Yesterday I woke up either feeling worse, or feeling like my body was ready to purge itself of the awfulness that's been sitting on my chest for days now. Either way, I took the morning to rest, downed some more Tussin and headed out about mid-afternoon to catch Narrows at the Slip + Lovitt Records showcase. The showcase itself was better than I expected. A few openers I had never heard, and was very blown away by. Edie Sedgwick was a soulful blues act that was dirty, yet tight. Their lead singer could boast quite a few notes and held the small crowds attention early afternoon. Redgrave was a two piece that mixed blues rock and sludge and boasted more soulful female vocals. It was a nice combination of True Widow's tempo and Kylesa's grime. Very impressive. Regents put on a fantastic set. It was angry, it was heavy, it was spastic and during the last song, the drummer loaded up his kit into the back of a truck and went around the block while the rest of the band jammed from the stage. Only at South by Southwest, amirite?!
I've been waiting to see Narrows just about all week. For a small crowd, during the day and on a sound system that the band ripped apart - it was worth every fucking minute to be a little late to set up the show I was doing. Dave Verellen likes to fuck with the crowd, and it definitely adds to the atmosphere of the show. It's playful and keeps things alive. The tones were sick and the band was as tight as the record. Can't wait to see the guys again tomorrow.
Last night I felt like I put on the underrated showcase. A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Look Mexico, Mansions, Aficionado, Young Statues - all bands that are tightly knit, writing music worthwhile in their respective genres of pop, punk and plain great songwriting. Aficionado's new songs sounded incredible, as did Mansions new one about $80 (I think that was the hook line? haha). Look Mexico absolutely killed the show that night. If you don't know about this band, you better start caring now, or you fucked up.
Sorry to keep this short, Chris and I are going to head to Shirts For a Cure before it gets wild. See you at either that, Sargent House or our showcase tonight! I caved and bought some pills last night, so plenty of water today and here's to getting through it.
Sorry for the late response. I've been Robo-tripping a cold for the past two days and this morning I've felt the worse, and by that, I think my body is finally purging itself of the bulk of compression that's been sitting on my lungs for the past 24 hours. That said, I'm probably going to stay in this morning (going to try and suck it up and catch Narrows before heading to the show I'm putting on tonight.) Besides feeling like complete shit yesterday, the day wasn't a total bust - for the most part.
I woke up to go pick Eda and her friends up at the airport and after dropping them off I headed to the West side of town to catch fun. play a short performance. Now, what I'm about to say is going to be cruel, but it has to be said - so please just bare with me. fun.'s set was acoustic, and absolutely incredible. As far as vocalists go - not only in pop music, but in the contemporary in general, Nate Ruess is pretty untouchable. You can bitch all you want about the slight use of computers on the new record, but he certainly proves himself live. The band is tight as ever. Jack Antonoff can even solo pretty slick on that acoustic. To see such a great performance, boy did I have to sit through some horrible stuff. The opening band, I didn't catch their name, but the one who won the opening slot was pretty good. Loved the rhythms and vocal melodies. As a band who "got a shot at the big time" they were better than what followed. Even as I was well over light-headed from the quarter of bottle of Tussin I had before heading to the showcase, the next three acts either bored me with washed out electronic antics or unmoving songwriting. I attended the whole show with Cameron (cameronisonfire) and I think he said it best, "It's like mainstream pop is trying to grasp the indie sound." It's weak, and not even an overdosge of "purp" could make it sound better.
The night was a way better story. I was helping Keith Latinen put on his Count Your Lucky Stars Showcase. Like Topshelf the night before, there was a ton of "community" (don't forget, it returns tonight) felt across the room. Whether it was the local support of bands like football, etc. or the newest signings from Texas - Innards and Two Knights - about 200 kids both inside and watching from the open window outside - you could feel the intensity that again, away from all the "official," there was something a group of people felt more special about. It doesn't just go for this show, but any show held outside the "official" perimeters of South by Southwest - from warehouses to coffee shops. South by Southwest isn't about where your badge or wristband can get you, it's simply about where you are in the moment. I know most of the bands and have seen just about everyone on last night's roster, but I do want to point out how Mountains For Clouds blew me away. First time seeing them and hearing them and it was one of the best performances of the week so far.
There's one disconnect I wanted to point out about last night that sort of irked me. I was really stoked to have Chris Simpson's new band Zookeeper play (Mineral, The Gloria Record), as well as Bob Nanna and Lauren LoPiccoo close out the night. I have respect for all these guys for what bands they were in and what bands came after. Besides us older guys and the rest of the bands, both acts had some of the smallest crowds of the night. Maybe I've reached the age where there is a disconnect now from generation to generation, but it just sort of bummed me out. So maybe this is just me being an elitist or someone stuck in the past, but don't forget where your favorite bands took their influence from and I would encourage to catch these special performances when you can.
I'm going to rest up and head out to see Narrows in a few hours. Hopefully I'll be better tomorrow. Shirts For a Cure, Sargent House and the site showcase - tomorrow is packed and I can't wait!
Yesterday I jumped on the chance to do our weekly Wednesday Spotlight. I wanted to feature Narrows - my most anticipated artist of this year's South by Southwest festival. I'm unbelievably stoked to see these guys, so much so that I'm going to go well out of my way in an attempt see them twice this week. Besides the shows I'm putting on, I've basically built my schedule around them. After spending my first few hours of actual South by Southwest at a house show with Former Thieves, the sudden anxiety of bullshit sort of rushed over me again, a feeling I sort of repressed in the good times being had the past 24 hours. That sudden rush was an epiphany in a positive light. See, I was at a house, a good few miles South of the main festival, and people were there to see not only the opening locals but the touring bands as well. To them, the insanity of downtown meant so little to them, and it was this more intimate moment that really meant more to such a finite minority. And it's these nuances of South by Southwest that give me an untouchable, unspoken, subconscious hope.
Tonight's Topshelf Records showcase was pretty eye opening in the best way. Besides Topshelf being one of my favorite labels (the showcase also featured acts from Run For Cover, No Sleep and Count Your Luck Stars - community!), it was about all the feelings I had in last year's final write-up that suddenly came rushing back. It's the excitement on both the bands' faces and the attendees' body language. It was the stage dives, the open pits and crowded inside stage. People felt close to the music - they felt like they belonged to something, and probably more importantly, something they deemed as special to them. It was great to see so many people I regularly hold conversations with over social platforms, text and e-mail. Those conversations face to face in a personal moment felt more refreshing than those we have held over a public forum.
At the end of next week I'll probably draw up some rant about how "punk rock is still alive" and everything is going to be just fine in the face of continual mediocrity and the like. Really that rant will just reinforce some sort of status over me that I hold no more than any one of you going out to the smallest of house shows to see your friends' bands open for their favorite touring bands, or maybe even making it into that big official showcase somehow to see a band you've been yearning to catch for some time now. This week isn't about us as journalists, publicists, managers, industry snobs, elitists and trend hoppers alike (they all say he's a righteous dude…) - this festival should be about getting excited for music in the cramped four days. But let us also remember to carry those feelings of excitement and discovery into the rest of the year. Why just give gifts on Christmas? Why only care about a person on their birthday? Cut the egos, put away the business cards and let's all just party, pump our fists, jump in excitement and hell, maybe even stage dive if the venue will let you. Fuck the agendas of this industry, let's enjoy some tunes, talk it over with our closest friends behind the scenes and on stage, and keep close to whatever your tastes in the art may be for the next four days.
