If I asked you to think of some 60s music, you’d know just what comes to mind: swirling hippies, Jerry Garcia, Hendrix, Janis… the whole bit.
If I said, “Man, remember those hot summers back home growing up watchin’ MTV passing the time from morning ’til night (back when they actually played music videos but you are too young for that), ’til we had to go back to school?”
You’d rattle off Men At Work, INXS, Cyndi Lauper, and Janet Jackson.
But 2015? WTF, man? What will this decade be remembered for… Hoozier? No. Deadmaus? Probably not. Kanye? Nah, that’s so 90s.
Jay Z vs. the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass? Bingo… Wait, no.
You will remember the festivals. But is this decade truly the Music Festival Era?
A friend of mine and I were taking a break at work and he jumped all over this.
“Man, remember going to those arena shows back in the day before the festival scene? The Who? Black Sabbath?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Bon Jovi with Cinderella opening up in Schenectady, NY?”
But those old civic centers and hockey arenas… packed to the gills with fans… sweat dripping from the rafters and the GA floor crammed asses to elbows with waves of bodies that threatened to suffocate or get you trampled… unless you stared straight at the stage and surrendered to it until the next wave of bodies rolled through.
The promoters didn’t care! Sell a thousand more on the floor! Nobody’s been killed since 1973 in this place! And everyone seemed a bigger fan than me. A thousand “Woodersons” from Dazed and Confused wandering the walkways and the men’s room wearing their older brother’s tour t-shirt from two tours ago, all there JUST TO SEE ONE FUCKING BAND.
It sounds crazy, right? $43.50 just to see Aerosmith play for one hundred minutes in a row. Everything in the place says Aerosmith, it’s an Aerosmith orgy for the senses. The merch woman’s wearing it, the fans are tattooed with it. The massively triumphant backdrops and stage sets singularly backlit and dedicated to that one word. Aerosmith plastered all over the mountainous black stacks of amps and racks, and that lonely roadie climbing the rope ladder up into the lighting trusses just before the lights went down…
Now it all sounds so simple minded. Why pay $43.50 to see one pompous band when you can pay $75 to see fifty humble ones play 3 songs each before you move on to the next stage?
And thus the festival was born. But festivals have been around for ages, you say. Just google Isle of Wight. So what’s with the festival explosion today?
Blame jobs. No, not that gallant, American workforce that powers our economy, Steve Jobs, that gallant American work force that powered our economy, the guy from Apple.
Or credit Ian Rogers, the guy running Beats Music today: one of the first kids to start streaming music from a university server back in the 80s, he ran with the same crew that later developed the MP3 because they were recording live Beastie Boys shows and needed an easier way to compress all that data into something useable on the web.
So why doesn’t the Millennial generation (and everyone coming after) want to sit through an entire concert (or album) without twitching, without scrubbing the music file to the middle and then the end and then (this part is amazing) instantly channeling another song they want to play by a different band for thirty seconds, and ten more snippets from from ten other bands without stopping until the music (and life) experience becomes “in the round” like bullets from a circular nest of machine guns instead of dead on, like one big canon from Judas Priest at the arena show?
Because Life has become a mixtape again, only we aren’t pasting magic marker artwork to cheap plastic cassette tapes anymore.
Because we consume recorded music and live concert music the same way today. And even recorded music, as an industry, has morphed seamlessly with radio (there used to be record stores and then the radio stations and somewhere they intersected – now I just turn my Rdio app on and get the record store and radio experience all in one).
And what does that mean? It means that Coachella, U2, Spotify, Bonaroo, and Pandora (and what used to be iTunes) are all the same thing now. There is no separation, for better or worse. The iTunes generation made easier by Pandora, Spotify, or Rdio is now the festival generation, it has all become one.
“And so it is,” I told my buddy when our break was done.
He patted me on the back and said “Yeah, man, I dig it.”
We pretended to enjoy our smoke break for the remaining seconds, put out our cigarettes, and went back on the clock.
What’s our decade, how will we be remembered as 2015?
The playlist. And that’s all right. Dress the thing up, decorate it, share it with your friends and play it on your Beats. It’s like Zappa said:
“Music is the best.”