new year, same mistakes

2020 show forecast 🔮 moshpits, bruises & broken necks

we’ve made it into the new year! i hope that you rung the new year in with some beloved friends and family. personally, i entered the new year with a few new bruises and what i think is a subtle warning to wear earbuds to concerts more

i’ve been thinking a lot about the previous year. i went from seeing one or two concerts a year to seeing over sixty in one year, which means there is a lot to reflect on! what always stays with me is the food i eat after — my go-to meal before/during/after a show is tacos, and i’m looking to diversify this year. well, that and ice-cream, especially once winter hits.

in other news: i’ve recently started an editorial internship at AdHoc Presents. not bragging, want to mention it as a disclaimer. i have never and will never post about a show for any reason other than i am a fan of that music/am interested in attending.

upcoming shows

1/7 | Gustaf (January Residency #2) with SugarLife Orchestra, Sylvea Suydam @ Baby’s All Right ~ 21+

1/7 | BLOOM, Sex Hiatus, Lackadazies, Bipolar @ The Broadway ~ 21+, free

1/9 | Deli Girls, Nah, Dreamcrusher, Shawty, Ghosh, Dj Skyshaker @ Saint Vitus Bar ~ 21+

1/10 | The Wants, Beeef, GIFT @ Berlin ~ 21+

1/15 | Muddguts Presents Kamikaze Palm Tree, The Trash Bags, Devil's Dildo @ The Sultan Room ~ 21+

1/25 | Long Neck, American Poetry Club, Beach Bod, Zuzia @ Kirby’s Castle

  • the first official show for the new DIY space and arts house venue!

3/4 | Corridor w/ Deeper @ Rough Trade NYC ~ 18+

in my queue

feel hypocritical saying it, but i haven’t really listened to anything new in the past week! gotten into the mid-vacation rut where you do nothing but the same thing everyday — including playing the exact same playlist on repeat (shuffle does not make it different, no matter how i’d like to fool myself). if you want to take a listen to what has become the permanent sonic backdrop to my thoughts, feel free:

what i’ve read

Juice WRLD and the Tragic End of the SoundCloud Rap Era ~ by Jon Caramanica

  • i finally got around the reading that NYT article about Juice WRLD. Caramanica manages to describe the allure of the scene Juice WRLD was in, while also describing the incredibly exploitative way that artists in the scene have been used. musicians being chewed up, spit out and forgotten by the music industry isn’t news, but with a 24 hr news cycle and Twitter, the issues that industry insiders might have once only known are getting thrust into the light (thinking now of t swift’s AMA controversy). i think this also is part of a bigger question: how can we better protect and care for young people in the digital age? especially when someone can go viral over night, enjoying fame and increased visibility without any understanding of how to navigate it. i also like to think about this conversation that David Turner (who writes a great newsletter called Penny Fractions) had with Slate about how streaming has changed the music industry, particularly how artists 1) don’t get paid as much as they used to, 2) are expected to put out new material way more often than previously, and 3) tour relentlessly. how can any of that create a space for artists to thrive and not just shrivel up after some exec mines them for all they are worth?

  • “It’s more awful to know that there are systems in place to quickly extract maximum value from the art produced by its creators, but essentially none designed to protect them from the challenges that quick success can bring.”

  • “The music business tallies hits, streams, sales and profits, but generally fails to provide extramusical tools for the tolls of success. There is no scene, no sound, no movement without musicians, but they have no union, no centralized self-care resources. Just the requirement that they work harder and do more.”

  • keywords: extramusical tools, Soundcloud rap

the discourse

something i hinted at last week was the death of subculture. while i do think streaming culture has had an effect on subculture, i wanted to do more reading on it before i gave a definitive take. which i’m still not prepared to do! the argument is that music subcultures (genres and the die-hard fans associated with them) became obsolete in the post-internet age (streaming making it so we are less indebted to specific genres, albums, or even artists). so in the discourse™️ this week i’m gonna do my best to investigate this topic (probably incompletely).

like before, i’m going to pull a couple quotes from articles that have tried to tackle this issue as a primer/microsyllabus on the subject. before i do that tho, feel free to read this short history on genre as we know it. okay, onto the new stuff:

“It’s an attempt to preserve a system of genres that has been crumbling for many years, and to affirm the primacy of a chart structure that is no longer relevant. The cross-pollination of country music with hip-hop, pop, and dance music has been happening for decades, and has been well documented on Billboard’s own charts.”

