I just can't stop thinking about Lester Bangs' death. It's sort of toiled on my mind for the last couple of months. Bangs died at the age of 33 in New York. Unintentional or not, he died after ingesting three different types of drugs. It was reported that he was listening to The Human League's Dare. The thing that keeps scratching at the back of my cerebral when it comes to all of this is not that Bangs died of a drug overdose, or that he was listening to early post-punk pioneers who crossed over into minor mainstream success. What bothers me is whether or not Bangs got to say everything he wanted to say about music before his death. He lived through the '60s and '70s. These were the golden ages of rock and roll, a less saturated market of commodities and touring acts. He got to experience the birth and death of punk and died listening to one of its predecessors.
Still, there was no experience of where the rock that Bangs both denounced and admired turned into. There is no experience of lavish hair metal. He died before Damaged could truly make an impact. He'll never know what a man like Kurt Cobain could do to music. Bangs will never be able to rattle on about how the digital age is killing the industry and and how the resurgence of vinyl is a trendy sham that will only explode "new arrival" bins in the next ten years. In the time of his many musings and mad ramblings he cemented a lot unabashed biased and thought about both the artists who create and the industry who flips it. Beyond that, he called out his fellow writers and critics as well.
He was a mad, deranged, anxious, disturbed human being who truly loved music on a valued level many of us, myself included, will never fully understand. At a time of "hype" and social registry that moves so quickly, we forget about bands that blow us away in the span of the beginning of the year when they were two thousand-whatever's brightest new hope to save, blah blah blah…and then they may only get an "honorable mention" at best come time to write up that "best of things everyone has their own opinion on" lists we'll sit and argue and scoff over for hours flipping through.
This past weekend I decided that I'm burned out and I need to walk away. Doing this and not having a stable job to back it has been both draining on me mentally and physically, and it's time to put my mind on this industry to rest. In the last three years I've grown to understand many things and become aggravated by many others as well. For me, it's my time to move on. I've said all I feel I could have said about this industry, punk rock, our relationship with music, etc.
Doing what you want to do is not easy. I feel like I'm writing that sappy "band break-up" note we post at least once a week. When you start to gain any sort of success, there is a world around you that will latch on and never let go. You will meet people who you can trust and admire, and you will meet others with their own agendas that include you as a small piece of their bigger puzzle. The music industry is like a darker humor version of Dilbert crossed with the insanity that is the plot of Airheads. There are a lot of laughs, but most of the time you're just shaking your head going, "This makes no fucking sense."
Still, I'm in a position where people respect my opinion. So I'll leave you all with three keys to success in this life: honesty, humbleness and humor. Be honest with everyone from your friends to your business partnerships. Sure, there's a couple of white lies and stretches in there, but just be upfront about shit. Be humble and thankful for opportunity. I've watched people act like they're entitled to something, when you're downright entitled to nothing and should be thankful you're not sitting in a cubicle punching numbers or flipping patties or listening to the "checkout beep" for hours on end. Lastly, have a sense of humor. Crack a joke sometimes. Don't take life too seriously, or you'll drive yourself mad. Even if it makes you crack a smile and no one gets the joke that makes sense to you in your head - it's a natural nirvana.
As this door, chapter and metaphor comes to a close in my life, hopefully another one is about to open. It's going to be even more frustrating, but it's something I believe in and can get behind one hundred percent. It's a position I've been complaining about on the Web for years, and it's finally time I make my way into the system to cash that big fat check I wrote with my mouth. I'll be able to say more on that soon, but for now, the future looks bright and I'm ready to take all this passion and channel it into something full-time, even if it means giving up most of my free time, travel and property to do so.
From the bottom of my big fat heart that sits atop my big fat stomach, thank you.
In 1994, Unwound released New Plastic Ideas through Kill Rock Stars. A year prior, Nirvana would release their third record, In Utero, and the rest is grunge history. There's a blur between the years of 1993 and 1996 where grunge became indie and indie became one hit radio wonders now cased in a not-very-quickly-sold The Buzz packaging on an even more outdated system of commercial spots. If you haven't heard New Plastic Ideas and worship(ed) the groundwork that Nirvana paved into mainstream gold for so many others, one listen to the opening "Entirely Different Matters" should wake you up. I've even heard rumored that at a point in time, Unwound and Nirvana shared a practice space together.
So in an era where bands like The Pixies, Unwound, KARP, Pavement and Fugazi should have moved from underground gods to mainstream integrity, they didn't. Even The Pixies didn't see such mainstream exposure until the film adaptation of Fight Club brought the Surfer Rosa favorite "Where is My Mind" into nu-hipster glory, and for a brief moment "Here Comes Your Man" seemed like a one-hit wonder to some in a certain lapse of time. Now, today, Doolittle is not only a rock staple for critics, scholars and hipsters alike, it finally has a mainstream folklore captivated behind it. In fact, I'm sure many a mainstream music consumer thinks "Where is My Mind" is off that very record.
I was sitting on my couch the other night watching Botch's DVD of their final show. I'm not sure if its the recent rock star news as of late that just boils under my skin, but I grabbed my phone and started a tirade on Twitter. To those of you who started following me because of it - I'm sorry. But in this grandiose moment of clarity I went, "Oh fuck, how did we go from a band like Botch to Falling in Reverse?! How did Fear Before the March of Flames put out The Always Open Mouth, and then we got five years of breakdown after formulaic breakdown and Whine Fests about being friend zoned?!"
Yes, I got that you were mad at Norma Jean for "ripping off" Botch, but at least they did it well. I don't understand why Enter Shakari's new album is being compared to The Shape of Punk to Come, and for the love of god, someone please explain to me why we need so many side projects these days?
None of this bitching is new to any of my 20 regular readers. So I must digress into the "why?" of all of this, because it all of a sudden hit me after watching this YouTube video/sketch this past week. (Now, it should be noted that it is a skit and not the real head of MTV's programming. In fact, the head of MTV's programming did not renew his contract, and Susanne Daniels is now in the drivers seat after this week.) But the skit does make a lot of valid points as to why a channel that truly was a marketing tool to sell music is no longer as relevant as it was in the '90s - the stretch of time some of us will never want to give up on.
Seriously, Nickelodeon is ruining the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise and Disney has bought the Star Wars franchise and no one is doing anything about it. Fucking kill me.
The other night I did troll this thread. I did it for two reasons. The first being, I thought it was funny. Plain and simple. The second being that the compilation which sold enough copies to be #16 in the United States is fucking terrible. For some reason, these rock star, gimmicky scraps of music - if we can even call it that - is outselling real rock bands. These bands are being financially supported and the other pool of talent - some of which I like and some I'm not into - have like one big festival a year and still tour to mid-sized venues.
You kids are paying to go see a guy who literally stopped a show to kick out the people who put money in his pocket, over a personal discrepancy with another band. You're still buying tickets to support a band that has cancelled numerous tours for being rock stars and making mediocre albums about how tough life is. On the reverse side, as well as the "Wave" - or whatever - is doing on the polar opposite end of all this resounding bullshit, there are kids in that scene that just download and download and never put back in.
To go back to the MTV skit, it's your fault. It's our fault. We ruined good music. We have always ruined good music. When we ruin good music, the person on the other side of that trying to make a living, half of them don't really fucking care about music. Clear Channel doesn't care if Bieber is huge or if Circa Survive breaks into mainstream rotation. If Issues' and Balance and Composure's next albums break into the top five best selling records for the month, there will be singles from each played back to back - because that's what fucking sells.
The real problem with why one band succeeds and another doesn't is how much support we put into it. It blows my mind when a PR person wants our publication or any other publication to "push" a band or "push" an exclusive. Exposure exists in more forms than just this publication, Alternative Press, SPIN, Pitchfork, etc. There were kids crawling over each other during Title Fight the other night. As I asked Michael York from Pianos Become the Teeth if it was like this every night, he simply looked back and said, "This is actually pretty tame." Sure they got a song released on NPR and a stream through SPIN, but none of their fans give a shit how they get to hear the band's music - it's that they support it.
I said this already, and it's not a joke - music journalism is fucking dead. Publications, affiliates like MTV and festivals like South by Southwest are leveled wormholes to the general public. A great label is a great support system, but it's not the only iron lung you need to keep your band in to survive on. In 2012, I've learned there is apparently still room for rock stars because some of you kids keep buying into this garbage. This isn't a long argument about how my music is better than yours or whatever. This is about actions speaking louder than LPs.
To end this, I'll just take from a friend and personal influence who put it best last week: "There are just so many artists out there that are working their asses off and making great music that deserve your support and attention. Just my opinion."
It's mine too Matt. I'm sure there are a ton of people who feel the same way. A lot of people who still care about the art of music. It can be the dance-noise of HEALTH, the story-telling of Kendrick Lamar, the pure rock of Metz or the youthful angst of Title Fight.
When there's so much to choose from, why pick from the Jersey Shore of record bins.
There's a fine line that some music journalists ride that I often wonder whether it's a lie or they really grew up in the hippest parts of America and were listening to Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted before they even entered high school. Or were they listening to Tantric and Live, went to college and acted like the first 18 years of their lives never existed. I'm not sure if it's denial, or I just wasn't that cool when I was their age.
The thing is, I know I wasn't that cool. I still am not.
I remember you telling me what you told me. The first relationship I was ever in. I felt hurt. I felt angry. I told you to get out my car. I quickly sped off. For some reason, the speakers in my car wouldn't turn up loud enough. As I parked the car and walked back to the dorm, I heard you crying in the distance, calling out my name to talk. I didn't want to talk. You said enough for the both of us.
So as much as this past weekend has meant to me seeing bands like Braid, Refused and The Promise Ring. I discovered those bands late in high school or in the case of The Promise Ring, my formidable college years. To me, it doesn't make their music mean any less or more as to when I discovered the band. Each one is just another rung in the ladder.
What really got me this week was my fellow staffer and friend Ryan Gardner's review of Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends 10th Anniversary Tour here in Austin. Ryan and I have a very significant age difference sitting between us. So when I was in high school rocking out to one of our generation's most influential records, Gardner was nine-years-old. Honestly, I can't even remember what I was listening to when I was 9. Probably the radio? It was my last year of having Leukemia, so that part of my life is a blur in itself.
As my best friend since high school - who was in town for Fun Fun Fun Fest this past weekend - and I pushed through the crowd, there were a lot of young faces mixed with ones my age. Given the fact that Taking Back Sunday's original line-up is now back together, at the age of sixteen, I didn't even get a chance to see this moment until now. (Well, it should be noted that I've seen the guys play together twice since then, but to play an album like this all the way through, is a whole other level of nostalgia.)
I don't remember much from last night. I remember going to bed early, shutting the door to my room while the party continued in my apartment. Now as I'm getting up, I can hear you laughing from the other room. The room of my best friend.
There's something special about an album like Tell All Your Friends. It's a feeling that runs through records like Say It Like You Mean It, Sticks and Stones and all those other heartbreaking records as a teenager. There's probably a Fall Out Boy record in there for some of you. At least sixty percent of the Saves the Day catalog is just an uphill fight about love, loss, rejection and awkwardness. Then there's Deja Entendu, equally rotated with Friends in my younger years.
These albums stick just as much as Usher's Confessions or Copeland's Beneath Medicine Tree. Which, between them, they're the same record really.
What makes me wonder about the longevity of an album like Tell All Your Friends is why it has stuck for so long? Is it the anger and frustration felt through out? Is it everything we want to say, but lack of words thereafter? Is it that in the struggle of relationship after relationship, both platonic and romantic, we've already attached ourselves once to such a record, that it's a comforting reminder of sorts in the years to come? The fact that it stuck through a decade, kid after young kid, the same bullshit and the same feelings. It's incredible really.
I'm pretty exhausted from the weekend so far, but I'm leaning against this empty guitar cabinet thinking of us. Yes, yes Adam, that's exactly what I want to tell her. Now I'm belting it out. I'm 26 standing to the side of this young crowd, and I'm still singing out every perfect quip that I want to text her right now. I wonder when I'll grow out of this.
What really struck me is the look on Gardner's face after the show. It was like the look on my face after seeing Refused, Braid and The Promise Ring this weekend. I saw something I missed out on. Something that meant a lot to me for so many years that I never experience at the time I discovered it. While Refused never wrote an album about heartbreak and pulling yourself out of a personal ditch, each album you hear holds a significance for one reason or another. It could be a sound, it could be the musicianship, it could be the songwriting or it could be a feeling and attachment. There are records in my library that will always be cataloged to a moment in my life for better or worse. The coolest part is how it holds meaning to generations younger than me.
I think, well, what if I was a ladies man. Would all these records mean as much? Would they just be great records laced in excellent songwriting with no personal attachment? Does that make them better or worse then? Does that make me and millions of others understand them more or less than others? In the end, that attachment in any form makes for a special keepsake. That substance in music is why I keep trudging along writing these rants. Somewhere out there, there are a few people who get it, and my story doesn't seem as lame as it does inside my head.
I can feel you getting distant. I feel myself doing the same. The only thing I'll regret is that I never let you hold me back.
"The biggest lie about punk rock is that anyone can do it. Sure, anyone can do crap punk rock, but there is a fine art to taking a music fueled by destructive impulses and building it to last." - Stuart Berman, "Album Review: Metz' Metz" Pitchfork. 2012
Berman makes a bold statement at the beginning of his review for Metz' self-titled which was released earlier this month to glowing praise. The album does hold water to said critical justification just as much as Berman's statement about punk rock. While listening to Metz' latest record this week alongside cloakroom's EP and revisiting New Plastic Ideas and Nevermind as fodder between them, 2012 has been the year that time remembered. We once again felt the dirt wedged between our fingers and our nails and the music which accompanies it. It's now a time of idol worship and nostalgia, and the fine line we ride between the two varies from elitist to even more elitist publications back to the even more elitist culture of listeners who have their head so far up their own ass, they've traveled back to the adolescent discovery of all things they consider to be "true."
Between seeing At the Drive-In continue to deconstruct the sound they more than disassembled a decade prior and the beauty and sprawl of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's out of body experience, one can say that most of our musical notches are still in tact. (I say that knowing that there is much dispute about the former.) Between a new Hot Water Music record and Texas is the Reason entering the studio with J. Robbins, it seems we just can't let go of the '90s-core musical landscape of pre-Internet showmanship.
But there's still one reunion, one time in my life I've yet to revisit, and this weekend I feel like the last decade of my life will come to a close and I will have more than a better understanding of what punk rock truly is and not what I was told it was in 2002. While it was four years after the release of The Shape of Punk to Come, I discovered Refused for the first time after seeing the video for "New Noise" on an MTV affiliated rock channel. Like videos for "One Armed Scissor" and "Understanding (In a Car Crash)," this was my first dive into "hardcore" music as I knew it to be at that point. Dead Kennedys and Black Flag were still just "punk bands" and Operation Ivy was "ska" when I was sixteen and didn't know any better and lacked any sort of back story to the bigger picture.
I didn't have ten years of research and discovery under me. Now all the pieces fit. Now I understand how we went from The Sex Pistols to Public Image Ltd. to Black Flag to Fugazi to Blink 182 to Fall Out Boy to metalcore numbness and now past 'GO,' collecting $200 through Web funding.
Just as I grew up in the suburban landscape of America, I'm not alone in how I wedged my way into the punk rock lifestyle. My story is no different than many others. I've always been an angst ridden child. I wasn't good at sports. I was very self conscious about myself throughout high school - and still am to an extent. Like many of you, at sixteen, music was the escape of emotions. But I'm not going to sit here and tell you I didn't own a copy of Significant Other years prior, or still listened to NOFX, Reel Big Fish and Blink 182 around the same time - bands some Refused fans would find "below them."
The Shape of Nu-Metal to Come.
That was my environment, and I can only be a product of it. I think that's the thing overlooked when discussing The Shape of Punk to Come. In 1997-98, it was reinventing and "new," but in 2012 it's idol worship. I didn't know who Nation of Ulysses were when I was sixteen, but now I do, and when I hear people denounce the record because of it, it's like they're ripping out a piece of what made me who I am today. It's taking a sledge hammer to the foundation of my grade school punk history 101.
All you uptight pricks just stomped on my diorama. Thanks.
The funny thing about our youthful "know-it-all" attitude is that some of us grow out of it and open ourselves to broader ranges of music, and some can't quite shake what we've always been attracted to audibly. The Shape of Punk to Come is an album centered around the expansion of what music, particularly the genre of "punk rock," could be. Beyond the references borrowed from the early hardcore scene, down to the cover for Rye Coalition's Teen-age Dance Session, the band turned it into their own for the next generation.
Somewhere, at some point in the first decade of the millennium, a line was drawn between holding our elders sacred and handing down old ideas to create new ones. There are more listeners and critics (including my guilty self) who would rather blame the next batch of bands for turning a trick than doing their best at reinventing the wheel over time. It really bothers me at this point that some of us are still in this mindset.
Tim McTague said something that just blew me away this past week in an interview with Alternative Press about the disbanding of UnderOath and about their legacy. He said, "It was this effort of a bunch of small things coming together, that obviously, we can’t take credit for—people we don’t even know probably played a massive part. It was just this thing that came out and I just kind of smiled for the fallen great bands, for the Froduses and the At The Drive-Ins, or Refused—who are obviously back and destroying everyone in their path. But at the time, all those bands that almost got there but didn’t. [Underoath] will never be dropped in the same conversations. No one from Refused will ever care about our band. I’m sure Justin Beck from Glassjaw hates our band—and that doesn’t matter. We know we’ll never connect with or inspire [the members of those bands]. They inspired us. Our music career is in honor of what they started."
It's sad to read that quote considering how far UnderOath pushed themselves as a band, the fact that they brought These Arms Are Snakes out on one of their first big tours and that like Poison the Well, UnderOath is that band that drew up the blueprint for the next wave, only to blow past them with their last three records. For some, even in the UnderOath's stride forward, they were just "ripping off Isis, etc."
The biggest tragedy to come out of The Shape of Punk to Come is that in the years to follow, we got so attached to the past that we forgot about what the future could hold. It's 2012 and we're finally digging ourselves out of the rubbish of 2005-2009's most popular hardcore, post-hardcore and punk acts to grace a Hot Topic display case.
You can sit here and bitch all you want about how Refused borrowed a few tricks from early hardcore's elite, but they also borrowed from European house music, jazz records (a genre based on ripping off other musicians and turning it into something all its own), classical string arrangements and even the blues. No one ever talks about those references. No one is defending the Bo Diddley or Igor Stravinsky allusions.
No matter the genre or sub-genres that make up punk rock, it's always been about dismantling the standard. With punk rock, there's no standard within the genre, if there was, and you're playing it, then you're not even really punk rock then, right? Punk rock's an excuse to be a rock star without having to know how to play an instrument, right? It's about being the toughest person in your crew, right? It's about cascading the most "fuck it" attitude in your lyrics, right? These standards sound familiar? That's because they're all made by us. In a genre without rules, there sure as hell seems to be a lot of them.
