Your “Stay Home” Sonic Sunday Spiel

A week ago, when I was writing about the Replacements, I couldn’t have anticipated we’d be here. I don’t have a whole lot to say about the ramifications of this moment in history that’s any better than what Mike Davis wrote (see my previous entry).

Considering how COVID-19 inspired the cancellation of multiple major sporting events, including March Madness, the next few weeks are going to help shift into focus just how necessary many of these “unalienable” institutions truly are. South By Southwest and Coachella both cancelled, and as obvious as the lost revenues will hurt many individual artists and (yes, some) vendors, both events were unquestionably bloated and appeared to have been teetering on the edge of sustainability for years.

CIMG8752

The euphoric experience of seeing New Order in a giant tent at midnight with thousands of other people wasn’t enough to cancel out how there are so many things wrong with this picture. (Coachella, April 2013)

To be fair, I’ve only been to Coachella once and I’ve never made it to SXSW, but the former presented a brutal overuse of already-constricted resources in California’s low desert, and the latter… well, I have many friends who’ve enjoyed attending it, but most of my Austinite friends and musician friends (who actually work or play at South-By) hate it. Mega-events like these represent the late-capitalist culmination of generations of corporate commodification of pop culture. As Simon Frith put it over three decades ago,

The rock era – born around 1956 with Elvis Presley, peaking around 1967 with Sgt Pepper, dying around 1976 with the Sex Pistols – turned out to be a by-way in the development of twentieth-century popular music, rather than, as we thought at the time, any kind of mass-cultural revolution. Rock was a last romantic attempt to preserve ways of music-making… that had been made obsolete by technology and capital (‘Music for Pleasure’ 1988, p. 1).

Cut to: A scene I think about a lot. When I was 18, I stood in the back of the crowd at the Warped Tour Main Stage, watching Henry Rollins scream about how some corporation had the nerve to charge $4 for a soda. Nearby, a young kid grabbed a Gatorade from an ice barrel, and the middle-aged vendor screamed “Hey! Put it back, you little shit.”  Corporate America had co-opted youth culture (again, in another vein), and they were making it increasingly clear that they would only tolerate the youth so long as they kept their cash flowing. It astounds me when people (mainly my age and older) wonder “why kids today don’t care about rock music.” Moreover, I can’t help but imagine that experiences like those accelerated Rollins’ departure from the music business.

As festivals got increasingly abundant, expensive, and bloated, I always wondered where the tipping point would be. Well, here it is. A lot of pundits thought it came in the form of the failure of the Fyre Festival, but (hilarious as it was), that fiasco didn’t appear to result in Goldenvoice and LiveNation stepping back and taking a long, hard, look at what they were doing. All Fyre Festival did was prove that rich idiots were still able to sell snake oil to other rich idiots.


I do not want my propensity to excavate silver linings from the most dire and ahistorical of situations to make light of how the COVID-related halting of certain institutions has already profoundly impacted millions and will likely hit millions more. It is why I will end this post with a series of links to check out to help support those in financial or physical need this month. However, I hope more than anything that those who stand to benefit from this in any way (even in terms of valuable lessons learned), do.

Sonic Sunday 03.08: Read About Your Band on Some Local Page

I know this firmly places me in the “aging guy with advanced degrees who wears glasses” stereotype, but prepare for a deluge of pure, uncut love for the Replacements and Big Star over the next week or two. 

  • First and foremost, I discovered that this exists, and I’m going to have trouble thinking about anything else or accomplishing anything else on the internet in the immediate future.
  • Actually, just as foremost, my wonderful colleague Lola San Martín (EHESS) is organizing a new conference in Paris this summer entitled “Urban Nostalgia: The Musical City in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” I can’t think of a conference more curated specifically for me, but I hope to give it as big of a signal boost I can, because I love the work that Theatrum Mundi and EHESS do. The deadline is relatively soon (April 6th), and the full CFP is right here. Here is a nifty GIF advertisement for the conference, too:
    Urban Nostalgia
  • Here’s another conference in Paris that appears to have been curated exactly to my interests, happening in September. Something about Pop and Rock in the past two decades of cinema. Elsa Grassy will be there!

Here’s Paul Westerberg playing my favorite Replacements song to close out a solo set on KFOG-FM in 1996. Have a great week, everyone!

Just Another Sonic Sunday (03.01.20) – VHS and Vintage Games

And just like that, it’s March already.

  • Cool Maps on Instagram
    I haven’t really taken time to express how many fun maps I’ve seen on Instagram (and really, why would I?), but it’s definitely a fun-map-lover’s dream over there. Here is one particularly head-turning one for those of us who haven’t visited South Asia.
  • Shudder to Podcast
    Craig Wedren, who spent his teens through mid-twenties helming Shudder to Think and much of the past two decades scoring almost every show on television, is starting a meditation/ambient music podcast that sounds just as interesting as everything else he does. You can read about it here.
  • Bad Brains and Defiance
    Speaking of DC punk veterans, The Root published a great little piece on how defiance crafted Bad Brains in honor of Black History Month.
  • The Wild World of VHS Digitization
    A piece of non-journalism on VICE (which I’ve already RT’d; they don’t need any more exposure) clued me into The VHS Vault. Everything from the extremely copyrighted to the mundane. Further verification of my opinion on just how much data and media exists outside of the internet, especially given the way the home video market blew up in the 1980’s. What a time to be alive.

While we’re on the topic of the weird early-80’s techno-glut, I had the rare opportunity recently to visit a friend in Ohio who is a brilliant archivist, coder, and trader of vintage video game equipment. It was remarkable, given the legendary Video Game Crash of 1983 (Wikipedia), to be able to play some of the flopped systems and realize, “Oh…that’s why it happened.”

