Category: Music

Arcade Fire + Calexico at the Greek Theater

By , October 3, 2010

For awhile, I went to concerts all the time– at least weekly I saw some band somewhere. I don’t go nearly that often anymore, but I promised myself I’d see the Arcade Fire when they next came to town. Too often in the past a band I adored would come through town and I’d not bother to see them, telling myself, “I’ll see them next time they tour.” Unfortunately, too many of my favorite bands have either disbanded or stopped touring, and I now regret missing the chance to see them perform.

The Arcade Fire are pretty much my favorite active band, so yesterday I showed up at Berkeley’s Greek Theater without a ticket and planted myself on queue. Many times in the past I’ve had spare tickets to a show, and turned down large amounts of cash from scalpers to instead sell them at face value to regular folks. I once sold two tickets to see Hot Chip for $35 each, right in front of a scalper offering me $80 per ticket. It seemed the right thing to do, and yesterday that good will came back my way, for I had not been in line but ten minutes when a girl lined up a few spots behind me and indicated that she had a ticket to sell. She sold it to me for the face value of $46. Had I bought one online when they went on sale I’d have paid $60 due to the additional service fees, so I really made out well.

While waiting the 90 minutes for the gates to open, I befriended a few people in line near me. We played hearts to pass the time. Meanwhile, I tried to get in touch with my friend Mike, whom I knew was going to be at the show, but he was incommunicado; I think he was drunk in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and barely made it out to Berkeley in time for the show; but I had made new friends, so I watched with them.

I found a great spot, dead center, about 10 people back from the stage. Calexico came on and were great– I like them enough that I’d have paid to see them by themselves, so it was an unexpected bonus to find that they were the support act. It was like the time I showed up to see Belle & Sebastian and unbeknownst to me New Pornographers were the support act. Two great bands for the price of one!

Somethin’ filled up
My heart with nothin’,
Someone told me not to cry.

Arcade Fire put on an outstanding show. They enjoyed what they were doing and it showed. By this point into their career they have four albums to draw from for material, and they pulled the greatest bits from each of them. They pieced together a set that built to a crescendo, and at times I felt as if I were at an opera rather than a rock concert. When they played “Ocean of Noise” I could feel something welling up inside me, which only built when the Calexico trumpeters joined them on stage for the songs finale. When they followed it up with “Tunnels,” my personal favorite song of theirs, I will not lie– a tear or two rolled down my cheek. Something about hearing that song brought me back to 2005, and losing Mom, and losing Sue, and what pretty much amounted to the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it then.

And since there’s no one else around,
We let our hair grow long
And forget all we used to know.
Then our skin gets thicker
From living out in the snow.

Later, as the band blended seamlessly from “Power’s Out” into “Rebellion (Lies),” I think I was the first person in the pit to recognize what song was coming on. Leave it to a DJ to identify what song is showing up next in a mix. Soon enough everyone else caught on and the entire crowd lost it.

I left the Greek in a state of hyper-aware elation, feeling spiritually moved in a way I’d expected and hoped church experiences would affect me in my younger, god-fearing, days, though they invariably failed to do so. There’s a deep sense of the real in the message of the Arcade Fire’s lyrics, and coupled with their epic and catchy music, I don’t think anyone walked out of last night’s show unmoved.

To sum it all up in layman’s terms, I had about as much fun at a concert as I have had in recent memory; I almost want to go see their encore performance tonight at the Greek.

Lastly, for are curious, here to the best of my memory is the setlist for the show:

Ready to Start
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Laika
No Cars Go
Haiti
Sprawl II
Modern Man
Rococo
The Suburbs
Ocean of Noise
Tunnels
We Used to Wait
Powers Out
Rebellion (Lies)
-encore-
Intervention
Wake Up

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Remembering Ian Curtis

By , May 18, 2010

I attended public school until the end of junior high, but once I hit the 9th grade, my parents enrolled me into the nearest Catholic high school. I found myself thrust into a brand new school, populated mainly by children from wealthy families, nearly all of whom had grown up together and gone through the same private school system since preschool. I was a 13-year old kid, already feeling the uncertainty and disorientation that comes with that age and the leap to high school, and I was completely out of my element. I was surrounded by kids from an utterly different background, all of whom were ensconced in long-formed cliques. I had little in common with anyone at the school, and as the school was an hour’s bus ride from my home, I didn’t even have any friends in the area to whom I could turn. I could not have been any more lost or alone.

