Friday, March 13, 2009

Apology of the Working Hipster

My upstairs neighbors don't sleep nights. I know this, because from about 11:00pm to 6:00am every night, I endure what sounds like someone obsessively shoving a recliner to alternating corners of their loft, ceaselessly, like a meth-addicted, interior designing Sisyphus. I mention this because it directly contradicts my own schedule. 11:00pm to 6:00am: sleeping. 8:30am to 5:30pm: ceaselessly pushing numbers and text from keyboard to printer to outbox, like a necktied Sisyphus. But still, like a contributing member of productive society, which is more than I can say for my laz-e-boy shoving upstairs neighbors.

Historically, productive members of society ask very little at the end of the hard work day: a cold beer, good conversation, and a little romance if they're lucky. Why is it, then, that the musical community had drifted so far away from the working man's pace? Why do shows scheduled for 9:00 start at 10:00, labor under half-hour sets and hour-long sound checks, and finally end at 2:00? Why do shows so often consist of comatose hipsters and maxed-out sound systems? And why is this all so rigidly now the standard for performed music? Who is this working for?

I read an autobiography of a man who, as a child, lived through the Southie busing riots in Boston in the 70s. The author's mom actually cultivated a sustained Boston-wide reputation during this period by arousing the anti-establishment sentiment of the neighborhood with music, performing sharp, angry folk tones in local bars to the delight of Southie's working class just as they left the day's work behind. The shortsighted outrage of that particular situation shouldn't be envied, but the basic picture still appeals to me: accessible music for the working class on their terms.

It's a question of audience, or maybe even potential audience. If shows start at ten or eleven and drag on till two, then that's a situation where artists are making music for artists or at least for tweekers who move furniture all night. Those people need music too, but on its face, this rigid night owl policy is patently anti-populist and ghettoized. What about the welders, mechanics, maids, or even the accountants, pharmacists, engineers, etc.?

One would wonder what it might be like if shows started at, say, eight. If there were never more than three acts. If the sound person would switch the EQ dial from "party" to "music." If the music ended at ten, the lights went up, and everyone still had about an hour to converse, discuss the music, dialogue thought.

Maybe this is all impractical. Maybe I should capitulate to the sophomoric machismo that dictates coolness: insomnia, vomit, self-involved oblivion. Whatever I do, I'm not going to turn folk just so I can go to bed at a proper hour. So c'mon, Rock and Roll, we can figure this out.


Tony said...

I wonder if you have any idea how old you've made yourself sound. I also wonder if you caught Marnie Stern at the the lounge on elm tonight.

Dick Sullivan said...

I wonder if you have any idea how elitist you've made yourself sound.

Hefe the Anoying said...

I think those cranked-up furniture movers have made you cranky.