming of one day being worth enough to play a venue like that. I see myself now at 32 opening up that show, wondering how much it’s worth and where we go from here. I can see myself 14 years from now headlining that show. Is it realistic? Will it have been worth it? Is that my comfortable plateau? I have no idea. As a Gen Y guy in this tour’s age rubric, I have the cynic voice that says aspiring to be a professional artistic musician is a terrible idea. And yet, there is still part of me that relates to that Millennial angst, that desire to push the dream to the farthest horizon possible and to hell with the reality. Whenever I get deep into this sort of perspective thinking, the inevitable question that arises is, “Where am I going?” And as it still stands, where I’m going always involves my friends, a van, and my guitar. Hopefully, when this thinking is inevitably revisited in 2025 I can look backwards, side to side, and forwards while laughing contentedly rather than bitterly.
Restorations begin a run of shows with The Get Up Kids and PUP tonight in Cleveland. Later this spring they’ll be touring with The Early November and Lydia. Then, in July they’ll tour the UK with Crazy Arm and Sam Russo. Check out all the upcoming dates here.