Had my life been a Hollywood teen film, I would have accidentally befriended a popular and wealthy student who would have been enamored of my lower-class upbringing. After some humorous early false-starts, our friendship would have cemented over some exciting incident, and by the final reel, he would have introduced me into high society and I would have spent my remaining high school years enjoying friendship and popularity. I’d like to think I would have dated a cheerleader. However, as I actually dwell in the real world, I made no such friend. Instead, I drifted from one awkward false start to the next, and didn’t form close bonds with anyone; I was too athletic and tough to be a geek, but too poor and punk rock to be popular. I ended up a loner.

I cut class one day early in the school year, and ended up at a nearby record shop. At the shop, I purchased Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division’s first album. I was mesmerized by its iconic Peter Saville pulsar cover; that somber image summed up my mood so precisely that I bought the record without even being fully aware of who the band were. I carted the record around town with me for the remainder of the day, not quite sure what I had, but hoping it would live up to its promise. How could it not? Those stark, white lines radiating from the all-black background promised something foreboding and otherworldly; that night at home, I was at last able to play the record. From the opening line, I was entranced.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand.

I played the record over and over that night; as soon as side B finished I would flip it back over and play it from the beginning. In the voice of Ian Curtis, I had found poetry that spoke directly to my sense of isolation, and thus began a long-lasting fascination with not only the band’s music, but the singer and his life. When I learned shortly thereafter that Ian Curtis had committed suicide, the bond only grew tighter. Perhaps paradoxically, even though his lyrics were so often grim, and spoke of fear, disillusionment, and helplessness, I found something life-affirming in them. This man, who had felt so deeply the sorrows about which had sung that he had killed himself, somehow came to represent hopefulness to me. My fascination with Curtis and his music lasted well past my awkward adolescent years; just look at the title I chose for my blog.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. In the three decades since his departure, his influence and legend have only grown. Joy Division, a band virtually unknown when I was in high school, today enjoys huge popularity. Movies have been made about the band, and about Curtis’ life, and it would not be a stretch to say that the band today enjoys more popularity than ever before. Yet to me, Ian Curtis and Joy Division remain a very personal facet of my life. When I had nothing of substance, Ian Curtis gave me something of depth in which to immerse myself, and offered a beacon of hopeful light at the end of what had once been Stygian emptiness.

Oh, I’ve walked on water, run through fire
Can’t seem to feel it anymore
It was me, waiting for me
Hoping for something more
Me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.

Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980)
Love Will Tear Us Apart

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Music Saves

By , June 28, 2005

I’ve been through many times when I thought I might lose it
The only thing to save me has always been music

– Mike D

At one point in time it would have been difficult to imagine a Beastie Boy lyric being used as the epigram for any bit of serious prose, but there you have it. Today I turn to Michael Diamond for inspiration. The above couplet resonated with me when I first heard it, and it has never rang true so clearly as of late. A while back, a groom’s request of Fifty Cent prompted me to write in semi-jest about the power of music, but in all seriousness– music has always been integral to my life (which I’m sure it is to many people’s lives), and a never-ending source of solace when circumstance deals an unexpected or difficult blow.