Yesterday the social airwaves were taken over by a viral video from Invisible Children. We saw it on our feeds, watched as people met it with positive, negative, and even trolling opinions of the video and we all learned more about Joseph Kony in one afternoon than some of us had ever known about this horrid person before. To be honest with you, I watched only about half the video before I turned it off in disgust of what someone would do to others, especially children. (In that sense, the purpose of the video made its mark I guess.) All of the research and commentary I read thereafter happened outside a classroom, a library, without news networks or periodical publications. After about an hour of going back and forth between arguments for and against the video's relevance and the organization behind it, I realized that none of the links I clicked on were "official press releases" or news network pieces - they were found throughout blogs and social airwaves. Even a piece from one of the heads of the organization defending statements made about the Kony 2012 video and Invisible Children was released over his Facebook. For about an hour's worth of reading opinions and what could be taken as fact or fiction depending on the side of the piece being discussed, I just sort of subconsciously said to myself, "It must be true. This is a reliable source. It's on a page that looks legit." Then I clicked and clicked and clicked and ideas and discussion gathered like a game of Katamari Damacy.
We somehow just sort of put our trust in the systems of people that we "know" through various social portals to never lie to us. Well, spoiler alert: people lie, exaggerate, embellish a lot of things all the time. It's not the way America works, it's the way the world as a whole works on the largest level of interest to the smallest feeling of self-interest and feeble behaviors we have every single day. We're all guilty of it. Because of this, at the beginning of last month, I turned my social network off completely. No Facebook. No Tumblr. No Twitter. No feeds. If I wanted information I either had to consciously search for it or it had to be told to me in person, by text, e-mail, and other personal and business devices off the now "normal" grid. For a minute there, it was relieving. Without hours to waste on social feeds moving from one story to the next, I got a bit more work done. I sat in a room and paid more attention to conversations being held in front of me than what was happening to everyone else that wasn't in the room sharing the moments that mattered at that time. After about two days, I realized that I was more aware of my surroundings, and less worried about others.
Here's the drawback to all of this: you reside outside the "now" of everyone else. Everyone else. Your friends ask you if you saw "that post" or if you witnessed the "twitter debacle" and so on. We even broke information on Jonny Craig from a fucking Tumblr post the same week I was off said grid. That blows my mind. Do you know I see news on my social networking feed a few minutes, sometimes an hour before I get a press release or see the information on a respectable news outlet (if those exist anywhere…) Then there's the "keeping quiet." Being in the know and telling a few friends is a dangerous business these days. There's the person who wants to get that information out first for more hits or showboating or whatever it may be, and then there's containing it outside social webs such as Facebook and Twitter. I mean, was Ryan Gosling really at the Boston American Nightmare show? Or did we just believe it because a trolling joke gained enough momentum from a few people we inherently, but blindly trust because we're part of their inner circle of knowledge by either close relationships, business networks or even the casual retweet.
Yet still, we've all sort of bought into the social system of trust. That system is sort of necessary when things like the Invisible Children video exists. It's necessary to open discussion for both sides of the topic, or any topic of that matter that may arise with heated feelings on either side of those educated or uneducated about a particular topic. What I mostly witnessed today was the blind leading the blind in said discussion. There were comments I read both for and against the video that were simply ignorant. Creating awareness of any issue has to be met with an open mind and open discussion - I think that's why I wanted to step away from social feeds for at least a week, because I wanted to see where my discussions brewed from - was it my ideas based on research or based on "public" opinion. With social networks, we've taken the concept of morning radio and have essentially given everyone a microphone and their own personal booth to blurt out any insane thought that pops into their head. It's sort of the reason why I stayed away from Twitter for so long, and how I've realized I'm now part of the problem having manned one currently. Through all the profound thoughts we share, there's so much muck of sarcastic and irrelevant conversation that exists among relevant intellectual property worth talking about.
Tomorrow starts the first part of South by Southwest with their "interactive" portion of the festival. These are the days based around tech heads and business solutions. What will technology do for their business and their brand? People want their products out there, and with of social networking, sharing, (re)tweets, reblogging and one giant clusterfuck of continual handing off of this thing (thing defined as a story, a product, a craft, brand, etc.) - I don't think anyone really has a real clue if any of what they try to harness is really working, and when something out of the ordinary happens with a new venture (Kickstarter, Bandcamp, Rdio and Spotify, turntable.fm to name a few in the current state of the industry), everyone goes into a day-trading frenzy of trying to figure out how they can make the concept work for them. It's seeing someone with something different and special and wanting to feel a part of it somehow. Traced all the way back to our young days of trends on the playground, basically no one wants to be left out of the know. As we grow older, that concept turns into wanting to be successful in some way that contributes something to the whole, it's an older subconscious version of wanting to "fit in" and be part of the "cool" club - just on a business level where you make money instead of trading POGS or baseball cards.
The thing is that we live too far into the future to turn back from gaining most of our information from hundreds of voices and sharing of links. I think today's actions held by many about a video many of us would have not seen had it not been for these social airwaves just goes to show how far away we are from getting a grip on how to properly open discussion about real issues using these systems we generally share memes and dick jokes on. This entry isn't to make you aware of Joseph Kony, you should be more than aware of who he is, what Invisible Children does or doesn't do by the end of today or you missed the point of having a social feed to begin with: these are the new town halls and community centers of outreach. We'll never truly grasp that concept until we open ourselves up to others and hear what they have to say, as opposed to either following what they have to say or simply rejecting it based on our "knowledge" or "opinion" we stubbornly adhere to. Tonight on Gunz's interview with Jason (ahem, with no mention of mwah?), he said something pretty important not only about this website, but I took it as it resonating more so, "Other websites want to talk to you…we want to talk with you. We want to have a discussion about new music..." While putting that quote in here seems a bit biased, replace website with anything - a chat room, your social feed, a tweet, commenting on a news article. This entry isn't about Kony 2012. This is entry is about how open you were to knowing more when you may have just heard about it today. How open were you to sharing your knowledge as opposed to turning up your nose because other people were just now in the "know" of things? How open were you to hearing another side of the then issues brought up about Invisible Children as well as the organization's defense - and then forming an opinion? I'm not here to tell you how you should feel, I'm here to discuss why you feel that way you do for or against my opinion of this story or any other for that matter. The next time we talk, I'll be telling you what exciting things I witnessed during the "music" portion of South by Southwest. But honestly, I'll be more interested in what you were stoked on - because without that, I'm just sitting here in my boxers and a t-shirt talking to a wall.
If anyone read my last entry, it may have been hard to follow - then again - most everything I write usually only makes sense to me. While I'm way more excited for the week of South by Southwest than I would lead myself or any of you readers to believe, I suffer enough from anxiety on a personal level, it always tends to bleed into my work. Those "great" points I make aren't methodical, they're generally neurotic and paranoid to the point of trying not to over-think the subject at hand. To me, there is no right or wrong defined in music (no matter how drunk and belligerent some conversations have gotten between me and others), just a means to gather more and more information in hopes of coming close enough to a conclusion without ever actually getting there, and therefore leading any topic to a never-ending open discussion. (See what I mean by over-thinking things?)
