Sunday, July 26, 2009

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Accept Hipster Nation

"I'm a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last; a romantic person hopes against hope that they won't."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

In a recent article for Popmatters entitled "Hipster Hatred Knows No Bounds," Michael Brett laments the current state of music as opposed to his heyday in the '90's:

Last weekend, I made my journey to Hipster Nation’s annual convention, the Pitchfork Music Festival. I arrived with a fifth of gin, my bag chair, and an immediate distaste for many of my fellow attendees. I knew they would need to share the space with me. But I wanted to let them know without any misunderstanding that their presence was nothing but a distraction.

How had things come to this point? Aren’t rock festivals built on a foundation of one nation under a groove? Why didn’t I arrive with anticipation for that singular moment, that show moment when you look out all around at that giant sea of bliss in which you swim?

The first reason has to do with me. I’m aging. And I don’t like it.

The second reason has to do with them. They’re not angry enough. In fact, they’re a bunch of wimps.

American ‘alternative’ music prided itself on being the angriest music around. Bands like Husker Du, Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney, and Nirvana cut their teeth on ‘70s arena rock. Their guitarists knew Thin Lizzy licks. They just played ‘em faster and louder, chewed up with feedback. When I began to go to shows in the early ‘90s, I was scared shitless. There were a mess of big dudes with tattoos (when they were still cool) and Melvins shirts who lived for the moment when a scrub like me would try to sneak around their mosh pit.

In regards to Brett's first reason, I can relate - I'm aging too, but I don't mind. I'm the cranky, old guy off to the side who doesn't really fit in at these shows and I'm thankful for that. But age is important in this debate. You first encounter "alternative" music when you are in your teens or early 20's and it is a fresh, new world that you embrace uncorrupted. Musicians seem larger than life and they are expressing things that seem to speak directly to you. As you get older, however, myths fade, and while you can still enjoy music no matter how old you are, the way in which it is viewed between generations is vastly different. If this "hipster" decade was Brett's initiation into the world of music instead of the 90's, he would probably embrace it in ways he can't possibly fathom now.

In regards to reason number two, I would say that Brett is right - this generation is not angry enough, but I think that all stems from what influenced this decade to begin with...

...rap metal, fires, rapes, and the general hooliganism that was Woodstock '99.

But this trend is nothing new. The punks were angry and railed against the hippies. When the crowds at punk shows became too angry and overcrowded with jocks, many punks left it behind to form a more cerebral-type music, i.e., Johnny Rotten forming Public Image Limited out of the Sex Pistols; Fugazi emerging from Minor Threat; etc., etc.

Every scene eventually becomes stale and the next decade will find kids distancing themselves from the current decade while borrowing from it as well to form something new. And someday, someone will be at a concert in the year 2015 feeling out of place as they deplore the state of music around them wondering why it all couldn't be like that Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert in '03 that blew their mind.

1 comment:

Rip Roarin said...

Thanks! The best thing about this column's reaction is the insight and discourse I've encountered with fellow older rockers like yourself.

Keep up the good work, brother!

And let 'em know I'm not a homophobe!