I'd like to second Ben Aiken's letter [“Postmarks
” online, March 17] decrying the exhibition of mediocrity that took place last week during South by Southwest. My complaint reaches much further than the Conference, though. I think there is an all-out war campaign being fought against the idea of musical virtuosity. It's rare you find a group with the balls to take the unfashionable risk of sincerity that isn’t saturated in self-indulgent pop-idol jockeying. Seen any truly dynamic instrumentalists lately? Not at SXSW, unless they were veterans. I personally know local musicians who, when quizzed on their goals as a band, actually say, "We want to be rock stars," not, "We want to make amazing music."
There's a wide gap to be filled by someone who wants to dignify the dialogue between artists and their audiences and to create something fresh and uplifting, instead of being the millionth gang of slobs to gorge themselves on retro-culture. Or how about some rockin’ showmanship? Here’s some real retro for ya. I sat front row for the Van Halen reunion tour in Philadelphia last October and actually wept
during Eddie’s solo! To be fair, I was kind of drunk, but I was also just moved by watching a battle-scarred old guard casually showcase his absolute mastery of his instrument, as David Lee Roth dutifully pranced about with a goofy grin. Not very hip, I know. But see if any of the several thousand people there – many of them under 30, like me! – gave a shit. People are starved for this stuff, and that goes to explain the recent trend of teenagers who are raiding Dad’s Steely Dan records instead of going back for seconds of post-pop crap.
Look, I know it’s not all bad. But I’d like to hear more young people demanding better instead of just accepting the latest as the greatest because it happens to be a product of their generation. I wonder if they’re really listening. I feel like I'm too young to be this sentimental for shit that happened while I was eating glue.
Ben, look no further; you struck oil. It’s mostly about the sweaters.
“Jazz isn’t dead; it just smells funny.”
p.s. I miss Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom.