Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Highway to RAWK

Valentine's Day, Kayla and I went for a romantic evening at the Hawthorne Theater, for the Autism Awareness concert. To prevent this sensitive issue from blowing up all over the face of CIMTB, I've decided to move my more critical and reflective observations to my personal blog. If you're interested in being provoked, go there in a day or two.

Instead, I wanted to discuss the more topical issue of what's going on in the world of RAWK!

One of the first things I noticed- and Kayla noticed it independently- were the sheer number of songs, between all of the bands involved, that have been featured in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. We literally could not keep track of how many. Mind you, a lot of these songs, whether they fall in the category of classic rock, butt rock, hard rock, metal, or what have you, have already been staples of shitty karaoke and drunken air guitar flail-fests for decades, even when the music was fresh. Here, though, you've got one of Portland's middlin' size venues hosting a bunch of cover/tribute bands, with the most exuberant part of its audience being under 18. Were these kids jazzed about hearing "Hot For Teacher" because of their quest to achieve five stars on expert in "World Tour," or because of the smokin' hot redhead singer from Fat Bottomed Girls' pencil-stroking performance? Regardless, it's a testimony to the phenomenon that not only could such a show happen, but that we're talking about it seriously.

Indeed, that might be the most difficult part of the whole business, figuring out what to take seriously. For every indie musician who cut their teeth on Metallica songs, there is a tight-pantsed hipster with an ironic Iron Maiden shirt. For every shitty, faddy Darkness there is an earnest Answer. The RAWK! is so ripe for mockery because of its bombast and self-seriousness, its hard-living yang palare. It's too easy of a target, and has been for so long that the lines have begun to blur. Tenacious D, case in point. And then Jack Black's appearance on the hidden track on the Probot CD. What's what?

I've seen it for a long time- people who were too young, or too cool and should have known better, professing to like RAWK! bands. Hip young models listing Judas Priest and Venom as their favorite bands, then going on to pose nude with Klingon replica swords. The message there is clear, but I don't think we'll ever really figure out where the line is drawn between ironic appreciation and actual appreciation, not this late in the pomo game. Not in the Age of the Mashup.

And why should we? One of the greatest things that ever happened to me, as a lover of the arts and citizen of the world, was to realize that I truly, without irony and without reserve, loved the music of Foreigner. The first four albums, at least. Once I realized that, and tapped it into some good ol' rugged Buddhist mindfulness, it freed me up to actually enjoy a lot more music than I ever could before. I think some of that mojo is working for the FB Girls and the Bon Scott-era mostly-all-girl AC/DC tribute band American Thighs. They're just out there doing their thing and having fun. Not caring whether its meaningful, whether there's a deeper significance to their contribution to the RAWK! At the end of the day, the kids are allright.


Karen said...

I think AC/DC is very meaningful. Come on, with lyrics like he's got big balls, she's got big balls, we've got the biggest balls of them all, I mean, it doesn't get any better than that! :P

Jess Gulbranson said...

Hey, American Thighs drummer, I see what you did there!

Glad you guys did "Jailbreak." I would have liked to see "Beatin' Around The Bush" or "Ride On" though.