The case for fortysomething festival goers

Why do we give middle-aged pop fans such a hard time for refusing to grow up? Surely, staying in love with music is something we should applaud

Dave is 45 and a reader. He assumed he’d grow out of it, but somehow never did. Poor, tragic Dave. Pity him as you picture the bespoke shelving that lines the walls of his home. It cost the daft sap a small fortune. Dave’s books are organised first by genre, then author. He lives surrounded by the product of the greatest imaginations in history.

There are crack-spined copies of his teenage favourites, some of which he still returns to. Others embarrass him, but he’s too fond to give them away. Like the delusional loser he is, Dave is still attempting to recapture the chimera of his youth by reading every day. Not just old favourites – new stuff, fiction and nonfiction from all around the world. Essay collections, poetry, short stories… the stories behind the stories. He loves history books and enjoys biographies now and then, even though he knows Oscar Wilde and John Updike wouldn’t have approved.

Dave’s mammoth library and gargantuan knowledge of literature and its cultural context have – understandably – made him the target of sniggering sarcasm from colleagues and (occasionally) his friends. It’s obvious Dave needs to get over the whole book thing, but there’s no sign he’s about to. The div recently treated himself to a new Kindle and a ticket to Hay. Everyone is asking the same question: when is Dave going to grow up?

It’s funny how differently we judge those who love books and those who love music. Record-collecting Dave with a new iPhone, meticulously organised 180g vinyl collection (the format is never pluralised with an “s”) and an annual ticket to Glastonbury is a typical stereotype – someone most of us can imagine laughing at, even those of us who are him. But we shouldn’t. It’s festival season and I am here to make the case for the fortysomething music lover. Pop music – by which I mean contemporary popular music, rather than just Miley Cyrus and 1D – is an interest we are supposed to lose as we mature. This shouldn’t be the case.

I suppose the problem is that listening to pop music is synonymous with “youthful” activities, like falling in love, dancing and being off your face on drugs. Drugs and music go hand in hand in a way that drugs and reading never will, for obvious reasons (but drugs and writing seem to be consistently popular bedfellows). I get it: ageing music lovers are desperately puffing away at the dying embers of our golden years. Raving against the dying of the light. Sure, music amplifies your other senses – that’s one reason it’s great to get high to – but this also allows it to bring extraordinary pleasure to everyday activities. As a reckless teen I once broke the law to Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”. At 36, I recently hummed along to the same track while cleaning out a caravan.

There are older fans whose relationship with the art form involves transgressive activities, but they are outnumbered by those of us whose other habits have mellowed more than our record collections. Speaking of mellowing, one of the benefits of age is that your taste in music improves – broadens, really – just as it might in books or food (though give me an Afrobeat buff over a wine bore any day).

These changes are driven by technology. Music is now equally accessible to older consumers via downloading, streaming and online shopping. This has created an audience that is more diverse in age than ever before: a phenomenon that is being reflected on stage, bolstering the careers of musicians of all ages. Staying in love with music should be celebrated like any other long-term relationship. Those who stay the course discover what lies beyond those intense early days: endless complexity, beauty and adventure. I applaud Daves everywhere.

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Powered by article was written by Lauren Laverne, for The Observer on Sunday 3rd August 2014 06.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010