Hip Painby Roger Young / 06.12.2009
It’s so hip right now to say that hating hipsters is so hip right now. Anything that becomes defined will have its detractors, this much is obvious. But the kids don’t care; they’re just following trends, being alternative and all that. Like Ravers, Grungers and Hippies before them, “The Hipster” has become a term, a definition but the original proponents of the scene have moved on and, if the crowd at the Assembly this last Wednesday are anything to go by, all that’s left is a couple of badly dressed art school kids who style by the numbers, look uncomfortable and don’t know how to dance. Except for the guy in the Slayer shirt, faux mullet and such a pronounced lack of bum that he couldn’t keep his skinnies up. He danced like everyone was watching and that he had been hurt often.
But enough formulaic observations on the crowd. On to formulaic observations of the bands. Let’s start at the terrible, the last band of the night, and work our way backwards to the not so terrible, the opening act.
Eat This Horse embody everything that makes people define and hate a scene. They’re terrible and they think it’s clever to be terrible. For some reason the art kids seem to think this is hilarious and try to dance to it. (Note to art kids: If something is funny you laugh, you dance when it makes you feel like dancing. Dancing is not an intellectual construct.) People are probably going to get all enraged with me on the comment boards but I’m not even going to try describe the bad shouting coupled with discordant and overly clever (but not intelligent) guitar riffs and kerplunking ratatat drumming. I am not going to engage with Eat This Horse, they take not-taking–themselves-seriously far too seriously.
The last time I saw Dear John Love Emma was in an intimate theatre venue (The Intimate Theatre, go figure) and I thought they were perfectly poised on the poignant side of twee. A whole rag tag bunch of classically trained and Jazz musicians making an orchestral art pop with brass, violins, and keyboards that was simultaneously uplifting and pure. Maybe it was venue paralysis but here on a rock club stage they come across as two-dimensional. Where previously Emma’s voice had been prim, cheeky and light, here it was faint and lost in the music. John just reminded me of the guy from Fame (the original) who killed himself. Except DJLE don’t seem terribly upset about anything enough to want to kill themselves or even express it wanting to, well, anything. Maybe they were having a bad night, because where before I had been entranced, now I found the music flimsy. Maybe, for me, the novelty has worn off. By removing the theater from the music, by placing themselves in an environment where the intimacy and the props are gone, they became strangely lacking. And even though kids sitting on the floor were enraptured, the jauntiest DJLE songs could only get three or four languidly dancing at a time.
The best and most disappointing act however was Beatenberg. Musically Beatenberg are full of promise, they make a bright jazz pop with incisive and slightly caustic lyrics, their reticence and restraint is disarmingly real. But as the opening act, and there is simply no soft way to say this, they came off lost. The stage seemed to swallow them. They had technical difficulties, (which to their great credit they played through and made work for them) and they seemed a little shy. Previously I had thought of Beatenberg as what the Beatles first album might have been had there been no John Lennon. Now I see them as a group of bright, talented kids who have some learning to do. One of the major faults to me is that although there is great variation in the songs, Beatenberg’s musical signature is still a nascent one trick pony, but a pony that will, it’s obvious from their enthusiasm, one day grow into a herd. Yes they were applauded rapturously, yes, they encored, but it seemed a hollow victory.
But by all accounts it was a crappy show, the bands may have seemed decidedly average (except for Eat This Horse, who were decidedly horrible) but part of the blame must be put squarely on the shoulders of the too school for cool audience who never once felt the bands warranted being met halfway other than in a sorta ironic distance half lidded gaze that can only make the younger bands wonder if there is any point in trying at all.
I don’t have a problem with these art kids, these pseudo hipsters and their Arab plaid and beards, their ironic t-shirts and stupid hats (they will have to explain the embarrassing blog print outs to their kids one day, that will be punishment enough). But I do feel slightly sorry for them because if part of the stance of this “sub” culture is to remain distant and cool, how could they ever get to enjoy whatever it is that they overthink they’re doing?
And I’m not even going to get into the flat out, up its own bum, painfully “ironic” wierdfest that was the three bands collabing on an OutKast cover for the finale. No sir, not me, let’s let them have their moment, because if they choose to pull any more of that shit, they won’t have many.
All images © and courtesy Dain Withani