The Shape of Punk to Come is an album without rules. Worship and Tribute is an album without rules. Relationship of Command is an album without rules. You see where I'm going with this? But those records are references to the Bad Brains and Fugazis and Drive Like Jehus alike. So what separates their worth in history? Without Coltrane, there would be no Monk. Without the Kinks there would be no Spoon. Without the Talking Heads there would be no amount of great acts such as St. Vincent and Grizzly Bear. To put this all in a better perspective, I'll pull from what I know. To quote Roger Meyers Sr., "TV is built on plagiarism! If it wasn't for The Honeymooners, we would of never had The Flinstones! If someone hadn't made Sergeant Biko, there'd be no Topcat!" I'm ten years older than my first listen to The Shape of Punk to Come. News flash to younger readers out there: everything is built on everything. Some bands will disassemble an idea, and others will cook a pot of gumbo with many ingredients and influences.
You'll know when something is "crap," because when you move forward and backwards in time through its references, it all sounds the same. When you take a linear path through a timeline and similarities exist, but different landscapes are painted using different techniques and bases, you'll find yourself being able to sift through said "crap." It takes time and it takes growing up. You never have to grow out of punk rock, but you should learn how to use its insights to further progress.
If not, you're spending all your time on stage bitching about what's hardcore and what isn't and giving me something to laugh at on the Internet besides the "Darren Sharper 'Hold my dick!'" video.
Thanks Refused, for putting the team on your back.
When the pre-orders and tour for the recently released Circa Survive album were announced, I sent a text to Colin Frangicetto saying how I was excited to see him here in town again, and what a hell of a line-up the tour had backing it. In his response he told me about how he enjoyed my column on the package deals and wanted to know if he wanted to sit down and talk about art and music. Well, yeah, of course. So months later, we had a chat after the show. Since Frangicetto and I have a pretty agreeable sense of where music stands between art and our love of the physical medium, the interview came out great, but not a lot of new information and just sort of how we currently stand with a way to open even more discussion. But something happened during the interview that caught my attention more so. As we stood outside the bus discussing the absence of labels and the work put into the special packages of Violent Waves, there were two attendees who had been waiting around to get the band's autograph. He paused, talked a bit to the two and a few minutes later we finished the interview.
Now, I'm not putting Frangicetto or his band on a pedestal, because anyone in any band on that level of success ever could and have been that gracious. But there's an intimacy to the whole meeting that makes the dollars spent on music that much more special to someone. Even on Warped Tour this summer, some of our site's tabloid greats graciously welcomed photographs and autographs traveling from their equipment breakdown back to the bus and even vice versa. Now, the bigger you get, the harder that becomes. But interaction in some form is everything. In interaction lies some substance of integrity. Even if that interaction is between the conveyed message, thought, or idea executed on an album and the interpretation of the fan thereafter, we lead ourselves to believe that there's a bout of integrity within the "art," as some of us put it.
For those with dollar signs and ways to manipulate any art in a bastardized way of making lots of money and degrading the whole thing, it's entertainment. It's the Clear Channel way. Sometimes you just get bought and sold even when you're part of the elite bundle of money makers. I commend bands like Circa Survive. They went through the system, learned a few things and came out self sufficient. I say bands "like," because they're not the only ones to do it. As I commented in the aforementioned column Frangicetto and I discussed, mewithoutYou took a similar and still successful route this year as well.
As much as we try to couple the terms "art" and "integrity" together to give us a warm sense of comfort and satisfaction, any type of art, whether it be film, music or graphic, has the ability to get bought and sold for profit to eat, sleep, live and repeat. As I was working on finishing this column last night, I was sidetracked by yet another column (last article, scroll all the way down) by Kevin Dunn. For weeks, I feel like I haven't heard the end of it. Whether it's been discussion amongst close friends about how I feel about the situation or the hoards of editorials and tweets for and against both sides. Dunn's column caught me. First off, it's very well put together. He brings up some very vibrant points of punk culture and the buy and sell lifestyle of what "punk" is and what it isn't. That's just in the first two paragraphs. But if you know your history well enough, you know that the Sex Pistols were put together and managed by a boutique owner, Blondie became a hit radio band outside the dirty clubs of the Northeast and if you're around my age and reading this, you know that some of the first images of "punk" were and still are a bit unclear. Once anything has been taken notice by a larger minority, the majority will eventually gain curiosity and figure out what it is, and bam, you are now a marketable audience.
"Punk" has always been that taboo market where the elitist trust fund crust kids will argue for hours how those suburban middle class losers don't know what that "sacred" term really means. Punk was once part of the counter-culture, and now there are so many various forms of "Black Flag" satire t-shirts, it's about as counter-culture as Disney's Joy Division t-shirts. But I know the real point trying to be made in the "Buzzmedia buy-out of all things punk on the Web." There are the unpaid and the underprivileged that are deemed "staff" on these websites. Well, I'm one of those people. In fact, in two hours I have to be at my part-time job, which sucks so much that tomorrow I have an interview for another one. I should be at Austin City Limits this weekend, but financially it wasn't an option. That's okay, for the most part. I say "for the most part" because it's tough, stressful and sometimes depressing. But what I've learned in the past few years is that freelance writers and musicians are the poorest ones in this industry. If you think bands make little to nothing, then writers are making less and still hold part-time positions. They don't tell you this in college. They don't tell you this at the job fairs. You have a choice to enter the reality of signing an office card for Becky's birthday at the cubicle job because that's the American dream we can't detach ourselves from, or watch At the Drive In's first ever reunion show.
That credit card commercial was right. Some things are priceless. Not sure why now my credit card can get me closer to hooking up with Alicia Keys, but times change I guess.
At the end of the day, someone took a chance on me and continues to do so. Equal Vision and Atlantic took a chance on Circa Survive. Circa Survive used those outlets to learn and grow as artists and almost ten years later they've figured out how to make each lesson a prosperous one. Success doesn't come over night in this industry. It may take ten years for some of us to hone our craft and finally make a living off our talents. Mine is still growing. I'm still experimenting. I can sit here and be mad that after three years of service and what I think, or at least most of you have told me, has been quality work, the "internship" should be over. But who else has offered me a paying gig for my services? Has anyone who has complained about how I get used reached out to say, "Hey, here's a paying gig you may be interested in." No. We just sit and complain about how art, writing, intellectual property and all those things aren't raking in the big bucks.
I could sit around complaining (which I do enough of), or I could spend my time in sharing my wisdom - or lack of - through a vehicle of communication that has been given to me, and by some strange account, hasn't been taken away. You can buy and sell punk all you want, but you'll never truly change anything, catch people's attention or bury your roots deep until you find that vehicle in the system to use. Early in the interview, I think Frangicetto hit the nail on the head, "As an artist, you have to realize that sometimes your portals of communication are going to shift and change due to technology and lots of people wanting it a certain way." All four of those sites wanted to grow and make the thing they created become a full time thing. It's no different then when a band signs to a bigger label.
What can I get out of this deal to further this piece of property I hold dear?
I just want to write. Frangicetto wants to make music and paint. My friends are upstairs right now recording demos on a laptop. Somewhere, right now, someone is jamming out to the new Deathgrips record for free and before the label that gave them the money to record it even heard it. Too many people talk about how the system fucks people over, but this week I realized how much I selfishly use the system for my own needs. It may not be stealing credit cards to book tours like punk bands back in the '80s, but it's a start.
Print is dying, but zines are making a comeback. CDs are dying, but some people want a limited packaged vinyl. Somewhere in between lies the Internet: Digital music that both parties can agree on and up-to-date jackassery on pages of Tumblrs and music blogs alike. A couple of car ads aren't going to bastardized that. Is it free labor? Yes and no. I'm certainly to the point in my life where the benefits don't pay for my college debt, but it's the decision I have made and choose to live with. Jacob Bannon said something that really hit me in an interview with Pitchfork a week ago, "I don't regret the decisions or direction I've chosen, but I feel it's important to be self aware."
When you become self aware, you grow. You gain success. Here's to the future. Maybe it's all the post-rock, instrumental music this week, but I'm as excited as I am fearful for that future.
Now who wants to buy a EMI/Capitol subsidiary with me?
"I can't get that sound you make out of my head, I can't even figure out what's making it…" - Brand New
"Take apart your head…" - Built to Spill
"It's like Brand New took Built to Spill's 'I Would Hurt a Fly' and made a whole album out of it." - my best friend on The Devil and God Raging Inside Me when listening to Perfect From Now On this week. It was a total "Oh fuuuuu. You're right!" moment when he said that. While the album pulls on many influences, there was even an old argument among friends who took a grudge when The Devil and God came out, saying Brand New ripped off Colour Revolt, who at that time were gaining momentum alongside Manchester Orchestra's popularity. Brand New would later take out Manchester Orchestra on their first major U.S. tour since releasing The Devil and God. Then behold, months later, Colour Revolt were opening shows for Brand New. It's a wonderful cycle. Where is the hate if Brand New learned a few tricks from Colour Revolt, isn't that the most exciting thing about music, artists feeding off each others ideas? There were so many reviews comparing the album to The Smiths and The Bends. Where was the Built to Spill write-up? Where was the Perfect From Now On shout-outs most of us missed? Why the hell didn't Pitchfork man up and just say it was great record? At least a 6.7 dawg!
Then there's my "hyphy" review of Basement's upcoming swan song, colourmeinkindness. Maybe I went a little overboard with the references, but after seeing comments like this, I sort of didn't disagree. There are times on colourmeinkindness where someone's going to go, "Maaaan. That's so radio sounding. They sold out." What the hell does that even mean though? I know I've said it a lot about a lot of really good records. Why? I grew up on the radio. I grew up on MTV. I grew up in the suburban South. There was a point in my life when NOFX's Pump Up the Valuum was the heaviest record I owned. Before that it was Insomniac. Before that it was Sixteen Stone. Before that some AC/DC record my dad would play. Back to Black I think.