I think it was also Mike D. who rapped:

Life ain’t nothing but a good groove
A good mix tape can put you in the right mood

Of course, mix tapes gave way to the mix CD, which has in turn been replaced by the iTunes playlist. I’ve concocted a fair number of playlists since the advent of the mp3, and lately I’ve put together a new one. At the risk of appearing old-fashioned, I will confess that mp3 playlists always feel more than a little bit sterile to me. I’m not a hardcore vinyl purist, but I still prefer whenever possible to listen to an actual record. I often consider selling my vinyl collection– after all, most of it is languishing in storage– but I reconsider whenever I play one. A song feels so much more alive on vinyl, whether it be from the physical act of dropping the needle into the groove, or the faint crackle of dust in the background… Tangent aside, I’m here to talk playlists. The title of this one says it all– Melancholy. And before anyone chimes in with a comment advising me to avoid playing sad songs when I’m sad, let me offer this bit of, well, for a lack of a better word, wisdom.

There seems to be two general ways that one can deal with great sorrow– either hide from it, i.e. bottle it up, push it deep down inside of yourself, and try to forget about it, or embrace it and let it take you places within your psyche that you would otherwise never dare go. I am a big proponent of the latter method. It has always been the saddest times in my life that have taught me who I really am, and allowed me opportunities to improve myself. Often it seems that only by listening to my darkest emotions and visiting the farthest reaches of my soul can I get to the bottom of what ails me. Sure, my method is not a happy one. You’ll visit dark places, and you’ll suffer, but when you emerge from mourning, you are a better person for the experience. Conversely, I think the people who ignore or bury the sad feelings find those feelings cropping up to haunt them later in life, usually in altered, unrecognizable forms which take years of therapy to identify and conquer.

What does this all mean? It means that lately I’ve been listening to a lot of sad songs. This trend has not been the result of a conscious effort; I haven’t trawled my iTunes folders on a quest for unhappiness. It was more of an organic process, but the resultant playlist, which I’ll share below, definitely has a consistent vibe to it, hence the aforementioned name I assigned to it. For me, music and poetry have long been my main access points to my inner self. I frequently find myself aware of an attitude or emotion I didn’t realize I had, or at least had been unable to crystallize into coherent thought, after hearing a similar sentiment expressed in a song.

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Love Songs

By , June 13, 2005

You know how when you break up or fall in love, or you just miss someone, every song you hear suddenly makes so much more sense to you? As an example, on Saturday night I was DJ’ing a wedding and the groom requested a special song. I played it, and as I listened, the lyrics overwhelmed me:

I don’t know what ya’ heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a dollar outta’ me
No Cadillac, no perms, you can’t see
That I’m a motherfuckin’ P-I-M-P

It really sank in. To think I’ve been wasting my time in a relationship for all these years when I *could* have been honing my skills as a pimp.

And when the song continued:

I don’t know what you’ve heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a crumb up outta’ me
I drive a Cadillac, wear a perm ‘cuz I’m a G
And I’m a motherfuckin’ C-R-I-P

it made me harken back to my single days– you know, back in the last century. Yah, it’s been that long. But with my new Snoopy Dogg muse by my side, I’m sure I’m on the road to happiness all over again. Plus, I already own loads of blue clothes, so I’ll fit right in with my new Crip friends. Or do they wear red? I’d better find out before the first gangsta party! How terribly embarrassing it would be to show up wearing the wrong colors– I’d surely be soundly chastised for such a fashion faux pas.

Love songs…they suddenly become so coherent when you miss someone.

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Suede – New Generation

By , May 3, 2005

I wake up every day to find her back again
Screaming my name through the astral plane

Were I to list my favorite bands, nearly all of them would be bands that no longer exist, or if they do, have stopped releasing albums. Joy Division, The Smiths, Pulp, Suede– all no more. Even my favorite local band, The Aislers Set, seems to have stopped recording and touring. Were I pressed to list favorite bands still in existence I’d say Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, and Bright Eyes but none of those bands hold sway over me quite like those in the first list. While I cannot necessarily say they are hands down my favorite band of all time, no band better represents my coming-of-age years than Suede.

Suede New Generation 12

Oh, but when she is calling, here in my head
Can you hear her calling, and what she has said?
Oh, but when she is calling, here in my head
It’s like a new generation calling
Can you hear it call?

