Music

Music as public and private spectacle

Here's an article from back in May that I really enjoyed: Kevin J.H. Dettmar's Earbuds and Mosh Pits. Most articles written by middle-age people about music today stinks of fogeyism: they're confused and angered by it, forgetting how foreign and threatening the music they loved was when their own parents heard it. Dettmar is different in that he enters the realm of modern pop/rock music with a truly open mind and comes out of it the better for his experience. What's really interesting to me is his idea of music as a public spectacle.

For Dettmar, rock concerts are liberating experiences as groups of hundreds or thousands of people collectively share in and participate in a public spectacle and thus have a connection with each other. To a certain extent, I think he's right. If I'm at a concert at Madison Square Garden with 20,000 other people, we're all basically there for the same reason- to toast, appreciate, watch and cheer on a performer or group that we like (so much that we'll pay over-inflated prices to do so). But beyond that, how connected are all of us at that show?

There's participation and then there's real participation at a concert. When I went to see the White Stripes a few years ago, two knuckle-draggers were ready to pulverize me because they thought I cut in a line for ticket-holders when I actually only stepped out of line for a second to throw something away. Something similar happened when I was at a Madonna concert a few years ago when an obnoxious teeny-bopper yelled at me after she walked into me without looking where she was going. I didn't feel too connected with those people, needless to say.

Thankfully, I've had much better experiences at other shows. When Daniel Johnston did a rare show in NYC recently, I was hanging with a trio who were probably half my age and never seen him before. I told them about the two times I'd seen him and we all bonded pretty well over this. At other shows (i.e. Sham 69 at a CBGB's benefit about a year before they closed), I was up close enough to be part of the mosh pit whether I wanted to or not. Usually I stay out of that but I have to admit it was pretty fun and definitely in the spirit of the evening where I was being pushed back and forth by a frantic crowd of strangers caught up in the music. It was a much more enjoyable shove than I got from the Madonna fan. Though I've never done it myself (I'm too big), I've been glad to help crowd surfers along their way at Sonic Youth and Ministry shows. And then there was the May 2001 Joey Ramone birthday tribute where they handed out birthday cake (aka chocolate snack foods) and where we all promptly started a massive food fight. Ah, what fun...

But other than that, I don't really bond with audiences at shows unless I happen to run into someone I already know and chat them up. Dettmar believes that we're all part of one spectacle at a show and in a way, we are but at the same time, we're still very distant from each other, enjoying the show in our own way and then nonchalantly parting company with everyone else there once the show's over. As such, many times at concerts, we're all together there but we're also very much apart.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.