The point is that unless your older sister was a hip college student or you grew up in such outcast lifestyle that you knew everything before it was big, then you started with the gut of society. As we grow older and discover new music, some of us also grow a tendency to shift towards shitting on everything and anything, and we act like we've always been in the know about certain bands. There's another branch of elitism that is even more annoying. That branch is one where allusion and/or influence is seen as either "been done" or "not as good as when band X did it."
I mean, Simpsons did it.
Where does that thought process come from? What separates a great rock song on the radio from a DIY darling? It's like we'll make up genres just to separate our personal catalogs, another division of what's better or more savant than the other. The funniest and truest thing anyone's ever said to me was that chill wave was just "Blink 182 songs with a flanger." Look, I know you're tired of hearing "We Are Young," just as much as I am, but it's a damn good pop song. It's like we're sitting here dissecting specific elements to walk around with our noses up instead of being open to new music, letting our guard down and enjoying a song or album for its surface value. So what if it sounds like a more obscure band? I get it, Refused pulled elements from a lot of American hardcore acts. Look dude, they just wrote a better record. Just live with that. None of those other bands suffered, and everyone has their place in history. It's not like Refused have never been quiet about their influences either.
There is nothing more annoying to me than when someone's ego gets the best of them and I hear things like, "Yeah, that band's not as good as this band. They did it first," or "Psssh. Sounds like a (insert band/album) rip-off record." Really dude? Did music just fucking stop for you in 1997 on some small label? You must lead a sad existence. I would have never gained the musical background I have now if it wasn't for being open to everything - for the most part. I'm looking at you Ke$ha. Maybe being around some of those people in my life helped me. Maybe we need the elitist bourgeoisie to keep the past intact, but there's a line of subtle snobbery that closes off a sense of openness to new music, that's where my gripe lies.
Last week I went to a screening of the KARP documentary that Bill Badgley from Federation X put together. The documentary is really eye opening for many reasons, the main one seeing the effects of individual friends coping with becoming a steady growing band. One of the most interesting side elements is how KARP were influenced by The Melvins, how fans were calling them the next Melvins and were okay with it, and then in a full-circle event, bassist Jared Warren ends up playing as The Melvins' bassist decades after KARP's inception. Everyone is okay with this. They should be. When the Q&A followed, there was a discussion about it. Someone brought up that The Melvins were influenced by KISS. Have you heard the cover of "Goin' Blind" off Houdini? Again, most people are okay with this. Again, they should be.
Music is a wonderfully cyclical thing. Young bands like Title Fight, Basement and Balance and Composure are harnessing a time right now where the Internet didn't exist. There was a time when The Melvins could play with The Smashing Pumpkins, and no one went, "That's crazy. Why would The Melvins play with those radio dudes?" It didn't matter, and it shouldn't matter now. If Jay-Z wants to curate a festival with a bunch of indie bands, why is that so weird? Why do we have to even look at it in the light of "This large hip-hop mogul is getting Vampire Weekend to play his festival? That's crazy man!" Again, my best friend on Drake this week, "Yeah it's just M83 beats." That's not a snobby revelation, he's a big Drake fan.
There are a lot of bands and albums I scoffed at when I first heard them. Some of those bands and albums are my favorite now. There is a lot of music I'm probably missing out on now still because I sometimes harness that elitist irrelevancy within me. That's me, and that's my critical tendencies. This is a call to action to pull my head out of my own ass more. This is me asking everyone to just be open to the past and present equally. Without that, the future of music is doomed. We might as well just curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth about how we'll never get another Jawbreaker record, when bands like Make Do and Mend are writing the perfect angst for the next generation. Just as much as we should respect our elders and learn from them, our elders need to always recognize "the new beat" of future generations as well.
Gatekeepers are an important thing in this industry. All the way from the hyper-press to the managers and PR outlets behind them. You - the fan, concert attendee, vinyl collector, message board griper - you are the biggest gatekeeper of all. You hold the real power over who gets heard, how much they get heard and how much support can be put behind a band to move from the house show to the 300-cap venue to the direct support on a stadium tour. You have that almighty power, no matter what other "hype machine" out there tells you differently. It's your money, it's your tweets, it's your conversations among friends.
Then there's the middle man. The label. The person doing all the work to even get this "thing" out to the public. In 2012, some might say that a label may be obsolete. Who needs a bank loan, when you can ask the public for a pre-order of charity? Beyond the monetary value of what a label consumes and distributes lies a "home." A label is supposed to be a community. It's supposed to be a co-op for not necessarily a similar sound, but like-minded bands. For a bastardized term, a label is a company that believes your band can supply quality goods for the greater output; it overseas how well that product comes out. In an overly driven digital world both legal and illegal, pushing people to buy physical copies of anything is sometimes selling a ketchup popsicle to a lady in white gloves.
Tuesday, one of the finest labels to exist closed down production. Hydra Head owner Aaron Turner posted a long farewell on the label's blog stating that Hydra Head's demise was imminent and that it was time to shut down the operation, sell off all the physical stock, repay debt and call it a day. In a industry of consumerism such as this one, one can't blame Turner for his actions. He hasn't exactly shelled out the most accessible music over the years. Take Old Man Gloom's latest, and strongest release to date. It's an album heavier, more progressive and more experimental than most. There are times on NO where even I scratch my cranium, trying to find some understanding. But Hydra Head's catalog is one large crate of just that. From Botch's We Are the Romans, Coalesce's Revolution in Just Listening and Jesu's self-titled to early Piebald and Converge releases. Few got it at the time, but many yearn for it now. It all came from a label that believed in the music when it hit the ears for the first time.
Then there's Hydra Head's packaging as well. If you own a piece of Hydra Head vinyl, you know it's durable. The sleeves are made from tough stock. The artwork and layouts speak volumes about the record within. It's hard to listen to Pelican's Australasia and not think about that melt of yellow and orange background that floats on the cover. There is detail within the grooves of the record as well as the package which protects it. Before vinyl was this cool new resurgence (that's not a hip jab, I'm stoked so many people are into it!), a lot of labels put a great deal into the physical medium, and Hydra Head is one of those kings that did it for years before vinyl was the "it" thing again.
Along with Dischord, Touch and Go and Kill Rock Stars and the now defunct Level Plane, these labels seem like relics of the past more than contemporary contenders with the likes of many greats today bringing back not only tangible goodness, but a feeling of community among their rosters. Beyond that community, again, there is a sense of style and a mission statement. Whether it's the powerful force behind Sargent House's climbing success or the smaller labels such as Topshelf, No Sleep, and Run For Cover that started in a dorm room and are now moved into actual warehouses. There are still little guys like The Ghost is Clear and Flannel Gurl producing their own small worth of music they believe in. Then there's Third Man and Paper + Plastick, working on physical mediums no other have thought of yet.
To the people who say that the physical medium is dead, I say it's just beginning. To the people who say interesting music doesn't exist anymore, stop being stuck in the past. There is a platform for both to coexist. To people who say that labels can be bypassed, that's up for argument, but there is no concrete small case in my eyes. Though Hydra Head Industries and its subsidiaries are now a moment in time, it is certainly petrified and everlasting. Contemporary labels - and the ones you want to start - should take a look at the core of what Hydra Head turned itself into. If you're signing bands for them to be the "next big thing," then you might as well subsidize out to the majors and take the beaten path. In 2012, you just have to believe in the music you're putting out. Listeners will attach themselves to that. They will attach themselves to the work put into your product. They will spend the money on quality, and they will trade in and sell the bullshit later down the line.
I may have not liked everything Hydra Head put out. I don't like everything my favorite labels now put out, but there's an integrity behind them that keeps me coming back, at the very least, to see what it is they are offering. I know the bigger message here is to support your favorite labels and put money back into them so they can help out the bands you love so dearly. That's a given. Hydra Head, again, didn't boast the easiest roster to understand, but I'm offering advice to the other side in this. Not the consumers. This is a blueprint for the producers. You can put a ton of money into viral campaigns and advertisements. Like certain bands, it's time to stop thinking in the now, and thinking about longevity. Though we're talking about a now defunct label, 15 years and a hell of a resume that will certainly last well beyond this moment of grief. That's a definition of longevity some of us tend to forget: constant refelection after demise.
Thank you Hydra Head. I'd play you that crappy Sarah Mclachlan song, but it never got pressed. Maybe one last thing to look into before you shut your production down for good…
The minute you pick up an instrument, you're immediately a rock star in your own eyes. It's the dream (no matter who tells you otherwise) that any musician would hope to live: Play music for a living. It happens to only the smallest percentage of all musicians (probably somewhere on par with a high school star making it to a professional career), but year after year and band after band, more people put their ticket in to run the course. They sign on to ridiculous hopes and dreams of an industry that has been brought out back and beaten with its own shoe over and over for the past decade. Like bands, labels come and go, leaving impacts for specific generations and niche listeners trumpeting praise and worship for years on end. You know many people like this - just not gatekeepers who see themselves as an authoritative figures on the subject. Everyone has that friend who's like, "You've never heard _______ ? Dude, you gotta hear _________, it's the essential record that never got big. Such a shame," and so on.
Most of my friends are those people.
Then again, most of my close friends play in bands. Hell, I've played in bands. It's fun. On the outside, we rally around the belief that our friends can be that next band that everyone wants to talk about. There's a part of us that wants to say, "Yeah, I saw their first show," or was thanked in the liner notes of the big hit record. Even if you're not playing in a band, there's a superficial connection that not many others can relate to "since the beginning" or whatever. Shoving all the ego aside, friends can still be fans. We're supposed to be, because without fans, a band (or to bastardize it, a business) has no room to expand into that rock star dream I previously spoke of. Living in Texas, there's no shortage of great unsigned acts, and in living in Austin, there's no shortage of indie-best-new-something either. It only increases the bitter apathy, and your warrant in wanting your friends to exceed is heightened.
