I never realized it until last night, but 1988 was the year I really fell in love with rock music. I was a music fan long before that, but my taste was a weird mixture of my parents’ preferences (Springsteen, Bee Gees, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel), my brother’s taste (metal, classic rock), and random Top 40 pop (A-Ha, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit).

As I entered the tenth grade, though, a subtle switch was thrown, and all of a sudden I was on a strict diet of college radio and found the music that’s been speaking to me ever since. That was the year I really started listening to Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, the Pogues, R.E.M., Throwing Muses, the Pixies, X, the Replacements…the list is very, very long. Most of these artists were very well established by 1988, but my fourteen-going-on-fifteen mind was blown by how much better these guys were than what I’d been excited about only a year earlier. That year, I bought Only Life by the Feelies, and it immediately went into heavy rotation on my teen stereo and stayed there, along with their other albums, for several years. They were a perfect distillation of the jangly post-punk indie rock that I’d lately come to love, and I couldn’t wait for a chance to see them live; of course, by the time I went off to college (1991) and was old enough to get into the clubs where they played, they had abruptly broken up. So I was thrilled earlier this summer to hear that the band had just as suddenly re-formed and would be playing a series of shows in the New York area, and last night I finally had my chance to see them perform at the Bowery Ballroom, twenty years (ugh) after I first became a fan. Despite the obvious signs of age among the band, they didn’t disappoint; they were predictably surly (they could have been playing to an empty room for all the acknowledgment they gave the mostly 40-something crowd of cheering fans), but they sped their songs up to a furious pace and created an ear-splitting wall of sound. And, perhaps in a nod to their also-aging demographic (it was a Sunday night, after all, and we all had to go to work in the morning), they sent everyone happily on their way by midnight.

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