I admit it. When it comes to music, I'm a jaded old fuck. I'm cynical. I've had my heart broken by rock and roll so many times, it's all calloused up.
But something happened this week that left me so confounded, it may have exfoliated that heart-callous away if I can just wrap my mind around what it is I actually witnessed.
I'd heard about it only hours before it happened on Wednesday, the 12/12/12 Sandy Relief Concert. It was a benefit for the New York and New Jersey area victims of superstorm Sandy - a storm that massively devastated a significant portion of the East Coast and is largely seen as a harbinger of more extreme weather as a result of global climate change (despite shameful and embarrassing denials of folks like local Baltimore Meteorologists Tony Pann (WBAL) and Mike Masco (WMAR)).
The other thing that I'd heard only hours before, and when I heard it I had to verify it wasn't a flat Onion joke, was that Nirvana was reuniting with Beatle Paul McCartney in the Kurt Cobain position.
Damn right I was curious - but no way this could actually be good, right? My cynical rock fan disposition wanted to find a way to prepare myself for disappointment - to lower my expectations.
I tried to imagine McCartney's agent saying, "We need to make you relevant with the kids. Play with Nirvana," but in no universe does that make any sense.
I may have even done a few preparatory eye-rolls.
So on Wednesday night, I found myself following the 12-12-12 Concert with increasingly the same excitement and attitude I had as a kid watching events like Live Aid or the Amnesty Concerts instead of the same jadedness I'd had attending Lollapalooza or an HFStival.
Yeah, there were a lot of dinosaurs of rock, but most looked alright and sounded decent.
Springsteen was solid as ever.
The Rolling Stones looked good enough in their brief set. In recent years I've really come around on the Stones.
Chris Martin was almost amiable enough to get me to stop hating Coldplay. Almost. And Michael Stipe's temporary return from retirement made for a classy duet with Martin.
Billy Joel reminded us that yes, that sonofabitch has some songs.
The Who were weird.
And while some if it did feel a little bit like, "Oh, maybe they're doing this because they have a book to sell" (instead of records since people still buy books but not music), it didn't feel opportunistic, exploitative or sleazy. Yes, maybe it was a tad hyperbolic or overly dramatic at times, but sincere. Authentic.
In fact, if anything felt weird (aside from watching Kanye in his leather kilt), it was that I, like most Americans, was watching this benefit for free, without contributing any money to it (something I plan to rectify as soon as I publish this post) - which is sort of a smaller metaphor for the music industry as a whole.
Finally, Paul McCartney came out to close out the hours long show. He called Nirvana up on stage and they played a song I didn't recognize, but sounded like it could have been a later-Beatles or a later-Nirvana song. I'd never melded those lines before, between the Beatles and Nirvana, but it works.
"Cut Me Some Slack" was a new song, being played live for the first time, co-written by McCartney and Nirvana, and not only did it not suck, it was actually fairly decent.
The thing that keeps echoing in my head was when McCartney introduced Pat Smear. A former Germ was not only being introduced on stage by a former Beatle, but he was playing with him. How did this happen?
How did the icons of my generation end up on stage playing with the icon of the Boomer generation? And how is it not terrible?
Days later, I'm still not sure what I saw, but I loved it.
Was it a testament to how small the Gods of Rock have become?
After all, a concert this size years ago would have easily swallowed up a Woodstock instead of just filling Madison Square Garden.
Does it mean that Nirvana, the figureheads of the alterna-rock movement, the band that helped punk break, does it mean they are now Beatles level significant? Were they always?
What does it mean that I'm not responding with jaded cynicism, but instead I'm gushing like a teenage music fan, truly and genuinely excited by something that must be contrived but yet feels authentic?
I'm still trying to figure it out.
Maybe it means nothing.
Regardless, it was great.