Forty-one

Me, Kristin, and our dog Birdie in the backyard at the end of our daughter’s 6th birthday party

In December 2020, Jason, Kristin and I bought two lockdown livestreams of musical performances, The Bouncing Souls and Less Than Jake. We all desperately missed going to live concerts, so we did our best to re-create the experience. We turned the lights off in the basement, stood behind the couch instead of sitting on it, bought PBR tallboys and joints, and tried to gin up those old feelings. It worked, sort of, in that it was a fun night, and by mimicking the general feel of the experience of going to a live show, we changed the energy of the endless grind of days that was 2020.

A couple of months later we did something similar for Jason’s birthday, only this time with music videos. I curated a list of hip hop videos, and we set up a similar vibe in my basement. It lacked proper structure, but as music and music video enthusiasts, we know something was there. So in anticipation of my friend Stephen coming to visit, in July 2021 we set up what came to be known as Music Video Theatre (or MVT for short).

Each person would send me 10 music videos they enjoyed using whatever criteria they wanted with this as the guiding force: Will this be fun to watch with a group of your friends? I then put it into what I hope was optimal order for highest enjoyment, and we watched.

The night was even more fun than any of us could have predicted featuring the work of iconic performers like Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Smashing Pumpkins, No Doubt and Britney Spears, but also a comedy video from Lonely Island, tiny bands that no longer exist like The Karma Killers, and weirdo avant-garde shit from Missy Elliot, noted flat-earther B.o.B., and of course, reigning grandmasters of the form, Ok Go. It was 40 bangers in a row, curated for maximum vibe, by me.

We knew we had to do this again, but with Stephen living in Houston, we had to find a suitable replacement. Enter our friend Jeff, a perfect puzzle piece that complemented our sensibility that consisted of taste from across genres, an understanding of what makes interesting filmmaking, and a penchant for watching shit get destroyed in music videos. In the last 13 months, we have done MVT 7 more times. Add it all up, that’s more than 320 music videos imprinted on our four consciousnesses. I say “more than 320” because for one session we added our friend Joy, and I always include bonus tracks like the video of this drunk guy singing Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose” to his cat on each list.

I bring this up because 9 of the 20 tracks on this year’s playlist were featured in an MVT session. Keeping up extensively with pop culture is a young man’s game. I simply have too much shit to do to follow much that closely, but music is one space the four of us who do MVT thrive. And because the four of us bring a slightly different sensibility, I always walk away loving new artists, thrilled by delightful music videos, and refreshed by hanging out with great friends. It’s literally one of the most fun things in my entire life.

I’m loath to share much from the MVT evenings because they belong to us, and only us, but I will say watching one attendee go FULL Butt-head at the surprise of seeing Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman” for the first time in maybe a decade, Kristin and I acting out a scene from a sitcom due to my sheer incompetence during AURORA’s “Cure For Me,” and another attendee collapsing in paralyzed laughter at Jim Carrey lampooning Snow’s ridiculous song “Informer” from an “In Living Color” sketch are all indelibly marked on my brain. I’m so grateful for that.

Perhaps most germane to this essay about my most recent trip around the sun and emerging yet another year older is this anecdote. As we sat watching “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE, the four of us tried to remember which Jonas Brother that was, the names of all 3, and which one (or ones) was now hosting some game show on NBC. It wasn’t that moment exactly, but the one that followed that I realized I had turned into my parents. Time comes for us all, and its capture doesn’t present itself in your brain until it’s fully complete.

As we discussed our apparent residence in Oldguyville, I said “Y’know, I had a similar observation while I was at that art gallery for the PTA fundraiser…” realized where it was headed, and finished with, “…holy shit, what a way start a sentence.” I had a great time at that fundraiser, but when I looked around it hit me just how fucking old everyone in that room was, if not physically, then practically. Parenting ages you in dog years, and if I can rip off a Family Guy reference, somewhere in an attic there were paintings of all of us getting better looking.

The Simpsons has predicted so much culturally large and small, but lately I keep thinking about Grandpa Simpson saying, “I used to be with it. Then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you.”

This probably helps explain why after spending roughly three minutes on TikTok I wanted to pour bleach into my eye sockets and why seeing all these fucking dorky teenagers in their mom jeans never fails to make me laugh. I am no longer the driving cultural force in this country. That is now entirely the province of people younger than me. Of course, it also means that people my age have all the money, so every fucking ad on earth uses music from when I was in high school, but that’s a different issue altogether.

In many ways it’s freeing because I know I can do pretty much anything I want and no matter how cool it objectively might be, Gen Z will look at me and summarily think, “Whatever, pops.” The only thing truly embarrassing is when some tryhard old doofus attempts to co-opt youth culture, like Utah Senator Mike Lee and his unfathomable, miscalculated Twitter account @BasedMikeLee. Here’s a sample:

I can more or less get what that means from context, but I’ve never heard those words together in that order in my life. Who is this Twitter account for, exactly? I mean, beyond Mike Lee himself, obviously. How would anyone ANYWHERE find that interesting, charming, or of value? I don’t need a sitting United States Senator to cosplay as some dipshit Gen Z influencer any more than young people need permission to be annoying.

That’s the point of being young. You annoy everyone and couldn’t possibly give a fuck because a) you’re oblivious which makes you culturally bulletproof and b) you’re too busy side-eyeing everyone else your age trying to calibrate your next move. Being young is exhausting in dramatically different ways than being middle-aged is exhausting. But being old and attempting to act like a generation or two younger than you is fucking mortifying.

A bunch of us old ass punks seeing Rise Against and The Used at Levitt Pavilion

I cut my hair into a modified mohawk this year. I re-grew my beard. I have many tattoos. I leaned hard into my Punk Dad aesthetic. I’m comfortable and confident in who I am, and you know what? Perhaps that level of self-assurance is a contributor to my business being firmly on track to having its most successful year ever, by a huge margin. Could be…

The only person whose opinion I truly care about here is my wife’s because she has to look at me every day. And she’s always told me, “Do what makes you comfortable. I think you’re hot.” In the same way I support her aesthetic choices, she supports mine. She’s hot. It’s delightful.

So let’s see here: Self-assuredness, supportive wife, terrific kids (who I didn’t even mention in this piece, but who are thriving little weirdos in their own right that I love so much), fun and off-kilter personal aesthetic, good friends, successful business, and lots and lots of music videos.

Forty-one’s alright.

Here’s this year’s list.

  1. “Oh!” by The Linda Lindas
  2. “Raised by Wolves” by The Interrupters
  3. “Nobody But Me” by The Knocks feat. Cold War Kids
  4. “About Damn Time” by Lizzo
  5. “Man Like That” by Gin Wigmore
  6. “10 Things I Hate About You” by Leah Kate
  7. “DIE OUT HERE” by DE’WAYNE & POORSTACY
  8. “Get What’s Coming” by The Creepshow
  9. “I Love This Part” by The Wrecks
  10. “THE FLOOR IS LAVA!!” by LOLO
  11. “In One Ear” by Cage the Elephant
  12. “ur just horny” by GAYLE
  13. “Boys” by Lizzo
  14. “Growing Up” by The Linda Lindas
  15. “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer
  16. “100 Bad Days” by AJR
  17. “sunburn” by almost monday
  18. “Black Summer” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
  19. “Best Life” by MxPx
  20. “Happy Friday” by The Frickashinas

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