There's a word that I don't feel comfortable using when referring to a younger generation of music fans: kids. To me, the word 'kid' makes me think of two other words: young and naive. We'll always be younger than our elders and we may never know as much our elders do but where is the cutoff point with calling people kids?
I hear about 'kids' all the time. I don't fault the people that call them that but I'm always looking for a word other than 'kid' when describing someone a few years younger than me. I don't understand how a 24-year-old could call a 17-year-old a 'kid'. Would a 55-year-old call a 42-year-old a kid too?
I have a friend who has 4-year-old and a 2-year-old: those are kids in my book. The age, knowledge and experience gap is wide enough to make the distinction. So it's with that labelling caution that I bring up a story about a 17-year-old I met a Firebird Band show a few months ago.
I didn't hear the full story on this guy, but apparently he was involved in a serious car accident about two years ago. It was so serious that doctors feared he may never walk again. He really wanted to see Braid on their reunion tour last summer, so he did his rehabilitation but went to the show in a wheelchair. He was so set on seeing Braid since it would be the only time he could see them live. Though he saw the show in a wheelchair, he had a good time and was fully-committed to walking again.
Well, at this Firebird Band show a few months ago, this guy (now with only a small brace on his leg and slight limp) comes up to Chris Broach (ex-Braid/current Firebird Band singer/guitarist) and tells him his story. The story was so moving and inspiring for us all. I found myself later talking to him about the generation of music fans that came after my generation. I had mentioned how I just couldn't get into bands like New Found Glory because they reeked of being a water-downed pop-punk act. He told me how much bands like New Found Glory and blink-182 meant to him. Essentially those bands were gateways to greater bands like Braid. Things were becoming very full circle with an interview I had done with Jim Ward (from At the Drive-In and Sparta) a few months before.
Before I did my interview with Jim, one of his quotes that really knocked me out was on his feelings on Top 40 pop. He was once asked as At the Drive-In was being touted as the Next Nirvana about his feelings on pop groups like Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears even though those acts weren't really up his alley. He said the principle of getting people excited about music at a young age was great. Making a young person excited about music increases the chances that music will be a major positive influence in that person's life because it came at a young age (often a time considered 'simpler' when one gets older). When I brought this up in our interview about how feels about pop music in general he said this: "It's baby food and then you grow up to steak and potatoes." How right he was.
Around the time I was born, Black Flag was putting out their seminal stuff. Did I ever think that my parents would be grooving to Nervous Breakdown and Damaged while they rocked me to sleep? I don't think so. But, the hours of hearing Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, James Taylor, John Denver and Simon & Garfunkfel (and then later, 80s Top 40) simply exposed me to rock music. It wasn't until I willing to find other, non-everyday/mainstream music out there that I began to understand bands like Fugazi and Mission of Burma.
My point is this, as much as we gripe about how watered-down and crappy a lot of the music that is peddled to younger people is, understand that the ones that really give a hoot will find the "good music" that will always be out there. Younger people may be called kids by others but I can't justify that label as long as I think of them as eternally young and naive.