Recently I dropped about 50 pounds and I have been enjoying the self-confidence you get when you look healthy. But as I made my way through a crowd of the young and hip and edgy and beautiful while walking through downtown San Jose, I realized that the kids in this scene had no reason whatever to give me a moment’s notice. I’m just some balding grownup walking by on the street. Even if I had gotten around to getting my tattoo it would mean little to them since the fact of having a tattoo no longer signifies anything at all. Maybe if they were Edward Gorey fans I’d make their radar, but other than that there’s little I could do for my outward appearance to create that instant “one of us” impression.

Last night I went to see a band at the Blank Club called 187CALM. This was a band that my beloved old roommate Luz Longa adored and when she moved out she took the only CD of theirs I had ever seen before or since. I saw them once or twice, I think both times with Mute Angst Envy, like 14 years ago, and then the band stopped doing shows ten years ago. So when I saw a poster advertising a reunion show it brought a whirlwind of memories back for me. (It took them a while to surface though, I’m afraid. “Was that Luz’ band? No wait, was that her friends? I remember having some files for one of their show posters on my Mac back then — did I design that one? Or just help?” Well, eventually I put the pieces together, remembered the band and even my fruitless search for their CD’s, and resolved to go. While it was nice to think that I was finally getting out to shows again — kinda makes me feel more alive — I was really just going there to see the band and buy those elusive CD’s.

I showed up early and listened to the blisteringly loud band DESA (“Hmm, they’re too loud. Does that mean I’m too old? KISS might have been right.”). The band was OK; they played one song they claimed was new that I quite liked. I didn’t care for the singer all that much but I really liked the song structures and the performance from the other musicians. I realized I don’t have the vocabulary any more to describe bands (“I guess you’d say… progcore?”) Lacking anything better to do I hit the merch table and stocked up on those hard-to-find 187CALM CDs. I got a free poster which I foolishly accepted — now I had to keep it safe all night. Then I sat at the bar and had a couple of pints of Guinness, thinking about the futility of trying to meet people at a show when the band is this loud and the lighting is this dim and you don’t know anyone there. Thinking about how I actually might know someone there but even if either could recognize the other in the light and after all those years — would either of us remember the other’s name?

I headed to the restroom and was forced to gaze at the Nostalgia Wall above the urinal, plastered in vintage show posters for Cactus Club, Marsugi’s, Club X events, it was all there — these were SHOWS I HAD BEEN TO.

Mercifully the headliner finally hit the stage and I got into position. I found myself feeling incredibly and uncharacteristically self-conscious, clutching my merchandise, feeling very bald, wondering why I put on a Skinny Puppy shirt before the show (“Is this just silly? *I* know I wear it often, but does it just look like I’m trying to prove I belong in a nightclub?”). It was almost as though losing all the weight made me MORE self-conscious. I guess I expected that to somehow make me younger or something.

I found myself wishing I had invited Lisa Dewey — she put out the most recent Mute Angst Envy record on her label, maybe she likes these guys too! And being there with someone else would have taken the edge off of all the silly shit I was feeling in a heartbeat. But it was far too late for that. I tried to remind myself I was just there for the music and concentrate on the band.

For their part the band was great. More varied in style than I remember and it was indeed music I can still enjoy now. Even when things went wrong the band was charming and entertaining. And their celebrated atmosphere did create an agreeable mood which is nice at a show. I’d certainly go see them every chance I had, even now. But next time I’ll make sure to bring somebody with.

I thought about staying after to talk to the bandmembers as I often do, knowing that at least we could talk about Luz, but I just wanted to disconnect from the whole depressing scene. I left that night, never having uttered a word to anyone.