Tonight I came home to two things - one positive and one negative. I opened my inbox with a response from Converge vocalist and Deathwish Inc.'s Jacob Bannon. It read: "Thanks for that. I feel that you touched on something that a lot of critics/writers miss that aspect of what's been going on in the last decade or so in "heavy" music..." His response really left me staring at my screen for a few minutes. I said something that's been missed? I've said nothing that I believe a lot of people are thinking, that's my job as a critic, right? To sift through the bullshit? Where is the the term "bullshit" defined in an area of subjectivity like music? With no clear definition, the battle between what is authentic and what is processed to turn a buck continues I guess.
Then I read Patrick Stump's melancholy, heartfelt and truthful editorial. Coming from someone who has never been a Fall Out Boy fan, this column covers every aspect as to why music fans are their own worst enemy and on the same level of elitism they see publications to be and so on. A friend the other day was telling me a kid was removed from Anthony Green's solo show because he kept heckling Green to play more Saosin tracks after Green explained to him that "Seven Years" was just something special for the tour. Apparently the same fan berated obscenities toward Green like a small child who stops the world when he or she doesn't get his or her way. Over what? Trying to stretch a nostalgic moment longer for personal enjoyment instead of accepting the moment as something special? Have we become so attached to the past that we can't embrace beauty in the future? How many people listened to Soul Punk expecting more Fall Out Boy instead of opening themselves up to a new chapter for which it was? We all break in shoes, buy new cars and eventually throw away or even sell or thrift our favorite tattered t-shirts that once held special moments. (Maybe these aren't the best examples, but it's one in the morning, I'm trying to make some sort of sense.)
Stump's point on growing up is one many of us as music consumers tend to overlook. Some artists start their career mathematically trying to construct perfect architectures (we can't all be Godspeed guys, c'mon), but like Fall Out Boy, Thursday, Thrice and countless other bands we oh-so sit high on the throne in our musical tastes and judgements - they were young kids with nothing to lose attempting something that at the moment meant nothing more to anyone else but them. At that same time, we were young trying to figure it out as well. What I as a writer have yet to solve in this equation is where we lost that connection as our tastes evolved our favorite bands grew as well. Was it that we drifted apart like we do in our personal life with friends when our ideals and nuances take separate paths? Is it that simple? Or do we live in such a fast paced world that we don't have time to sit down and fully hear what someone is trying to explain they learned in trying to improve themselves? Are we that closed-minded in what we're comfortable in understanding?
As I sift through these showcases both official and unofficial during South by Southwest, there is a lot of "Who the fuck is this?" circling my head. There's also, "Wait, these guys still make music?" boggling around in there too. I don't know about anyone else reading this, but music, my favorite bands, they're like friends to me. They were there when I needed them most. Sometimes when we talk, we're not always on the same page. Sometimes growing up means finding a common existence of acceptance among conflicting ideals and beliefs and creation. It's about meeting new people who do share a common ground as well. People apologizing about not liking the new fun. album (or any new edition to a favorite band's catalog for that matter) is unnecessary. Their career is more ruined every time someone yells out a Format song at a show. The subjectivity in music is more positive than we lead ourselves to believe or act out. The negative aspect dips into opening our mouths in critiquing the present based on the past. That's why it's the past, it's over. The moment was there, we shared it and nostalgia is meant to be something special, not a bar we deathly have to hold onto. When I sat down to write the Narrows review, I didn't want to tell you how much I missed These Arms Are Snakes or how it sounds like Botch in some aspects - I wanted to tell you what Painted means presently.
Like one of the best scenes in Spaceballs, let's live in the now-now. 2012 is happening now. Let's talk about how Every Time I Die's Ex-Lives is one of the best records of 2012 in terms of guitar play and satirical commentary and talk less about how it compares to the band's other releases. I had a conversation with a good friend a couple of weeks ago about how anxious I am to live up to my final statement about last year's South by Southwest, how I hope I can live up to that in some way on a personal level. He just smiled at me and said it'll come once I get through the week and not to worry about living up to anything for anyone beyond myself. So on that note, fuck the past, continue to move forward and if at any point conversations among friends, attempts to grasp a record or competing viewpoints don't work out for whatever reason - move on and maybe some understanding will come in time.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll fully grasp everyone's love of Fall Out Boy. Hear this, I have the utmost respect for Patrick Stump from here on out, and I wish him only the best of luck in his future endeavors - whether I get what he's trying to do or not, at least I know his heart and mind are in the right place - and as the asshole critic I am, that's all I ever ask of anyone doing anything.
This year's South by Southwest is already two weeks out (a week and a half if you count when it actually starts with the "interactive" portion). This is a big year for many reasons. First and foremost, this site has a showcase this year. Jason will be announcing our line-up tomorrow, but it certainly feels special to be a part of this larger festival of who's-who and "who the fuck is this band?!" said in both the positive and negative tense throughout the week by many a critic and causal drunk alike. While I'm content with our line-up (we as staff fought it out, hugged it out, came to an agreement and we're stoked on the line-up which includes...errr, you'll see tomorrow.) From someone who has only been a part of the festival for two years now, I can tell you it's a shit show. There's a group of people who think they're something, and they're nothing but assholes. There's a group of people that just want to go and get sloshed for free and watch some music cause it's spring break, or they called in sick from work, or they have the day off, etc. Half of those people end up being assholes too - but just the ones that have a bit too much to drink or think they know what the next big thing is cause they're in this "in." Then there's a group of people from across all genres both local and touring that just want to play their music - their special creation - for the sake of playing it to a group of people and having that opportunity.
There are a few 8 Mile moments for some.
The music portion of the festival is like literally taking an entire industry of fuckheads, rock stars and more than grateful souls to play the smallest of venues and shoving them into one small area of the United States. It's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome if Mad Max were a DIY punk band or great local blues act, and the exclusivity and pompous behavior of some were Tina Turner. Luckily, there's hope among it all, and last year certainly proved it: new friends, labels, community, a new generation, etc. This year will be no different either. It's the friends staying with me and those I'll see during the week and the line-up of shows I've put together. The ugly truth is that you meet a lot of people that have "business" written across their face, and you wind-up scratching your head wondering if they still really enjoy music like they used to when they picked up their first few albums years and years ago. They talk to you like you're their friend, but they're looking for press in an indirect slide of tongue. You have to avoid it at all cost.
Still, in the face of said motivational devastation and confusion brought on by the powers that control what you should like and what gets shoved against your eardrums and thrown on a NOW THAT'S WHAT (SERIOUSLY?!?! THEY STILL MAKE THESE FUCKING THINGS?!) compilation or even a BEST NEW TRACK or "essential podcast" for the month, it's about making the best of the week. It's sitting in the corner of the lunchroom knowing that the so-called "popular" majority will never understand your qualms against the mundane and your love of things that keep you on your toes and heighten your curiosity and subconscious intrigue you can't shake for days after the circus lets out and the animals go home.
If I sound bitter, it's partial nerves and partial exhaustion. I personally came into this line of work because I needed to control and make sense of all these commentaries in my head I was spewing amongst my friends. Instead, it's been three to four years of really learning the divided line of integrity and lack thereof that knows no genre and isn't discriminatory to just bands - but publicist, managers, and labels as well. We're entering one of the largest music festivals of 2012 and there are still a good number of people "in charge" that are unsure of how to control piracy, get their music to more people beyond just touring and just plain be noticed in a sea of thousands of others that just want a shot at this dream of playing music as a primary outlet of, well, a job.
Here's to South by Southwest. Here's to mediocrity. Here's to the intimate crowds and long lines to see that one band you were really hoping to catch. Hold onto that moment when you get in and close to the stage. Enjoy it and forget that a complete shit show of false idealism is happening around you.
