There's a collective running wild in Seattlethey might be actors; they might be a cult; they might be deranged, anti-bathing Burning Man disciples; they might just be very close, like-minded friendswho have been dressing up like Santa Clauses, naughty nurses, and/or clowns and infiltrating various hot spots en masse. They're a vociferous, extroverted, confrontational bunch, fluctuating between Instant Party and Instant Train Wreck.
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Refreshing or insidious as this cabal may sound to you, it takes ballswell, maybe just multiple lobotomiesto charge into certain Capitol Hill watering holes and punch your ticket for Snob Trek II: The Wrath of Hipsters. The first time I saw these guerrilla revelers take over a bar, the Santas vastly outnumbered the Hipsters, not to mention the Wrath, but didn't leave without stocking caps pilfered, American Spirits flicked at their beards, and beer spat upon their sashes. The White Belt Seasons Greetings card couldn't have been more indelible and legible: "Merry Fucking Christmas, dorks."
I am a grown man with a car and a full-time job. The car may be a dented-to-shit, on-its-last-legs '88 Olds, and the job may be almost entirely constituted of talking shit about other people's artmeaning I'm basically still livin' la vida high- school sophomore in my mid-20sbut it should nevertheless be noted that my participation in this skirmish was not among the proudest moments of my adult life. During the aftermath, an everyman lounging across the booth took everyone's haughtiness to task, damningly suggesting that the Santas were simply "having a good time," "making their own fun," and "being themselves," so what was wrong with that?
I didn't have a retort for him. I didn't have a prepared sound bite that would expediently outline my personal, ironclad, ob-vious cool/lame spectrum to a "normal" person. Feeling stupid and disgusting, I mumbled a variation of the "isn't it obvious" line and, like a true elitist, a true coward, continued to belittle the Santa procession for the remainder of the evening.
There's an enormous difference between nurturing a critical, occasionally cynical worldview, sometimes even calling bullshitters on their bullshit, and what I was doing: transforming into the sort of uppity, loathsome fashion/culture police officer I've detested since the moment I could recognize one.
The preceding anecdotewhile only peripherally related to musicrepresents just one minuscule pitfall among millions and millions that materialize the day you decide that music is the most important and amazing thing you're ever going to know. It doesn't take long to travel the continuum from casual radio listener to vinyl geek to wanna-be guitarist to know-it-all über-hipster to irredeemable insider that nobody can stand. This is the ideal time of year for a gut check.
Pearl Jamnot unlike the late Fred Rogershave a variety of axioms that are applicable in such crises. Lately I've been working too much "Not for You" ("This is not for you, never was for you! Fuck you!") and not nearly enough "Corduroy" ("This behavior's not unique"). There is much to be said for not being a judgmental asshole, not to mention:
*Drinking, if you must, at a concert, as opposed to a bar where people who play concerts drink.
*Shamelessly applauding for and dancing to a band, even if you're friends with the bassist, everyone's bored shitless, and it's probably not gonna look too fucking cool.
*Helping that band quit their demeaning, stifling day jobs by buying and wearing their silly T-shirt, even if, yes, it's probably not gonna look too fucking cool.
*Being in the presence of other humans who are happily displaying physical enthusiasm for live or recorded music and not smarmily assailing their physicality.
You know people who do these things. They're courageous and uninhibited, not dorks. They're usually under 21. There's also much to be said for practicing what you preach, which is why I found myself orbiting Seattle's finest all-ages venue, the VERA Project, for much of last weekend, fondly remembering the days when I used to sneer at people idling in long drink lines at shows, people who were never up front, afraid to be rocked in public.
I doubt the kids who go to VERA shows are even as unnecessarily spiteful or overanalytical as I was. They belt "That was fucking awesome, Rocky!" after a bittersweet Rocky Votolato harmonica-and-acoustic ballad; they clap as one for a Gatsby's American Dream encore, and the band deftly utilizes their natural tempo to re-create the introductory instrumental from its latest album; they carpool from Redmond to sell out a Minus the Bear/United State of Electronica/Lashes bill before a note is played, then hang on every single one that is.
I miss that abandon. I miss that fearless, unrequited love. Today, I get Christmas cards from Sub Pop half-jokingly recommending that I avoid aforementioned certain Capitol Hill watering holes because "you've lost your innocence."
Um, anybody from VERA out there? Can you beat $200/mo. in rent? I'll shack up on the stage.
Send news, rumors, and unsubstantiated, feckless dirt to firstname.lastname@example.org.