Suede really did usher in a new generation of music, and were arguably the original Brit Pop band. Their success heralded a radical stylistic shift in the sound of British rock, one that had last shifted with the advent of The Stone Roses, and paved the way for bands such as Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and Elastica. Suede was Britain’s answer to American grunge rock– a throwback to the glam days of David Bowie and Roxy Music tempered by the ‘it’s okay to be an outsider’ mentality of The Smiths– and made an ideal rallying point for misfits and dreamers the world over.

Suede’s best songs, taken together, form an unending narrative of of detached lovers, sexual experimentation, drug use, and life outside the lines of traditional British society, and “New Generation” is no exception.

And like all the boys in all the cities
I take the poison, take the pity
But she and I, we soon discovered
We’d take the pills to find each other

“New Generation” is from the Dog Man Star album, a massive, larger-than-life masterpiece of epic rock and roll, and quite possibly the single greatest rock album ever recorded, at least by my reckoning. It is definitely in my top five all time, and is probably my favorite of all. It soars to heights I’ve never heard another album attain.

Though this entry is really about one song, I would be remiss if I did not say a bit about the significance of the album. Dog Man Star is a record already heavily laced with melancholy themes and sounds, and the story surrounding its release only serves to amplify that despair. After a Mercury Prize winning debut album, and a brilliant EP, Suede had fans and critics alike eager for their second full-length album. Almost at the same time as the record was reported to have been completed, Bernard Butler, the guitarist and half of the song-writing team, left the band. Dog Man Star would seemingly be the last we would ever hear from Suede.

Things grew worse– it became unclear if the album would even be released– legal matters were likely to keep it shelved indefinitely. There was never a lower point in the life of a Suede fan. (Meanwhile, bands like Blur and Oasis, formally relegated to the back burner, took the implosion of Suede as an opportunity to rise to the forefront of the Brit Pop movement, and cash in on the next wave of British musical invaders to conquer the American airwaves.) Eventually, the album was released, and it was a huge success, albeit possibly the last effort by so promising a band.

I wake up every day, to find her back again
Breeding disease on her hands and knees
While the styles turn and the books still burn
It’s there in the platinum spires
It’s there in the telephone wires
And we spread it around to the techno sound
And like a new generation rise

To complete the story of Suede, much like in the song, we fans woke up one morning to find them back again. They didn’t break up. Instead they launched a crazy guitarist search and wound up with some teenaged Bernard Butler look-alike. I will not lie– skepticism ran rampant in the circles of Suede fandom, and when it was announced that Suede was to have a new single in stores, it was big news. The song was to be called “Trash.” Would it be just that? I remember standing at the cash register of the local record shop with the single in my hand, and my heart full of anticipation. I came home and fearfully popped “Trash” into my CD player. While totally different than Butler-era Suede, it was utterly fantastic in its own right, and it instantly became my anthem for that summer.

Sadly, post-Butler Suede is remembered best today not for their brief resurgence but for their subsequent failure, and even though I know in hindsight how it’s going to end (watch out for that iceberg, Suede!), it’s still nice to reminisce about the moment in time when, to a new generation of youth, Suede had in seemingly miraculous fashion survived what seemed at the time to have been a cataclysmic loss. Perhaps there really was hope for the rest of us.

It’s like a new generation calling
Can you hear it call?
And I’m losing myself, losing myself to you

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Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get it On

By , September 21, 2004

Currently Playing: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

For years I’ve played it as a last song at parties of all sorts. All the drunks love to get down to it. The couples do a starry-eyed rotating hug to it. The fraternity boys loved to grind the sorority girls to it. And on one level, it’s perfect for all of those actions. Let’s get it on– the title says it all, right? Except it’s not just about sex and lust, right?

I’ve been really tryin’, baby
Tryin’ to hold back these feelings for so long
And if you feel, like I feel baby
Come on, oh come on
Let’s get it on

That doesn’t sound like lust at all, does it? Not that it would be a bad thing if that’s all it were. If the song were just a pick-up line, it would still be incredibly soulful and a beautiful piece of music, but it wouldn’t transcend pop music the way it does, and it wouldn’t be one of the better love songs I know. It’s because it’s simultaneously sexy AND loving that it is so good.

We’re all sensitive people
With so much to give, understand me sugar
Since we’ve got to be
Let’s live
I love you

That’s the point at which the song catches you off guard. The sultry music, the breathless vocals, and the pre-conceived notion of what “Let’s Get It On” must be all steer you in one direction, and suddenly he throws in an “I love you.” (And on a side note, has any singer EVER uttered those words in a more sensual fashion than Marvin Gaye does here? Doubtful.)

Best love song ever? Maybe.

Today’s Question: What do you think?

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Arcade Fire – Tunnels

By , September 15, 2004

And if the snow buries my,
My neighborhood.
And if my parents are crying
Then I’ll dig a tunnel
From my window to yours,
Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney
And meet me in the middle,
The middle of the town

I’ve been playing this song over and over and over for more than a week. I can’t get enough of it, and I cannot wait for the supposedly soon-to-come album.

Currently Playing: Arcade Fire – Tunnels

I am not using hyperbole when I say that this song may be finest combination of deeply profound, poetic lyrics and a beautiful tune I have ever heard. I am fully prepared to crown this song as just that. There may well be songs with a prettier tune, and songs with even more poignant lyrics, but none that I know have both to the degree that this one does. There are more levels to this song than I can yet comprehend, and with every listen I feel I have grasped some new element of its meaning.

I’m going to try to break down some of what I take away from the song, so bear with me as I suddenly get all abstract and emotional.

But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms,
And our parent’s bedrooms,
And the bedrooms of our friends

They have hit upon something so powerful there– the bedrooms of our parents and our friends. I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that as a child, though willing and able to run rampant through the rest of the house, I treated my parents’ bedroom with a sense of awe and respect. It wasn’t quite off-limits, but it was certainly semi-hallowed ground, and now that I’m grown-up I remember it as somehow mysterious and larger than life. Now, that alone would have been enough of an allusion to elevate this song to the “super hella profound and deep” category, but then they immediately take it one step further– the bedrooms of our friends.

If there was trepidation in the bedroom of my parents, there was a magic in the bedrooms of my friends. At that age, your bedroom is the only place where you have any autonomy; beyond how you dress, the posters with which you adorn your bedroom walls are nearly your sole expression of self. Seeing what someone else did with their tiny corner of the world always made me question how my own little kingdom looked. Today, years later, I remember those rooms with a hallowed sense of nostalgia. The hours spent listening to music or just wondering about life were all framed by the environment of some friend’s bedroom. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that one little line in this song floods my mind with memories every time I hear it.

Arcade Fire - Tunnels

If I had to offer an overarching meaning, I’d say this is a song about growing up unprepared for the world that we must face as adults. Either because of death, absence, or plain negligence, so many of our parents just aren’t there to guide us, and we’re on our own. We’re a generation of children in adult’s bodies, going through the motions of adulthood without ever having earned it. That is just my take on the lyrics, and I’m sure there are many other ways to interpret this song. In truth, there are certainly numerous meanings intertwined with one another. The only certainty is that it is a song charged with powerful symbolism and poetic wordplay, perhaps none so more than when the chorus comes in for the final time: it arrives with one extra line, and it’s a line that ups the ante exponentially:

You change all the lead
Sleeping in my head to gold,
As the day grows dim,
I hear you sing a golden hymn,
The song I’ve been trying to sing

The song I’ve been trying to sing. That feeling or emotion that is forever in the back of your mind, and one you know, if you could just bring it forward, would make all the difference in the world; but one you can’t put it into concrete form. It remains hovering just behind your consciousness. To hear someone singing it– would that be to experience a moment where someone is able to make sense of everything in your life that has heretofore been a confused jumble? Or would it only add to the confusion, when a moment later the song is gone and you can’t remember exactly how it went, and it too ends up buried in the recesses of your mind, a haunting melody that you need to hear again but know you never will.