I often wonder what sort of mentality it takes for an artist (solo and band alike) to make it in this industry. I'm not just speaking in terms of how good your PR person is or if your manager has an "in" with the biggest festivals or if a "golden" award means anything beyond the 15 minutes it really holds weight. I'm speaking more of the thousands of bands that start out with the mentality of "Fuck yes, let's do it!" and then one day decide that what they started must be put down. There's a lot of variables in hanging up your guitar on the wall and entering the "real world" of shifting your part time job - when not on the road - into a full time job of the American dream, whatever that may be these days. That sort of mentality doesn't always have to be negative though. There are "family" elements and "career" choices well past living on the road and never becoming the larger element (or even stable one at that) you eventually want to become - that subconscious mindset since the beginning. Many have tried, but few have been able to live that dream while (a) keeping a stable and lengthy bout of integrity and (b) not becoming a shell of their former self or a nostalgic joke.
Two horses need to be beaten before I continue though. One, for each band's case, longevity doesn't have to mean that a band has to last a decade, in some cases it could be anywhere from a couple of months to a handful of years with less than three releases under their belt - which brings us to two, the subjectivity and impact of a band lies in the numbers of listeners they impact. The footprint left by any artist is decided on by a variable no one really has any control over and is constantly changing with each release as artists everywhere grit their teeth when an album leaks (because let's face it, who makes it to that big Tuesday nowadays?) I've had numerous discussions with friends about how some of our favorite bands today are only known by a small group of followers or other bands - not the mainstream or any sort of large majority. On paper, it looks as if they're failing, but in the cult minority, they could be gods among those listeners and will continue to resonate years later to future generations. Look no further than eBay auctions for a particular vinyl from a band that were mocked at the time by many a casual listener or self-absorbed critic.
In watching The Felix Culpa's documentary last night, all these thoughts just sort of overwhelmed me. While To We, The Nearly Departed is a short chronicle featuring a pacing of live footage from the band's final show at The Metro in Chicago and interludes of interviews and stock footage from the band's past, to me, it was more a quick retrospective of how a great band can come and go with a snap of a finger or changing musical landscape. I would certainly put The Felix Culpa in that category of a band people either got or didn't grasp fully. For those that didn't, maybe the songs were "too long" or there wasn't a "hook" that got stuck in your head for days. For those that did get it, there was a reason behind it: it was a band outside someone's normal taste, it had sentimental value in the lyrics, it helped someone pick up a guitar or drumstick or maybe the band made a perfect record for someone at the perfect time said listener needed it.
Maybe given the relationship I have with the band, my opinion is biased in itself. Last South by Southwest, I got to spend a couple of days with the guys - family men, newlyweds, video game nerds and we all came together to talk about our love of Engine Down while attending a festival that plays out like more of a lavish show-off of who's-who instead of a week of just hanging out with your friends while more friends play music. I constantly think that bastardization of the art form and the lifestyle is where the chord gets ripped from the amplifier one last time. Music should always be about getting in the van and playing first and foremost. It's about a person's first open mic or a big local opening for one of their favorite acts. The rest will follow. If you're honest and attempt something that you believe in, I think that's what will resonate the most over time. That's where some sort of longevity on either a minor or major level will occur eventually.
The beginning and end of The Felix Culpa isn't a new story, but it's the first one that made me think long about all the bands that meant something to me like the guys have: The Snake the Cross the Crown, Engine Down, Blueprint Car Crash and a slew of others. Each band has their own story, it goes back to the variables mentioned and those I forgot. Maybe Jack Black said it best in High Fidelity, "Is it better to burn out or to fade away?" There are arguments for both and enough bands that have experienced one or the other. The music industry is an unforgiving career for many, but with the adamant of "archiving" (whether legal or illegal as certain people see it), at least we live in an age where we have the ability to pass on the music that made an impact to us in some way, and when we pick those records up months or even years later, here's hoping it will be as gripping as the first experiences we had with them.
I've always sort of wondered when I'd shake my teenage angst. At 25, it doesn't seem like it's going to happen anytime soon. I'm in college debt, cut it close to paying my bills with a part time job and continue to juggle two internships - one of them being with this site. For my parents, 25 was figured out. For some of my friends, 25 is being settled. There's more, there has to be more than just settled, right? There's a tight rope (read: noose) of mediocrity we walk (read: hang from) every day with choosing to let small details go by or choosing to get swept up in the stagnant acceptance of what is and will never change. But alas, we all still have the power of making ourselves something, leaving that lasting footprint that no amount of artificial contamination and fiscal damnation can tarnish for generations to come. They're ideas. They're discussions. They're thoughts that leave room for subjective chit-chat among the elite and the lowbrow alike. While I do enjoy Justin Vernon's contribution to the greater art of music, I'm overly infatuated with what he has to say about the subject of "award" in an industry that bastardizes art into a commodity. I think Vernon leaving out this line from his acceptance speech was probably bittersweet -
"It’s hard to accept this award because of all the talent out there, but also because Bon Iver is an entity and something that I gave myself to. A lot of people give themselves to it, so it’s hard to think of Bon Iver as an artist. Bon Iver is not an artist. Bon Iver is an idea.” - SPIN article
See, some people will take that line as elitist and superficial and overly pretentious. Most of those people probably have no idea who Bon Iver is to begin with. As I've been dissecting that quote all day, trying to decipher its meaning like a Rubik's cube, I want to apply the quote more broadly outside of just Bon Iver, because the same should go for any artist doing anything anywhere at anytime. Music is considered an art to some because art can be sort of an escapism. There's so many rules set in stone to some degree in our society that when it comes to painting, street art, short films, comic books and even sitting down to let your soul out in one perfectly placed crescendo or chorus line - you don't want restrictions. The worst restrictions can come after the art is made, and that's the judgement we as critics and "sweet hookups" end up making, and I think that's what Vernon is renouncing - the idea that an "idea" can be judged and made to be something more or less than what it is - just an "idea," plain and simple. Take it or leave it.
Forever acclaimed, most will tell you that the music that "lasts" is the music that "went against the grain" or "revolutionized how things were" for a generation or a specific group of people during a specific time (generally set against the grain of how societal norms are going and political strife is effecting this and that and so on) - but it's not the revolution itself that connects, it's the unspoken integrity. Thousands of Bon Iver fans aren't excited about the win, they're stoked for a hot minute that something that they believe in their hearts to be true and heartfelt made it past the polished bullshit most of us sat through for three hours on Sunday night. It was a sign that maybe "they" (they being: industry, the general public, lowbrow, fat pockets) got that music like Bon Iver is needed past the quick hits and NOW! That's What I Call A Radio Dial compilations that continue to sell for whatever reason.
There are writers, publications, artists, labels and the whole of this industry that have this sort of "agenda" to them. There's this line of constantly wanting to be right and in the "know" of what's next. Most of these people are just older versions of ourselves. They once loved music, pogo'd during a Ramones show once and were old enough to understand how revolutionary Nirvana was while only realizing Fugazi was an equal underground counterpart years later. Some fuckbag once told me a review I wrote about a show was horrible because I was attached to it nostalgically and it was written from "my heart" for lack of a better phrase. That's it. That's where music comes from, right? That's why certain albums and songs last for years and others become that one-trick pony thing. Is that the right phrase? Isn't art supposed to come from the heart and an unspoken feeling to begin with and therein find a connection once done - not force it to happen through airplay, television soundtracks and ad-spots? When Dylan Baldi destroys his guitar in what can be deemed as one of the most perfect displays of swelling frustration to grace a record in some time on "Wasted Days," the proceeding "I thought I would be more than this!" over and over and over again has been stuck now for days in the back of my head. I wonder if for every pop artist with a hit single or Grammy win or those millionaires that have gone bankrupt and regret their footprints of drawn-out, overplayed Clear Channel radio rubbish, if for a second that line haunts them for days on end.
