…without the Minnesoros “Independent” sending ace reporter Molly “Is It White In Here” Priesmeyer – AKA “The Margaret Grebe of the 21st Century” – out to the nightclubs to show how the Sturm and Drang of the Zeitgeist was causing Angst among people who are…er, hanging around in bars on a weeknight:
The cover photo of this week’s Time magazine has been lurking in the psyche of America for the past two weeks: A bread line, circa 1931, buttressed by the headline “The New Hard Times.” Whether or not that’s overstating things by the liberal media elite remains to be seen, but I took my own pulse of America this week, stopping in at Minneapolis bars and music clubs (and one strip club), to imbibe in the healing qualities of good music and gathered people, and to gauge the post-crash mood.
Unlike the Republican candidate for vice president, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, the only comparable such club tour I’ve taken was in the week immediately following 9/11, when hushed roomfuls of people stuck their head in the live music sand and wondered what the bleep would happen next.
UPDATE: My bad; the piece was in the MNPost, and it’s by Jim Walsh, who is not a bad music critic. Which is sort of like saying “Leukemia isn’t such a bad cancer”; I’ve gotten progressively less and less tolerant of “rock critics” over the years, in the same way “sports journalism” has come to strike me as an oxymoron among all but a few “sports journalists” tiny enough in number to fit into Frank DeFord’s jacket pockets.
UP-UPDATE: OK, I lied. I knew it was Walsh all along – and I followed the “Priesmeyer Tangent” because “Rock Criticism” frequently – usually? – falls back on the same trite answers to life’s persistent questions that seem to dominate her oeuvre. Perhaps it’s because most rock critics are lousy writers (and the craft’s dubious standards, in this era of freebie, “citizen” “journalism”, seems to be eroding year by year; I’m flummoxed to think of a rock in the AAA leagues who’s fit to carry Dave Considine or Jim DeRogatis’ Ipod case. Perhaps the eternal adolescence of the rock club world – a place that’s a combination of Peter Pan and Logan’s Run, a place where everyone, whether musician or bartender or booker or waitress or the audience, either stays a pissed-off 21-year-old or eventually disappears, un-lamented and unremembered – makes the whole enterprise terminally self-limiting.
And for those of us who disappear from those clubs – those of us who stomped around The Entry’s claustrophobic stage, fought with The Uptown’s cranky sound system and crankier booking agent, cadged drinks from girls at Lyle’s for a year or four, and then…disappeared, vanished into a world of babies and mortgages and day jobs and newer lives lived in daylight?
I’m not going to speak for all of us – but I’m not exactly hanging on Liz Phair’s reaction to the economic crisis. Or anything.
But, as I said, Walsh is not one of the semi-literate slapnuts that glut “rock criticism” today. He’s a sharp guy, a good writer and, often enough to notice, a sharp observer.
And amid the pop-culture dross, he scores a few good points:
After 9/11, the president famously told Americans to go shopping. At the moment, it might behoove him to remind “we the people” that going out — to clubs, bars, music venues — gets us out of ourselves and out of our own burrowed-in blues, and that it’s important to keep the blood pumping and the elbows rubbing, even when the world can make you feel, as one mourner put it to me at a funeral home recently, “I’m lost.”
You could ask – “did we grow up and stop having fun because life got difficult, or did life get difficult because we grew up and stopped having fun?” The answer would be “probably not entirely”, of course, because life is rarely that black-and-white.
So no – you won’t see me giving a rat’s ass about what some adolescent, or arrested-adolescent, in a bar on a Tuesday night thinks about politics or the economy. But Walsh is right – isolation is as big a killer than the stress that isolates us.