Social commentary pertaining to any sort of business within the media industry usually sparks a laugh in us. How eerie is it when you watch commentary made over a decade ago that still resonates today? About a month back I threw on my Simpsons DVD collection and Season 7 contained "Homerpalooza," an episode that just kept the laughs rolling while having me go "Wait, this was made in 1996?"
To set things up, the premise of the episode is that Homer is out of touch with his kids, so he buys them tickets to the Hullabalooza Festival and then ends up joining the festival as a side show freak. Old, out of touch Homer brings the laughs, but it's also a lot of commentary made by the rest of the cast that hit home heavily.
I thought about giving some commentary myself, but then I decided to ask Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos to give us his own take on the situation. If there's a Simpsons fan to go to in this industry, he's the first one I know of.
Why is this funny now? I feel I'm getting old. I'm starting to lose myself in the past sometimes. One day, I fear we'll all become Homer - or our parents. (Also parallel to South Park's recent episode.)
Nick's commentary: This is interesting to me because there are very few "new" bands I find myself being real excited about. If I were to write this same joke today I'd probably reference 1985, or some year around that. For me it's definitely an unconscious wall in my brain that has been built for several reasons- first and foremost, because almost all of my favorite music comes from at least 25 years ago. It's a total incidental thing. I'm constantly discovering old music that blows my mind and there is very little I can think of to come out in the last 10-15 years that hits me the same way. Of course there is music and bands that I really like, but I'm talking about "attained perfection," as Homer puts it. The other problem I run into, sadly, is avoiding the almighty hype machine. I can't help it. I've found that these days the quality of music is based on "who, where, when, why and how." The missing element being "what." I like the music that I like because it strikes me in a particular, natural way, not because of extraneous particulars- genres, geographical location, etc. Of course the "who, where, when, why and how" is also important, but, for me, none of those precede the "what." I want to stress that I do think there has been some amazing music that's come out in recent years. I guess what I'm trying to say is, "Why do we need new bands? Everyone knows that rock attained perfection in 1985."
Why is this funny now? The term "emo kid" and how '90s mainstream alt rock was as depressing as its underground parallel.
Nick's commentary: Bummed out teenagers don't want to listen to lame, happy-sounding music- they want to sink even deeper into their own heads and listen to bleak, depressing music. for some reason that's just a psychological thing and it always has been. I'm sure that scientific studies can trace it back to fucking Joy Division.
Why is this funny now? So did grunge kids just become hipsters?
Nick's commentary: This is still super relevant. Irony just keeps coming back around as the cool thing and it's very obvious that people get confused as to which stage of the cycle irony is currently set at. Luckily I think most of this is based in fashion and other things outside of music itself. So there's not too much to be worried about there, unless of course you're someone that likes to live an ironic lifestyle, in which case you can just walk into an American Apparel and easily figure it out.
Why is this funny now? Do I need to explain myself on this one? Live Nation?
Nick's commentary: The whole Live Nation thing is really crazy to me. I just Wikipedia'd it- 11.94 millions dollars net income in 2007. What the fuck? Promoting shows? And that's what you're getting paid? I don't understand how it's even a part of the world we, and many other smaller bands, exist in. Unfortunately it's definitely not a "healthy mix of the rich and ignorant," it's just people that want to see their favorite band. Yes- Jay-Z probably needs millions of dollars to step into your shithole town and play a show (does he "play" shows?? or just walk around the stage talking fast?) so i guess I can understand marking up ticket prices with all of those hidden costs. But it just does not make any sense outside that realm. I guess technically we (the bands) have the power to avoid these idiots and their charges, but it's just such a nightmare to figure out. Ultimately, some places don't have better venue options and we're stuck with it. if my band was in a position to call the shots, I'd definitely try to be more conscious of staying out of those places, but alas I am a very little fish, swimming with a very small group of other little fish in a very, very large sea.
Why is this funny now? I find that very few festivals have any identity anymore. Thanks for the free stuff, now let me listen to the music I came here to see.
Nick's commentary: Gosh, I haven't gone to a festival in a long time. I used to go to Warped Tour, like 10 years ago, literally. I don't have too much festival experience outside that and Lollapalooza '95 - oh and i guess SXSW is considered a festival, and we've played there a couple of times. I'm a pretty firm believer that product positioning does not work on me. I mean of course it might subliminally but I really don't think so. I'm a scavenger at heart. At Warped Tour they gave out free cups of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drink. I didn't give a fuck about it, other than it was free chocolate drink and i wanted as much as my stomach could handle. Same with SXSW- only with energy drinks. You don't even need to find a vendor to get free cans of liquid sugar at SXSW, they're usually just rolling around in the gutters, unopened. It seems pretty clear that a lot of festivals are not based on good music alone- all the promoters/organizers are in bed with advertisers and other non-music related slime. Lollapalooza used to be Perry Farrell's freak show of music, and now Coldplay and Eminem are headlining. Again, advertising and product positioning doesn't phase me, I want your free garbage and I want a lot of it, but I can understand why that's obnoxious and why the Simpson's would reference it.