I'm not sure why it hit me tonight. The idea crossed my mind the second I pulled onto the highway to go watch the Super Bowl with a friend. Maybe it's this weekend. Maybe it's in the rut I'm in. Maybe it's the work I owe a lot of people, and better things to do with my time. Maybe I want to see the effects of a personal #SOPA blackout. I'm not sure. When I wake up tomorrow and finally drag myself out of bed and onto my futon to sit down and blankly stare at the screen before embarking to my e-mails, I'll move just there. No Facebook. No Twitter. Not even the occasional Tumblr scroll for shits and hoping to find that one funny meme to slightly entertain me for the afternoon. As of the Sun rising tomorrow morning, I will be disconnecting from the social sphere. For how long? I'm unsure. I want to try and last until the end of the month, but we'll see how it goes. At the very least, I want to last a week.
I know, I know. Keith Buckley kind of did this already. He is an inspiration in doing so, but this is about me, not him. I want to see how it effects a lot of things in my life, both personal and professional. Mostly I want to see how it effects my consumption of both inspiration and musing. I'm either writing, or I'm sifting through article and editorial links on Facebook and Twitter (generally aggravated by half of what I read) for hours. What could I be doing with those hours? Finishing half-read books on my shelf? Completing my work in a timely manner instead of 10 minutes here and a half an hour in social networking's endless no-man's land?
Then there's the personal side. I want to see with how many people I can keep up with just by phone - call or text or simply spending more time out. I want to spend time in a room holding great conversations, instead of computer parties and half-listening to what someone has to say because you're checking up on something on your phone that has nothing to do with the moment. For an extended period of time, I'd like to make the best of my surroundings and see how that in turn effects my thoughts and therefore my writing. I want to enjoy my social surroundings without sharing them with the outside world. I want to see how far they'll stick without having them archived.
This whole thing revolves around that archival of information. So many ideas, opinions, pictures, songs, film clips are shared, reblogged, liked or reposted in just one day, I'm unsure if I'm retaining any sort of discussion that's going on around me or if I'm even having a minute to form an opinion of my own, with so many sides of the topic striking me at once. Why do I feel justified even in sharing with you every null moment or inside joke you're not going to get unless I tell you a thirty minute story behind it?
I'll still use the Internet. Still be on the site. Still will be sifting through e-mails. Just no "social" feeds of any kind to gather information or be a social voyeur.
At the very core, I just want this to be fun. I'll let you know how it's going in the next installment.
The scariest thing for me as a writer and critic is wondering how I'll feel next week, next month or five, ten, twenty years down the line about music. Will I still be amazed by what's to come or combing each week trying to find what it was that lit a spark to my senses? Like trying to fight off a hormonal, shifting taste through the years - some things at certain points in our lives will stick longer than others. The thing is, you never know what that one thing is going to be until you're standing, slightly intoxicate with about a couple of hundred of other people your age and your state of mind singing along to a song that feels like you heard it the other day on the drive from high school, or through your ear phones late at night trying to find one simple answer of solace to the world collapsing around you. (read: You're grounded, you had a rough day at school, that love you so cherish just isn't working out, and more superficial "young people" problems.)
Certain songs will forever hold a moment to something, and even if that feeling can never happen twice (because that moment when everything clicks like a soundtrack is more perfect than we realize when said moment happens), it subconsciously stays with us and files under a cerebral iTunes. They are the songs we won't hear for a few months - or even a few years - and we're still be able to belt out every line like we heard it only an hour before, reminding ourselves that you don't want to live in the past, but also don't ever want to let it go either. This sort of attachment is the pink elephant in the room causing all our battles of subjectivity among which album is better in a band's catalog or which song do we still find as a piece of perfection throughout the years of competition amongst every new minute of new, exciting waves of music.
The Where's the Band? Tour is something special to a lot of readers on this site. It's a congregation of a lot of songwriters we hold closest in our catalog when we were at the age that we sometimes scoff at now. A lot of the songs from the songwriters that make up the tour may even still hold water years later - and if they do, that's an unspoken accomplishment more to the songwriters themselves than to us individually. Matt Pryor, Anthony Renari and Chris Conley have quite a back catalog with their respective bands. As attendees were shouting out their favorites, there's a clear line drawn that not one album holds more water than the other. Sure, some our more favorable, but I think another test of longevity is having a catalog that's room for argument for your fans. It shows you can progress and not only keep fans throughout the years, but peek interest in newer ones as the years go on. Didn't like your last album? It doesn't matter that much, as long as they're still interested in what comes next from you. As I was sitting having a late night feast with Evan Weiss and our friends from Pswingset and Paper Moons, the arguments we were having over back catalogs of now defunct acts only proves my point. Defunct or active - the fact that you're even still brought up and discussed means something.
What the Where's the Band? Tour also shows is that gimmicks and rock star behavior are more than through these days. After each person finished, the next one got right up and kept the night going strong. Sometimes there was storytelling and sometimes it was request into song into request and so on. It felt like an intimate open mic night seeing some of your old favorites stripped down back to the point where they wrote the song in their apartment, car or hotel bathroom.
Back to where I started this rant. Being open to the new wave. As the night progressed, the clock kept ticking back, but Evan's set reminded me the importance of moving ahead. For every Saves the Day, New Amsterdams, I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody's Business song that reminds me of the tape deck adapter I used to spin CDs in my old, beat-up car - there's another generation looking for songwriters like Evan and Koji and Christopher Browder (Mansions) to fill the musical spot at that age when it matters the most to them. I think they're doing a good job in filling that position with the same honest songwriting that made me latch on and never let go of the older acts on the Where's the Band? Tour.
Absolutepunk.net has been smeared with nostalgia as of late, and that's not a bad notion in the least. I hope in the long run that it makes a few younger kids want to check out what I grew up on, just as I discovered Botch, Jawbreaker and Mineral as influences on the music I grew up holding close. But as much as we'll never detach ourselves from those moments when everything just seemed to fit into place like the perfect soundtrack, there are still days ahead of us, new music when our idols call it a day and tours like this to remind us that you're never too old to bring back a memory, or start a new one with future releases at unknown points in your life.
It saddens me to say that this will be the final Five and Alive from here on out - or at least until I'm paid a couple of thousand to write a reunion column in ten years. There's really no telling what the future holds. But for now, as the site is changing and we, as staff, are finding new ways in bringing up discussion about our favorite albums, the bullshit of this industry and all the greatness that lies within the grooves of a few million records we may never get the time or chance to hear - I will now lay this column to rest. I also, very much backed up on work I owe a ton of people in the interview department, do not have the time for such a column anymore. So to the users, the staff and friends in this industry that have shared their choices with me, an enormous thank you for being part of something I wanted to be special. At times it got cutthroat, but I would hope, for the most part, the column at least expanded many of our libraries in discovering a few much needed gems.
