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Juxtapositions

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Jesse Jarnow posted an old review today that was never published by the magazine he’d sent it to. The review is of the Dave Matthews Band performance in Central Park a couple of years ago. As I was reading it I was struck by the following quote about the fans who were waiting to get into the show,

Besides how they got their tickets, they rarely spoke about the band they were there to see (unheard of at show by Phish or the Grateful Dead, two bands the DMB is frequently lumped with). They didn’t even speak with particular frequency about other bands, but mostly about movies or television shows.

While this might not seem worth remarking on at first, it seems some indication of the way the Dave Matthews Band (and, thus, the rock concert as an entity) might now be viewed by young fans: music as something undifferentiated from other pop culture mediums, as opposed to an autonomous experience that exists outside of the mainstream of American life. In other words: rock not as rebellion at all, but as a completely sanctioned experience. Though this has probably been the norm for some time, the concert form has seemingly transformed around this ideal.

The above idea strikes me as alien and, in fact, Jesse later hints that this may be more a by product of DMB’s relaxed approach to music as much as a general shift in public opinion. While I would like to completely disregard the concept out right, I’ve already seen that my views on music are far from common.

A couple of years ago I was talking to a friend of mine. For some reason I made some comment about that moment when your frame of mind and the music your listening to just sync perfectly. The idea that is summed up in the old cliche “ saved my life.” The friend admitted to me that she had never experienced that moment before. That music just didn’t reach her in that way. I was dumb founded. I still can’t quite wrap my brain around the idea that there are people who don’t know what that experience is like.

Before I rebooted this site, there used to be a post here explaining the name of this site. I ended up deleting it because it just didn’t capture what I wanted to say in the post.

The name for the site comes from those moments when the world becomes to much for you to handle and you retreat into music. More specifically, it refers to that moment where you find meaning in the songs (either lyrically or just emotionally). Suddenly you are aware that you’re not alone. That someone who you have never met understands what you are going through. The experience becomes a source of energy to over come the issues that have bogged you down. And when the music stops, you feel rejuvenated. The simple act of listening to music, takes on elements of a baptism of sorts. And when the ritual has ended, you feel reborn.

Because this has been my relationship to music for as long as I can remember. Because it has been the source of my salvation on so many occasions. The concept of music as disposable media, as little more then a sound track for something else, just seems alien to me.

The juxtaposition to this review from Jesse is my choice in music over the last two days. On Tuesday, while hunting through my iPod looking for something I hadn’t listened to in awhile, I came across The Make Up.

The Make Up, for those who are unfamiliar with the group, were a collection of musicians from Washington, DC and Olympia, WA. Formed out of the ashes of the DC band Nation of Ulysses, the band combined 60s style r&b and rock & roll with performance techniques borrowed from gospel music (specifically the use of the audience as a part of the ensemble) to create a style of music that they called Gospel Yeh-Yeh. Ideologically, the band owed a great deal to Situationalism and other mid-century leftist movements.

The whole point of a group like the Make Up was involving the audience in what was happening. The group even went so far as to improvise large portions of their shows (especially the lyrics) so that they could incorporate things that were happening at that moment into the performance.

Given their influences, the comparison between the Make Up and the music of the 60s is obvious. The comparison is not that clean though. While the band did borrow from these genres heavily. And the influence of these genres is obvious. The sound is also one that is obviously punk, in aesthetic, if not strict form. The real comparison between what the Make Up were doing in the 90s and the music of the 60s is the idea of music as political statement.

Now when I say this, I’m not talking about political songs in the vein of Bob Dylan or Rage Against The Machine. I’m talking about the music itself, the entire experience, as a political statement. One forgets that one of the greatest victories in the struggle for civil rights was won when white kids started listening to black music. The lyrics themselves were largely apolitical, but when those records left the strict confines of who was supposed to be listening to them, they became components in a larger political struggle.

Juxtaposing what the Make Up were doing against Jesse’s review brings this element of the band into even greater contrast. In a world where music, a form of expression that was once associated with communing with the divine and community, has become yet another form of disposable media, what is more revolutionary then a group that openly challenges it’s listeners to become part of what is happening. To pick up instruments and create their own sound. To express themselves and leave their heart and soul on the stage.

I think this is probably one of the things that I am most fascinated with about the Nerdcore scene. (you knew it had to come back to Nerdcore at some point, didn’t you?) The aspect where it is giving voice to a group that has been largely left out of the equation until now. There have, of course, been geeks who have moved with in the realm of music. Who have even succeeded at it. For the most part though, they have either hidden or dressed up the uniquely geek aspects of their lives though. Nerdcore is perhaps the first opportunity for us to not only express ourselves, but to revel in who we are.

This is why I’m a bit perplexed by some of the things that I’ve heard and read from with in the scene. Again and again I see people, who are active participants in what is happening, faced with the question of ‘what is Nerdcore’ fall back on talking about surface issues. Its nerds rapping about nerdy things, like video games and role playing and computers; seems to be the standard formula for the response. And yes, it is those things. Their responses are neither out right lies or even misdirections. They leave unsaid an important question though. Why? Why do they do these things? Why are these things important? The answer is, because they are us. These things are important to us because they are the things that we do. They are the things we use to bind ourselves together. Because they are important to us. And because Nerdcore is about us. It is us celebrating and reveling in who and what we are.

I bring this up in relation to everything else I’ve written here, because I wonder about the repercussions of such a conscious open acknowledgment of what Nerdcore is. I wonder if or how such an acknowledgment would change Nerdcore. I wonder if those changes would increase a sense of unity and pride in the geek mindset. If so, I wonder what kind of effect that would have on the larger world. In the trailer for Nerdcore For Life, Monzy talks about the ‘geek revolution’ as our version of the civil rights movement or women’s lib. I wonder what role this might play in such a revolt.

Though, perhaps I’m only projecting my own views on others. Which, of course, is unfair. If I care so much, I should pick up a mic and do it myself.

Written by Matt

January 16th, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Posted in Nerdcore,Thoughts