All ages: The absurdity of age-restricted shows

Many touring bands end up playing shows which some of their most ardent supporters cannot attend Photo: TSOL, by IllaZilla

SANTA CRUZ, June 24, 2013 ― People gravitate towards the arts for a variety of reasons. Most folks possess a basic set of common skills such as language, reason and social awareness. When another person demonstrates abilities or aptitudes which are uncommon, they set themselves apart. If those abilities involve music or the arts, that person will find that others, who do not possess those skills, are drawn to them.

If everyone could write a song, pen a novel or carry a leading role in a major motion picture then everybody would do it. There would be no one standing in line at movie theaters or buying tickets to see a band or artist perform. These things would be passé, as common as taking out the garbage. 

People are drawn to live music because it is something most of the population cannot do, at least at the level and complexity that top artists can. There is also a visceral connection, a palpable energy to live music which adds to its appeal. The unscripted delivery and, in many cases, the poignantly personal nature of the songs and an audience’s ability to identify all coalesce. This creates an atmosphere which cannot be reproduced by simply listening to music in its recorded form.

Bar photo: Rama

Most artists write about what they know and what they have experienced. Unconsciously, they are writing for a particular group or demographic who have lived through similar events and endured homogeneous feelings of love, loss or triumph. Songs are not written specifically for a certain population, but because people experience so much of life through phases and events particular to them, there will always be those who identify with and are more attracted to that material.

In the United States, the most readily available establishments with the capacity and equipment to feature live music are bars. These places already have stages and sound equipment, a regular customer base and an advertising infrastructure. Unfortunately, most bars also sell alcohol. 


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If a band wants to play in a certain city, they will often be booked into a bar which will, in most cases, prevent anyone under 21 years old from entering. Some establishments will allow minors to enter for a concert with a different colored wristband or ticket. Other bars will herd minors into a cordoned-off area while others will do the opposite, forcing the of-age patrons to pack into small corrals near the wells. 

Some places will allow all ages to certain events but not others. It appears to vary not only from state to state but from city to city. In any case, the establishments seem more concerned with selling as much alcohol as possible than with providing live music to anyone who is willing to pay to see it. 

In much of Europe, where there is not a legal drinking age, live music is truly for all ages. People can pay to see the music they want to see and, if they care to, they can also buy liquor. The idea to restrict music based on a customer’s age is foreign, as it should be. 

Whether it is 18 and over, 16 and over or 21 and over, none of it makes any sense. Why should people be denied a chance to see their favorite bands or artists simply because they are not yet old enough to line the pockets of the alcohol industry? 

From a bands perspective, it must be frustrating to have their art denigrated, used as little more than bait to reel in bar profits. Many touring bands end up playing shows which some of their most ardent supporters cannot attend. The only crime these fans are guilty of is not being old enough to buy overpriced alcohol in the bars in which the bands are forced to perform. 

There has to be a better way. People’s attitudes on the merits of alcohol consumption are varied and would be a discussion for another time. There must be a simple way to admit anyone to a bar who wants to see that evening’s entertainment. Minors could be identified by a different colored wristband which would alert the bartenders that person would be ineligible to buy alcohol. No need for fences, barricades or poorly constructed corrals. A common room with a stage and a band where everyone, regardless of age, can experience the electricity of live music. 

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.


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Russ Rankin

Santa Cruz, California native Russ Rankin is the vocalist for the seminal California punk band Good Riddance, the hard rock band Only Crime as well as currently performing original songs as a solo artist. Rankin is a dedicated vegan, an avid animal rights advocate, a political activist and has been a regular columnist for AMP Magazine and New Noise Magazine as well as contributing to various magazines such as Alternative Press, Razorcake and others. 

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