Here are a few of the digital antiques.

0221200021a_hdr

A fluffball named Lucky poses with a pair of early Apple Computers. If I’m not mistaken, the one on the right was the model I used in elementary school in 1988.

0221200127_hdr

The Timex Sinclaire 1000. This thing was just the worst.

0221200106_hdr

A floppy disk with games coded for an old Commodore system.

Sonic Sunday: A Day of Remembrance Edition (February 19)

I know I’m a few days late and several dollars short, but certain algorithms which shall remain anonymous prevented me from getting this sad reminder on Wednesday. On February 19, 1942, FDR signed off on a measure to incarcerate Japanese Americans. Do not let contrarians play up the atrocity of Pearl Harbor or allow revisionists to gloss this over; more than 100,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated because of how they looked, and we must never risk repeating it. Russ Feingold indicated as much in his speech on the Senate Floor condemning the Patriot Act in 2001 (though he has reoriented his opposition more recently).

Two summers ago, I was wandering through an estate sale in North Knoxville and I came upon some old postcards that included this fascinating propaganda by Carl Crow, folded up within the family’s correspondence. The “general interest” magazine Liberty probably (and hopefully) would regret publishing this. I’d be loathe to call it white supremacy since Crow had spent most of his adult life in Shanghai, but its still shocking my any metric today. The note included in the family’s correspondence read “isn’t this just awful.” The same fervor which justified (to a powerful few) the desire to uproot American citizens and America-loving immigrants was perpetuated by a magazine with almost one and a half million subscribers.

Propaganda is a powerful and terrifying thing, and its our duty to punch holes in it every opportunity we get. This is something I think about when I see people signal-boosting talking points about Presidential hopefuls which are completely fabricated.

Anyway, more material coming in the next couple weeks. New post coming to @postcardsfromirving tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your weekend(s)!

 

Sonic Sunday Clips 02.16.20

Happy Sunday. I don’t know why, but I almost missed it! It’s still technically Sunday here in Eastern Time. Here are a few things.


Ben Irving Updates
I haven’t been able to write much about any of these, but if you use Instagram, head on over to the Postcards From Irving page, give it a follow, and see the latest updates from Austin, Louisville, Tampa, Flint, and more.

Robert Forster and Peter Paphides on “G Stands for Go-Betweens Vol. 2”
I bookmarked this video ages ago, and just got around to watching it. I had the rare opportunity to see Forster play on his first US tour in 11 years, and I’ve gone on the record here (often) about how important the Go-Betweens are to me. Under most circumstances, the idea of two older men sitting at a table and talking for an hour would sound boring, but Robert Forster is someone I could listen to talk for hours on end. If you’re intrigued, check it out. Sadly, the box set is already sold out (of course).

Experimental Persian Music
The Unexplained Sounds Group is at it again! I don’t remember how this came across my desk, but it’s very cool.

Sonic Sunday Clips 02.09.20

Happy Weekend, folks. It’s certainly been an interesting week of the DNC stumbling over themselves to avoid nominating an actually sorta progressive candidate, and I wanted to make sure that a handful of items worthy of your attention didn’t slip through the cracks!

  • If you see this right after I posted it and you’re in Central Michigan, you still have time to catch the 12:30pm screening today of the Bruce Springsteen film Western Stars at the Broadway Theater. I’ll be talking for a few minutes afterwards. I’m sure tickets will still be available at the door, but here’s the link with more info.
  • Amanda Petrusich (my favorite music journalist) is at it again, this time with a great New Yorker review of Taylor Swift’s documentary. It makes for a great read about the nature of fame and class in 2020.
  • Jathan Sadowski just published a new article in Antipode about Internet Platforms and Rentier society, which sounds amazing. I may need to wait until next month to get my hands on the full thing what with EBSCO restraints.
  • Speaking of Antipode, there are several sites online where you can look up your current antipode! This is one of them.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to see my talk at SoCA down in Windsor on Friday, and an extra special thanks to Dr. Jamey Essex for the invitation as well as being a consummate host and good friend of almost two decades now. As I said to the audience before my presentation, be nice to your TA’s, kids, and maybe one day they’ll shepherd you across the border. Also, the audience of U Windsor students and faculty may have provided the best set of post-talk questions I’ve ever received, and I wish I could have had more time to meet and chat with everybody.

0206202155a_hdr

With the Windsor music map on Dub Night at The Phog, Windsor ONT. Photo by Jamey Essex.

Sonic Sunday Clips (02.02.20: My First Talk in Canada, and Bruce Springsteen at the CMU FilmFest)

Happy February, everyone. This is shaping up to be quite a busy month for me, if this week is any indication. I’ve actually got two talks in two different countries planned for this weekend, both of which are about musical geography.

  • Friday, I will be paying a visit to the University of Windsor over the river in Ontario to talk about Capitals of Punk with students at the School of Creative Arts, in the Armouries. The talk starts at noon.

TSonnichsen.02072020

 

  • Saturday (6pm) and Sunday (12:30pm), I’ll be speaking about the Boss for a bit following CMU Film Festival screenings of his performance film ‘Western Stars.’ The Saturday screening will be at the CMU Main Library, and the Sunday screening will be at the Broadway Theater, downtown.

mv5bndk2zjy1mjgtotezzi00mwzjltg5zmitndgzmtnmm2qxyta4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtkxnjuynq4040._v1_


Have a great week, everyone! I’ll be back with some more clips, announcements, and randomly chosen videos next week.