EDM: The True Sign You Are Getting Old

That’s all we’re hearing about these days.  The DJ’s.  Everyone is making a mix.  Reggie Watts references Skrillex in concert.  Portlandia takes on everyone who has a DJ night.  All of your friends on the tail end of their sketchy drug culture days are going to some “Electric Daisy” thing, where you see three days of DJ’s in a stadium parking lot.

To me, that sounds exactly like hell.

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About 7 years ago, some friends and I went to a West Chelsea club to see Armin Van Buren.  Yes, I know, I have no idea how it happened, we were young and up for adventure.  I believe the tickets were about $45.  We waited on line outside, then waited at the bar inside, then waited in the crowd.  Forever.  The dude showed up hours late, even the promoter came out and apologized.  He got on the stage, opened a laptop, and played some thumping bass jams.  It did not connect, and we left after about 20 minutes.

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Maybe this music resonates with the next emerging generation.  The first music they heard was a compressed Mp3 on little white ear buds.  Perhaps evolution is at work and their ears cannot hear the incredibly tinny highs and obnoxious lows.  I simply do not understand it.

Some people love girl talk.  LOVE.  I dislike him, immensely. I love the songs he samples from.  They’re fantastic songs.  Maybe what he’s doing is not unlike the British Invasion, where young Brits just ripped off American blues music, and sold it back to us in a new shiny package.  Only these characters are doing it a little more blatantly.  Maybe that’s not even true, had Pete Townsend possessed this type of technology at the time, he might have done the exact same thing.

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There are good and bad DJ’s, just like anything else, but I find it so rare to hear something moving from this genre.  This is not to discount electronic music as a whole.  Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Fatboy Slim…there are some fantastic musicians out there.  But these people are all musicians.  They’re not some kid with Abelton and a Garageband sample pack.

The point might be, it’s too easy to create something like this.  There are endless loops at your fingertips in any of the plethora of free or easily pirated programs used to make this music.  You can easily quantize any out of time sequence.  You can pitch or time correct anything you want.  The key of a song no longer matters, Pro Tools has Elastic Time functions….making the tempo and tone of an original recording irrelevant.

Is this the true sign of the aging apocalypse?  This is the first new style of music I completely do not understand.  This must be how the previous elder generation felt about rap…punk…rock…folk…big band jazz….wow.  I feel old.

Reggie Watts @ Webster Hall, May 20th 2012

Reggie Watts is the closest thing we have, as a nation, to a living cartoon character.  He should be treated as such, and allowed to live his life in a way the rest of us are not.  He should have the power of flight, invisibility, invincibility, and be able to do anything that occurred in a Warner Bros. cartoon, without the thought of legal or social repercussions.  Reggie is simply different from the rest of us.

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This became apparent immediately last night at Webster Hall.  There are comedians, there are people who make sounds without the use of other instruments, and there are singers, but there is no one else who combines these in such a way.

If you have never seen or heard of Reggie Watts, he is a performer who possibly fits under the heading of standup comic…if only because his material makes you laugh.  But each nonsensical part of his performance transitions into an improvised musical piece, done with nothing more than his own voice, and a looping pedal.  There are no other musicians, and nothing is pre-recorded.  He occasionally plays a keyboard, but it’s mainly just vocals.  He’s Bobby McFerrin from another dimension.

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His set last night went to some strange places.  He takes on any convention you have about a comedian or musician, and blows them to bits, as if it were a Roadrunner cartoon.  He constantly adjusts the mic stand, like you see any nervous performer do, only when Reggie does it, it becomes an insane ritual, as if moving that mic just a little will unlock the key to all the secrets in the universe.

He unplugs all of his pedals, fumbling around with every cable, asking the audience if anyone has any C batteries, otherwise the show cannot continue.  This will be followed by a completely silent song, with all the dance moves and enthusiasm of a Beyonce performance.

The dance moves….He moves like he’s being animated in real time.  Pixar could base an entire character on him, and it would make the Toy Story franchise look like Suburban Commando.

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This is the thing we all chase in live events.  You want to see something no one else can do.  Something that could immediately fall apart at any moment, yet somehow continues to be amazing.  If Reggie Watts ended up playing Madison Square Garden, I would not be surprised for a minute.  I would also line up early to get in.

One more thing brought a smile to my face.  Surprisingly, there were some loud drunk girls behind us at Webster Hall.  I believe this might have been the first instance of anything like that occurring at a live event, and most definitely at Webster Hall, a venue known for its respectful crowds.  Anyway, they talked through the opening acts, proclaiming how they could do much better.  And were very excited once Reggie came on stage.

They lasted through the first few songs, cheering on whenever he made a New York reference…which he did in a Hype Man voice… at he expense of the very people cheering him on.  About 20 min in though….the ringleader, lets call her Tramp Stamp McMurrayHill (because all she talked about was the tattoo she got that day, and I’m guessing on both the location of the tattoo and her apartment)  decided she wanted a Hamburger.  That is all she would talk about.  Eventually, they left, hopefully to get said hamburger.  And no, I do not hope they got food poisoning from this burger.  Any hype surrounding Reggie, was clearly not enough to please her very wide and varied cultural tastes.  I’m glad Reggie could benefit financially from this group’s attendance, but I’m even more glad it was a little too weird for them.

Why don’t we close with a classic, an undeniable hit…..

Foster The Hits. And The Wonders.

I have a friend who loves Foster The People. He loves them like This Guy loves This Band.  Were he to be trapped on a desert island, he would bring the single “Pumped Up Kicks” on vinyl, and nothing else, even if he were allowed 5 complete albums.  What I’m saying is, some people seem to love this band.

This morning I came across a post on Stereogum which shows them performing another song, other than “Pumped Up Kicks”.  Honestly, I watched it twice and can’t remember a single thing about it, other than the fact that the singer seems to remind me of a ferret, and has this foot dance thing happening that makes me want to roll a full barrel of pickles in his direction.

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Sure, “Pumped Up Kicks” is a very catchy tune.  Its unstoppable.  But does anyone truly believe this band will be anything beyond a one hit wonder?  Do people even use that term anymore in this one track at a time world?  Does that make me sound old?  Will I have to face mortality?  Am I having a mid life crisis?  All of these answers may be yes, still others may be no.  What do you want from me, you don’t come here for answers.

It’s no secret that my guilty pleasure in life is watching various morning TV shows.  In my former life a TV was nowhere in sight, but for some reason, I find them comforting.  The pointless chatter, combined with false enthusiasm, and occasional combination of hilarious wild animals is just a great way to start the day.  Besides this, these shows are a breeding ground for bands you will never hear from 5 minutes after their segment airs.

As previously mentioned, LMFAO seems to be all over that shit.  Still, after knowing exactly what the performers look like and hearing their song several times, I could not at all tell you how it sounds.  Any combination of a few good looking people wearing in ear monitors and performing to back up tracks…I have no fucking idea what these groups sound like.  These performers are like the water droplets on a frying pan.

Is this just another step on the road to musical cynicism?  Probably.  But then someone like Reggie Watts comes along and blows your brain right out of its custom molded iPad style flip casing:

So we really can’t be sure. Until then, you better run better runnnn and all of that.