Houston Calling

Fashion vs. Music

March 31st, 2004 · No Comments

A few weeks back, an old friend was in town visiting for the weekend. We went out one night and naturally, the discussion eventually wound its way to music. My friend commented how he would rather have his “eyeballs gouged out with a spoon” than attend a live music show. I was not all that surprised by the statement, since I had dragged him back to The Fabulous Satellite Lounge (RIP)in the mid-90’s to see some local bands play one night and all he wanted to do was talk to the ladies. But I started thinking about the reasons he gave for feeling that way.

One of his most recent forays into the live music world was a Jerry Jeff Walker concert at the Hard Rock in Chicago. My take: seeing Jerry Jeff Walker live might be enough to turn me off of live music as well. But I kept my mouth shut–I’m not one to judge that harshly. Anyway, I have been dragged to a Pat Green show once and actually paid to see Styx and Kansas together so what can I really say?

His problem was mainly with the crowd, in my opinion. And that I can fully understand. I have been very irritated at shows–especially at one particular over-capacity Rev. Horton Heat show during which people kept trying to swing dance right next to me. And it was at the aforementioned Pat Green show where I first witnessed what seems to have become a trend–holding up your cell phone so your friend without a ticket can hear the show you’re attending. Yeah, whatever. Put the phone back in your pocket. Better yet, leave it in the car. My friend also hated waiting in line for a drink and waiting in line for the bathroom. I know at the bigger venue shows, and especially somewhere like the Hard Rock in Chicago, these can be issues. It bothers me as well. So I get where he’s coming from.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, which is why I can write what I do. And I can respect his opinion. For me, seeing live bands is what I enjoy doing. Sure, I prefer a small club atmosphere but I see bigger shows from time-to-time as well. I spend a good portion of my meager disposable income and disposable time (thanks, Caviar) on music, music-related activites, or feebly trying to make music. For my friend (and many others like him), golf is their thing. I have been over this before, but perhaps it’s a getting older thing for them. Maybe they are “over” music. I know for a fact my friend loved music at one point–we had conversations about bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest during college. And I recall one instance in the early 90’s in which he asked me if had heard of Counting Crows. And on another occasion, Dixie Chicks. So sure, maybe his musical tastes have never been top notch, but he still was into it.

Back to the subject of golf. I was privy to conversations that weekend about golfing trips the guys had been on, various courses they have played, and how much different courses cost to play. I was blown away by the amount of money these people have spent to play a particular golf course–hundreds of dollars for one afternoon?

But the more I thought about it, I realized something–that’s their hobby now. If they want to spend $500 for a few hours of enjoyment, who am I to judge? I probably spent as much basically to see three bands at SXSW (although I saw many more bands–it was just worth it to me to see my friends play). These guys don’t enjoy music anymore. They enjoy golf. They don’t like live music venues or dirty, sweaty clubs. They enjoy martini bars, limos, and strippers. Music is my hobby, for lack of a better term. If golf is their hobby and is what they want to spend their hard-earned money on, then so be it. I prefer to spend mine on CDs (or iTunes, as the case may be), concerts, and South by Southwest. Does that make me more immature, or somehow not as “important”–well, perhaps self-important–as those who are concerned with what brand of jeans they’re wearing, or what type of car they’re driving, or what golf courses they’ve played?

This is not to say, of course, that there are not plenty of self-absorbed people in the music industry, or that a lot of the music scene isn’t full of people who care about the way they look. Sure, it might look like they don’t care about the way they look, but believe me–that’s their look. It can take a lot of “mud” to make your hair get that just-so-perfect messy look. I saw a ton of people at SXSW who looked like they had ripped pages out of The Hipster Handbook. But fashion and rock and/or roll have always gone hand-in-hand. I guess golf and bad fashion have as well, now that I think about it.

In the sixties, The Beatles started off as a clean-cut, suit-wearing band. As they progressed, they developed their own identities and dressed differently, grew their hair out, and experimented with various substances–and millions followed suit. Everyone looked the part. Those that didn’t like the way they looked or the things they were into (like my father, for instance) stopped buying their music. Eventually, they stopped listening altogether. Woodstock passed them by. They got into things like the military, religion, talk radio, their careers, golf.

The Stones, in much the same way, were about fashion and music. They also did the suit thing, but eventually the various band members moved into their own styles. Who can forget Mick Jagger’s ridiculous sailor’s hat and skintight white pants? What image do you get when you think of a stereotypical Grateful Dead fan? Or Phish, if I have to be more current? The image has nothing to do with the music of the band, but more about a “look” that fans of a particular band have in common. At SXSW, I was astounded by the number of carbon copies I saw. In some instances, you couldn’t tell one band member from another–their hair styles were the same. They had the same type of jeans on. They wore the same style of “vintage” T-shirt. Or whatever. You get the point.

I know that music and fashion play into each other. It?s inevitable. But it?s when it becomes more about a particular look or sound or style or scene than about the music itself is when I have a problem with it.

While at SXSW, I caught an interesting Australian band called End of Fashion. I think the band’s name, coupled with all of the rampant preening and primping I witnessed during the festivities, probably played into my writing this. Thanks for enduring it. Your thoughts on the subject here.

By the way, a friend sent me this site: www.bizarrerecords.com. Very humorous album covers from the past. Check it out.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Chomsky ? Let?s Get To Second

Tags: Music