“If The Music’s Too Annoying, You’re Too Old:” Musings on Rock ‘n’ Roll in a Man’s World

The Mate and I just attended our first rock concert together in…let’s just say a WHILE.  And this was not even Mark Knopfler, my guitar hero. This was The Arcs, the new band fronted by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach.

Why the Wings at The Arcs? Well, Mr. Auerbach hired Mariachi Flor de Toloache as backup musicians. My buddy Beth’s daughter is a founding member of this AMAZING band–the first all-women Mariachi in New York City. So we got comp tickets.

Flor de Toloache opened with a 25-minute set that blew the doors off. There were only four of them (instead of the eight that play together in NYC), but the power of these women! They sounded like 20. Each one was a master of her instrument–guitaron, viajuela, violin, trumpet–and their blended voices sounded like a mixture of Valkyrie and angel.

Why don’t I quit describing and let you hear for yourself?

Yeah. And that’s an old video, poor quality. Now imagine that sound LIVE, from a few rows back.

After the warm-up act, there was the usual 30 minutes of rearranging mics and buying beers, and then The Arcs came on: two drummers, a bass, a rhythm guitar, an all-around synthesizer-keyboard-brass guy, and Mr. Auerbach on lead guitar. The lights went psychedelic, Auerbach went classic-guitar-lead-gonzo, the crowd went wild.

My mood went south.

NOT because the music was loud (which of course it was). NOT because the rest of the crowd made me feel old (which it did). I expected both those sensations. I was ready for ’em, tissue in the ears and all.

But watching Mr. Auerbach writhe and head-bob like lead guitarists do, I found myself thinking, “Why are you making such a fuss over yourself? You’re not THAT good of a musician.” Don’t get me wrong–he is good. But not great. He’s no Mark Knopfler (who does not writhe). Nor is he any members of Flor de Toloache, who simply stand still and sing and play their hearts out, displaying, to my jaded old ears, 150% of Auerbach’s talent at far less than half his pay.

The more I watched, the more annoyed I got. Why do we live in a world where a skinny white guy with a wife and kids earns more applause (and money) for whining and twitching like a teenager than do four hard-working, earnest, non-whiny women?

I know. I KNOW. It’s a man’s world. I just live in it. And usually I bypass that thought with other, happier thoughts. But the other night, that one soured the evening’s sweetness a bit. 

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn on some all-women mariachi right now, and lose myself back in that sweet vocal power. Might not make me feel any younger, but I know it’ll make me feel happier about the world I live in.

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