I kept confusing people.
I said I was going to a matinee.
They thought I meant a movie.
But the band Body Farm was returning to town and they were playing a show with doors at 4PM, music at 5PM at the Metro Gallery. This start time wasn’t a suggestion or a hope; another event was happening at the venue that evening.
This is odd for the scene I am in. My segment of the Baltimore underground is often running late, rarely on time. It will occur to someone eventually to play, hopefully. I have definitely been at shows where the band I came to see did not play at all as “closing time” hit before they did. I have seen “emergency sets” riding the hard edge of bar legality. House show drift culture hits Maryland liquor law regulations and the results aren’t pretty.
But what if we started shows earlier on purpose? It is commonplace in other scenes. The idea has been tried in my patch of Baltimore. The Death Set played an all-ages matinee at The Wind-Up Space on tour in support of their album Michel Poiccard. Sometimes shows would be billed at starting early deliberately, a push against the normal 9PM-2AM window. In the spring of 2015, I attended a show that had to start and end early due to Baltimore City being under a curfew.
The Minutemen attempted to do it, many years ago, the thought being that shows would be more accessible to working people if they started and ended at a time more in line with getting up early the next morning. Since then, working people sleep less and wake up even earlier. But the above windows for shows remains stubborn in Baltimore give or take the “festival” situation.
It could be that things are changing. The matinee was attended by a young, varied enthusiastic crowd of folks into various strains of extreme music. The early start time and the threat of bad weather could not keep them away, pool noodles and inflatable frogs flying around in the pit.
Of course, I did not know a single person in that crowd. I don’t think this was a moment of sea change; more of a window into another potential reality. Maybe the show was just a “log jam”, a way to make the constellation of touring bands and available venues and events of a particular weekend work out. Many a touring musicians’ tales of a bad show end with the DJs showing up to set up for the evening’s dance party as they wrap up their early set in front a small crowd; I don’t think the energy will be coming from them.
But hey! I wasn’t fighting the edge of exhaustion to see the band I wanted to see or facing a sleep-deprived next day. The show got in and out on time. I may be the next person to float this idea, to praise the matinee show, but will it ever stick? Shows at Current Space already start a bit earlier and end a bit earlier due to outdoor show permit regulations.
All I know is I got bills to pay and an alarm clock that goes off at 5AM each working day. It was great to make it out to a successful matinee show. Here’s to more in 2024!