A couple of Sundays back, I stood in a room with about 1,000 people watching a friend play with his band for the last time. Wait, let me rewind. I met Henry back in 2010 during South by Southwest through Moving Mountains. I checked out his band For Hours and Ours and was blown away. Great live show, underrated sound. With more touring, For Hours and Ours should have been big. Then there's that phrase we repeat far too often - "should have been big." We as close friends use it just as much as industry executives trying to figure out why a band with the right look and sound and run of direct supports flopped on their first headlining run after months of sponsorships and financial support. It's a question we forever ask ourselves about countless bands across the years. As I watched For Hours and Ours' close friends storm the stage during their final song, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the feel of the room at that moment. I see dozens of shows a year, attend festivals and see some amazing "Oh shit, did that really happen?!" moments - but there was a unique energy felt for that full hour up until that one final drag and burn after years of investment. There's something more past the community and past the friendships and interpersonal feelings toward the moment. There's the subjective feeling of success on filling a room, whether it's your first show, first tour or last celebration remembering all of it.
Everyone in the room knew it was over. Like a time of reflection during a life changing event we have been tied to, we can't help but think of the better times and acceptance during a personal strife.
The thing is, if you put your all into it - every week you went on the road without a shower, the room of five kids and the room of five thousand, the countless planning between part time jobs to do a tour and the positive attitude and humble feeling you had behind each small goal you slowly (or for some, quickly) reached - you succeeded. Maybe you didn't financially. Maybe you'll pass down your gear to your kids, or sell them to a young kid on Craigslist who is about to venture out into the last decade or handful of years you just lived. There are the tours that should have been and opportunities you didn't miss, they were just out of your control. The true success lies in the groove of your first 7" or the production and honesty of a few demos you put up for free on Bandcamp. You accomplished more in a short time than many will throughout their whole life. Be proud.
An interesting topic was brought up through my Twitter feed a few weeks back. With the excitement of Texas is the Reason's reunion, most will forget how small the band's catalog is. Same can be said for Desaparcidos. Another for all your sweater bound prayers to the sappy gods for an American Football reunion. Small catalogs. Large impacts. Think of how many bands have done that? Rites of Spring. Minor Threat. Operation Ivy. These are bands who you can fit whole discographies on one disc - that one disc changed a landscape. I'm surely not saying that you should think small, you just should think "now," the moment, the initial creation. That final string you pluck in the studio could be your last, or it could be in crowded room filled with connected memories.
It's 2012. While we care more about how homophobic a chicken sandwich is than the education system, gas prices and the overall state of the economy shelling out student debt that doesn't even out with job growth - everyone has an equal and fighting chance. You just have to do it. It's as simple as that vintage Nike ad. Wait, is that still and ad? In all seriousness, this is our time. I think Patton Oswalt, although addressing the comedic community, made a point in his two open letters this week: "And since this new generation was born into post-modern anything, they are wilder and more fearless than anything you’ve ever dealt with." There's no telling who will write the next great song or album. Millions attempt each year, only a few come close to an accomplishment on a large scale. If you write a song your close friends enjoy in a mix of the bigger bands you look up to - that's success. If you wind up selling out of your first record and see if going on eBay for an outrageous amount one day while sitting at your six figure desk job - that's success. Picking up a guitar and being a rock star shouldn't be a goal of most in 2012. It's knowing you have nothing to lose and not much to gain in this current industry. Not everyone gets a final show. Not everyone gets a final practice. Not everyone gets to even release and record something past a few local opening slots...
...But everyone has a fighting chance, and as Juicy J put it via Twitter a few days ago, "It's aug 1st 2012 ,if u not where u wanna be in yo life....keep hustlin."
We're driving around trying to find donuts in Houston before we head to Austin on our day off. For the past two days I've spent my time in parking lots, the heat, the rain, the nightlife and the morning after hauling tents, boxes and setting up a 10x10 space to sell merch, and apparently give directions to the restroom and other tents for which I didn't have a mental layout of the park - but attendees still believe I could tell them where Chelsea Grin's tent is. I don't know! Go away. Listen to "Pump Up the Valuum" or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation."What the fuck is wrong with this generation?!
That's how I remember Warped Tour when I was growing up. There were no big print t-shirts with phrases like "YOUR MOM LOVES THIS SHIT" or "CAN'T SPELL SLUT WITHOUT YOU" in big bold letters across the front. We just had t-shirts with a small design across the front end or a band name simply printed on a shirt. The majority of t-shirts I saw in the last few days were dysfunctional billboards on the even more dysfunctional youth. It was truly boggling. As I wrote an "old guy" write-up two years ago when attending Warped Tour - my first time since 2002 - this year I didn't want to just attend, and when the opportunity came up to "work" for two days, ride in a van, sleep on a bench and wake up to a sick stomach and a Wal-Mart restroom at five in the morning - I wanted the experience of seeing the rigs drive in early to set-up, drive out, and drive in immediately after the last band is through to tear down while the rest of the artists and production crew grab a bite and a few drinks at the nightly BBQ following each day - which varies dependent of bus calls due to certain lengthy drives between stops. For two days I got to see the "behind the scenes" of a 2+ month tour across North America.
Just woke up. It's raining. Phone says it's nine. Pretty sure we have to be set-up by ten. This should be fun.Turning on Unwound. Changing my boxers.
While everyone has their opinion of what Warped Tour is and what they want Warped Tour to be, for the artists to the production crew to the caterers cooking at 6 a.m. and merch guys setting up tents and tearing down - it's a job. Thankfully, it's a fun one. You get to work next to your friends every day. Sure, there are those people that you care not to see because of your personal tastes in what music should or shouldn't be, but everyone eats in the same area and you just may find yourself having conversations with people you wouldn't normally pay any attention to otherwise. The thing is, they're still human and their opinions on music differ from their opinions on everything else. That's not to say there still aren't bands calling other bands out every day of tour while on stage, but I think it comes with the territory. That territory of subjectivity is where we find our brash behavior from generation to generation. For the kids who saw Quicksand and L7 and No Doubt, they laughed at the next generation of main stage acts and so on and so on through the years.
I've been sitting in this tent for two hours. You'd think by now I would have seen at least one(!) NOFX t-shirt. Has it really been ten years since I went to Warped Tour as a kid?
Then there were the "vets" this year. The bands that I grew up with and some who played Warped Tour when I was the "target" demographic: Taking Back Sunday, New Found Glory, Senses Fail and Every Time I Die. What's funny is, those are the bands that stuck and the bands I saw both days. I missed The Used and Anti-Flag (except one song waiting for New Found Glory.) They played in 2002, and I saw both bands then, but for whatever reason those bands didn't stick with me through a decade. That doesn't mean that their music is worse or better, it's just how I currently feel about something I once loved. Then it hit me as I was impatiently waiting for Anti-Flag to end to see New Found Glory, when I was going to Warped Tour in 2002, I was at an impressionable age that every new thing was cool. At 15 and 16, you're at your height of being impressionable for new, exciting music. For that demographic, Warped Tour is perfect. It's not that I have a disconnect with Warped Tour, it's that I reached a disconnect with how new and exciting music can be because I've become older and jaded to what I once loved and what I still love and what I love new every day. I watched Polar Bear Club and Title Fight destroy crowds just as Senses Fail and Every Time I Die did - but those bands, as good as they are, will never have a connection to me that the kids attending now will have to them. I've reached the line of being a partial elitist in my own right. I can recognize good music because of how knowledgeable my palette is, but I'm no longer consuming it under naive pretenses of angst and teenage revolution. The one band that bridges that gap for me right now, and during the weekend both times I saw them, was Make Do and Mend. It sort of angered me as to how small the crowd was for the band's set both days. Criminal. Absolutely criminal.
There are Vampires. Everywhere.
One of the best things I was able to see this year was the Acoustic Basement put on by ex-Therefore I Am's Brian Marquis. Slightly weird since it was set-up next to the Silent Disco (which for a few hours on Saturday was not-so-silent), but the larger tent was still intimate enough to experience something special among the circus of the tour. Sets by Marquis, Into It. Over It., Koji and A Loss For Words packed in crowds for shade and sing-a-longs. Marquis was there every day setting up, figuring out schedules and adding last minute additions as he saw the day fit. There was no production crew - just a man, a plan and an acoustic guitar. It was something special to see executed both days. Hearing about his special guests throughout the summer, I don't see why Ol' Lyman shouldn't ask him back next year - well, if Marquis isn't beyond exhausted by the end of the run.
So in 2002, Trust Company played. 2001, there was 311. Somewhere in there Limp Bizkit played. Every year there seems to be a few "one of these is not like the other" bands. Excuse me? The bathrooms? Over there. No probelm.
Dead Sara. This is the "band's band" of Warped Tour. Every band talked about them, and after seeing them close out Saturday, I can see why. Dead Sara put on a set that's part Big Brother and the Holding Company and part '90s grunge. The band doesn't fit into the spectrum of most bands on the tour. It's strange to even take a gig like Warped Tour when this band should be opening for Queens of the Stone Age or Jack White. When I looked around the crowd, artists from completely different bands were in there watching something far apart from the look and feel of everything else going on most of the day. No matter what a band plays, it doesn't necessarily connect on the surface with what they listen to on their off(-stage) time. Dead Sara is the band of Warped Tour which trumps that stereotype for every other band on Warped Tour. It's different, but there aren't many people disagreeing the staying power Dead Sara can have past the summer festival and onto supporting larger venue and even arena acts in the years to come.
