In some ways, I was late to the music-writing game. I was mostly a scenester in college, content enough to see as many local bands as possible. Around 2016, I stumbled my way to see Brendan Kelly play at the revamped backroom of Gman Tavern. The Lawrence Arms were my favorite band. It was an easy decision to see a member play solo. That day I met someone who attended the same college as me. He had a radio show at the downtown campus of Loyola University. It was called Running on Punk Rock n Roll that ran on Saturday evenings on WLUW. He offered to have me on the show wherever I wanted.
The next day while sporting a hangover, I reached out to my new friend. I was excited about my local scene and wanted somewhere to shout about it. I quickly came on constantly, interviewing bands, and soon became a co-host. Sometimes I was not good and ill-prepared to interview bands. But it was all good practice. Live radio is unforgiving. You cannot cover up your mistakes like a podcast could. About a year later, I took over the show for a while when he moved back to Florida and invited a new friend to help me.
In 2018, as the radio show was winding down, I decided to write about music. My co-hosts were less obsessive about music than I was, and I needed somewhere else to channel my energy. I would write my first review for Post Trash on the record Burnt Sugar. It feels like a lifetime ago that I wrote it. Hardcore has shifted in the five years. The writing itself is cringy. I don’t hate it, but I hate seeing a former version of me reflected back. The review also isn’t close to what I like to do now. I haven’t written a proper album review in years. I mostly find them tedious to write and a very narrow way to engage with music. I don’t mean to make a value judgment about the album review; It more reflects my limitations as a writer. It would be a couple of years before I would develop and find my niche.
I’ve now been long enough to be considered a veteran in some respects, even though I still exist at the DIY level of writing. But five years is enough time to have experienced the shift in coverage. I have now crossed a threshold. I can no longer call myself a twenty-something music writer, but I am now thirty. Though it may sound dramatic, that shift makes me question whether my perspective is necessary. I wonder if I have excavated all of my youth for writing fodder. How many times can I write about the emo revival until I am reviving the same corpse because I know people will read it? I may mask writing these pieces behind, “Oh, this stuff isn’t documented; There should be some record of a band existing.” In reality, I know I’m just engaging in nostalgia bait. It makes me worry about becoming a certain emo guy that just talks about how different things used to be.
The issue is especially worrying to me right now with the 2013 anniversaries. It is a year primed for emo anniversary pieces. I remember sitting on r/emo listening to Whenever, If Ever when it came out. I remember feeling like I missed the best part of the emo revival (2008–2012) because I was in high school and didn’t go to local shows. I can even look at 2003 as well. There was a book published called Where Are Your Boys Tonight this year cataloging that era. Take This To Your Grave turned twenty. Hardcore dudes are just doing 2000s cosplay right now. I am basically staring at multiple generations of music I closely identified with staring right back at me. And I feel absolutely nothing about all of it. Seeing replays of stuff I’ve already lived through is the least exciting thing in the world.
At this juncture, I’m more interested in what’s happening in the present. But I know that makes me different from most people in my age range. Even people I saw at shows in my earlier years listen to considerably less music. How it happens makes sense; keeping up with new releases can feel like a full-time job. And there have been plenty of times that I have wasted 30 minutes of my life listening to a middling record that inspires no response out of me. Occasionally something will break through and connect me to that teenager that was so ecstatic about everything they heard. But the records that feel vital to me these days are usually youthful. They are not made by dads exclusively.
The investment in youth culture as someone who is considerably not a youth does come with some blowbacks. Occasionally while on Twitter, I’ll see music I grew up on described as for 35-year-olds. I try not to take the comment too seriously. The platform is a place for jokes anyway. But every year, I get closer and closer to that comment attacking me directly. Even though I may reflexively shrug the thought off, the idea isn’t wrong. I won’t try to convince someone a decade younger than me that Crimpshrine is necessary or that Latterman is essential listening. It would be stupid to try to. Sometimes music doesn’t need to last forever. Sometimes it only needs to matter to those generations of kids who found it at the moment. Still, life can come at you quickly when you’re deeply embedded in the subculture. One day you’re eighteen, trying to understand all the discrete waves of emo, and the next, you’re talking about how music doesn’t connect the way it used to.
It does make me wonder if I have an expiration date on the music-writing thing. It is much more interesting to read a younger writer reinterpreting what came before, even if I don’t always agree with all of the person’s opinions. Maybe my worries are silly. There are plenty of people older than me still doing meaningful work. Their work still feels vital because they are just as curious listeners as they were when I first read their work. Selfishly, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. It is silly to say this, but writing is a hobby for me, and during the early days of sobriety, it was a lifeline. It was something I could launch all my creative energies into. Hopefully, the day I become washed is a long way away.