Sunday, March 13, 2011

You’re never too old to let the music take you higher

There’s an old saying that goes along the lines of “if it’s too loud, you’re too old”. But I have a problem… I’m already considered “old” by some but I still like loud music and have redeveloped a taste for it since the demise of Peter Steele of Type O Negative last April. If anyone’s to blame, it’s him, but I’m really not complaining about rediscovering my favourite sounds.

I listened to this stuff when I was 16. Bands with dubious-sounding names – by my parents’ standards – such as Nine Inch Nails, Battery 9, White Zombie, Rammstein, Einstürzende Neubauten, Marilyn Manson… But that’s not to say I don’t know my Schönbergs from my Shostakoviches either, because I’m a huge fan of “serious” music, as I’ve heard some call it.

I studied music at high school – a genuine muso geek who even had double music as a subject on her matric certificate. I reckon I have a handle on music, can even write four-part harmonies in a pinch. That’s if I had the motivation.

But I can’t help myself. When Ozzy Osbourne belts out Paranoid I’m right there humming along. I’ve since discovered new acts like Seventh Void and A Pale Horse Named Death that just blow my mind. In the past I’ve stage-dived, crowd-surfed, been near-concussed in mosh pits and played bass for grunge, goth and black metal bands. I realise that heavy music is something that’s always been a part of me, and there’s no point in trying to deny it.

Somewhere along the way between the ages of 21 and 32, I completed my tertiary education, got a job, married, bought a house and forgot about my wilder days.

I’d always had vague dreams of “one day when I go overseas and see XYZ band live”. It’s always those in the US or Europe who get bragging rights to greats like Slayer or Metallica.

We’ve got some fantastic bands locally, one of my favourites being Terminatryx, and I support them wholeheartedly when I get the chance, but one can always dream of those others…

I was 16 when I saw Iron Maiden perform at the Good Hope Centre and got myself wedged between two topless blond surfer boys from Port Elizabeth, right in the front row. Apart from seeing, The Mission, Lenny Kravitz and The Cult a few years later, I’d never seen any of the big names I’d almost literally kill for to get tickets or even knew words of more than one song.

That was until Rammstein decided to include South Africa in their itinerary.

Rammstein had always been on my “things to do before you die” list. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and here, at home. And I didn’t expect such a turnout. Looking back, it’s been more than a decade since I’ve attended a concert on such a large scale, so I was more than a little nervous about going to a place where there’d be several thousand bodies pressed together instead of a few hundred at most.

Let’s just say it’s been a while. The music was… everything and more than I expected. It was an absolute treat but the after-effects… When last did I have whiplash? A horrible tinny ringing in my ears? Creaky knees? I mean, a 30-something woman jumping up and down like someone half her age, hollering “du hast” at the top of her lungs at the appropriate places…

Even the gangly teen with the wind-milling arms alarmingly close to my face didn’t bother me too much. I accidentally stomped on his heels a few times before he eventually let me go in front of him.

And the mosh pit? I dealt with it, giving as good as I got if the crazy metalheads threatened to knock me off my feet. However, this time I remained on the fringes, having learnt my lessons from long ago. What also blew me away about the Rammstein gig was not only this dream come true, but also the dozens of grey-haired folks doing exactly as I was, looking like they were having as much fun as people not even in their 20s.

But where am I going with this? I think what this past year of being 32-going-onto-16 has taught me is that I don’t need to act my age all the time. Plainly put, life is too short to consider that I’m “too old” or that the music is “too loud”.

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(This article appeared as a Shooting the Breeze guest column in the Sunday Independent Life supplement on March 13, 2011)

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