“The question of whether a song belongs to country music—or to any genre, for that matter—is an outdated one. Traditional radio and chart formats, dictated by genre, have long been usurped by free-associative, mixed-format consumption habits on streaming services and even more rogue platforms like TikTok—platforms that have never bothered to consider any sort of formal taxonomies.” - Carrie Battan, “Old Town Road” and the Overdue Death of Genre

maybe why this has been a topic that i keep coming back to is because the past few years have really helped drive the idea of “genreless” music home. “Old Town Road” showed the laughability of genre, when genre is conceived of discrete immutable categories. if artists have always considered genre as a sort of redd herring (who cares what its called, the point is the music), and listeners no longer really care what you call it, who exactly is genre for?

“It has been well chronicled that Gen Z doesn’t appear to care about either genre definitions or questions of highbrow and lowbrow taste as they compile their endless Spotify playlists. My stepson has a playlist he’s been banging in the car for months that veers from Panic! at the Disco to Broadway showtunes (which, honestly, have a lot in common). In Jack’s and Carl’s formulations about what poptimism should mean, we take it as given that mass culture pop “won” this decade. But what if that mass culture now includes everything?”

“And in a decade where so much musical fandom turned tribal, to Jack’s point, clearly these cohorts have not been erased. Or maybe the audience in the 2010s has just traded in their identities as R&B enthusiasts, hip-hop heads, or country lifers for membership in the Beyhive, the Barbz, or the Care Bears.” - Chris Molanphy, Is genre really dead, or have the boundaries just moved?

I think maybe we’re getting at a closer truth here than “genre is dead”. maybe genre just doesn’t matter as much to consumers anymore, and instead they are invested in singular artists (making it easier for them to hop between musical “tribes”). Molanphy casts doubt onto the idea that “mass culture now includes everything”, but i still find it compelling. it’s something that was covered in an article that Steve Vinney wrote for Vice, where they said “We now have capital ‘C’ Culture. It’s one big arms-around-shoulders-kumbaya where the mainstream and its foes are a tag team”. one thing about that article tho: the idea that alternative has to mean exclusive, exclusionary? kinda trash, and not really my experience with subcultures.

“Gen Z has grown up with Spotify and these looser categorisations, and relying on a streaming service that is as equally interested in mood or setting as it is in genre has impacted how we view music. So it makes sense that now Gen Zers are making music, they’re creating songs that defy genre, and using social media to publicise their music.” - Megan Evershed, the musical genre is dead, gen z killed it

there is a lot going on in this i-d article. i included it because, well it is a part of the conversation. but there are some things in it that are kinda disputable. the idea that billie eilish’s career “proves that making and sharing music isn’t reliant on industry contacts”? already tackled and disproven in a great newsletter by David Turner. The statement that music tastes have become more diverse with streaming? would probably be more convincing if there were stats on how many genres people listened to before streaming included. while i think it harps too much on gen z (genre-blending or whatever you want to call it isn’t new or generational) i think the mention of Spotify’s “mood” playlists slots in well with the below quote:

“The music will be stripped back—very chill. Over the past two years, I’ve attended a number of these shows and seen some talented performers. But it should be noted that to fit with the Sofar “brand,” there are rules to play by. By and large, those rules demand that artists be smooth, seamless, and unplugged. Sofar seems to pride itself on a sort of genre-less curation, driven instead by “vibe.” On Sofar’s YouTube page, where thousands of performances are documented with Sofar-branded videos, you can get a sense for how evenly this “vibe” is distributed around the world—always mellow, laid-back, and unobtrusive.” - Liz Pelly, Sofar, So Bad

i truly can not recommend reading this article enough. i just keep returning to it, i feel like i learn something new everytime i open it. something about this frictionless music, and the fact that Spotify has been busted for putting “fake” musicians on its playlists,

“Ratliff extrapolates: “He can walk out of whatever styles of music raised him, and into others as yet unknown to him, where he has complete access because listening gave it to him.” This is all true, but not new. The boy always could, if he had the desire and the will. Music is simply cheaper and easier to reach now.” - James Medd, Music technology has changed – but do we actually listen to songs differently?

okay, so what if streaming hasn’t created new relationships between artists and fans but simply accelerated existing relationships? I think this article questions the premise of the argument I outlined at the start: has streaming really changed the way we consumed music? streaming platforms like spotify like to boast how they’ve made it easier than ever for anyone to access any music — as the i-d article might argue, gen-z grew up in an age where they had access to all kinds of music, which could explain their omnivorous sonic diet. but, as the pull quotes below show, just because more music is made available for streaming than ever before, doesn’t mean we are actually listening to it.

