Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Free Shows

Free shows in Los Angeles are a double-edged sword. From a financial standpoint, it's absolutely lovely that on almost any given night in Los Angeles, you can usually find a place to see free live music that's actually good. Nothing to complain about there. However, anyone who showed up after 9:00 to see Editors' free show at Spaceland last month, only to encounter a line 200 people deep - none of whom would actually get into the club - will understand my conundrum. Without a ticket, you never know whether to show up at 6pm and risk sitting around for 3 hours chatting with the guy selling t-shirts in an empty bar, or to arrive at a more reasonable hour and possibly be denied entry because every hipster with a Myspace account managed to get there earlier.

So I, hoping to avoid another Editors' debacle, arrived to last night's free show at the Troubadour at 7:30, only to see Black Wire - a band with arguably enough buzz as Editors and even a touted connection to Kroq staple The Kaiser Chiefs - play to a half-empty LA crowd with nary a hipster among the lot.

I DID see the Editors the night after their Spaceland show. And to be honest, Black Wire was better.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Bad weekend

So Thursday night I got an 8 ball and settled in for a nice night of DVR'd Lifetime movies and a coked-up writing binge. (All of us cokehead writers think we can be the next Stephen King...) I didn't have to work on Friday, and hadn't made any plans, so I decided on a night in by myself. I dug in at 9pm, and was soon flying high and having a grand old time, finished a story, and as you can see, finally posted entries to this blog that had been languishing as "drafts "for months.

Everything was just brilliant, as the Brits would say, until about 4:30am - what I call the "rock star hour." This is the time when the rookies quit, pop their Tylenol PM and go to bed. Anyone who keeps going past this point knows they're in for the long haul. They have commited to seeing the sun rise. But - there's a difference between continuing to do lines in the still-hazy blue of 6am and hunching beside a coke-laden CD case lit by the full force of the sun. Once you hear your neighbors leaving for work, the alarm bells should be loud and clear. It's quitting time. The time when even the real rock stars know that getting sleep is necessary, if only so that they can be fully rejuvenated to party the next night.

Take my advice. Don't wait until you hear the mailman's keys jingling outside your window.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Arctic Monkeys @ Spaceland

(Originally written after the show in November... )

Some bitch walked in on me tonight when I was doing coke in one of the bathroom stalls. Spaceland, ground zero of hipster hell. I knew I shouldn't have brought the stuff in the first place; my adored Arctic Monkeys' were making their LA debut and I was missing it because I couldn't stop going to the bathroom. I need to have my trusty baggie at shows, and I hate myself a little for it. I often miss my favorite songs, but I can't imagine a concert without coke. It's my security blanket, my goodtime insurance, even if the music sucks. Which it never does.

I go to a lot of concerts, at least 3 or 4 a month, but I haven't seen a bad show in the past two years. For me, it's simple - I won't go to a venue bigger than the Wiltern (other than Coachella, but festivals don't count) and will only see bands I already know and like. I cannot abide seeing some random band I've never heard just to "check them out." For this reason, I loathe opening bands, as do most people in LA. I do feel for the plight of the unknown band playing their hearts out to an apathetic and occasionally rude crowd and they might even be relatively good, but I'm always just waiting for them to be over. As I've explained, I'm discerning about my concertgoing, and only want to see the band I came for. I also want to be high.

I'd been looking forward to tonight's show for months and I was extra anxious to do my business in the bathroom as quickly as possible. During concerts, I usually try to take my bathroom trips on my lesser-liked songs, but that wasn't an option tonight. I am hooked hopelessly on these 19 years olds from Sheffield, and there is no song of theirs I don't love. They hadn't yet played my favorite on my last bathroom trip and in my haste to get back out, I somehow neglected to lock the door securely.

