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.
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.
Something I think I forgot about these past few months is examining the start of this decade, the year of music we've had and people reacting and embracing music with a (heart)beat again. I think in the end, we yearn to explore the movement of emotion through art. Okay, The Notebook made you cry over your ex-boyfriend, or your shelf of old books filled with forgotten poetry you found at the local book store says everything you're thinking and no one gets when you explain it to them - it's all a thick connection of personal understanding with a rewired connection from the previous works' intentions.
The message is sometimes lost, but we still find some sort of solace, because it's there, we're tired and we therefore play into the albums'/movies'/books' ranges of mood and the lyrics/lines/thoughts "we get," or whatever that feeling is. 2011 has certainly been a year where we haven't just enjoyed records or lines or hand claps, etc. - 2011 has been a year where we can feel the pulse in music stronger than ever. We're lightening up in giving the archive of the Web we access as a library of chance and new knowledge, wondering what we'll end up retaining. I guess since we've decided that we've given ourselves access to the damn library of congress of music we're really not allowed to touch without paid admission, we might as well absorb as much as we can in the wake of this "culture jam." I remember reading something a while back (the piece escapes me), but someone commented on a young journalists' ability to discover and know more about a genre in a couple of months more than the guy who lived every hometown show and close friendship amongst the same scene.
Back to our rapidly expanding culture of technology and information - I overheard some elder businessmen at a table I was waiting on today talking about the company they work for switching all their paper archives to iPads and digital back-up. It was seriously "crazy" to them. We're constantly on four to five social networks. Do you really care about the FBI finding you at this point? Worry about big brother? Half the world knows you're bitter about that geology test or when you break-up and get back together in your "on again/off again" relationship. We only know how to express ourselves in "memes" and 30-second clips found on YouTube.
This year my favorite albums were those that made me think about a lot of things: love, life, growing up, missing home, hating your roots and embracing them, feeling defeated among the worst of times and overcoming a mountain to only prepare for the next one and the most important: realizing no matter how heavy the load you bare on your back, there's someone beside you that has it worst and will matter the most in finding understanding. We are the bright new generation of giving up on the old while learning from them as well. We're connecting through tragedy and uncertain impending doom measured on an ever-changing scale still controlled by the media and entertainment we'll eventually loathe in our old age, and the next generation will come along and the cycle of resentment, tearing down and rebuilding something classic into the contemporary will start again.
That's what is happening in 2011. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the music scene doesn't turn over new ideas that will still have to find a chance at longevity when the next cycle starts in a couple of more years. Luckily we're at one of the best times of that stack of turtles all the way down we hope to remember fondly one day. It's not that 2011 restored my faith in music again, it's that it has really restored some faith back into people wanting to enhance their senses and minds with something that was worth saying at an economically, socially and for some of us, personally horrible time. Punk started as a counter fashion and political middle finger to the system. What about that idea in the new millennium? It's a cutthroat time, and no one is looking to go home from the party as long as they can keep the public attentions with a good hook or an overly saturated single through Clear Channel. Where do those punk ideals fit in a system where you want to make a living on something that has a high percentage of failing in even the best conditions.
I tend to forget who has done what pop single that I've heard a million times over, in my sleep and background to a movie. I forget the first girl I ever liked. I forget who sold the most rock albums of 1995. I forget petty arguments and selfish behavior both towards me and coming from me. A good album is hard to forget. A good friendship is hard to erase. Unearthing those memories years later both with scratched CDs from then and newly compressed files from now speaks volumes both to the passing of our youth and the future of a hopeful imprint that will only be pressed with a new one before we know it.
It's not about touring. It shouldn't be about merch sales. It certainly isn't about selling your newly made products, because everyone is taking a sample out the back of the truck while you're watching. Or maybe you're one of the ones figuring out how to show up with the truck, give away the product and still find a return. You know what's been silent this year? The industry. Sure, we finally got our hands on Spotify, but most of us saw that coming. There's too many artists with something real to say, a couple of interns working their way up in the ranks of the big leagues and small imprints that show both the evil and good guy traits of the business and somewhere - right now - someone is working on the next way to shake up 2012 either in their favor or for the greater good. That's where all this written logic leads me. As we grow older, our experiences shape our future without us knowing it. The variable that's the most interesting to watch is if we fall in the same pitfalls of the elders we reject or reach our goal of shaping the future in our confidence.
2011 has been a year of confidence in the ideals of punk. 2012 will be the year we see if that momentum can continue or if we see the road beginning to slope for our newly favored heroes and saviors we see them as now.
We're reaching the tail end of 2011, and I can't believe it's almost over. Maybe it's the the last three months of my life seeming like an adventurous blur of panic and financial survival while keeping up with my responsibilities of the site, or maybe its because as I was just getting over one album, three more amazing ones fell in my lap. Just the other day, I realized I haven't heard a word about the release of Circle Takes the Square's next full length which is scheduled for next month and still without a surfaced release date. (If there is one, then you can see how far out of the loop I truly am.) As we're closing out the next two months of 2011 and even beginning to think about early releases from 2012 (as of right now, I hope to have the new Xerxes record sooner than later), I'm also thinking about the inevitable - the downfall.
I'm not beginning to build a shelter out back lined with all the albums that I know will comfort me through the muck of the third wave of copycats and so on that I get bored with - but I know that 2012 could be bigger than 2011 and if things are following suit to the two decades before it, we've got a couple more years in us until we see the slope happening. Believe you me - I already see it happening, both locally and nationally. But I have to tell myself that it's always been like that. For some reason, at this age, I'm more aware of "the oncoming storm." (UNEARTH REFERENCE! YEAH!)
What I'm more curious to see - and I'm even more aware of - is what will happen to the greats that changed music for me (Thursday, Thrice, Brand New) while others are now over (RX Bandits, These Arms Are Snakes, Poison the Well) and we only wish that the formers will not slowly go the way of the latter. Then there's Brian Fallon - a feat of rock and roll that doesn't seem to have any agenda besides a full on "GO!" attitude.
One of the most important things to address is the underlying competitive nature of things going on at the moment. In the last month I've interviewed quite a lot of people and have had a lot of networks and friends in town on tour and the general consensus has been the same from band to band: "My friend(s) made an amazing record." Last night I attended a local show down in San Antonio with my friends in Innards and Sohns. Two bands that keep getting better every time I see them. Innards played a new song from an upcoming split with The Reptilian and it may just be their best work yet. Whether it's the smallest of local scenes or the greater underground or the greats noticing the up-and-coming, I can honestly say that my favorite artists are more than pushing themselves and they're pushing each other to do something better by the day.
I stick to what I had to say after SXSW this year, and I'm excited for 2012 but I do still fear what's after that. I know this is slowly dying - and that's a good thing. As the cream rises though, some of it has to fall out the container eventually, and the drink will eventually lose a bit of its taste - so let us enjoy what's in the cup before it gets to two-thirds empty and we need a refill in nine years.