Category Archives: nostalgia for pre-disintermediation

More thoughts on HONK!

We went to the parade today, and while my video from that is uploading, I have some amendements to make from my prior post.

I was sort of sour on the whole politics angle of the HONK! bands. I think what I said was true, that basically, if the goal is to convert the unconverted, spectacles like this aren’t going to be the forum where that happens. My experience is that the only time peoples’ minds are changed is when there is some personal connection between two people that transcends politics, and then they have to reconcile their feelings to their viewpoints. Anyway, so, maybe people are not going to hear the Leftist Marching Band’s song about Wal-Mart and are suddenly going to see the light and say, yeah, they treat their workers like crap, I’m not going to shop there.

But I think there is something to the politics of the music itself that I basically buy into. First off, it’s just a total non-product. Very few of the bands there were even selling CDs. None of these people are making their living from their music, they are just out there for the joy of the thing. (I’m guessing here, to be fair: but I suspect that only a relative handful of people are making a living from music these days, and the folks in the HONK bands have not given up their day jobs). But the format of this kind of music is just not salable; it can barely even be recorded well. I mean, it technically can be recorded, and it can even sound pretty good. But unless you have a really crazy sound system at home, it’s just not going to sound like 10 horns and 5 percussionists (or more) standing 3 or 4 feet away from you, there’s not going to be a crowd dancing all smelly after a day of dancing.

I also feel like it opens a viable door for popular music. I guess it’s not popular in the sense that a lot of people like it. But it is pop music in the sense that you don’t need any kind of specialized cultural context or background to have an immediate visceral human reaction to people blowing horns and banging drums in front of you. It’s a popular music that you can participate in just by listening to it and ditching the snobbery and admitting that you like it– you don’t have to buy a T-Shirt, you don’t have to participate in some kind of record store nerd snottery, you don’t have to claim your turf as part of a subculture (there were townies, trustafarians, old crusty Cambridge folkies, new somerville yuppies with their kids in their maclaren strollers, and Click and Clack the Tappett Brothers for god’s sake). You can just listen and shake your butt and be happy to be in the middle of something great on a couple of gorgeous New England autumn days.

... and it was beautiful... but so's Maine

And I love that it just harkens to a time when if you wanted music, you just made it. You didn’t go shopping.

Record Store Day is today!

Had dinner with Trixie & the Villain last night and they told us about Record Store Day, which is today. Ed also mentions it. I was unaware of this, so I figured I’d spread the word. Participating record stores are going to have free swag and various in-store events. We’re going to Portsmouth (and so will probably hit Bull Moose Music), but if we were going to be in town, I’d be stopping by the Harvard Square Newbury Comics to check out the Dresden Dolls who are going to be “working”.

It’s hard to overemphasize how important record shops were to me in high school. (In college, too, but they were harder to get to in Crawfordsville). A typical “date” with a high school girlfriend would consist of spending a Saturday driving into Pittsburgh, and making the record shop following circuit: Eides in the strip district, Jerry’s (which was either in Oakland or Bloomfield, it’s sort of fuzzy to me now!), and then into Oakland for a cluster near the Pitt campus, my favorite of which was The Collector’s 12″. I wasn’t a huge collector, and my tastes weren’t that esoteric. But the options were to either listen to the radio and get whatever National Record Mart sold at the mall, or go that extra mile to get something a little weirder and off the beaten.

I’m not totally unhappy with the new world order, but I’m still a little attached to the physical record stores, and sorry to see them go. Where will all the music snobs work when all the record stores are gone?

I’ve created a new blog category for this kind of thing: “nostalgia for pre-dis-intermediation”.

Book Report: John Peel: Margrave of the Marshes

I picked this up at a bookshop in Berlin for reading material, since I was sort of out of reading material, and it seemed like a good read. It was pretty entertaining. It was supposed to be an autobiography, though the final 50% or so was finished by his wife after Peel’s death in 2005.

I won’t bother going into who he was, that is what wikipedia is for.

What I came away feeling was that there’s just not a place in the current media universe for someone like that. Despite how little choice we get from the tepid, bland mediocrity of coast-to-coast ClearChannel and Infinity stations, despite how much infinite and overwhelming variety we get from the internet, there’s nobody out there who has a pulpit, and an audience big enough to make the pulpit credible, where they can challenge people to listen to things they might not otherwise have listened to. You can get more of what you already know, you can spend all your time trying to find new things on your own, or you can listen to the same 10 songs everybody else is listening to.

Also, he was an extremely clever writer; was not surprised to hear him say that he admired Wodehouse.