I got laid off two weeks ago, the morning after Music Video Portland. So basically this has been my life for the past two weeks, but with less train set and no Janet checking in on me. I'd probably try to make out with Janet too if she showed up though, I may be jobless, depressed and isolated, but I'm not dead:
WE COULD HAVE BEEN A SCORCHING COUPLE TOO JANET, WHY WON'T YOU COME SEE ME?
Did you guys know Bridget Fonda is married to Danny Elfman? Dis Janet's hosbin:
Ok so I want to kind of settle this whole cover bands vs. original material debate that seems to show up every now and again on Facebook. This latest iteration has come across my feed like a gazillion times as I go through and search for events for you dummies, and I just... I'm so exhausted by this. Person 1 will be like, "cover bands are dumb support local music" and then someone who plays covers will show up and be like "you are dumb" and then leave a flaming bag of metaphorical poop on the doorstep of the original poster and it all just escalates from there.
Every industry has this argument within it. For instance, I love Top Chef. I don't know why, it's such a stupid show and it means nothing, but I love it so much. I love Padma and I love Tom and then like Anthony Bourdain will show up and call someone's food "stoner food" and I just geek out with glee a little bit every time. But like every chef on this show says some version of "I finally get to make MY food" at some point. Everyone wants to make their art. Their food. Their music. Their.... experimental theater? Sure. You get the point.
But as we all know, art and commerce are foul bedfellows. And, sing it with me if you know the words, y'all: people want that with which they are comfortable and familiar. It is literally built into our DNA for survival.
Every time I meet with a new band or artist, I recommend that they read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. He covers this thing he calls "The stickiness factor" that dictates a certain property that you need in order to cross through the "tipping point" at which something goes from mildly successful to wildly popular.
The main example in the book is the children's show Blues Clues, and the reasons laid out that Blues Clues became a huge phenomenon are that the show was simple, it was dumbed down to appeal to children and ONLY children (as opposed to Sesame Street, which used adult humor to make viewing less painful for parents and also because Jim Henson was a creative genius who intrinsically understood so much about how the world works and didn't treat children like imbeciles because content SHOULD BE CHALLENGING, but we'll get to that in a minute), they shortened it and they repeated the same episode over and over multiple times during the week.
Turns out that simple, comforting, familiar content is a very, very heady drug.
But so are burgers and fries as opposed to like, fucking sriracha foam and duck egg ragout with sea beans and a truffle dildo or whatever. So are flannel shirts and jeans as opposed to a Balmain jumpsuit made of pieces of the Berlin Wall and artisan silk from a worm named Abelard who lives in a deep sea isolation tank and is fed a steady diet of fois gras and caviar and tended to by a Franciscan Monk every hour on the hour. And, to extrapolate on this ridiculous metaphor, so is "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey as opposed to, say, this song below, which is fucking incredible and perfectly executed and exquisitely composed, but you don't ALREADY KNOW IT, so even if you did listen to it, which you won't, you won't like it right away.
Unless you've been challenged to enjoy new things and have made it a habit. Unless you are flexible enough and brave enough and you have enough energy to try new things. And that kinda all comes back to who raised you and what your world was like growing up. You learn that shit as a kid.
And, look man, if you grew up in Maine and you've never left Maine and you've never been exposed to anything more exotic than a fucking Amato's Italian, then yeah, you are not going to have any interest in original music. And that is MOST PEOPLE in this state. That is MOST PEOPLE ON EARTH. Period. Full stop. Most people don't make art, they don't get it. And for most people, music isn't "art." It's something that just sort of fills in blank space with familiar, comforting noise.
Asking bands not to play cover shows because it fucks with your sense of security and purpose in making original music is pretty much akin to saying:
Person A: I make chicken! It's delicious and good for you! Come try it!
Person B: But the people want steak! I shall make them steak so that I can pay my rent!
Person A: NO! You MUST NOT make them steak! You can only make them integrity-preserving chicken!
Person B: But... but my kid needs braces!
Person A: Too bad! YOU SHALL ONLY MAKE THEM CHICKEN OR I WILL DISRESPECT YOU FOREVER.
I mean... that's some real othering, right there. It's fucking privilege in action. You don't know what someone's economic needs are or what is going on in their life. Not all of us have the LUXURY of being able to pursue art. You need to realize that it is a privilege and a luxury to make art in any form, and that shaming people based on their need to make dollars is pretty shameful in and of itself.
But it's also a privilege and luxury to be able to appreciate new art. Here's why. When you are stressed out, when you had a rough week at work, if you have a loved one pass away, if you are fighting with your spouse, if you're worried about your kid who's sick, if you have no money and you're worried about how to pay the rent, do you seek out an exotic meal or a new album? Or do you pop on a copy of Abbey Road and order a pizza because you just need to feel good without having to think about it?
it's a rhetorical question, don't try to fucking tell me you stretch your legs when you're stressed. You seek comfort when you're stressed. And we are ALL. SO. STRESSED. OUT. We are so fucked, you guys. I mean even if you love President Dumb-n-Loud, you're still stressed out because that is the sole intention of his reign of terror. We cannot create, we cannot TRY when we are crushed with existential dread. That's how they control us. And they are doing an EXCELLENT JOB right now. They have ALWAYS BEEN DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB. Think about that for a second.
So right now, like... yeah guys, do your cover thing. Get through the storm. Maybe one day things will lighten up and we'll be able to feel safe enough to try new things? LOLOLOL JOKES THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN THIS IS THE END OF DAYS. But right now, unless it's a habit to try new things, I do not blame you for a SECOND for hunkering down and just fucking listening to your favorite dumb record and curling up into a ball to cry about how terrible things are and how you wish it would just fucking stop for one goddam second.
But lastly I'll say this. This sense of comfort extends to everything, including racism, homophobia, misogyny and all other kinds of othering. I feel lucky to have had parents from other countries and an upbringing in an intensely multicultural place and the independence in my youth to go do stuff on my own and be adventurous and learn, because it lets me take comfort in newness, in adventure and in appreciating the different. Challenge became a part of what makes me comfortable. And life is challenging. So that's probably a good thing.
But also, just because I AM ALSO CHALLENGING AS A PERSON: fucking support local music, you pieces of shit. If you're reading this blog, you carry that responsibility. It's your job. You took it on as soon as you followed a link to this blog post. Do it. Do something different.
I don't have time to list shows for you this week, as I am looking for a job and also working with The Nth Power, whose incredible drummer Nikki Glaspie will be on Late Night with Seth Meyers this week, so go check that out. Look at the calendar for your going out needs. I love you, don't ever change unless it's to become more compassionate, understanding, adventurous and creative. XOXOXOXOXOX FOREVER.
Here, I listen to this when I feel like crap and am terrified, which I totally fucking am right now. Enjoy it dicks: