Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Everybody here thinks this is a lot cooler than it actually is.

Ra Ra Riot, Cold War Kids and Death Cab For Cutie - 04/09/09 Belk Arena, Davidson, NC

We’ve all been sucked into this before. It’s a phase or an identity crisis of sorts. A coming of age when you did not realize that you were not yet of age. Struggling in your teen years or perhaps early stages of college trying to create your niche or discover who you really are. Confidence is not the problem as you truly do not even know you lack confidence, you simply are untested. All you know makes sense and you are comfortable in your own right. You know yourself, you know your friends, you know your peers. You seek out mutual comforts. “I like pizza, you like pizza. We will eat pizza together.” “You wear skinny jeans that hinder circulation and odds of conforming to the norms of society, I too sport my awkward, ‘artsy’ personality by wearing clothes designed for French runway models on steady diets of cocaine and air. Let’s go see Death Cab For Cutie together.”

Source identified.

But it’s not the kids at the Death Cab show liking pizza that makes the experience predictable and bland; it’s that all the kids are trying so hard to be different that they all end up carbon copies of a master mold. These kids hate the black and white photos that line the walls of Banana Republic at the mall, so they embody the antitheists of that look. They wear emo like a bad stink. They hate popular society, but yearn to be popular in their society. They want nothing of you, aside from your undivided attention. They want to be different so that they fit in.

These people give hipsters a bad name.

These people are also a lot like you and me.

In High School I won the ‘Purchase Prize’ for my work in AP Studio Art and had some of my creative writing pieces published; I also started on a State Championship football team and drove a BMW. I know these people. As much as I am different than they, I am much the same. For instance I love tailgating for UGA football games with my fraternity brothers; I blog about a Death Cab for Cutie show. You too are more ‘uncool’ than you think. For instance, you are reading this right now and this is my friend, this is uncool.

I am proud that I am often uncool. In fact, it’s being uncool that more often than not makes me somewhat cool. You see, life is all about finding what is right for you. What makes you happy, what makes you tick. You cannot ever let others keep you from being you. That’s the most important thing. Regardless of the crowd you run in, the clothes you wear or the music you love, if you are yourself you will be happy and people will respect that, if nothing else.

It is this knowledge that makes me comfortable when arriving to the show by shoving teenagers around a parking lot in a blingin’ silver Mercedes.

It is Thursday and B and I have finished our respective desk jobs in time enough to journey to Davidson, NC for a triple header of Ra Ra Riot, Cold War Kids and, of course, Source Identified band, Death Cab For Cutie. B is a bit of a paradox. He loves his job at the bank and his special car, but he also wears a t-shirt promoting local watering hole ‘The Thirsty Beaver’ and has converted himself over from the frat dredges of WSP to blog happy bands that most tag as indie. I take full credit.

Our agenda is as follows: Get ticket, eat crap food, not score beer, be annoyed by teenagers, feel awkward and old, make fun of ourselves for being at said show, enjoy some of the show, regret the venue, debate leaving, suffer through the second act, wish Source Indentified band were not being uncool and then head home for a non beer.

Our ticket connection is to be a shapely Indian girl who will know nothing of cool. She will have two student tickets to the show and no idea what she is talking about. When we pose the crucial question of locale of beer she provides the response a shapely Indian girl who knows nothing of cool ought to provide. She kinda looks around the layout, glances across campus at nothing in particular, shrugs her rounded shoulders under her collegiate ‘study sweatshirt’ and with a somewhat nervous smile – “I am not really too sure. There is one place you passed on the way in but other than that…” I know this person. I do not want to know this person all the same. Moments later I find myself with a stumpy golf pencil bubbling in a specified circle adjacent to “Chicken Philly” on the Davidson Student Center Food Court stationary. The people around me appear to be 16 and love French fries. A lot of the girls seem to enjoy soccer and likely the company of their teammates. Most of the guys are stoked to have green cards and are nervous that the weekend is approaching. I grab a root beer and fumble my way through paying without my student ID. I feel awkward.

The reality of the evening is setting in. The Student Union has reserved the basketball gymnasium to host three bands, two of which are cool, one that is decidedly uncool by nature of trying to be cool, for an all together uncool evening. My sandwich sucks.

As we make our way into the gymnasium I find myself more frustrated that I never came here to see Stephen Curry play than I am interested in the show that is about to commence. I already know the show. I’ve seen it 20 times before. It will consist of one opening act that deserves far more credit than they receive, one band that thought they were cooler than they are but now find themselves eating French Fries with girls in hoodies and Adidas flip flops and finally the headliner that will sound far better on the CD’s you have listened to for the past few years.
Source Realized.