I’m normally a very literal, to-the-point writer, and when I try to put my emotional response to a song like this onto paper (computer screen?) I fear I am lacking. Much like the golden hymn in the song, I’m afraid that I am only skirting around what I feel because there really aren’t words that convey what I am feeling; or, if such words do exist, I do not know them.

Purify the colors, purify my mind
And spread the ashes of the colors
Over this heart of mine!

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The Cure – Pictures of You

By , August 21, 2004

Lucubration often fosters the most random, yet poignant, thoughts. Combine the deep thoughts of a late hour with a melancholy song, and you have all the ingredients for… something. I sort of lost steam there. What I believe I mean to say is, although I have a very happy life, and a positive demeanor in general, it is sometimes nice to listen to a particularly well-written sad song, and step for a moment into the persona of the singer. It’s almost enough to make me wish I were melancholy, at least for a night, just so I could better relate to the powerful sentiment the singer is expressing.

The Cure - Pictures of You

If only I’d thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I’d thought of the right words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Actually, I take that back. I want to be sad so I could write a song like this, not just relate to it.

Currently Playing: The Cure – Pictures of You

You can click the artist or title to hear the song, but for those who have their speakers turned off, here are some more lyrics:

Looking so long at these pictures of you
But I never hold on to your heart
Looking so long for the words to be true
But always just breaking apart
My pictures of you

If you know me at all, you know I am a massive fan of The Smiths; which means, I am supposed to dislike Robert Smith and The Cure. I’m not that sort of music fan. There are plenty of songs by The Cure that I adore, and this one is probably my favorite of the bunch. If pressed, I’ll say I think their overall body of work is uneven, but that is a blog for a different day.

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

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They Call That a Job?

By , August 2, 2004

Around y2k time I discovered this random little band called Death Cab for Cutie. No big whoop, just another random little band playing random little songs that were pretty good. Until a few minutes ago I figured they were still a random little band, but I just read an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that learned me otherwise. It seems that Death Cab for Cutie’s music was featured on a television program and their career was jump-started. Now they are a World Famous Band.

My initial reaction was simply that of surprise. Death Cab for Cutie was merely one of a hundred or more random little bands that share rotation-time in the soundtrack of my life. How had they, of all bands, found mainstream success? I felt the same as when I’d discovered that Nick Drake’s records were selling like hotcakes. As he didn’t even need a television program to launch him to post-humous stardom (a car commercial sufficed), imagine the heights to which my Death Cab boys will soar. They will be selling out arenas within a month!

Some people revel in the fact that the bands they like are unknown to the masses, and relish every chance to extol the virtues of an obscure act. When one of their random little bands hits the big time, they are quick to parade around bragging “I’ve been listening to them for years,” while simultaneously lamenting the fact that “everyone is listening to MY band now.” While that is comical in its own right, that isn’t the point of this post. If anything, I’m actually kind of glad they have become famous, as I think their music is better than most of what is popular right now, and I’m hoping they’ll get a foot in the door for other bands I like. I for one would be ecstatic if the music I listen to supplants the currently popular genres.

Speaking of other bands I like, here is a song from another of my random little bands. Maybe their presence here in my blog will bring them great fame and platinum records. Have I the same pull as The O.C.? Does a shout out on Divisione di Gioia equate to a massive spike in record sales? I hope so! Are you ready for the big time, boys?

Currently Playing: Wilco – Far, Far Away

The same article that told me that one of my random littles are now World Famouses mentioned that many television shows now have a person whose job is to seek out random little bands to include in programs in order to up the cool quotient of the show. That seems kind of lame to me. No, not the job– that actually sounds like an easy, and fun, occupation, and if anything, it’s probably my ideal line of work. The lameness is in the fact that a television show can purposely select obscure music from random little bands and not only will viewers become fans of the bands for no other reason then that they saw the band on their favorite show, but the show will take on a reputation for being somehow cool or cutting edge simply because they chose bands based entirely on the fact that they’re obscure. That is wrong on more levels then I could ever touch upon in a blog, and plus it is like 7:00 am and I haven’t slept yet.

