Nirvana, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other middle-aged rock bands

I’ve noticed a bit of a convergence of events lately in the rock-n-roll of my increasingly distant past.  I heard/read a story about 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind (not this story, but this one will do) almost on the same day that I heard that R.E.M. had called it quits after 30 or so years.  And even though they’re not quite like the other, I mention the Red Hot Chili Peppers here because our friend Rachel mentioned their new album on the book o’ face.

Actually, I take that back:  for me, Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are kind of in the same camp in that I am/was a fan of both, though I discovered both bands when I was just old enough (and broke enough and preoccupied enough with my MFA program) to not really be following either band with the fanaticism of a slightly younger person.  I stumbled across this thoughtful post on the blog biblioklept about Nirvana and all the various albums/bands that were coming out with stuff at about the same time as Nirvana, including the excellent Blood Sugar Sex Magik, not to mention other middle-aged rock bands like U2.

I think Nirvana was an “important” band (if there is such a thing) and I like what Dave Grohl has done with Foo Fighters.  But so much of Nirvana is wrapped up in the cult of Cobain, and I have a feeling that if he hadn’t killed himself but just faded away like a lot of other rock musicians, we wouldn’t be paying a whole lot of attention.

As for how the Red Hot Chili Peppers fit into all this:  it’s a stretch I admit, but they too were a band I discovered after I was just a little too old to care that much about following them and going to shows and such, but they’ve stuck with me in part because of our family trip to Italy (and points beyond) in 2007.   When Annette and Will and I were in Florence and watching television back at our room, pretty much the only thing in English was an ongoing interview and series of music videos featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers who had just release a new album and were on tour.  I don’t know, but that made me more of a fan of them now than I was 20 some odd years ago.

Now R.E.M., that’s a different story.  I don’t think it would be possible for me to have been as big of a fan as my friend and colleague Joe Csicsila and I think local blogger/man about town Mark Maynard kind of summed it up for me in a way with this post on his blog.  Sort of; I’m no musician and not really a fanatic about anything, but there was a time where R.E.M. was a big deal for me.  I first heard them on a high school trip– in Georgia, of all places.  I went to see them for the first time when they were on tour supporting Life’s Rich Pageant at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City (a place that was 2500 seats or so), and then again in Davenport for Document, and for that Davenport show, I recall abandoning our crappy seats to stand on folding chairs almost within reach of the stage.

Good times.  But while I kept buying (many, not all) of the albums and I would have gone to see them again if I could have, the joy faded, pretty much around Green. I still have lots and lots of R.E.M. on the iTunes, but listening to it now makes less sense to me now than it does to listen to music I associate with my much older self:  Lyle Lovett, KD Lang, Neko Case (haven’t seen her yet, but I want to), and even some of the much younger acts that have come around lately.  I suppose that makes me typical.  And what does it say that the last live performance I saw was Tony Bennett?

Well, I ain’t ever going to see Nirvana and I seriously doubt R.E.M. will be trotting out a reunion tour anytime soon.  I guess my only hope to revive some earlier life bands will be Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Or, if a bunch of money falls into my lap, maybe U2.

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