Tuesday, May 15, 2007

COLUMN: Country

As a self-proclaimed elitist music nerd, there are a few simple rules to follow to remain cool:

1) Whenever possible, listen to bands that people around you have never heard of.

Ride, The Boo Radleys, Of Montreal, Belle & Sebastian... know 'em? No? Good. They're my 4 favorite bands. Another of my faves has NO name; they simply go by "!!!", which is super cool (until you're looking for them in a record store and you have NO idea how the clerk alphabetized them.) These bands don't get played on the radio. Why? Because you're cooler than radio.

2) If you can find it in a mall, don't buy it.

You're also cooler than chain stores. That's where your mom shops. Your elitist tastes deserve indie record stores. You go to Co-op. You hop online and visit Parasol.com & Tonevendor.com, the bibles of musical cool. The harder it is to find a release, the better it probably is. Don't stop until you find a band SO obscure that they only release albums on player piano reels during odd-numbered autumnal equinoxes. I guarantee they will rock.

3) Above all, don't ever -- EVER -- listen to country music.

Country music is the least hip, least cool music ever made, and you will be mocked by your elitist music nerd friends for liking it.* (*with the exception of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, & 70's era Glen Campbell. Those are all super cool. Probably because they're dead. Well, except Glen Campbell - but anybody with the guts to release "Rhinestone Cowboy" is inherently way cool.)

But I did it. I just broke Cardinal Music Rule #3. And I lived.

I volunteered to review the Brad Paisley gig at the Mark last week.

Why? Call it an experiment in open-mindedness. Call it a test of courage and willpower. Call it an unhealthy and borderline illegal obsession with opening act Taylor Swift, the current lolita goddess of country.

The point is: I went. Worse yet, if you read my glowing review in the paper the next day, I actually had a great time. I think I might even like a couple of Brad Paisley's songs now. I'm scared.

I DID, however, learn some interesting things about the previously unconquered world of country music that I didn't have space to squeeze into the review. Among them:

* It was a novel experience to be at a gig you could UNDERSTAND. At most rock shows, the sound is so jacked you're lucky to make out the obligatory "thankyougoodnight" at the end of the show, let alone ascertain any lyrics. My sincere kudos to the sound engineers, who made the vocals bright and the music powerful.

* Country music fans are really, really nice. I'm used to going to shows where people bump into you, where you're packed in like sardines, where no-one acknowledges one another in the crowd. Right off the bat, this was different. First off, I was totally worried that my new camera would get confiscated. Little did I know cameras are totally cool at country shows. I've been to hip-hop shows where the security frisk-down was more detailed than your average doctor visit. Friday night was pat-pat, come-on-in. Easy peasy. Bump into someone? THEY APOLOGIZE. After the show, I went onto Brad Paisley's website and looked at fans already trading pics, stories, and making meet-up plans for future gigs. The sense of community almost creeped me out.

* Country music STARS are also really, really nice. I'm used to shows where the crowd isn't even acknowledged by the band, or worse yet, gets berated by the band. I was at a show by the British band Suede once where the guitar player told us to "shut the (expletive) up" before he played a note. If Brad Paisley had tried that, he would've been lynched. Instead, the acts at the Mark that night thanked us profusely, looked embarassed when we cheered, kissed babies, threw guitar picks, and generally seemed grateful at the folks who spent money to come down. The opening acts made themselves available to sign autographs for anybody who wanted them. That's a whole lotta name signing. And that was ONE gig on a massive world tour. Frankly, I'd be worried about carpal tunnel come my 20,000th autograph.

* At the same time, though, there's an evil corporate streak to it all. I mean, there must have been at least 25 different t-shirts to buy. And hats, bracelets, photos, autographed CD's, you name it. I'm used to bands selling A t-shirt in order to make gas money to the next gig. Like I said, I went to Brad's website after the show, and when I saw people commenting about the Moline gig, I tried to post a reply. Sadly I had neither $19.99 nor a major credit card handy. They might be nice folk, but they sure know how to turn a buck.

All in all, it was a good night out. It was nice to be at a show where people (be it the crowd OR the band) weren't trying to perpetually out-weird one another. I'm not saying I'm a convert to country music or anything (though I admit, I listened to my fair share of WLLR over the weekend just to make sure,) but it was FAR from a bad time. I'm all for artsy music and challenging lyrics and what-not, but the simplicity and earnestness of country music just lets you switch your brain off for a while and relax and be entertained, and heck, that's what I want out of my Friday nights sometimes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Day-um! Excuse me, did I just read about Shane not spontaneously combusting upon going to a country music concert? This has to mean one of two things:
1. the New World Order is really finally here; my eschaton preparations must thus begin
2. ????????????? WTF?????????

Life on earth never ceases in its amazing aspects. You go, Shane!