What is that on the radio? Is that "What to Do When You're Dead" right now? Are we almost to Austin? I'm definitely beginning to smell.Is the weekend already over?
Every year that we post Warped Tour announcements, threads will inevitably blow up with opinions of who should be playing and who shouldn't. When it gets down to it, there are still a few bad seeds here and there. Overall, bands are just looking to play. Some bands will gain new fans with the general crowds that Warped Tour caters to, and some of us older fuckers will come out and see a few bands we haven't seen in a while but still mean the world to us. What most of the public fails to see is the insane amount of work that goes into setting up and tearing down and getting to the next stop every day to do it again. You may have played last the day before, but you may end up playing first when you get to the next city. Some artists can afford the comfort of a bus while others take to Bandwagons and the benches of Green Vans. Hell, Green Vans is not only a sponsor of Warped Tour, they're also there to haul the crew around, as well as being the transportation in cutting gas for some vendors and bands alike. Warped Tour doesn't just breed new bands for the next generation, it also breeds new ideas for future tours both small and big in this industry to survive what's failing at some levels day to day.
Okay, Matthew Lillard just introduced himself to me. I've had one too many drinks.
I think Dr. Keith Buckley put it best last week, "We are all out here trying to get by. Some of us are better at it than others. Motionless In White gets up and puts on makeup at 10am if they have to play first. That dedication is admirable. The DJ for Mod Sun talked to me about the book I was reading. Champagne Champagne has been seen in our mosh pits!" There are a lot of preconceived notions as to what Warped Tour is supposed to be, but after spending a weekend behind the scenes and observing the wildlife of attendees and the dedication to make every set count, no matter the city or the crowd; no matter the side stage band or the main stage veteran; no matter the sponsored vendor or the D.I.Y. clothing company - Warped Tour is not so much a way to get your band heard, it's a lot of people just trying to enjoy the summer and hopefully radiate the fun they're having to everyone else in the parking lot that day trying to have the same feeling. It's a college of unlike-minded folks when it comes to music, all rooting for the same school, all trying to graduate and make the next big step. The unfortunate part is that not everyone will come out of it graduating to bigger tours, some may stay on the mid-level tour route and others may just disappear in years to come to "normal life" and the such. It's hard to tell who and when all that will occur. So, you just need to enjoy the days and the summer as it goes and maybe one day you'll be one of the ones to come back to the school as a special guest talking about how it was in your day. You'll grin and be happy to be in the moment you once lost your shit over (even with your own convictions towards how the "school" has changed.)
I bought a Thou shirt during Chaos in Tejas that I forgot to bring for the weekend. It says, "Punk rock ruined my life." Vans Warped Tour is a notch in that statement for some attendees and bands and production crew and merch guys and all the other outcasts that have embraced their own lifestyle of what they believe punk is. To some, Warped Tour isn't exactly the definition of "punk rock" on the surface. To that I say this - there are a lot of people who bust their ass for something they believe in to be a good time and want to be a part of. Whether that's not "VFW Hall" or "D.I.Y." enough for you, I watched a lot of people put their all into two days out of 2+ months worth of a nation wide touring festival. If that's not even a slight definition of hard work that goes into "D.I.T.," then I don't know what to say. Keep being your true punk self I guess? I mean, get fucked.
Last night I attended a stacked local show in support of Duck. Little Brother, Duck!'s current U.S. tour. During the band's set, an attendee - who, for argumentative purposes was a bit intoxicated - screamed out, "Sell me your music!" It's interesting to hear such a phrase in an age where no one gets money for anything, and everyone gets chicks, music, movies and most of their entertainment for free. The music fan wanted to give a touring band money. Think about that for a second. Think about the level that Duck. Little Brother, Duck! are at right now. Small touring bands don't pull much from merch, and the gas generally comes from the door or the bar percentage - and if lucky, a guarantee here and there.
The reason that fan's comment stuck with me the rest of the night was because of the news from Monday which Circa Survive had announced. After releasing their last album, 2010's Blue Sky Noise, on Atlantic Records, the band decided to take the route that mewithoutYou took earlier this year with Ten Stories and release their upcoming album themselves. While Violent Waves will be released in CD, digital and vinyl formats - well priced around your average record store pricing (the digital copy only $5) - the band released two "expensive" packages. One limited to 100 for $250 dollars and one limited to 11 for $750. Guess what, two days later I'm checking on them, and they're both sold out. But when announced, many were baffled at such a price for a bundle many of us couldn't begin to afford. Most bundles up to this point generally round out a little above $100 here and there.
As outrageous as people thought the prices were, they're really not as uncommon as some packages have been for Kickstarter projects over the years. This time, Circa Survive surpassed the investment and put up the front end themselves, looking for a bit of payback to cushion costs thereafter. Along with mewithoutYou, this may be the counter answer that naysayers against the idea of Kickstarter were hoping would eventually happen. It'll be interesting to see how many other established bands take stride in this direction. I say "established" because selling packages at those prices means you better have a damn good following. No new touring band is going to be able to pull off something like this model - it definitely takes a large fan dedication.
On Tuesday, before the show, I ended up taking an afternoon browsing the record stores around town and even stopping into Half Price Books to browse their $1.00 CD section. With a few purchases that afternoon from the trek, it made me wonder about "How much would I be willing to pay for this?" over and over in my head. Now, on one level it's because I have to make sure I have rent and then some extra in my bank account in a few days, but I also thought about how having backdoors like Mediafire and streaming systems such as Spotify has still changed the way I think about purchasing music. That in itself is very interesting to me. I wouldn't pay full price for Filter's Short Bus, but a $1 for a used copy? Sure. I wouldn't buy a first press of Converge's No Heroes at the prices I've seen on eBay or Deadformat, but $15 still sealed - I've got to snag it.
Those kind of thoughts run through my mind all the time. I wonder if I'm bastardizing the price of what I pay for any type of media not only because of personal funds, but how much it's actually worth to me versus how much it seems to be worth to others. What Circa Survive and mewithoutYou have done is tap into their fan base to see how much people think they're music is truly worth. It's a risk that has paid off for now. While I know some of you are saying, "Well, the same can be said for Kickstarter," the difference here is that the product is already finished. The band put up the investment - not the fans. It's a reminder that there are enough people out there saying "Sell me your music!" to keep great music alive. While there's a lot of "free" out there, some people still feel connected enough to a band and their music that they continue to say, "Take my money. Please!"
Last night I got off the phone with one of my best friends who is currently out on tour for the second time in his life. This happened right after reading professor David Lowery's open letter to NPR intern Emily White, who, in a recent blog, proclaimed that she only purchased 15 CDs in her entire life, but obtained an iTunes library of over 11,000 songs. White is 20. My friend is 22. I'll be 26 in two months. Lowery, being a professor and ex-musician, is 51 years old. There is definitely a generational gap between all four of us. All four of us are involved in the business (or was), and to debastardize it to an extent, the "joy" of music. The four of us are also part of a greater consumerism, both financially and emotionally, of millions that hoard digital libraries, buy used CDs and flip them for new ones and/or spend way too much, or luckily at a steal, on OOP print vinyl or new, limited circles of wax.
To detach Lowery from the equation, the three youngest people mentioned do live in what he calls the "Free Culture movement," and i completely agree with that term. But at 26, myself and the older users and staff members of this site should remember going through the motions. I remember Napster on dial-up. I remember living through the downfall of it and the rise of Kazaa and Morpheus on countless others. I remember switching to Soulseek and ripping iPods in my early college years and then to the backdoors of Sendspace and Rapidshare in the later years. Yes, I have pirated a good chunk of music. In reading Travis Morrisons' column tonight, I also remember doing all those other things (with the exception of shoplifting. What?! My dad's a cop!). But I've also spent a good deal on t-shirts, concert tickets, CDs, vinyl, posters, etc. in that time. I love the tangible feel and ownership of something I find special, and even though I may not always have the dime for it, I generally attend the local record store at least once a week, if not twice and try to leave with something. Take that as you will and if you want to continue reading this op-ed.
For those that are 18-21, such as White, you came in at a time of music discovery when what Lowery describes as a "neighborhood" without an "antiquated police force" exists. More than just music, every form of media is digital and free. I just found out you can download comic books a few months ago! I thought video game emulators were one thing in my time, but that recent concept really blew my mind a bit. It's all free, why would you pay for it? The gas to go to the store only to find it's sold out, or the store doesn't carry it? You could order online, but there's extra for shipping. A simple Google search, and within minutes it's unzipped and in your iTunes. I could go to the store and buy fresh tortillas and meat and vegetables and cook tacos and invite my friends and share a good time. Fuck that! One of the best instant gratifications gained living in Texas is Taco Cabanna. Convenience reigns supreme.
That's my biggest problem with White's blog. Lowery touches on all the fiscal reasons why White is wrong, but I want to touch on the brightest red flag I had with her piece. This is going to come off as corny and lame (then again, a lot of what I say does, so take it or leave it) - there is nothing special in the "convenience" of either making music or consuming music. I say that in the most positive light too. Before sitting down to read both White and Lowery's blog entries, I watched Pitchfork.tv's documentary on Modest Mouse's The Lonesome Crowded West. Besides the information on the classic album's recording and meanings behind such Jesse Lacey covered classics as "Trailer Trash," the film makes old points on touring and promoting music without the vast space that is "the 'Net" and its ad-space virus which consumes sites like this and those lawless towns we loot from. All of the grain bands face daily only helps to create what I see as the best music in the end. The tension, anxiety, good times and bad, fear and letting go you hear in the most cherished records are generally reactions of going through the motions of making the music itself - especially lyrically, and sometimes (read: hopefully) instrumentally. (see also: 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons, Read Music / Speak Spanish, Kid A)
Like good satire, music has the ability to not only make us reflect on current trends and motions, the best music makes us grasp something deeper in the reaction to what's being executed. That's the thing that separates convenience from the people who should be in this industry: If something holds enough meaning to me, I want some sort of tangible item to remind me of that - especially when it comes to music. I will pay my water bill late for a copy of a record I've been looking for for sometime. I will drink less than stellar beer to own a copy of a CD or vinyl recently released from one of my favorite bands. I would sacrifice my credit - and have - to financially support something I believe in. I know that I'm not the only one who would do or does do this, and I know that there are people who are reading this thinking I'm insane. Well, so be it.
