I used to be critical of punk musicians who continued to perform well past their youth. Seeing my favorite bands ravaged by drugs and gravity made me cranky. Unless they were producing new music it seemed like a money grab or worse, a pathetic plea for relevancy in a world that had already reinvented them. As embarrassing as clawing for attention and small change can be, nothing’s worse than selling-out.
I remember going to see Social Distortion at the Ventura Theater around 2011 and being devastated by the band’s descent into commercialism. I mean, I was well aware of Social D’s trajectory and kept tabs over the years, but seeing it live and in 3-D brought next-level disappointment. As someone who’s seen Mike Ness plunge the depths of addiction and climb out of the wreckage, I just couldn’t reconcile the gilded production of a mature Social D with only one original member (albeit the most important one) and a pimped-out tour bus (a far cry from the brokedown palace that legendary manager Monk Rock held together with spit and chewing gum in Another State of Mind).
Truth is, I was a far cry from the girl who once spent her nights slam dancing (not to be confused with “moshing”) her way from the Cathay de Grande in Hollywood to the Cuckoo’s Nest in Orange County and everywhere in between. That was the real issue. I was irritated by my own irrelevance and the specter of my middle-aged “curves” being shoved into a vintage house dress. I was grieving.
What a difference a decade or two can make. Last week I came across a few recent interviews of John Doe and Exene on YouTube and the bells in my aging brain sounded. Actually, it may have been the tea kettle, but nonetheless I got it. I got why X was still touring (sans new material) despite John’s jowls and Exene’s thinning hair. I understood that, though they’ve settled down, the rebellion and creativity that studded their chi was authentic and eternal and not only still relevant but crucial—especially now.
In the process of coming to terms with my heros getting old I was able to reserve a tiny bit of respect for my own journey to geezerville and the velocity thereof. The same people who helped me navigate my early twenties are guiding me through my senior moments. God bless Exene and her lack of fucks. The world’s still a mess and it’s probably still in her kiss.