Lo-lee-ta. My sin, my soul. White Widowed Male – and I shall add middle-aged. When cancer left me a widower at the age of 36, grief lit the fuse that shot me into middle-age. Surf lessons; a tattoo; a week in Rio with a well-endowed blonde (both God given). Perhaps it was all a bit cliché, but nothing was injurious or illegal. I was chasing youth – my own. Was it a midlife crisis or, as I now see it, magical thinking to return me to that time when I first arrived in NYC as a student and anything was possible? Under a veil of concern for my well-being, friends expressed their disapproval of some of my choices.
Last night I climbed down from the ivory tower of academia and headed to Soho to hear Matt & Kim give a concert at the Black Swan Wine Bar. Kim plays drums; Matt plays keyboard. They live in Brooklyn . They write their own music. They travel around playing shows, having fun. It was an invite only little gig and I RSVP’d with a plus one. Then it hit me: I couldn’t ask any of my friends to go to this because they are looking for an excuse to do an intervention. Over the years I have established a double life and going to hear Matt & Kim would fall into the category of things I do not tell my friends I do. The fact that the Black Swan Wine Bar on Greene Street was just blocks from where I originally lived more than 20 years ago resonated with me. Sure, CBGB is now a John Varvatos shop, but that doesn’t mean that good, original music isn’t being created.
I left the office early, took a yoga class at the Soho Equinox and then wandered over to the event. I passed Burberry, APC, J. Crew, Vuitton, and every other retail establishment that chased out the community that made Soho, Soho . The changes in Soho over the past 20 years paralleled the changes in my own life. How much more of a sign do you need that this isn’t for you. You no longer are the poor student crashing who used to crash gallery openings for free food. Hail a cab now and you’ll be home in time to watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann
I circled around the block and got in line outside the venue. The guy behind me was complaining that his roommate’s girlfriend has been eating his food and deliberately smoking in the apartment which she knew was against the rules that he and his roommate established. I’m having issues with my coop board because there is a ‘no bicycle in the passenger elevator’ rule, so, you know, my life isn’t that different from that of the others attending this concert. Aren’t we all just fighting the MAN?!?! Okay, even I can’t say that with a straight face.
Entry into the club goes smoothly. I am immediately greeted by a waiter with a tray of sushi. I make my way toward the bar and state my preference for the Black Swan red. People keep pouring through the door. They are all young – very young. Most of the men have facial hair. There is a subgroup of the facial hair guys wearing trucker hats. The women have tattoos and funky glasses. Their style of dress tends to fall into one of 2 categories: plaid button front shirts or sleeveless t-shirts that allows the tattoos and bra straps to be prominently displayed. I move toward the back by the DJ and watch my fellow revelers dance. They are fluid and free, dancing in groups without defined pairings. Suddenly I feel old and lecherous.
I take out my camera and one of the plaid shirt wearing women sees what I am doing. She stops dancing and pulls one of the guys from the group next to her. Have I crossed a line? Am I being too prurient? They both flash me a big smile and wave. I begin talking with the woman next me about Matt and Kim. She saw them last summer and then a couple of months ago in Brooklyn . Yeah, she’s a fan. She says their music is good: it’s fun. I realized that was the vibe in the room: fun. Yes, there was free flowing wine but that wasn’t what was fueling this event.
About an hour and a half into the event Matt and Kim took the stage and began to play. The crowd started singing along and dancing and I was immediately sucked in. Kim’s drumming provided a driving energy that is honest and earthy. Matt was jamming on the keyboard. They were up there having a good time and clearly loving what they were doing. You couldn’t help but be swept up in the fun. Remember those days of dancing to Rock Lobster (before your tin roof rusted) or a bit later to REM’s End of the World and shouting ‘Leonard Bernstein’ at the top of your lungs. That is what it felt like at the Matt and Kim concert last night.
Go to their website and buy a tune. Listen to it while you are on the elliptical machine and have fun. Better yet, introduce your kids to the music of Matt and Kim and check out their touring schedule to see if you can catch a concert. I don’t delude myself into thinking that I can pass as a 20 something hipster. For a half an hour last night I allowed myself to get lost in the music and to have fun. Matt and Kim poured their heart and soul into the performance and the audience took it in and gave it back to them.
Today I’ll take the LIRR to Southampton for a weekend get-away that Manhattanites of a certain age and professional standing aspire to. The weekend will be nice; it will be relaxing; it will be what is expected of me so that my friends do not worry. One weekend I’ll slip a Matt and Kim song in the mix during a barbeque and watch my friends respond. I know some of them will get into it and ask for the name of the group. The others, well, I may need to rethink our friendship.