Get Off My Lawn!, Dept.
So, I'm reading the Washington City Paper, which is a shadow of its former self--whole 'nother story--and I turn to the concerts section--to be precise, shows coming to the 9:30 club and other venues, all promoted by the same organization. Historical context: the 9:30 had been a premier venue in Choc City for years. Back when it was at 930 F Street, in a poky space with shitty sightlines, it hosted great acts. Then it moved up to V Street back when there was no "U Street Renaissance," and the neighborhood was...sketchy. To say the most favorable thing at hand. But, still, it had been this town's venue for the hottest acts. Not arena acts, mind you, those still went to the MCI, now Verizon, Center. But all the alterna-rock acts, back when "alternative rock" was a thing. I saw Portishead/Tricky/Massive Attack there, Lou Reed, a double bill of Bad Brains and Living Colour, etc., etc.
I haven't been there in some time (which also means I've missed The Books and St. Vincent there in the last year; vide infra), but I checked the venue's page in the City Paper today to see what was up. The 9:30 itself is featuring bands I will not be paying cash money to see. Fatboy Slim? Mickey Hart Band? Rusted Root? Ah...thanks, but I have to wash and set my hair, coincidentally on each of those three nights. Then I check to see what the 9:30's promoters are featuring in other venues.
Well, at Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is an open-air venue out in the wilds of Northern Virginia and an utter bitch to leave after a concert, we have Rob Zombie and Megadeth, with Metallica, Iron Maiden and Godsmack tribute bands on a second stage. Hmm. Fail. Sarah McLachlan with The National Philharmonic (full-page ad earlier in the tabloid that looks like it's touting a feminine hygiene product--huge head shot of Sarah M. with some sort of flowering shrub intruding stage right). Hmm. Fail. A two-day "rock festival" featuring, sweet jebus, Night Ranger and Kix on the first day, then Cinderella, Ratt (L.A.'s heavy metal rodents!), Queensryche, Skid Row, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Stryper ("and more!"). Hmm. Incredible fail, but I would love to see who shows up for this event. Then, Lady Antebellum with Hootie emeritus Darius Rucker as opening act. (Ghod. Can we just agree that country music died with Tammy Wynette and suspend the genre entirely? Because every cowboy-hatted nitwit and aerobicized crossover wannabe and jingoistic turd blossom can kiss my Yankee ass. For reals. My musical tastes are more catholic than the Pope, but the one genre I will not abide at all is fucking Contemporary Country. What exactly is the point of Lady Antebellum? Two Pretty People and a Third Guy performing meds-time music for Atlanta suburbanites who wish the Confederate army hadn't been quite so crap? If the South is ever to rise again, it needs to think about mass-producing music that isn't the aural equivalent of Cream of Shit soup.) Mega-fail. And, finally, here come The Beach Boys! Brian Wilson and Mike Love somehow appearing on the same stage without one or both trying to kill the other to claim final title to the Beach Boys Legacy. I think of Wilson and the undertalented Love as the musical equivalent of the duochromatic aliens on the Star Trek episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
My point is--and you should see the bills come summer at the various amphitheaters in the Greater Choc City region: all of them dream double- and triple-bills. In 1978.--that large-scale music, if these coming attractions are any indication, has come to a standstill and may even be regressing. "Devolving," to quote the Brothers Mothersbaugh and Casale. The 9:30 used to have dynamite bills in the '90s. I fantasized about working there just to have access to all the shows. Now? I haven't set foot in the venue in 10 years. Not to say no good acts ever come there. But, the Books and St. Vincent shows I mentioned above really were the only two shows I wished I'd seen in the last year. I've reality-checked myself to see if this isn't simply curmudgeonly "there were giants in those days" nostalgia. Nope. So many of these acts are, at best, pleasant? inoffensive? I mean, Housse de Racket, Trampled by Turtles and The Wombats, to name three upcoming dates at the 9:30, are, from what little exposure I've withstood, how can I put it...? "competent journeyman outfits." Yes. I would certainly not pay to see them, and I can't guarantee that I would stay in the vicinity of one of their performances at a county fair or some such similar setting. Now, I know there were duff acts at the Fillmore and CBGB and Max's and other legendary venues. But this is just sad. It's as if quality music is all below the radar, being made in tiny venues and out-of-the-way clubs, and the bigger venues are featuring crap or nostalgia or, occasionally, both, whipped together with a cucumber foam on top.
So, what's my takeaway and, by extension, yours? There is more astonishing music than you will ever have the chance to hear recorded before 1970. Hell, before 1940. Or even sub-genres after 1970. Post-punk. Trip-hop. Krautrock. MPB. Afrobeat. Drum and bass. Unless you feel the need to spend the evening in the crowded confines of a club listening to the forgettable for the sake of social engagement, invest the equivalent of a concert ticket on a year's subscription to MOG or Spotify and plumb the depths of recorded music. I'm not advocating an eremitical lifestyle. Necessarily. But just listening to all the good stuff on Blue Note would take the better part of a year. Without repeating. Multiply by all the great jazz labels, then all the great R'n'B labels, then all the great blues labels, then all the great disco and funk labels, then contemporary classical and electronica... You see my point?
Here, I'll leave you with something nice. Cole Porter singing his own "Anything Goes." Call it sherbet to cleanse your palate of the wretched musical diet on which you've been living. No, no. No need to thank me. It's a public service.