“In fact, when I stream music, I don’t really feel like I’m wandering through an endless forest at all. Instead, I end up making my listening decisions, either consciously or subconsciously, in an environment that has several external commercial and technological forces whittling the infinite forest of music streaming down to only a select few trees for me to choose from.”

“In short, in the modern music business, the “celestial jukebox” that captured our imagination in the early 2000s has since been pinned down to earth and winnowed by a combination of market control and technological control.” - Cherie Hu, The “celestial jukebox" era is dead. What's next for music streaming?

Marisa, a subscriber to this newsletter and an amazing person i met during a show, actually brought this up in response to my newsletter about live shows a while back. i’ll quote from her email:

The broader, corollary dilemma: what has happened to the consumption of music, and its function in our social and interior lives, such that we are so unwilling to cultivate and indulge curiosity? In a digital universe with the whole of recorded music at our fingertips, why are we literally all listening to the same shit? Where's the sense of adventure, an openness to novelty and to risk?

let me end this discourse™️ section by tying it all together, because maybe the thread of the convo got a little lost along the way. has streaming ended genre (and subculture) as we know it? have we entered into some weird musical monoculture, where everything we listen to is actually referential and never really new? why does this all matter in the long run?

“No more searching for unknown artists in record shops, asking your friend group to learn about new tunes, buying music magazines or downloading full albums illegally on Limewire until you find something new you like. You don’t even need to search the web, and keep up with millions of different music publications.”

“When finding new artists is made easy for us, we take the opportunity. No one is strictly bound to listen to one genre. The days of subculture and genrefication of music are behind us. We now like to mix things up and keep ourselves open to all kinds of styles. That’s why we have genres like indietronica, shoegaze, or pysch folk.” - RÜYA, HOW SPOTIFY HAS CHANGED THE WAY WE LISTEN TO MUSIC

what happens when the way we listen to music becomes passive? Liz Pelly described frictionless experiences, Marisa spoke about a lack of adventure — what easy listening and “mood” music costs us are relationships. communities built around a love for music, a network of bands, thriving, independently owned local venues. any sense of attachment to music gets eroded, and what we need more is people being invested in music (especially when it means paying for something other than a streaming service).

not to say that we should keep genre (this section has outlined plenty of good reasons to bin it), but maybe the thriving subcultures that surround it. and maybe the conversation should be less about how Spotify is helping erode genre and more about how it is challenging the very relationships between fans, artists, and music itself.

field report

pleased to speak about my first concert of the year, and about nyc's newest, most exciting band: beautiful souls al fresco. the trio opened for gustaf's baby's all right residency on 1/2, playing an entirely improvised set. Featuring well-known comedians ana fabrega (drums), amy zimmer (synths) and lorelei ramirez (vocals), the band tackled hard-hitting subjects like hot piss, your mother being your sister, hoping your friends are having good sex, and more. there was even a punk song in the spirit of “sports” by viagra boys where ramirez just screamed “paraguay” into the mic. truly hot stuff, only the kind of innovation you could get in nyc.

they were a wonderful start to gustaf’s residency at baby’s, and set the right tone for the night. it’s a gustaf show, so it was equal parts off-beat and boisterously fun. when i think about it, it def makes sense that beautiful souls would open for gustaf: the headliner’s own set is like a visual gag itself, with singer lydia gammill popping open her eyes and jerking across the stage as her band plays funky, art-punk behind her. if you go to a gustaf show and don’t graduate from bopping your head to bouncing around by the end of the first song, you aren’t doing it right. (tldr: they make it really, really, hard not to dance along.)

make sure you catch the rest of gustaf’s residency (they’ll be playing some new material) at baby’s, and take a peek at their live set below:

questions

it’s a new decade! time doesn’t really matter, besides the fact that we keep losing it, but it does help give some perspective. this year (or decade, whichever) i want to read more. i’ve had Revenge of the She-Punks on my bedside table for months, now’s the time to finish. with that in mind,

Do you have any music book reccs?

i have like a growing list of books, but it never hurts to crowdsource more options!

concluding remarks

been thinking about what i want this newsletter to look like. mostly, i like having all the shows i’m interested in in one place, helps me collect my thoughts. on the other hand, i’m thinking about what kind of information would have been useful to me when i first started getting into going to shows. this is still a passion project, not a chore, so i’m imagining it will morph as i do. also, that is why it comes out irregularly.