This is a top five that I wanted to do for some time now. I even went back to see if I had done it on a whim, and by my records (unless overlooked) I had not. Maybe it was buried in a front page discussion I forgot about, but for the moment, I'll say I never brought it up.
Call it elitist, but I can still track, in chronological order, the first five records since childhood that changed the way I looked at music. These albums made me go, "Oh fuck, what is this? Nothing else matters." Yes, even at the age of eight, I probably cursed a lot - maybe. So this is a bit of a challenge, but I love having this conversation with people and I figured this would be a hell of a way to end it. I even think Pitchfork has a column with artists based around this one at this point.
I can't wait to see your lists on this one.
- love and respect
1) The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour
My oldest memory of even paying attention to music outside of it just playing on the car stereo is many a Saturday spent after getting up early to watch as many cartoons as possible. Once they were over, my mom generally turned off the television and turned on the turntable while she cleaned the house and made lunch. I was introduced to everything from Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin (which as a kid, I confused with Lynard Skynard) to The Beatles. I fell in love with Magical Mystery Tour. I would have my mom play it constantly. It wasn't just music to me, it was something else completely. Something new beyond any Van Halen guitar lick or George Michael pop hit. It has since resonated subconsciously in my love of well rounded pop rock in the vein of Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, The Format and many others who don't bastardize the term, but instead make it something beautiful and savant.
2) Jimi Hendrix's The Ultimate Experience
Okay, my best friend says this one can't count, because it's a compilation - but I have yet to change it. I've loved dirty rock and roll from here on out. Hendrix's guitar work is still unmatched. It's like being in a hardcore band and saying you want to play like Kurt Ballou. Don't even fucking try. I think it was Hendrix's live rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock that I fell in love with the most on this one. In every good rock album, for every Jack White, for every sex filled groove from The Black Keys or Death From Above 1979 or even the dirt and grime of the contemporary Red Fang and Every Time I Die - there is a heart and a rhythm. To me, it all comes back to this man's ability to make you believe he was one with the guitar instead of having it as a separate controlled entity. There will never be another Hendrix because of it. I will never forget the impact he had on me right before my age hit the double digits.
3) Blink 182's Dude Ranch
Nirvana's Nevermind would probably wedge itself between 2 and 3 at a nice 2 1/2 position. It was an album I enjoyed, but didn't really understand the impact as a whole until years later. At the time, Dude Ranch spoke to me. There are records for many of us as an adolescent pre-teen that are like a Bible for both music and life with no separation in between. For many of us, the line "I guess this is growing up," is forever branded on the back of our skull in memory of many years behind us and useful for those still to come. More importantly, Dude Ranch's message was as simple as its music. When you're at an age when all you want is a direct answer to the first constant bouts of "Am I being bullshitted right now?" - albums like this are more than necessary to stand-up and say, "Yes, I think I am being bullshitted!" I know for some, it was Enema of the State, but Dude Ranch taught me music could be serious, but not overly dramatic - what's wrong with a having a laugh amongst our problems. I continue to find the laughter through all the anxiety because of this album. Sometimes a song or album doesn't have to be overly complicated - sometimes it just has to make a direct impact at the right time for when it is needed.
4) RX Bandits' Progress
There's a point in our teenage years as music fans when we hear a record that changes everything - every. thing. - about what we know music is supposed to be. It could have been Daydream Nation it could have been Paul's Boutique and it could have been Kid A. Progress was that album for me. Not one song was comparable to the other. I couldn't explain to someone what the band sounded like without spouting off a short thesis. I'm not saying that the above albums or any other albums that came before it weren't honest and heartfelt, but this album ripped me open. It was a record that not only opened doors to other genres and styles, it was the first time I got "punk" and started having an opinion on social issues and actions - even on the smallest scale of getting through high school to a larger scale of reading as many facts as possible before coming to any conclusion on national issues. Like Jason said in yesterday's article, "I kind of miss the times when you bought an album - and then were basically forced to spend time with it and see what shook out." I've heard plenty of albums like that since then, but this was the first, and I am forever grateful for it.
5) Thursday's Full Collapse
I'm pretty sure everything that has ever needed to be said about this album has been written ten times better than I can put it, but I'll do my best to make it as personal and moving as possible. This was the first time I heard a record where the emotion felt overwhelming with every new track and turn within the song. It made me feel uncomfortable, yet I embraced every down stroke of the guitar, clack of the snare and crack in Geoff Rickly's voice. This was one of the times when an album buried me in its anguish, yet I still came back to its nerve-wrecking abuse. I've since been buried in this scene, and still look to Full Collapse and its past influences to sift through the bullshit of the decade ahead of it. Some in my generation herald The Smiths or The Cure or Joy Division from a decade they never experienced. This band took those influences and mixed them into their love of hardcore and made a contemporary dish for which I still can't get the taste out of my mouth from. It's an album that still makes me hungry to hear bands continue in that stride of creating something as adventurous a decade later. It makes my job that much easier.
[ed. note: the views expressed in this editorial are my own and do reflect the views of the entire staff of Absolutepunk.net]
A little over a year ago, the staff got together and ran a feature on our favorite labels. It was the end of 2010, and for some of us, it was like it was 2000 again. In the past ten years, labels have changed. It's not uncommon that they do. Dim Mak used to be a premiere post-hardcore label, releasing some of the best around before slowly evolving into a more electronic based outlet. While Vagrant still contains a varied roster, we've since seen the change in masthead and its star performers shift from wearing their hearts on their sleeves to more of an indie-vibe. As a whole, Vagrant still releases top notch music - just to a different demographic, or really, a demographic that has since evolved with them. Then there are two big ones: Victory and Drive-Thru. We all know the former has seen better days from most of us, but the latter has sort of lived in seclusion for the past couple of years. Following a string of what I deem to be not so savvy choices, Drive-Thru just sort of disappeared for the most part for many of us. No longer was I scanning their e-store or stoked to see who they signed next. In fact, I just sort of grew out of it really. Besides the horror stories I hear from the label's alumni - the ones we cherished when the label was at its peak and crowding our CD collections (remember those?). I think the downward spiral to Drive-Thru's eventual curtain was its lack of community and substance towards its end - something they held strong for many of us so many years prior.
2010 became a very exciting time for music again. I think a lot of us that were excited ten years ago about our scene, which we slowly watched evolve into seven circles of hell and mounds of sub-standard product, were finally getting that feeling back. Music aside, I think we were getting excited about labels again. We were getting excited because many of us felt a sense of community growing. I saw that all too well at last year's South By Southwest. I think, for the most part, we began to put our trust back into certain labels to lead us to another promised land, instead of roaming the desert for 5+ years blind and bitter to a lot of what surrounded us. More importantly, labels were now working closer together. They were and are now becoming independent subdivisions of a bigger community - a true independent state. Community is very important. If a label welcomes a band into their home, I - especially as a music fan - want to know that the said label in turn is genuine in their actions of bringing a band on as an equal among the rest of their friends. You can continue to have a strong community of different sounding bands as well. The best labels have done it for years - Epitaph being the biggest one off the top of my head.
This brings me to something that has bothered me this past year. I've talked quite often about the cycle of music and trends. I think the worst thing a label can do is follow any sort of trend or band as a cash cow, whether to fund another band or adjust to the demands of others. I'm not saying that a label doesn't have a right to reinvent themselves and grow-up and still release quality music they believe in. That's one of the main reasons I brought up Vagrant as an example earlier. I just think that any label pumping money into a band for the wrong reasons is not only doing a disservice to music fans, but also to the band as well. What happens when the public's trends shift? Who do you back then? I understand labels need to stay afloat - but at what cost? Integrity may not be the right word, but it's the first word that continues to come to mind.
Still, a community of anything is only as strong as the people that make it up. A label can give you all the support in the world: money for recording, money for touring, distribution on a large enough scale that your music can get out to millions and have a chance of survival like a 1,000+ other bands that "want to make it," and the twenty-five that generally do. A label can only do so much, and on a bastardized scale, it's just a brand, a sticker, a fucking "label" that sits on the back of a CD booklet or vinyl jacket. It's what is in the grooves, what I download or even stream that I even care about in the end. There was a long discussion via e-mail with the staff the other day about how we felt about Kickstarter. Not to get off topic, but my final verdict was that I simply didn't care where the product came from (albeit money laundry and drug trafficking I will not endorse), I just cared that the final project was worth my time.
One of my newer favorite bands signed with a label I've been less than stoked on for the past couple of years. Ironically, a label that probably makes ad money off me every time I show a warehouse shot music video for a cheap laugh to one of my friends. That band asked me how I felt about them signing with said label. I simply told them that I didn't care in the end. I only had a high expectation that they would make another fantastic record; that they shouldn't focus on "who" they're signed with, but more of putting out a quality product to their fans and the general public alike. Majors aside, my industry knowledge tells me that most labels give quite the creative freedom for their artists and generally won't shelve, but will back their investments' product. There I go bastardizing terms again. For see, a label's primary job should be backing their friends, their family, their community for all the right reasons. Labels should believe in their bands not as an investment, but as a fan wanting to show the world this awesome thing they can't stop listening to. Most labels were created by fans wanting to share something special. I'm not saying the majors don't have fans within their walls, but some of us see the difference between a marketing tool and a genuine music connoisseur.
My advice to any band out there is to strive for that signature and be a part of whatever community you always dreamed to be a part of since you decided to get out the garage and into your mom's minivan to show the world you're the next notch in punk rock's growing timeline. As long as you contribute something meaningful within that community, it'll only provoke others around you to one-up you and do better. Ideas will feed off other ideas, and you'll begin to see this creative, unspoken challenge amongst your peers. That's when the most exciting times in music have happened. That's when Brian Wilson went insane. That's when Refused wrote a defining record. That's what is happening presently. If both bands and labels work with the aforementioned ethics, we won't see two to three years of substance and integrity and then a seven year drop off, just to cycle again. We may, just maybe, could see a solid decade of music. Something that hasn't been done for some time.
Whenever I go to a small show and see an up and coming band, a few questions always circle my head. No greater question has circled my head more lately than the authenticity of any sort of new music that I hear. For some of you, right now, you know EXACTLY what I mean, and for the others, I'm going to explain myself. Trends generally start as an authentic thing. A couple of people get together, tell society to fuck off and then do their thing. Gradually, a sea of assholes say, "Hey! I can do that!" They pat themselves on the back, steer their lifestyle in that general direction and eventually latch onto something new as time moves on. It's why "waves" of bands exist. By the fourth and fifth wave, we've heard it, seen it and are pretty sick and tired of it. Not only does the product not sound original, it's just taking direct cues from ones that came before - instead of mixing in new ideas.
This has been the up and down with music for years - and in the punk scene in particular. Thanks to the oh so wonderful Internet, it's easier than ever to grasp an idea and make it your own fruition - simply coloring between the lines. When one thing is beginning to get big, you have to wonder where that line will eventually get drawn as to who's in it to do their own thing, and who's in it to ride the wave of others' success.
Thursday night I drove down to San Antonio to see Xerxes and Code Orange Kids on their winter tour. Xerxes' upcoming album is one my most anticipated of 2012. I've yet to receive an advance (ahem) but the tracks I've heard thus far and the feedback from a few other bands which have heard it is pretty overwhelming. Then there's Code Orange Kids, a band that could be one of the biggest in the hardcore and thrash scene by the end of the year. They're young, and talking with them on Thursday night, they're also very ambitious - and ambitious to take the right steps. Their live show, like Xerxes, is no bullshit game. They're both emotional trainwrecks. Code Orange Kids blows out your eardrums in intense fury while Xerxes violently grabs at your heartstrings. It just feels real. Match that to seeing Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) and Dowsing at a club in the worst part of Austin or The Reptilian and my friends in Innards play a shed (yes, a shed) a couple of nights later - and it just feels like all these things are happening for the right reasons.
This is one of the most exciting times for punk music, but it's also the scariest. There's a lot of "worship" happening - and I'm not saying that it's bad to take an old tune and spin it into something that's your own (not everyone has to reinvent the wheel), I'm just saying that it's statistically impossible for everyone to standout. For every local band that gets moderately big, there are ten local bands that want to do that exact same thing. Not everyone can make it - and most of you will fail in the process.
The cycle is coming back around, and there are going to be a lot of cookie-cutter bands in the next few years that follow - this I promise you. It's already happening with the music just on a local level. Then someone will buy in, and it'll turn into a complete clusterfuck of no one giving a shit. Then there will be bands trying to do something that's not that, until we come full circle to a couple of years like the last two we just had. So head this warning: It is certainly an exciting time to be in a band. I feel like the rock star thing is dead (Thanks Dangerous Summer!) and kids want to be genuine about the music they make. For the most part, they want to do it right. That's a great start. There's no telling how long you will last in this business. The best thing you can do is leave even the smallest legacy on a 7" split or have your only proper full length be something that slightly changes the tide and is held as something special by people who may matter more down the line.
Someone told me something so simple, but verbally slapped some knowledge across my face leaving a mark that is a partial reason I wrote this blog. It's easy to be a follower. There's no thought, and anyone can follow anything. It's harder to be a leader. It's harder to get someone to listen to what you have to say and follow accordingly. Love'em or hate'em, those people are doing more with a week's worth of work than you may do in a year. Be a leader, have integrity and ask yourself if you're setting a precedent or notch in the bigger picture. That's what punk rock is about - the following part is why many people say it's dead. Let's fucking prove them wrong.
In the span of a couple of weeks, two events got me thinking about the existence of social media - most notably YouTube - and how living in the moment doesn't necessarily mean sharing it with everyone. This isn't necessarily negatively geared toward making an ass out of yourself via the web, but I'm more referring to the death of storytelling and the aspect of keeping a special moment unshared and locked away in your memories and then gauging how special it will mean to you against how long the moment stays vivid as the years go on.
Two weeks ago, Patton Oswalt got into a scuffle with an audience member during a surprise set where he intended to try out some new jokes for an upcoming special he's going to film later this year. Like most people at any event these days with a smartphone, someone was filming it and Oswalt's dispute started thereafter. Though one local comedian commented on Oswalt's behavior in handling the situation as being less than stellar, Oswalt later released a statement concerning the entire incident and the reason for handling the situation like he did. Honestly, I can see where Oswalt is coming from on this - you get to see something in the works, be a judge and say you lived the moment. Why do you have to archive it for the world to see, especially when "I" - the artist - do not want the final product to surface before I get the right to say it's complete.