To be honest I am already more interested in blogging about this show at this point than I am seeing the bands play anything at all. That makes me decidedly uncool.

WITNESS. That’s the slogan Davidson slapped across the back of red tees for this past basketball season. A promotion to capitalize on the most prolific player the Southern Conference will ever know. Sadly, despite his abilities, WITNESSing Curry and the Davidson basketball team this past season did not yield the rarity of Lebron as a high school phenom. They finished the season with a disappointing 8 losses and saw no return to the NCAA tourney with an early upset in conference championship play. Needless to say the ‘house that Curry built’ needed someone to dust the floors before tonight’s event.

Ra Ra Riot took the stage much like the basketball squad hits the floor for warm-ups; from the side door, not under full lighting and with the stands less than half full. B and I are familiar with the band, reader Noah pushed them on me last year and they made the cut for my 2008 Essential list. They have a sound that is more rock than Vampire Weekend, but of similar breath. They drain a few buckets, knock back a few from well beyond the arch and slam one home before the horn blows and they make their way back to the locker room for pregame analysis.

The bleachers are beginning to take shape, forcing the kids to increase their mouth breathing in nervous anticipation of finding a seat next to someone they do not know and may, under desperate measures, may have to mutter something at. It’s a daunting task, so I’m relieved when a mid-30’s couple dressed for dinner and drinks in uptown Charlotte slide in next to me. I keep a one seat buffer between B and I, I don’t necessarily want everyone to know that I arrived with the guy in the blingin’ silver Mercedes.

The social patterns of these kids amuse me greatly. There are no end of couples that are pudgy, un-athletic, likely into video games, afraid of country clubs and Sports Center, wearing matching t-shirts and not speaking to one another. You know the type. You’ve seen them at the non-chain movie rental store, they fix you coffee at the non-Starbucks you went to by accident and when they aren’t on Twitter discussing the inevitable failure of the new Star Trek movie, they launch spitballs at the sorority girls as they depart Banana Republic in $200 jeans, seasonal shirts and boy toy of the month arm candy. I like asking these kids if they ‘know the score of the big game.’
These kids, by all societal justifications and accepted standards are outcasts. However, as Cold War Kids amps up their suck fest, it dawns on me that B, myself and the blonde to my right who is more hip than her date, obvi!, are the outcasts. We have unknowingly entered dorkdom, paying full price for the ticket and sitting up in the bleachers looking down on all the kids on the floor dancing to the music having a better time than we are. This is their world, I don’t belong. I feel awkward again. I think the guy behind me just Tweeted that ‘there is some guy in a Lacoste shirt texting on his cell phone while his buddy reads about the bands he is here to see on Wikepedia. Suckers. LMAO!’ B leans over to tell me ‘this reminds me of my alarm clock.’ We both laugh and offend the non talking, mouth breathing couple in front of us.

Cold War Kids would be lucky to go .500 in Div III and would get their ass handed to them in PS2 NCAA College Basketball by the guy two rows up, stage left in the black rim glasses and frustrated half grin. This band is uncool. They were cool, then they realized they were cool and did more to be more cooler and lost what was cool and now find themselves uncool and oddly seem cool with it. The blonde likes the songs as she obviously read blogs and downloaded the first album as we all did, but you can sense uneasiness with her as she wants more from the band but realizes its not going to be there. Her boyfriend is apparently European or trying too hard. She explains the lyrics of one of the songs to him. He smiles, asks if they sell beer here and texts his buddy that he’s likely not getting ass tonight. The blonde turns to me and inquires as to why everyone here dresses the same. I know right, it’s like they all get discounts at Urban Outfitters that gives them black Chuck Taylor’s and a shitty attitude. We laugh in agreement of how ridiculous these kids are and how much cooler shows are in NY. She’s wearing $200 jeans and a seasonal shirt.

I decide this is going on the blog.

Source Lost.

By the time the main event takes place I feel like I’ve already WITNESSed three overtime games. I don’t fit in with this crowd, but we are all here for the same reason as we all like the same bands. I don’t like this venue because the acoustics suck and the indie bands don’t sound great here, but I like this venue because I dig Davidson’s basketball program and would like to see a game here. I want a beer, but feel awkward about drinking around a bunch of underage kids. I feel dumb for being up in the stands, but don’t want to suffer the ensuing social discomfort of being on the floor in my seven jeans. I think I’m ready to be done with this show before the Source Questioned band even plays their first chord. I relax and tell myself it’s likely just a phase or an identity crisis of sorts.