Today’s Question: What is your favorite random little band?

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Ruining It for Everybody

By , July 8, 2004

MP3 Blogs are all the rage these days. I suppose in a way, with my occasional song blogs, Divisione di Gioia is something of an MP3 Blog, but the people quoted and mentioned in the linked article have taken it to an entirely different level.

I actually know one of their sources, though it has been a few years since we’ve crossed paths. Oliver Wang, a.k.a. O-Dub, used to hang out with me and my crew when we did our radio show back in college, and he’d show up at many of the parties I’d DJ. I mostly remember him as the kid trying to learn about hip hop, who was constantly asking “what song is that? what song is that?” and then jotting down the information we’d give him. It seems to have really paid off– he now markets himself as quite the expert on hip hop and old soul music. And before you read this as some sort of condemnation, or damnation via faint praise, I give him props for making a name for himself, and even more props for being honest– I see in his blog that he credits his mentors and admits to being a late-comer to the hip hop bandwagon. You’re welcome, Oliver.

After reading a bunch of the MP3 Blogs, I remember why I stopped collecting old soul and breakbeat records: it became this fetishist obsession that everyone and their brother was doing, seemingly more to be trendy than for any admiration of the music. When I started collecting records, virtually no one else was really into that style of music, but I loved the stuff; there is a rawness to those records that was nowhere to be found in the polished fare being transmitted over the airwaves at that time (or now). This meant that I could find great records at affordable prices all over the place. When hip hop went from being underground to mainstream music, a sudden interest picked up in the soul and funk records that spawned the genre. It was neat at first, as I suddenly had other people to talk with about the music, but once it reached a sort of critical mass there was this influx of the fetishists, and it all changed for the worse.

It became crappy for a few reasons, the first of which was strictly supply and demand. As people began wanting the same records, they became harder to find, and record sellers began upping their prices. Not only could I no longer find something awesome in the 99 cents super-saver bin, I pretty much couldn’t find it all. And if I did, the seller wanted $100 for the record.

Economics aside, by far the worst byproduct of all was that I had to associate myself with all those nouveau record-geeks. Imagine if something very personal and enjoyable to you suddenly became the trendiest fad among, say, the popped-collar polo shirt preppie and sorority girl set. Unless those are your people (and if so, my apologies for singling them out as especially moronic), you’d be embarrassed to associate yourself with them. And that’s how it became with the “crate digging rare groove beat junkies,” as they began to label themselves.

They all dressed the same, spoke the same, and had the same want lists. Once one of them would find some great new beat, they all had to have it. They produced massive lists of “All the Funky Songs, Ever” and distributed them. Maybe I am an elitist, but I believe in the whole pay-your-dues, old school mentality. I don’t want to know every great breakbeat record. That takes the fun out of discovering them. When I first found The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” or Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat” it was a treat, because I had come across a great track that I knew nothing about. Certainly, other DJs, and some collectors, already must have had those records, but the fact that I’d found the record myself made it fun. Now it’s like collecting stamps. You have this master list of every soul record ever released, and you are supposed to search and search until you find a copy. Boring.

It grew so tiresome, in fact, that eventually I just quit collecting records. The Oliver Wangs of the world had officially sucked all the fun out of it. As he says, now “the whole point is to show off.” To me the point was to find music I liked. Again I should point out– Oliver, pretty okay guy. He is just today’s magufffin, to use what seems to be my new favorite word.

When you like something, sometimes it’s great to find other people who share similar interests. But when that interest becomes something thousands of people are turning to simply because it has become a cool thing to be into, it starts to suck, and when a faddish “scene” develops around it, it sucks even more. There may be a more graceful way to phrase that, but that is basically how I feel. It sucks that a fun hobby was ruined when it became mainstream. I hear people bitching about this all the time with regards to any of a number of once-personal/ now-mainstream interests, and I empathize completely. It does indeed suck.

Today’s Question: Doesn’t that totally suck?

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