So this week started ouut with two exciting concerts: Tegan and Sara and The Glow in the Dark Tour (Lupe, N.E.R.D., Rihanna, then Kanye West).
Monday I met Anna after work and walked over to Terminal 5, munching my beet salad with asparagus and goat cheese and walnuts that I picked up from Thalia to Go (my faaaaavorite lunch spot) along the way. We listened to the opening band, An Horse, a bit, but they did not compare to Tegan and Sara. Only one of their songs seemed unfamiliar - at every opening chord I had that "ooo" of recognition and anticipation. Compared to their recordings, their concert voices and instrumentation was right on par. Occasionally in the few opening lines their voices would fumble a bit, and once Sara started off-key a bit, but overall they were quite strong. They also changed the tempo and added extra lines, bridges, etc., of some of their songs which I appreciated. I expected to be able to see above the crowd, given my 5'9'' height, 1 and 1/2'' heels on my boots, and female demographic of the Tegan and Sara audience, but alas, this one 6'6'' boy kept moving around and obstructing my view. Then I would move, then he would move. It was annoying. Although I think Williamsburg Music Hall is my favorite venue, I still liked Terminal 5 more than the next venue I would go to, Madison Square Garden.
We got the Kanye tickets through work. One of our vendors offered to take us, and even dangled backstage tickets in front of us, since one of her friends works on Kanye's legal team. Although she got two, since she couldn't get enough for the whole group so she had to give them back. We still had pretty good seats - I was actually happy not to stand on the floor, since I was (am) still feeling a bit sick and didn't want to stand after the concert the previous night. A lot of teenagers from New Jersey were at the concert. Some of them created matching neon graffiti t-shirts, and ALL were wearing those plastic slatted neon aviators popularized by Kanye. I actually planned on procuring a pair for myself before the concert, but I was kind of happy my plans fell through since everyone else had the same idea. A lot of these teenagers were from New Jersey - "New Jersey in the house?" got an embarrassingly loud response.
I didn't really get into the concert. Much of the music seemed pre-recorded, I felt so far away from the artists, and I also felt like I was part of an audience selected not by fandom but by dollar signs and subscription to mass popular culture. With a lot of concerts, I get a sense of kinship - I like bands hyped on the internet, etc., but not on the radio, so it's like a big mass of people who all have the same artist playing on their iPod, and you can finally figure out exactly who the audience is for the band's music. So m Not so for this concert. It was all, whoever saw Kanye on TRL and spend $150 bucks on ticket kind of audience, picked not because of their unique interest but their willingness to spend money to consecrate their radio-induced fandom. I think my disinterest also stemmed from the people I was with - you can't really get crazy with managers and directors, your boss and your vendor's boss. I was chatting with the head of sales, who was sitting next to me, and when I mentioned how much I liked the Peter Bjorn and Paul song "Young Folks" playing in between sets, even though it was kind of over, he whipped out his Blackberry, imputing the bands I mentioned (I also had to correct his spelling, saying no, it's spelled B-J...) While his eagerness to get hip with the times was cute, I felt like I was at a moment where indie culture was being commodified. The people I was sharing this music with, this experience with, were just noootttt the people Kanye raps to - we were all pretenders. The whole experience felt so fake and hollow. Rihanna also did a remix where she covered a few songs, including M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" and Lauryn Hill's "That Thing". Her cover of "Paper Planes" bothered me much more than the Lauryn Hill cover. To me, much of M.I.A.'s music is subversive and political - just as she has publicly displayed outrage for having her gunshots removed from the tracks on her David Letterman performance and MTV viedo, I worry that her political message gets lost when it's transferred into popular culture. I feel rather rusty on this, though cultural hegemony/imperialism, etc., come to mind when I think of this experience. I need to brush up...
Kanye's performance itself was such ego - he had his songs tell of story of him being stranded on a planet and needing some force to bring him back to Earth. He sang a song about shooting stars. Sadly, these were not enough to bring Kanye back to earth. His fem-robot eventually revealed to him:
"We need the brightest star in the universe to bring your spaceship back to Earth. We need YOU, Kanye. You're the brightest star."