Very few of us are able to write about the formative experiences of our twenties without coming off as nostalgic has-beens, wannabes, or never-weres. "I was there" is the sentiment that most of us would like younger generations to believe, but by following that path, we relegate ourselves to the dustbin of cultural relevance. When doing or being or participating stops involving a "now" and refers only to a "then", we quietly write ourselves out of the script. Bullied by the signposts of middle age, we become observers, bystanders, and eventually, outsiders in the same community we once felt so utterly connected to. As unfortunate and perhaps even depressing as the story sounds, it's a fascinating phenomenon to observe from within oneself, and by my count, no one is doing a better job of chronicling the metamorphosis than Bela Koe-Krompecher. His latest blog entry is a subtle commentary on the recent Matador at 21 festival, but it doubles as a deeply personal history of one man's experience in a critical moment of American music. In all honesty, he had me before the finish line of his first paragraph, in which he cites the dangers of observing the present "through the haze of dead bodies, former lovers, and the highs and lows of the past..." He elaborates:
1989-1990 were years of planting seeds, at least for the soft underbelly of the fermenting underground scene. At night we huddled in bars, clutching long-necks as if they were talismans, eyeing bands on crumbling stages while looking for lovers through the haze of cigarette smoke. Back then we got paid to listen to records and laugh at the responsibilities of the rest of the world. Very few of us had children, had jobs that required button-down shirt or, god forbid had mortgage payments to make. The thirst inside of us was for music, booze, and the sense of belonging that those two ingredients can provide.
Elsewhere in the same post, he writes:
My own enthusiasm was exhausting—records were more important than anything. More important than sex because a record can’t hurt you, more important than jobs because songs don’t have responsibilities, and more important than families because music can’t leave you.
There is a naked sincerity to such admissions—and I can't overstate this enough: Most people can't be so revealing without sounding hamfisted. Bela's voice is a rare exception in the fray, and I often find myself considering his words long after I've clicked away from them. You could do a lot worse with the next five minutes than reading his complete post.