Saturday, February 3, 2007

Saturday night, alone in a Starbucks in central Massachusetts

It's not as pathetic as you might think (I hope). My son Eli and two of his buddies are at a rock concert in a church in Worcester. It's far more efficient for me to sit here for several hours and get some work done than go home and back.

My son's concert-going experience is so different from mine when I was 14. Back in 1976, nearly all the shows I attended were in large halls: sometimes arenas, often ~2,000-seat theaters. (I was savvy enough to sneak into Manhattan to go to shows undetected, but there was no way that this not-shaving-everyday-yet kid was going to be able to talk his way into the Bottom Line, Max's Kansas City, or CBGB for another year or two.) The concerts I attended were all formal events, scheduled months in advance, with printed tickets. Eli's concerts appear at the last minute, it seems, and there's always a line in front when I drop him off.

At 14, I learned about new bands from radio stations and easily available publications like the Village Voice. Eli, on the other hand, while perhaps even more enthusiastic about rock'n'roll than I was at his age, never listens to the radio and picks up music magazines only to learn the bass lines of songs. He learns about music from two sources: his friends and the Internet (and his friends get all their information from the Net). He learns about bands from MySpace, and when he plays the songs he downloads on iTunes they get picked up by his last.fm scrobbler, which introduced him to more music he might like. It's a much lower-to-the-ground, person-to-person way of consuming and sharing music. He meets people at these shows, shares his playlists with them, and learns some more about music and people. None of these buddies, so far, have turned out to be axe murderers. I know there are cynical marketers working these channels, but this seems like a wonderful way to be part of a music-loving community.

Over time, I expect the kids in those communities to skew younger. So many of the kids-TV shows my daughters, now 11 and 6, watch are about kids in rock bands: Hannah Montana, the Naked Brothers Band, Raven. I recognize that all three of those shows stink. Aside from that, they also have in common a world in which kids can be rock stars. It's a world in which rock'n'roll is clean and safe. In other words, it's a lie. I want my kids to be clean and safe, of course, but I recognize that the greatest rock'n'roll is anything but clean and safe. "Brown Sugar"? "Heroin"? "Anarchy in the U.K."? "Blitzkrieg Bop"? The worlds of those songs are full of all sorts of feelings and behavior I'd never wish on my loved ones. But that's rock'n'roll. Along with the inspirational (Patti Smith's "People Have the Power," f'rinstance), rock'n'roll is about celebrating the deviant, the unthinkable, the unforgivable. Rock'n'roll is one of the most liberating forces on the planet, but it's not only sweet, harmless energy that it liberates.

And now, to the work I came here to do...

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2 Comments:

jen said...

I should have snuck into NY a lot more often as a youngster, though I did see the Ramones when I was 15, so I can't complain.

Inquiring minds want to know what you thought of Prince's halftime show.

February 5, 2007 6:04 PM  
Jimmy said...

Hello, Jen.

Half-time shows at the Super Bowl are as artificial as, well, the Super Bowl, but Prince was actually worth watching and hearing. I've seen him do his medleys in clubs, mixing up his own compositions with unexpected covers, and it's a lot of fun to hear him stretch them out for much longer. In fact, four hours of Prince with 12 minutes of football in the intermission would be my idea of good television.

February 5, 2007 9:40 PM  

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