2018: 3: 1

The Middle Aged and Middle Class Ruin the Fleet Foxes Gig

Apologies to Max Towle

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The support band played songs that all sounded the same.  There were two of them in the band.  A singer with an acoustic guitar and a bass player.  The bass player looked like she was trying to plan something in her head – maybe the weekend – while she played bass.  The singer tuned her guitar a lot.

Before the ultimate song – with the bass player planning something in her head – the singer said to the audience:

You need to liven up

I had heard this band live before and liked them.  I had listened to their songs before and liked them.  My thought though was: “you can fucking talk”.

But in the audience Max was thinking: “too right”.


The last gig I’d sat all the way through was Norah Jones. For Norah Jones, it made sense to sit still and admire, but at Fleet Foxes I found myself awkwardly dancing in my seat and trying to get some good vibes going, but the complete lack of energy from the inert crowd of mostly 30 or 40-somethings sucked me back into my seat.

Gig Review: Fleet Foxes – Max Towle

I sat, inert, in my seat, 40 something and complacent in my views.  Worried about the twenty something crowd who might want to get up and dance.  Dicks.  I, of course, wanted to remain seated and think about how much to raise the rent on my third property.*  My tenants were 20 something and I wanted to suck drain the life out of them.  I reviewed the previous thoughts in my head and was not happy about “dick” and “suck” being so close together.  I crossed out suck and put drain.

That’s not to say Fleet Foxes have a repertoire of club-worthy anthems, but they hardly deserve an audience that wouldn’t have looked out of place knowingly nodding at paintings at an art gallery.

I would have preferred to be looking at art I didn’t understand and nodding, there was even an opening tonight of an artist who made digital imprints of his sphincter and invited people to kiss it and beg for forgiveness while being whipped with The Communist Manifesto, but I had come to the Fleet Foxes instead.  I knew on some level that I was not worthy of them – that they deserved better – but I have learned to push that feeling down, and just go to things anyway.  My feelings about their music, my response to their songs, the ones that make me think about my place in the universe, my yearning to escape, my fear of death, the loss of my friend, about love and how hard it can be – those feelings were not wanted here by someone like me.  Afterwards I realised that I had come in like a bad smell and settled in my seat like a stale old fart.

As the final note echoed in the theatre, Pecknold said his thank yous, clasped his hands together and bowed a few times. Behind him, a band member sheepishly did a slow motion reverse robot off the stage.

He didn’t have fun and I didn’t either.

Straight after the concert I didn’t know to think.  Had that been good?  I had felt that it was good.  I had felt the sound coming in sheets across me.  The bass and drums thundering, the vocals intertwining and soaring, the interplay of all the instruments circling and building and subsiding.  At times it had pinned me to my seat: the darkness swirling underneath and the sudden leaps into the light.  But, because I am 40 something and inert I wasn’t sure what I was permitted by my class and age to think. I needed to know what a young person thought.  They have a telepathic understanding of artists that the middle-aged and middle-class have had cauterised out of their hearts as they learn how to vote for National or Labour if they have a good leader like that lovely girl, Jacinda.

When that band member did that backwards robot off the stage what was he thinking?  Probably he had had fun.  Did he have fun?  Probably he did.

Afterwards I read a review of the concert.  It had been a bad concert.  It had been bad because I had come.  I was the wrong age.  I had sat down.  Someone in my age group had told a young person to stop singing.   The band hadn’t enjoyed it (the young can tell).  When someone from the audience had called out: “we’re quiet but we love you”, and the singer had said, “you’re perfect”, he had been lying.

I felt sad that he had lied.  I thought he had liked us.  What he had wanted was a big, swirling mass of younger people dancing and singing and clapping.

I shouldn’t have stood at the end, swept by the wonderful performance to my feet, I should have shaken my head and condemned the crowd of my peers for their tone deaf reading of the night.

Will I ever understand?

Pipe down grandpa.  You’re using up the oxygen in the room.


*The author doesn’t have three properties, but he does have a house with a mortgage which he likes to rub in the face of young people who have been shut out of the property market by people like him even though he hasn’t done anything but he understands that he is a symbol of the kind of person who has.

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I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō