In one of the final scenes of Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film Almost Famous, Band-Aid Sapphire is observing the freshest crop of young women who have decided to spend their youth following famous rock bands.
“Can you believe these new girls?” she asks Russell Hammond, a guitarist from the fictional band Stillwater. “None of them use birth control, and they eat all the steak! They don’t even know what it is to be a fan, you know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.”
Music has hurt me quite a bit. In fact, it continues to hurt me on a daily basis. Being thrown around in rowdy mosh pits, having red, blistered fingers from playing the electric guitar and tinnitus at age 20 are only a few ways music has caused me physical pain.
Oh, and did I mention I have four tattoos dedicated to a few of my favorite bands? I do. Those hurt a lot.
A few bruises and an uncomfortable whooshing sound in my ear are nothing compared to the emotional turmoil music has caused me. I’ve crushed on band guys who have broken my heart. I’ve spent thousands of hard-earned dollars on records, concert tickets, t-shirts, headphones, instruments and everything music-related in between. I can’t often relate to my peers because I only want to discuss the importance of Big Star’s seminal 1973 debut #1 Record and ramble about how Phil Spector’s infamous Wall of Sound technique influenced recordings by the Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen.
Honestly, I can’t remember when I first wanted to pursue writing about music as a career. I think it was shortly after I realized talking about music makes me happier than anything else. I asked myself, “Why shouldn’t I get paid to do what I love?”
I started writing regularly last year for two local publications. So far, it’s been a rewarding, albeit dramatic, ride. I’ve been banned from a Milwaukee venue because a critique I wrote was scathing and unapologetic. (The venue’s PR manager said it was, and I quote, “not cool.”) Nationally recognized artists have angrily tweeted my negative reviews, and their fans have ganged up on me for insulting their favorite band in print. These things don’t bother me, though. It’s all part of the job.
I’m 21 now, and I’ve devoted most of my youth to music. I’ve seen outstanding shows and met captivating people who have become my best friends and mentors. I wouldn’t undo anything. But lately, I have been wondering: am I making the right choice?
Innocent Americans like Heather Heyer are dying at the hands of a president who vocally supports white supremacy and sexual assault among countless other vile things. He’s banned transgender Americans from joining the military and supports deporting nearly one million young immigrants. America is currently a hotbed of rampant racism, blatant sexism and increasing classism. The last nine months have merely been a glimpse into life under Trump’s authority and the societal shifts accompanying his presidency.
Is using my voice to review boring shows really a constructive use of my time and talent? It’s hard to feel like my opinion of a Killers concert really matters when people are being killed in the streets for defending the oppressed. Should I be using my gift of communication to fight societal injustices instead of critiquing unremarkable albums?
Right now, I’m not totally sure. I hope I figure it out soon.