Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Music Is Dead

For the past two days, I've been using the company's pick-up truck.  Nothing's wrong with my car (don't worry) but the truck is a more appropriate vehicle for the field work I've been doing for the past couple of days.

The reason I mention this is because it's forced me to listen to the radio rather than the CDs I burn for playing in the car.  I've despaired over the state of radio ever since Georgia Public Broadcasting took over Georgia State's WRAS Album 88, my go-to station since at least 1981, and imposed an all-news-and-talk format in place of the former student-run programming.  The past few days of trying to find something on the dial worth listening to has confirmed my fears:  radio is dead. Sure, there's still some good blues being played in the morning on Radio Free Georgia (WRFG), and you can always depend on Clark College's WCLK for jazz (when they're not playing gospel, smooth "jazz," or watered down R&B), and the diverse programming on Georgia Tech's WREK can be great when it wants to be but it's a hit-or-miss case much of the time.  And after that, it's all hip-hop (this is Atlanta, after all), pop, "alternative" rock from the 90s being played as if it were still relevant, and middle-of-the-road corporate rock, a genre I thought had died along with the so-called music industry but is apparently still very much alive.

So there's nothing left to listen to on the radio and MTV hasn't been relevant for decades (some young people today might even wonder why I would bring MTV up in this conversation), but in these days of iPods, MP3s, and disc-burners, that shouldn't matter so much.  And there's always live music.

The quality of live music depends upon who's touring and where, and the best barometer to judge who will be touring is the music festivals. And the earliest major festival of most years, the Iowa caucus of festivals if you will, is Coachella.  The lineup for Coachella is generally pretty indicative of what the lineups for the other festivals will look like (Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, SXSW, Sasquatch, etc) and who one can expect to see touring in the year.   Judging by the lineup for this year's Coachella, it's going to be a pretty dismal year for live music.

Sure, everyone's happy to see LCD Soundsystem back, and I'm sure they will have a triumphant tour this summer to everybody's delight, but one LCD Soundsystem revival is hardly enough to sustain a musical year.  I didn't like Guns 'n' Roses the first time around, and I have no interest at all in their revival or "comeback," which actually looks to me more like a simple grab for cash and a desperate vanity project by some long irrelevant rockers.

What killed radio, and MTV before it, and much of rock journalism from Rolling Stone to Pitchfork, is that as a medium or platform gets bigger, the more inclusive it has to become, until it eventually becomes just a corporate outlet for the most commercial of products.  So this year's Coachella, trying to be as inclusive as possible, includes indie rock as well as hip-hop, EDM, pop, 90s alt-rock, and more.  Sure, with that many bands on the roster, I can't deny that there's some things I like and that I've seen before, but for every one band I'd like to hear, there's a half-dozen or more that I have no interest in or dislike altogether.  

The indie rock renaissance of the 2000s is over, boys and girls, and we're back to digesting corporate pablum, although now it's being delivered live at festivals instead of just over the airwaves. 

Not that I had been thinking of going to Coachella or had ever been there before, and yes, I recognize that this old man is far, far from the festival's target demographic.  My dismay is this kind of bland curating is probably indicative of what we'll see at the other festivals this year, possibly even including Atlanta's Shaky Knees, although I can take some solace in noting that there will be a separate Shaky Beats festival for the EDM bands this year, so they aren't expected to take up space at Shaky Knees. My dismay is that these are probably the bands that will be touring during the Summer of 2016, and I don't see many bands I'm excited about on the lineup.

This is gonna suck, and we won't be able to find solace on the radio.  And who the fuck is Calvin Harris?

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