Soon it becomes painfully apart that Source Disappointment band is struggling in their teen years or perhaps early stages of college trying to create their niche or discover who they really are. Confidence is not their problem as they truly do not even know they lack confidence, they simply are untested.

Death Cab For Cutie are a bit of a paradox. They are a Seattle bred indie band with a sound that never should have made it big. They write amazing lyrics, construct beautifully arranged songs and have a unique vocal in their lead. Plenty of bands have this though. Where they allowed themselves to separate from the pack is in their ability to market themselves. They float the indie, emo, pop genre description. They have street cred with many of the true music enthusiasts even amongst the oft difficult to breach indie snobs. They also are favs among the tweensters, who liken to Panic at the Disco just as easily as they do Death Cab. And then there’s the ultimate paradox. They blew up primarily because they became the flagship band plugged on FOX’s The OC. The comic book loving, emo, nerd loved the band and had the posters on his wall shamelessly pushing the band on viewers and when that wasn’t enough they began to pump out The OC soundtracks. Now the indie band that enjoyed rave critical reviews and had the adoration of the hipsters found itself enjoyed by the very girls who flipped through the pages of the Banana Republic catalog eyeing their next wardrobe.

DCFC is now a band of lost identity and lost Source.

It happens all the time. Band spends years building a sound, mastering their craft, organically growing fans and winning over critics. Then one day the awake from the fringes of cool to find themselves on FOX TV shows, commercials, movies, winning Grammy’s and seeing their fanbase explode to the point where they never imagined. Then they need to revamp their sound to fit the larger venues so they go bigger and louder (the U2 mold). Problem is, bigger and louder doesn’t always work for these bands (Modest Mouse, KOL) sometimes they are best served in the moderate sized venues and second stages of festivals. But it’s not always the fought of the band. As artists they must grow, the industry demands such. Problem is when bands don’t know how to make it work they end up a carbon copy of themselves.
MMJ exploded a few years back and their most recent LP was a mix of undercooked songs and spillover’s from Z. These abnds want to achieve the bigger and better so that they can all be in the same breath as i.e. Radiohead, but don’t always know how to get there. So bands take the risk. They change a look, a sound an angle. Wilco got big so they dumbed their sound down to appeal to the masses. MMJ went funky to get locked in the ‘best live show’ nod and Modest Mouse attempted to raise the bar with guitar legend and smash mouth rock songs that go to 11. All of these bands are talented enough to find their groove again. Having ups and downs is part of growing up. Stephen Curry didn’t want his team to slump and miss the NCAA tournament this year, but he is likely a stronger person and a more tested player because.
If you want to write bigger songs go ahead, Narrow Stairs is a quality album, also made the 2008 Essential list, just don’t feel the need to revamp all of your old material as well. It’s what got you here. DCFC’s best moments came when they slowed things down, found the piano and let the music do the work. I Will Follow You In the Dark was perfect solo acoustic by Gibbard; the slashing guitar arena rock treatment to the rest of their back catalog, a poor decision. They’ll learn.

Source Defined.

Source Accepted.

Source = Growth.

B and I make the decision to bail early, missing the sure monster ballad to close the show. It is unnecessary, unwarranted. It will seem awkward.

Death Cab and bands of all stature should take note from the kid in the green Lacoste leaving early to go have a non beer, and think of how he’ll blog about the show. It’s great to be uncool, that’s what makes you cool. Like character, possessing the signification of being ‘cool’ comes from the person you are when no one is watching just as much as it does when all eyes are on you.

You see, life is all about finding what is right for you. What makes you happy, what makes you tick. You cannot ever let others keep you from being you. That’s the most important thing. Regardless of the crowd you run in, the clothes you wear or the music you love, if you are yourself you will be happy and people will respect that, if nothing else.

For every great shot Stephen Curry has ever or will ever make, plenty more rim out. The difference comes in his ability to fight for the rebound, post up and slam it home. That's why this time next year he'll have a blingin' silver Mercedes of his own and be as cool as he wants to be.

Dying is Fine - Ra Ra Riot, The Rhumb Line

Note: Song inspired from the loss of band's orignal drummer, a story B discovered on Wikepedia when us uncool kids were trying to feel normal.

Show Rating:


Matt McConnell said...

Wow...am I cool? I found myself in a UGA dining hall this past weekend, holding up the line of hand scanning pros, to pay cash. I managed to find myself at a table of guys who were current members of the fraternity that made me the coolest. We had nothing in common and conversation was awkward at best. Yes, I graduated in 2004. Yes, I know that was five years ago. No, I have zero interest in when your next band party is. I was cooler than these guys when I was in school. I just know it.

bcp said...

You are decidely cool for knowing that you might not actually be cool and being cool with that.