The economy certainly sucks. There just isn't enough money to go around that everyone can even remotely live a "convenient" life. I'm three years out of college living somewhere close to the poverty line trying to make it. My friends in bands are doing the same. Some of them you've never heard of, and some of them you might think are rock stars truly aren't. My friends who run labels doing their best to support their family of bands do well. But some rosters cater to a demographic of those 15-21 year-old listeners that share the tunes, and you have to remember that a pre-order goes a long way to put back into the label to sign more of "your friend's awesome band(s)" so they can truly see the same muck of business shit we all do.
I have no idea what to do about the financial situation of this industry. I can only give so much myself and still be able to work part-time and not give up my own dreams. It's not "convenient" whatsoever. It's an adventure, and the bands and industry people who live (or lived) through the years of "inconvenience" are generally the smartest. They know how things not only work, but how they work best. I'm not saying that White should quit her dream, because hell, she's on a great path. I'll say this, her demographic needs to think about the "convenience" of life catered to such technologies we've all been thrown into. Nothing I've ever loved has been easy to obtain or understood the moment it entered my life. There was no instant gratification, only days and months and years of appreciating something special that I once garnered. There's no "convenience" in true ownership, only hard work rewarded. I haven't been handed a lot of things in my life, so I know the work that has to be put into such ownership and confidence. A great band this week asked, "So what if everything that you ever loved more than anything was killing you this slow?" Well, this past year I've been on a deathbed of sorts. Some close friends have struggled as well. Just understand that big advances and trust funds generally don't make a lasting impact - quality music does. Go out and make a quality product and people will throw their hard earned money at your confidence and heart put into it. The people who matter will. They're the fans who will give your "new direction" a biting chance and take a plane or road trip cross country to see you reunite years later. People will put themselves through any number of "inconveniences" for any number of quality products - especially the comfort of music.
Punk rock is something to many and notably not all the hype for some. It can be dirty, violent and unforgiving. Well, It's meant to be, right? At its core, punk rock is not a sound, it's a universal language of revolution and change. It has something to say and doesn't care who or what gets in the way of it. No matter how much you want to separate specific sounds into genres and sub-genres alike, punk rock is not how you play a guitar or start up a pit. It's the energy that flows from simply striking a guitar to the tone of the amp resonating across crowds of 50 in a basement to 1,000 in a venue where you finally made it. Even that description doesn't matter. None of anyone's opinions of how something sounds or acts matters. At the end of the show, what you take away from it, the feeling of emotional release - that's what matters. Punk rock is supposed to invoke something special inside you and exorcise it for the thirty minutes to hour long sets of any band. Two very big people reminded me of that this weekend on separate occasions during this year's Chaos in Tejas festival in Austin, TX.
I met Moss Icon's Tonie Joy on Thursday night meeting up with my friend Derek who so happened to also handle the band's press for their reissue through Temporary Residence. Though our conversation was short lived before Toys That Kill hit the stage (and put on a stunning performance they did), I got to ask Joy at least one question I was curious about. I asked him what he thought his band was at their height. What genre did he think he was in versus what people thought of Moss Icon now? His answer wasn't that all surprising - he simply thought he was in a "rock band." Fast forward to after Moss Icon's incredible hour long reunited set (and only one thus far or possibly ever), and I got a chance to talk to Pygmylush's Chris Taylor. Taylor of course was one half the vocals of hardcore greats pg. 99. If you remember the band's interview with NPR, Taylor's take on where he saw his old band at the time and what people deem pg. 99's legacy now, it's certainly a matter of "he said, she said" dribble that's been passed along through media-heads and elitist alike. What has since carried through into Pygmylush is the state of simply doing without a purpose or foresight. There is no image, no gimmick and no predestined answer to what a song, record or band as a whole should sound like. The Ramones were a dirty pop band but they're herald as "punk pioneers." Led Zeppelin were taking a new spin on the blues and considered metal to others. Watching Tonie Joy's mini-solos on some of Moss Icon's songs Sunday night - he really was playing in a rock band.
The great thing about punk rock is also its bastardized downfall. It sums up the phrase "This is why we can't have anything nice!" We're all guilty of it - especially we, the media plethora of writers. I wonder why that is - is it the fear of association with one sound and not another? "Oh, well, they're not this, but they're more that. I don't listen or like that." It just seems dumb, and it's finally snapped in me how irritating it can be to breakdown what music isn't instead of what music is. Watching Nasum on Thursday night was no different than Dropdead on Friday to me. Both were brutal. Sure, one's "more metal" than the other, but they both invoked similar damages among the crowd and through my eardrums. I can also see the separation as well. To me, Thou is not only one of the heaviest bands, they also standout in how clean their execution is and how forceful they come off compared to everyone else around them doing the same thing right now. It's simply terrifying. Is it it doom? Is it hardcore? Is it metal? I'm sure if you asked different people, they'd give you a different answer depending on what they know and what they like.
Festivals like Chaos in Tejas and The Fest down in Gainesville remind us about the importance of community of punk rock, no matter what genre specific band you're going to see, what you're wearing to go see it or how old or how young you are still trying to attach yourself to the reason you never let that anarchist and revolutionary inside you ever completely die off. That feeling is global and seen across the overseas acts of Chaos in Tejas. Reality Crisis put on a raging set Thursday night, I almost forgot in all the media imagery I see that tells me what Japan is and isn't into that there is massive punk and metal scene in Japan. Then there was Ice Age from Denmark on Sunday before Moss Icon. It was raw, angry and slightly harmonic. It wasn't exactly grunge and it wasn't exactly hardcore. But their set sure was punk as fuck. Who the hell knew Denmark had a punk scene?!
Last year, between a heavy weekend of work, I was only able to attend a handful of shows and see a handful of bands. This year I tried to attend as many shows and see as many different bands as possible. On Saturday I saw the brutality that is the heralded Dropdead, immediately heading over to see the lush layering of one of my new favorite acts, Chelsea Wolfe. As the excitement began to calm inside me during Wolfe's intoxicating set of harmonies - opposite that of the heightened feeling I witnessed just minutes later - it dawned on me that revolution has always won out among the masses and lasted. I've said it before, I'm just some kid who writes behind a computer and can only offer insight, and hitting 26 in a few months, what I now know of what "punk can be" versus "what punk was" when I discovered the word a decade plus earlier, they are two complete variations. For the most part, the bands that I've seen to be "the best" lasted a good long time or are still talked about among "the know" - ahem*EngineDown*ahem. The bands that I didn't get to see and understood years after their demise, still last today with generations to come - as seen by the ramped hype of reunions as of late. This weekend I probably couldn't talk to you about half the line-up of Chaos in Tejas, but the venues were packed with kids and adults alike that could. Punk rock is not a fad, and the media and press and labels that make it out to be will fail for all the wrong reasons. Punk rock isn't a specific sound. It's always been a feeling. You'll know it when it hits you. You'll know it when the idea of punk rock expands when you grow older as well. I can promise you that. If you don't get that feeling ever, than you were just one who held punk rock in the wrong hands.
Is viral marketing a thing of yesteryear? Well, it depends on who you ask and how certain PR groups, managements, labels and artists are using them. We all are aware that online marketing is a heavy hit for many right now. Whether it's intentionally leaking or giving away your album to get fans to (at the very least) come out to a show, buy a t-shirt or that limited vinyl to put up on their wall - or whatever kids do with those frisbee things these days. Viral marketing certainly has its pros. For one, it's supposed to build anticipation. In an era when "just having ad-space" is part of the overload of informational clutter - the feel of anticipation is what viral marketing corners. With anticipation comes work. Why give the fan something, when they can help build marketing for your brand (read: band, product, whatever)? "You want to hear that new song? Well, you better get your friends to get our Facebook page to X number of "Likes" by midnight or you're going to have to wait another week assholes!" The general public will end of participating. It's nothing to them, and it only builds your product in their personal feed for others to see and click and "Like" as well.
Then there's the "special" factor to it all, which, if you understand the basic structure of "mediocrity," you're smart enough to look past the fact that you're not part of something that special, you're a number in a system to sell a product. Sorry, it's the truth for most, but not for all, so take that statement with a grain of salt. The blanket of exclusivity that's being marketed to fans is also a problem in controlling, and there lies the biggest con in today's viral marketing. The truth is, with the overload of ways to share, post and message(board) any and all activity on the internet, how does a band and their crew of knowledgeable staff contain any sort of exclusivity on the web. I think the answer is just another nail in some of viral marketing's out-dated ideas: they won't be able to.
It's a sad dilemma that the sort of "exclusivity" for fans can't exist because of how fast news can truly travel across the web these days. I think back to the AFI scavenger hunt a few years ago and how something like that couldn't exist now. We live in a digital world where it's hard to not only trust some with information months before its proper (press) release, but giving the general public of fans anything from a scavenger hunt to a secret URL to a coded stream, it'll be ousted to the populous in a matter of minutes, hours and at the very least, by the end of the work day.