Understandable right? We base a lot of our reactions on expectation - and our expectations are judged against what we first hear or see. Whether it be a new joke, a demo from a band or even the first seven minutes of a movie where we have difficulty hearing a certain character's lines, our judgement is based on what is given to us. Oswalt isn't the first person to experience such a thing, and it's all too rabid in the music industry as labels and artists alike are doing their best to show you the finished product "when they want to" rather than "when you want to" finally see it. From demos to playing a new song live - the Internet has sort of killed that reveal and power that an artist has. To an extent, an artist has the ability to kill it too by letting it out in the public through his or her own right - and that's an exception.
So while that was on my mind for almost a week, Keith Buckley then wrote a lengthy blog (but very well written and worth reading) on the power of social media and the effects it has on both the public and our private lives we choose to share with said public. He makes a lot of good points, but the one that struck me was this line in particular: I cant count how many times at shows I’ve implored people in the crowd to stop watching us with their viewfinders and come back to the moment with us. To make it “theirs”; something they could talk about in a real conversation with real friends at a later date, embellishing in the details and captivating the listener. Be able to say “I was there” before that term loses all importance.
That's just it! We lost that. Can't make it to a reunion? See it on YouTube the next morning in semi-okay quality off an iPhone or some other unprofessional device. Want to hear the new song your favorite band played live in shitty quality to judge? It'll be on Mediafire soon - I promise that! Not only are we not "living" the moment, we're also not keeping it special. The idea of telling someone how awesome something was is lost, and on top of that, they witness it in a worse quality than how you originally lived it. There's no rise in your voice of excitement or uncontrolled body language - it's 140 characters of lifeless banter that reads as bad as a misread text message.
The bigger problem lies somewhere on the fine line of trying to capture those experiences and sharing them with the public who in turn hold so many expectations. This is why things like the SOPA Act sound good to certain people. There really is no control of the "reveal" anymore. I'm not saying that what SOPA intends to instate is good for the archival of ideas and forward progress, but what I am saying is that we've pushed these people to go a bit insane because of our actions. We carry a bit of the blame. We finally reached the point where we can't have "nice things."
I'm curious as to how this "blackout" will effect us for the day. Ironically, on the day of the blackout, I'll be working all day, and will hopefully catch a few write-ups on the digital protest once I hit a mid-day break. Maybe we all need to shut down our networks for a week, maybe even a few days. Enjoy a movie with some friends and a few beers without tweeting a joke from the room. Go to a show and bang your head without checking your Facebook to see what your friends not at the show are doing. If you witness something spectacular and spur of the moment that caught you off your guard - hesitate for a minute and ask yourself if you should share this, or feel special that you're there with a few other people experience the moment and get to embellish how fucking awesome it was to everyone you know later. I'm not saying we should forever shutdown the "sharing of ideas," I'm just saying that maybe we should think before we let them out there. Once they're there - you're 1,000 views away from not being able to change your story - or at the very least, tuck it away as a special memory.
In 1998, Refused released a record that would revolutionize the hardcore scene for some time. Some still herald it as some of the most revolutionary work since Fugazi, and others saw it as a rip-off of the United States' own Nation of Ulysses, releasing 13 Point Program to Destroy America in 1991. Whether one album and/or band is held higher on your elitist food chain, they're both important notches in the punk scene as a whole. Then there's At the Drive-In, known for their Fugazi work ethic and equally unhinged sound and insane live shows, they ended their career shortly after releasing one of punk rock and hardcore's opuses, Relationship of Command. It didn't destroy the workings of 3OneG or Revelation Records or even Ebullition, but at the same time it was on a spectrum all its own. It stood out like a sore thumb pushing the self destruct button and herald a revolution for all to wake up and attempt to just be creative while maintaining the aggression and political nature hardcore was built on. Like Refused shortly after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, At the Drive-In called it a day after releasing a record that didn't just resonate throughout the punk rock community, it left a permanent mark on most bands wanting to create some sort of noise in the hardcore and post-hardcore scene alike.
Somewhat seen as two reunions that would never happen in a million years, Monday we were all floored by the fact that both bands would be reuniting, and that both bands would be playing this year's Coachella festival out in the dessert of California. The social networking feeds, our site and many other publications exploded with the news of this. Honestly, I think some people will be selling their property to go out to the festival just to see both of these bands reunite. It's understandable. Even Refused said it in their statement Monday night, "We never did "The shape of punk to come" justice back when it came out, too tangled up in petty internal bickering to really focus on the job. And suddenly there's this possibility to do it like it was intended. We wanna do it over, do it right. For the people who've kept the music alive through the years, but also for our own sakes."
That statement always makes me wonder about why bands even reunite. Money? Boredom? Settling old debt and differences amongst personal tension? Whatever it may be, most of us are happy that it happens. In the past three years I got to see The Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Jesus Lizard, HUM, Hot Snakes, Wire and Olivia Tremor Control. All of these bands I never got to see at their prime, and thankfully they pulled it off years after creating some of the most memorable music for the respective scenes to date. But even watching David Yow stage dive during the opening song of The Jesus Lizard's set will never compare to people seeing that band in the worst of club settings at their prime. Do you think seeing At the Drive In play in a fucking classroom will even compare to a sea of people watching the band on the main stage of one of the largest music festivals in the world? It just won't. To those people in the basement at Refused's last show - they witnessed something that any reunion at 10,000+ person event won't begin to recreate.
Now, I don't say the following things because I'm bitter or an elitist or know that I, in no way in hell, can afford to make it out to Coachella this year. I'm just trying to make a point that reunions will never compare to the actual experience of the moment we all long to have been a part of. Seeing Portugal. The Man five years ago with 100 people is something special to me. Seeing Pygmy Lush thrash around at a house show is probably the closest I will ever see pg.99. Seeing a kid rip Drew Speziale to the ground in the middle of a song the first time I saw Circle Takes the Square with 50 kids is indescribable. Unless you lived that moment - or was even that kid screaming back in Spezlale's face as he was gripping his shirt in angst and passion, pulling him off the stage - it's a moment like no other to be a part of something that real at a young age, or at the very least, in the same room witnessing it first hand when you're going "Oh fuck, what is this?" over and over again in the back of your mind.
I've been working on a book for three years now, interviewing a lot of my favorite bands about some of the best records that redefined the punk and hardcore scene of the late '90s and early millennium. One sort of unsaid point that lays across every interview I transcribe is that a lot of these bands either (a) were attempting something new for the hell of it or (b) creating something out of a disdain for what was going on in the scene at the time. That's a point that resonates all too well today. Want to know why the punk and hardcore community is getting bigger? Kids are tired of being lied to. No one can manufacture that moment and put it on a stage for a summer to call it the next best thing. The greatest things to come out of punk rock were generally more organic than you think they were. Kids are going to basement shows and intentionally seeking out new and exciting music. They feel close to it because they are close to it. While some will call what's happening now a bit of idol worship to peers of the Midwestern scene and angst Northeast screamo of the day, at least there are a few doing it justice at the moment.
Let us rejoice for today that we finally get to see something like this go down. But know that history never repeats itself often. I'm not denouncing any of these reunions, or any reunions that have or will ever happen. I'm just saying, if you're excited about a particular band (subjectivity be damned) and that band makes you rethink what you know about music thus far in your life - go see them. Buy their limited vinyl and with technology today, film and archive as much of it as possible. Have you seen the Fugazi documentary Instrument? I think those gymnasiums and those VFW halls would be way more packed if more kids knew then, what we know now. You never know who is going to churn out the next important history notch in punk rock - that's why this scene is so exciting to be a part of. Heed this: If you feel it, reach out and experience something 10,000+ people wish they were a part of a decade earlier.