Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Live from inside the beating heart of popular American music


This was fun. I hung out at the fair all night tonight and wrote about the Lady Antebellum concert on my Twitter account. Here is the unedited transcript of my tweets, which I've rearranged into chronological order so you don't have to start at the bottom:
Reporting live from inside the beating heart of popular American music. Lady Antebellum, Wisconsin Valley Fair, 2010.

*

I wanted to keep it classy, so naturally I am dressed to the nines in a white linen suit and narrow tie.

*

Right now I am hiding behind the grandstand, where I may remain for the duration. Next to some drink vendors, also hiding.

*

What my view would look like if I were facing the right way. http://tweetphoto.com/36853665

*

And what it actually looks like. http://tweetphoto.com/36853862

*

My coworker friend Brian asked me what was the deal, I didn't seem like the type to like Lady Antebellum. "I contain multitudes," I replied.

*

The truth is the power ballad is a misunderstood art form. "Need You Now" is a terrific power ballad. Schmaltzy, shameless. But powerful!

*

"Schmaltz" btw is a technical term. The GREAT music crit book "Let's Talk About Love" by Carl Wilson traces schmaltz back to Italian opera!

*

Let's Talk Abt Love is required reading for all music snobs. All about exploring high/low music distinctions. Lady A vs Arcade Fire, say.

*

People still apparently filing in. I would describe it as "super crowded" but not yet "crushingly, inhumanely crowded." Head on down!

*

Ah, but this is no normal concert! RT @bradschjoth: Normal concerts don't require you to wait in line for 12 hours. Just sayin'. #Wausau

*

From the "used to be actually kind of cool" file: Rod Stewart's "Stay with Me" on the PA.

*

So, here's a question. If you are Lady Antebellum and you KNOW "Need You Now" is all anyone wants to hear, when do you play it? First? Last?

*

It would be funny if they just came out and played "Need You Now" like 10 times in a row and then said, "Goodnight everybody!"

*

RT @andylaub @robertmentzer everybody would be like BEST CONCERT EVAR

*

A cowboy with prosthetic legs is talking to a morbidly obese security guard.

*

.@bradschjoth honestly I imagine they cannot WAIT to get through these before-they-were huge county fair contracts they signed 10 mths ago.

*

.@bradschjoth They must be taking a BATH when you consider their going rate now.

*

Crowd confirms the often noticed fact that country music these days ain't particularly rural. It's suburban. Very well-heeled, these people.

*

"Middlebrow is the new lowbrow--mainstream taste the only taste for which you still have to say you're sorry. And there, taste seems less...

*

...an aesthetic question than a social one. [...] The abiding mystery of mainstream culture is, 'Who the hell ARE those people?"

*

Do I even need to attribute that quote? "Let's Talk About Love" by Carl Wilson, of course.

*

I play a sort of visual game of whack-a-mole. Every so often, someone stands up to wave at friend going by. http://tweetphoto.com/36867755

*

RT @bradschjoth @robertmentzer I appreciate your reporting style, though. Dive right into the madness, THEN try to figure it all out. I love it.

*

UGHHHHH Skynard on PA. Cannot go there. Guy near me is psyched about it, though. "SKYNARD!!!!"

*

Hey it's Outkast on the PA. THERE WE GO!

*

Radio dude: "HELLO WISCONSIN! WELCOME TO THE BIGGEST NIGHT IN 63 YEARS AT THE WISCONSIN VALLEY FAIR."

*

Boring boring announcements. I did donate to 4H on my way in though, as everyone should. WHAT MORE DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM ME?

*

Clearly the people were called to get on their feet too early.

*

Totally lackadaisical smoke machine.

*

Freight train rolls by. Hey, they are starting. And the first song is ... not "Need You Now."

*

Best I can do. http://tweetphoto.com/36872950

*

Hey I can see WDH photographer Xai Kha down in the front. Hi, Xai! He is not staying.

*

There are some people watching through the fence or listening from down the hill. Some in folding chairs in parking lot. Not too many.

*

Guitar solo is straight out of some '80s pop metal. AND I LOVE IT.

*

Had to loosen my tie. Rockin' now. Not sure about subbing "Wausau" into lyrics of "Free Fallin'." http://tweetphoto.com/36876158

*

They are playing "the first song we ever wrote together." Luckily, they did get better at it.

*

It is not online but there is a terrific Kelefa Sanneh piece in new New Yorker about Brad Paisley. Makes point that contemporary country...

*

...is largely contentment music. Songs about being in love with your wife, etc. May seem gauche but those feelings are real, too, after all.

*

"American Honey," nice tune.

*

Oh my. Thank you, dear. RT @shawncook: @robertmentzer this is for the record the best live tweet stream of a local event ever.

*

Wonder if one day Lady A will look back on time just after they got big but were still playing county fairs as a nice time in their career.

*

Dusk now. From back row, I can see glowing screens of everyone holding up their camera phones.

*

This "R-O-C-K in the U.S.A." business is pretty weak sauce. Crowd is eating it UP.

*

This is the part where they pretend they are going to leave without playing "Need You Now." Come back, Lady Antebellum, come back!

*

WE HAVE "NEED YOU NOW"!!!!!!!!

*

(Two bros in front of me just high-fived.)

*

Hey that was great.

*

Now they are closing out the night by playing "Hey Jude," I assume for the express purpose of making @bradschjoth's head explode in rage.

*

And now the lights come on, and we shuffle back to our cars and go home. THANKS EVERYONE! Good night.

*

[...]

*

Best feedback so far comes from a WDH commenter: "You geeks cant even watch a concert without getting on the net!" (continued!)

*

"What is wrong with this younger generation? The generation of pencil necked limp wristed pansy's" Nice, right? "pansy's" is a nice touch.
Footnotes:

- I really, seriously cannot recommend "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste" highly enough. One of the best books about music ever written.

- It is true that Kelefa Sanneh's New Yorker profile of Brad Paisley is not online. (Here's the abstract.) But there is a podcast that is definitely worth listening to.

- Also, for those who don't know Twitter terminology, "RT" = "retweet" = reposting something someone else has posted, sometimes with your own comments added. So it is a way of having a dialogue with somebody.

- There was plenty of good-natured reaction even from the Lady Antebellum haters, but a great deal of online reaction (in WDH comments and some other places) was predictably, depressingly closed-minded, which just confirms my overall view that "taste" in music is primarily about signaling, i.e. tribal, class-conscious social positioning. I certainly don't believe that everybody has to like Lady Antebellum (though I think several of their songs are excellent and most are good). But when there is a mad dash of people defining themselves as absolutely, positively NOT into Lady Antebellum, I have to ask what is really going on there. It is like, HOW TOTALLY DÉCLASSÉ that anyone would like such a thing. Yeah, yeah, good job everyone. Of course the whole point of going to the show and writing about it was partly to observe the phenomenon and to look into what so many people do like about the group, which seems like a legitimate project to me. But nevermind. This is an old story. Just noting: Rockism ain't dead, yet.

No comments: