The essence of playing extremely loud music in a rock and roll bar is a completely ineffable thing. Laura Palmer on the television as a vampire. Headlining bands with neck tattoos and black eyes. Metal doors with bullet holes. In five bars four bartenders were named Steve, we were always named Buddy, and the idea of a free drink was less realistic than walking on the moon.
After weeks of writing ridiculous papers about topics that will be immediately forgotten, participating in discussions where the word "meta" is second only in frequency to "like," and dragging our hung-over selves to morning classes in the post-karaoke delirium, Scenes from the Next left Ohio for a completely non-educational experience. It was like this: a Cleveland show with experimental electronica, two shows in Detroit to Viet Nam vets and drunk jazz musicians, one in the now MTV-famous "Eclectic House" at Wesleyan University, and one in Ithaca, New York that was larger than Axel Rose.
In many ways the ever stigmatized world of independent music has more opponents than supporters. It was a realization I had leaning against the boarded doors of Coney Island High in the down-time between shows. Some are obvious: the kids who will stand in the back of a room to sneer until sneering somehow falls out of fashion. Oberlin has a handful of these dreadful beasts. One might be next to you in a tight tee- shirt as you read this very article (how meta).
Some are more developed, everyday people who have had their banal conversations about the latest movie or life at the workplace once too often disrupted by some obnoxiously loud bar band. The most angry of these parades as a mall security guard in the Detroit suburbs, using his ability to prevent aspiring musicians from throwing pennies at the glass elevator as a cruel method of breaking the will of youthful expression. A gang of these rock-haters have gathered at the Canadian border. They have dogs. Our crotches were sniffed and everything.
But these memories, as all things, fall away with the ever passing sands of time. And with what are we left when the ears are still ringing? A "my dog has fleas"-tuned ukulele paying "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" in the extended cab of a Ford Ranger, the blur of Mesa Boogie amp at the double vision of a Coors sign, and Macho-Man Randy Savage finger puppet wars on I-90. We drove around the country. We played with and to friends in four states. We bought commemorative spoons at Niagara Falls.
Even if you hate everything about rock music. Even if you sit home all day with your CD player alternating between the Magnetic Fields, Belle and Sabatian, and the Pointer Sisters. Even if you don't own a single sleeveless black tee-shirt and you think tattoos are only for bikers, the essence of the thing is something that should inspire terror in the hearts of those who cherish mediocrity and respect in those who cherish living
Nate Cavalieri is an English/Percussion major, a frequent Arts editor, and a member of Scenes from the Next.
Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 7, October 29, 1999
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