Gracious reader… You’ve opened a link to another rant of mine.
I thank you for that.
While you’re here, please explore/enjoy this new jangled-up jam from a personal favorite here on the Ypsi/Arbor scene:
Bad Indians “Try To Get By” – off their recently released …Are On The Other Side album.
Alright… Scroll on if you please…
If not, thanks for clicking-in & …hope you dug that track.
Closing Credits ~
“History is work in progress…Each age revises its conception of the past to fit the context of its present…History is not what happened 200 or 2,000 years ago, it is a story about what happened 200 or 2,000 years ago. The stories change, as do the sight lines available to the tellers of the tales….”
–Lewis H. Lapham – Harper’s Magazine –May 2012
That’s it. Done. Year over. A clean slate now sits before you, out there on the frosted sidewalks, a taunting blankness you’ll be compelled to fill with the next song or the next show or the next recording. But, you’d probably prefer, just for now, to bask in the warm and boosting resonance of your closing credits anthem…
The year dissolves and its that one moment, (call it narcissistic or maybe its some cute delusion of the post-Internet-age), where we can’t help indulging this as the possibly poignant, hopefully profound, slow-motion-striding off into the sunset moment, the big climactic sequence of another episode or some minor-masterpiece movie –starring Us.
And what did the movie really have to say, anyway?
More importantly, maybe is: what song closes out your year? If the credits start rolling, what song has that evocative, all-encompassing oomph to sum up your series of adventures, interactions, pieces, ponderings and progressions? That’s at the heart of all these lists or year-in-review type pieces you see polluting zines, blogs, and…if they haven’t gone digital yet: newspapers.
As fate would have it, whilst weeding out old issues of periodicals at my day job (in a metro-area Public Library), I snagged an old issue of Harper’s that featured a ruminative essay by author Lewis H. Lapham on forgotten history. And it gets my brain to kneading out the doughy question of the sustainability of context in this Internet-ravaged world…
If every year is an episode, a movie, if every song is a comeback, if every status update is our next joke in our stand-up routine, if every tweet is a hollowly-therapeutic self-aggrandizement to tide us over to the next better day…don’t we start to lose the bigger story?
We’re preoccupied with personally playing as prominent a role as possible in the next scene. Every status update or show flier or text message or tweeted-“mentioning” is this maddening rubber-necking tease of our Id, our facebook-fucked Id, to amp ourselves up for the next audition – be that the mere attendance of a show or that streaming of the next, newly-released bandcamp album – Were you there? Did you hear this yet? Weight-in with a comment or tweet!
But how loud or wide-reaching was that explosive moment of yours? How fast did the echo fade? Did the substance of your fleeting scream alter popular perceptions or was the significance of your on-stage gesture astonishing enough to still show, with converted wide-eyed stares, in the local showgoers for months-on afterward? Did you impact the narrative of the big-big-story?
Now, if I ascribe the words: legendary, veteran, or esteemed to a band, like, say, The Sights, do those words still effectively connote that I’m inferring their nearly-15-year run as a prominent performing/recording/touring rock n roll band (fronted and fueled by singer/songwriter Eddie Baranek) has earned their spot near the top of the marquee of our story’s Cast… I feel like blog-speak has drained so many words of their significance. We all know that John Lydon is infamous and that Bruce Springsteen is legendary and that David Bowie is iconic… I’m merely saying that The Sights’ consistency as a dynamic live rock n roll band (with a steady flow of albums to boot) has earned them some sort of significant chunk of consideration when we play back the clip-reel and parse out whatever our story was…
…And whatever is that story, Jeff, to which you keep referring? Inevitably its limited to the frame of a local’s lens…Detroit music, as they always seem to call it, be it blues or R&B or Motown or garage rock or techno or even some metal and post-grunge… Garage-rock revival? Neo-psychedelia? Post-punk? Throwback pop? Detroit? Ypsilanti? Kalamazoo even and Flint! Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit and everywhere…A mad, marvelous, ever-active planet onto itself of activity, of varied genres, of music festivals, just as many other ‘scenes’ or ‘music-communities’ likely are, comparably speaking…All of our sounds are out there, now, all of our own personal narratives streaming on the internet, often in song-form.
How has this moment in modern Michigan Music been shaped by the past?
Lots of the review-ish rehash ramblings you’ll see this time of year, whether they’re best-of-lists or whether they’re unwieldy essays like this one, will extend their gaze beyond a year and into a decade. Ten years ago…think of it. LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Animal Collective, The Strokes, the new indie-darlings, the new faces and voices and sounds that would come to dominate the modern hipster’s morning blog-scroll as unreasonably sanctified adhoc-icons, these bands were just breaking out only ten years ago.
But as Lapham says, I can alter the story with my own sight-line. It’s so crass to whittle it all down to the Jack White effect, but one can’t resist… When the rules fly out the window and we see all these basement balladeers, small-club DJs, and garage-rockers-going-BIG…The inspiration becomes an epidemic. Do I have statistical numbers to prove that we have more local bands at this very moment then ever before? No, sure I don’t… But would you really question it if I did? A mad, marvelous planet of music populated by madly-empowered music-makers who are all, if they have level-heads, quite sure they won’t be Jack White but are nonetheless sustained by the fulfillment of merely sharing their songs, collaborating with likeminded/like-hearted creative-types and performing to/with/for each other…
Where was I? The Sights?
The Sights were at the center of what is, in my opinion, one of the best climactic closing-credits sequences I could hope for, this year, this decade, acting as “house-band” for a wide range of bands and songwriters, from electro-punk to post-funk hip-hop, from grimy blues to boogie-rock, covering the original renditions of bands like Passalacqua, Danny Kroha, The Muggs, Carjack and many more, and raising funds from the door’s cover charge to support a nonprofit music education foundation.
And I’m not sure how that moment impacts the story or changes the next chapter…How profound of a plot device was it? I don’t care, anymore.
It was a succinct snapshot of how all-over-the-place-and-simultaneously-all-in-this-together we ARE as a music scene…The Sights came up in a music world before blogs made us all our own heroes. And they seem to have transitioned nicely into this era of steadily-coagulating level-headed-ness, an embracing ethos that doesn’t divide by genre or, hopefully, by who draws or who gets buzz or whatever…
It was a snapshot that captured the tacit understanding –that we’re all in the same movie. That there isn’t one song for this year’s closing credits; it’s a head-spinning cacophony of 92,000 songs playing at once…together-apart. All just music-makers in the same inherently confusing movie.
And it’s okay if it doesn’t make sense by the time the credits roll. It’s okay if I am still not sure what the story told me. It is, for now…for this moment, just heartening to see so many various characters all slammed together like that. It feels like a summation, like a climax.
It hints that next year will have an even bigger one…
Photo by Doug Coombe