Last week I made my triumphant return to my favorite live music venue, First Avenue, for a rockin’ Blitzen Trapper and Drive-By Truckers concert; I am not sure how long it had been since I had graced those black walls with my presence which means it had been way too long. While no one specifically said so, I could feel the staff, even the building itself, welcoming me as I entered.
I spent the very first night I began living in Minneapolis, oh so many years ago, at First Avenue watching The Mighty Lemon Drops. I had just transported my last batch of belongings and a barfing cat from my hometown, took a second to toss on a passably cool t-shirt, added a fresh coating of hair spray and headed downtown.
Walking in the building I felt transported to musical heaven; I stopped for a moment to take it all in but had to get moving quickly as I was blocking the entering crowd. It was not exactly as presented in that Prince movie and Prince was no where to be found but, as I stood on the balcony overlooking the stage and crowd below, I knew I had made the right choice moving to Minneapolis.
Over the years I have seen many fabulous performances from local legends to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, from Public Enemy and the thorough frisking that came with entry to Nirvana not to mention the dozens of shows I no longer recall. One of my favorite nights was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame interview and acoustic performance with Paul Westerberg, it was intimate and unexpected and comfy as we all sat and listened.
My shows per year have decreased dramatically as I have gotten older, although my enjoyment has never waned, and there are some clear differences between now and then; the carding is now only out of obligation not out of any question of my age, the bathrooms are cleaner, the bars more plentiful, and there are actually reserved tables with white table cloths around the balcony.
Of course, there are plenty or changes with me and not just my significantly flatter, less sticky and crunchy hair. Back in the day I would leave my coat in the car, if I wore one at all, and run in the building barely noticing the chill but now I gingerly walk and shiver and willingly pay for the “express” coat check even as the attendee tries to talk me out of the expense. Where once there was the cheapest, lightest, flavorless beer available, or pop if I was driving, there is a now one strong micro-brew, if I have any, and unlimited water. My desire to be as close as possible to the stage has been replaced with a desire to be at a reasonable distance with fewer people bumping me. The first tune used to bring dancing and cheers but now it brings out the cell phone to get the perfect shot to share on social media to try to prove I am not as lame as I might appear. I still wear passably cool t-shirts though.
The show was not just a trip down concert venue memory lane; there was great music as well. Blitzen Trapper performed an acoustic version of “Furr” followed by a cover of “Rocky Mountain Way” that I really enjoyed; their set was short and sweet and fab. The Drive-By Truckers were even better than the last time saw them and their new music sounded great live. When I saw the gleaming sweat drops forming on Patterson Hood’s bangs by the second tune, I knew this was going to be a rocking show.
As the night wore on there was one more change that became evident, my decreased stamina. A randomly broken nail was annoying me, while my knees and back were ready for a rest long before the band was even playing their encore. I felt my shoes sticking to the gross floor and the dueling smells of pot and the gassy dude next to me were getting tiresome. My 8:00am swim time was looming and an old lady lameness set in, so we called it quits early, grabbed our coats from the expensive coat check with no line and headed to our cars.
On the way, a random dude told me he wanted to walk with me. I pretended my old lady ears could not hear him as I clutched my keys tighter and he seemed to believe me and went on to bother another. At least there are some advantages to aging.