New music will keep you young

For me, the real wonder of music is in constantly finding new sources of it.
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Lead singer Molly Rankin and drummer of Alvvays.

Lead singer Molly Rankin and drummer Phil MacIsaac of Alvvays perform April 15, 2015, at Messiah College.

I haven’t seen my boyhood friend Wesley since his wedding nearly 20 years ago. We had one phone conversation maybe a year after he got married and then no correspondence until this January.

I wished him a happy birthday on LinkedIn and added: “Please tell me you still seek out great music, and I’ll tell you that the Red Sox won in our lifetimes.”

Growing up in Maine, we were long-suffering Red Sox fans, yet we had never acknowledged to one another the team’s 2004 World Series championship (as well as 2007 and 2013) that ended an 86-year dry spell.

“The ’04 [victory] parade was a religious experience. Best day of my life!” he wrote.

There’s no quitting the Red Sox, but what about music?

“Not much into the music thing anymore,” he said, “still listen to the old alternative stuff.”

I’m not naïve; I know people change, life gets busier and more complicated. Wesley’s not the first person who gave up on music. But I can’t.

People find all manner of ways to fight aging: hair dye or cosmetic surgery, a red sports car or a little blue pill.

I’ll take new music.

No nostalgia tours

Like Wesley, I’m very much connected to alternative music of the 1980s. R.E.M. will always be my favorite band, and I got teary eyed when the breakup came in 2011. But their best days really were in the past, by a decade a more.

I don’t want to be a party to greatest hits albums and nostalgia tours. In 2007, Sara and I made the mistake of forking over $100 per ticket when the decidedly unarresting reunion tour of The Police stopped at Hersheypark Stadium. There’s just really no fleecing like that of a live concert watched mostly on a video board.

Discovering new music is so much more fun and interesting and stimulating. I don’t know why people stop searching for it. Can you watch the same old TV shows and movies and read the same books over and over?

I’ll hold on to the old stuff, but for me the real wonder of music is in constantly finding new sources of it. It was much harder work in the pre-Internet days and still takes some effort with work and family competing for time, but great new music abounds.

Buying into Real Estate

And now my 14-year-old son, Jack, is evolving into my go-to source for alternative music. As I work on the first draft of this, I’m listening to Real Estate on the streaming-music service Spotify. I took some delight in reading on Wikipedia that Real Estate cites another one of my 1980s faves, The Feelies, as an influence.

Back in December, my wife, Sara, turned me on to Alvvays, a fantastic group based out of Toronto. Thanks to the good people who run the Messiah College Student Activities Board, the three of us got to see them for free on April 15.

Molly Rankin, the spritely 20-something lead singer, told of having spent the previous month opening for Seattle’s Decemberists and playing in front of decidedly older audiences. She remarked more than once how refreshing it was to be performing for a younger crowd.

Sara and I took no offense; there is an unmistakable energy that college students bring to a concert. I’m happy to observe a show from the back of a room, leaning against a wall, giving the floor to the untamed youth.

I joked to Sara before the show that the first person who referred to me as “Pops” was going to get a talking to. We weren’t the only middle-agers in the crowd, but we were in the minority.

It was a small price to pay to see a great band for free. I woke up the morning after the concert more excited about Alvvays than I was before seeing the show.

I knew I wasn’t getting any younger, but I felt like I was.

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