Carrie Brownstein has some interesting things to say about the state of music in her latest blog post, "Touched and Gone?"
Something is wrong. We are careening toward a paucity of experience and a paucity of means with which to evaluate music. I mean, can we really engage with art on a Web site and in a vacuum, without ever bothering to contextualize it or make it coherent with our lives or form a community around the work? If we never move beyond the ephemeral and facile nature of music Web sites -- and let's not lie to ourselves, that's where it ends for a lot of us these days -- then that makes us worse than blind consumers; it makes us dabblers. We have become musical tourists. And tourism is the laziest form of experience, because it is spoonfed and sold to us. Tourism cannot and should not replace the physical energy, the critical thinking and the tiresome but ultimately edifying road of adventure, and thus also of life.
As for places like MySpace, they're not the enemy, they're not anathema to art, and they're places I peruse frequently. I mean, MySpace is democratic and ceaselessly available, but it is ugly -- and it's a crumb being treated like the whole wedding cake we can't stop gorging on. Are we no longer seekers of the real? Or do we only seek for ourselves without any sense that a tactile discovery is mutually beneficial? Being found is as splendid as the finding. Stumbling upon an MP3 or a blog or a Web site is only half the search. We seem to have forfeited our duties and become half-participants -- and at the cost of the creators. But we have to realize ... that in order for there to be anything left in which to participate, we have to show up. We have to show up with not just our half-selves, our virtual selves, our broke-ass selves, but with our whole selves, and in the spirit of giving. Mock participation is more than just an absence of real engagement; it is a falsehood that has allowed us to justify our apathy. When, exactly, did we stop showing up? And how long until there's not much left worth showing up for?
My knee-jerk reaction is to note that I'm 55 years old, and it's simply not as easy to show up as it was when I was 27. When I was 27, we saw Bruce Springsteen five times in three cities in two states in seven days ... now I'm just glad we've got the energy to go see him once on a work night in San Jose. Carrie's right, though ... there's more to being a fan than just downloading tunes. I admit I was a better fan when I was younger ... I don't know what else I can say ... to the extent that she is also describing the 20-somethings out there, something is wrong. (I don't know whether she's right about them ... she's in her mid-30s now, herself).
But I will say that it's not quite as simple as she suggests. It's not just age that gets in the way ... sometimes, life gets in the way. There are a lot of reasons why we don't always "show up."
Plus ... and I say this with the full knowledge that I have no inside information on the whys and wherefores, and with the understanding that I do not begrudge people the opportunity to seek their own paths ... but I can tell you the exact date that I had one less reason for showing up: May 3, 2006 (or perhaps more accurately, August 12 of that same year). There used to be a rock and roll band ... they were really, really good. They made seven albums, and Robert Christgau gave them five A grades and two A- grades. They were famously named America's best rock band in Time in 2001. I saw them in concert 12 times, the last on May 3 of 2006. Three months later, they played their last concert ever. They've been "on hiatus" ever since.
So you've got a group where I bought all seven of their albums ... didn't just download them, I bought them in hardcopy ... I attended twelve of their concerts ... if there was ever an act not named Bruce Springsteen that was guaranteed to get me to "show up," it was them. Their name was Sleater-Kinney, of course. Like I say, the reasons for their hiatus are their own, and all respect to them for their decision. But I don't show up as often as I used to.
And their guitar player was a woman named Carrie Brownstein.