It's a really sad state to think about though. As I've brought up the pessimistic opinion that you are not special as a consumer, and only a number to some in this industry - it's a blatant slap in the face and generalization to lump some who do want to do something special for their fans. Sending out a song premiere in an e-mail just isn't special enough today, because it's up on YouTube minutes later. Putting together a well calculated puzzle to open up an album stream just doesn't show a special, well-deserved pay-off to fans - because it only gets posted across messageboards and blogs alike as news.
So where does the fault lie? Is it in the hours spent that would seem wasted in putting together such packages? Or are the fans and media who expose these things meant as gifts to the fans who sit impatiently waiting for something new to blame? In the end, it's a great gesture that is ruined because of modern technology. We as media report on what we know. We know so much so fast, and it's not always through a proper press release. It's because of tips from fans and social feeds we do our best to research our news from. It moves fast. The idea of having any sort of "exclusive" content is kind of laughable at this point. You have to think about how exclusive any sort of content is for how long, whether it was intentionally put out into the public eye or kept to launch for a specific time on a specific day on a specific site - it all gets retweeted, shared and posted elsewhere before you can have a chance to call it your own at this point.
Last Thursday morning, moments after I posted last week's column, I got a call from my mother that my grandmother, who had been suffering and declining for about two years now following a stroke, would probably pass over the weekend. As I stood on stage Thursday night watching Thrice play "Beggars," I definitely choked up a bit and I started thinking about the drive home on Saturday. When I was driving home late Saturday night, I was trying to quell my anxiety with the right musical selections in my car for the eight hour trek of interstate and more importantly, the eight hours alone in a car with just the stereo and my thoughts. As I think about it now, it sounds crazy that some of us vent through the medium of music in such a way. You don't want to watch a romantic comedy where Katherine Heigl plays the same character again after you broke up with someone, but you'll put yourself through the abuse of a sad song at your darkest moments. Seems strange, doesn't it?
A few weeks back I talked a bit about the ownership of music. Once it leaves the artist and it is put on the market for the general public to consume, it has the ability to shift meaning depending on the person listening and translating it and then attaching it to a moment or event for better or worse. Of all the familiar motions we tend to move through in life, death is certainly one of the roughest patches we must overcome. There are a lot of feelings both large and small that run the gambit through not only our hearts, but our minds as well. As I sat in the funeral home Sunday with my mother and aunt and uncle, I couldn't take my mind off the music that was playing over the speakers. Maybe it was simple subconscious distraction, who knows? The only wakes or funerals I've ever attended, I've never noticed whether or not there was any music playing at all. Sunday, I noticed. A mix of old country and gospel, I immediately figured it was simply part of the funeral home's general selection. While I sat there silent listening to an old Willie Nelson track, I overheard my uncle talking about how he found some older country and gospel albums helping clear out a home for a friend and wanted to bring them to my grandmother in the nursing home. In the condition she was in at the time, this now seemed the most appropriate.
One last selection on the jukebox.
I sat there wondering what would play at my funeral (there's your Saves the Day reference…): "Pyramid Song" or maybe the first untitled track off of ( ) by Sigur Ros first came to mind. Something soothing and accepting was my initial thought. Then I began to think, well, what if you were a metalhead? Would it be wrong to blast Cowboys From Hell or Ride the Lightning if it meant a sincere memory of how much that person loved to headbang and throw up the horns every chance they got? What do they play at Juggalo funerals? Wouldn't you want to honor the "family" wish to spin The Great Milenko or Riddle Box one last time before they close the casket? I'm not trying to say these things to make you laugh or be hyperbolic in outlandish varied situations that might occur - I'm just thinking very outside the box to make a point. Remember, anything, any wish, any last testament is a possibility. I'm sure there are a lot that exist. If we can turn our ashes into vinyl as this new century's burning viking ship, then I feel any final request is relevant to this conversation - especially when considering music.
When we attach ourselves, or others, to certain musical backgrounds, the music acts as a bookmark in growing chapters of our lives. Just as certain music has the ability to close a chapter on someone close to us, it goes without saying (because it's been said thousands of times) that elements as small as a lyric to something as large as a shared favorite band, to the songs and albums and concerts in between - they all hold depth to when we knew a particular person well, whether its warranted or not at any moment it may strike us. I bring up the word "warranted," because of a parallel that hit me while I was sitting at a beer garden late Sunday night trying to relax myself and jotting down a lot of my anxiety into what you're reading now. As we grow up, we need these bookmarks to sort of cherish the greater moments of our lives. There are certain memories we will come across not because of music, but we can attach a certain time, a specific group of people to the larger whole of a catalog or genre or specific record for that matters. What's more interesting to me is how building a record collection can lead to losing pieces of it in the end, and gaining them back later down the line. Remember your close friends in high school? How many of those albums have you traded in for new ones? What about the parties with a particular mix of friends you'd hear from every weekend? Are they still part of the regular rotation or are they fair-weather, collecting dust in the closet of a memory only to be recognized when you run across them months and years later? We sometimes lose boxes of records in a move for various reasons, and we often denounce our past ties to certain bands because their sound never changed, but our tastes and opinions did.
Watching Thrice for the last time Thursday night was a perfect parallel to the weekend that followed. My grandmother was always there for me as a kid, and she's one of the few people who was very optimistic about who I was and where I could go in life. She gave me hope. Even though she's gone now, she'll always be a force behind what little confidence I hold. My favorite bands made me believe that music could be special for various reasons. It's hard to see them go - especially when they have such a strong connection in shaping not only who you are, but how they are a benchmark of who you once were and the growth you've made since then. The same can be said about the hundreds of people I once knew or had frequent beers with - and even though I may not see them as much, if not ever again, they were there for a reason. The hardships, the good times; the first kiss to the worst rejection; the tastes of success and the biggest failures yet. This weekend I encourage you to dig deep in your iTunes folder or in the back of your closet for that box of CDs. Whether it's your copy of Middle of Nowhere by Hanson or the cracked casing holding Slanted and Enchanted by Pavement underneath that, turn off your television and your video games and YouTube searches for things like this. Take a drive or put it on in the background while you call a family member you haven't heard from in a while or old friend you often bring up in conversation when telling stories from "back when..." Music is immortal - the people we share it with are not.
Last year I watched as three of the most influential bands of my youth called it a day. At the beginning of the year, RX Bandits announced their hiatus. Since most deaths happen in 3's - back to back, Thrice and Thursday decided to take their breaks as well. What I've been thinking about leading up to seeing Thrice's farewell show tonight in Austin is what each individual band has shown me. RX Bandits showcased the fact that some of the best bands can't be pinned down to any particular genre, combining many different elements to create a distinct sound. Thursday showcased an even level of anguish and beauty - something that has carried with me throughout my favorite bands. It's a band that has maxed out at both the heaviest elements and the most melodic (perfect example: "Past and Future Ruins").
Then there's Thrice. As I've talked about the idea of bands being challenging over the years within our spectrum of tastes - Thrice has certainly taken the reigns for me in that aspect when it comes to my favorite bands. I would jam a new RX Bandits or Thursday record for months on end when they were released. Thrice was a different story. It's not that their sound shifted so drastically between records, it's that each record truly had to marinate, cook on high and then allow my palette to absorb each flavor that every album had to offer. The crazy thing is, I'm unsure why exactly that even happened. As I listen to The Artist in the Ambulance now, I can rock "Paper Tigers" heavier than I ever did the day my friend bought the record for my birthday. It's a song way heavier than anything on The Illusion of Safety or the first time I heard "Phoenix Ignition" and my jaw dropped and wanted more. For some reason it took months to sink in. It took half a year to fully grasp Beggars and hearing the Major/Minor cuts live last Fall really breathed a different light into them that I was not seeing. It's a very bizarre concept, but I know it's not a concept that only effects my tastes as a listener - a staunch one at that.
It's hard for some to write punk rock forever. Thrice has easily been that band to shed light on that very idea. Here's a bunch of guys who were too technical for the mainstream for some, and sometimes a bit too mainstream for some of the underground. As they grew, fans either loathed the direction into the more conventional (yet never lackluster in structure) or opened up to what the band were growing into. That idea of being open to one's growth is very important in punk rock. It's an idea that you either learn or forever miss - and end up forever stuck listening to a small library of what you think you know, which actually is false. You become forever jaded in the past or stubborn to new elements in music you're simply dismissing. Again, I know because I've been through those motions many a time and fully regret it. It takes a big man to admit his close-minded behavior at a young age, and another to pass that knowledge along so it saves another generation from closing their doors on new ideas and progress outside of what the media and labels want to sell their bands as or who to sell their bands to.
As I'm sitting here late writing this up, my Facebook feed loaded up again, and my buddy Daniel posted something I thought was pretty special after he saw the band in Dallas last night…
If my blog a few nights ago seemed angry, it's because of sentiments like the one above. That's coming from a friend of mine and someone who's in two bands himself. That's not a writer who has some sort of "authority," it's just a person who feels passionate about music. Daniel is not only me, he's also you. His sentiments are your comments. It's your arguments. It's your attachment to something "special." To say something is "special" though is to say it contains depth and honesty in the music that is being sold to you rather than the image you are actually being sold to from media outlets, PR and management and the lackluster thereafter. I know it's a tired argument, but it's the truth that we subconsciously forget. Thrice isn't the only band. There are thousands that share the same spirit and another thousand that don't and somehow make it further to only become a mark of forgotten history.
Thrice has a been a band that taught me the payoff of being challenged by music. They gave me a decade of thinking and rethinking the elements of rock and roll. I know I've thrown around the word "post-hardcore" a lot and tried to pick apart and restructure what that term really means, but Thrice is definitely a contender along with bands like Cave In and Poison the Well who stepped out past their hardcore roots to make careers out of challenging their fans with what they could come up with next as a band. Like the aforementioned, they didn't fail many of us when showing us a new trick as they learned a few themselves each time around.