I know the girl saw what I was doing when she walked in. I shoved the door back at her and heard her laughing with her friends. How fucking embarassing, although I suppose it was fitting, really - I was the exact cliche from the Arctic Monkeys song, the pathetic "weekend rockstar in the toilet." Adding to my embarassment was the fact that I had also been peeing as I was snorting. (In the girl's bathroom, multitasking is a matter of courtesy.) You can't get much lower than crouching over a dirty toilet with a straw shoved up your nose. I didn't want to come out and face her but she didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave. (The stupid bitch probably didn't even know the Arctic Monkeys and only came because she heard they were the latest cool band to see.) I couldn't even soothe my ego with a nice fat bump; my bag had been nearly empty and the shock of her invasion had caused me to dump its remnants all over myself. My pubic hair was dusted in a layer of white, like dandruff. I tried to salvage what I could, licking the precious powder from my bare legs with my finger.

I left the stall and tried to smile at her, as if I were laughing at myself and we'd shared a funny secret. She didn't acknowledge me at all.

Will the real hipsters please stand up?

First off, I'd like to explain what I mean by calling myself a "coked up hipster." I'm sure you already have the basic idea; it's a stereotype that conjures up some obvious connotations, many of which describe me very well. I see obscure British bands at Spaceland, I wear Chuck Taylors and lots of eyeliner, my hair is black and I spend a lot of time in bathrooms snorting coke.

So yes, "a coked-up hipster" gives you the general idea of me. But though the "coked-up" part of the moniker is self-explanatory, I'd like to define the word "hipster" insomuch as how it relates to who I am. Based on the dictionary definition of the word, I am not a hipster. I am not "one who is exceptionally aware of or interested in the latest trends and tastes, especially a devotee of modern jazz;" I am a music snob, but my awareness is certainly not exceptional. And of course there's the fact that I never listen to jazz. And although I'm a liberal, the second definition: "someone who rejects the established culture; advocates extreme liberalism in politics and lifestyle" describes someone much more passionate and extreme. The word hipster used to describe the true members of the counterculture; the ones who actually created the trends because they didn't care about trends. But about five years ago, the word had a renaissance in the American language and its conntation has changed.

Shedding it's prior associations with jazz or hippies, the word "hipster" has come to define a particular type of urban twentysomething whose culture of cool revolves around irony and a heightened sense of self-awareness. Hipsters drink at dive bars and live in Williamsburg and wore trucker hats in 2002. They have a penchant for indie rock and vintage clothes and a proud disdain for the mainstream.

Hipsters congregate in major cities. Because I live in Silver Lake, I'm talking in particular about the Los Angeles hipster, though the type is pretty universal. Whetherthey live in the East Village or Austin, hipsters are the ones who consider themselves the trendsetters, the center of the zeitgeist, thumbing their noses at the unitiated masses. That band you're listening to? A hipster had the import a year ago; in fact, they made out with the drummer after their show at Silver Lake Lounge last year. They moved to Echo Park before it was gentrified, and the only place that they'd ever consider living on the Westside is Venice. Black hair dye reigns supreme and even the straight boys wear eyeliner. They are gay and straight, from all races but primarily white and Asian, well-educated, and overwhelmingly liberal.

Their liberalism extends to all aspects of their lives. Their openmindedness, especially towards sex and drugs, is a source of pride. Everyone knows a couple in an open relationship, and of course, it's working out so well for them! Straight boys share the story of their gay experience back in high school without shame; the girls love to kiss each other - though it's not for the benefit of the guys, they just really think other women are beautiful. Hipsters don't judge. They'll try anything. They'll even show you the phone number of their drug dealer programmed into their cell phone, though they probably won't share their coke unless they want to sleep with you. These are the people that truly consider themselves the "cool kids," and like in high school, believing you are cool is often enough to convince everyone else. And I am no exception, for even as I try to keep myself apart, I've found myself lured in by the promise of cool - a follower to the hipster herd. But the more I've seen of this so-called hipster world, I've seen how we're all just feeding off of a sense of smug superiority that only exists in a vaccuum. The bandanas and modified mullet haircuts are no better than the Ugg boots and Gap jeans of the reviled masses.

Lately the word has been thrown around so much it's become a kind of parody of itself. Have you ever noticed that no one who the media might still call a hipster would ever actually use the label for themselves? Nowadays, it's only acceptable to call yourself a hipster if you can be ironic about it - like "yeah, I may be a hipster, but I'm a self-loathing hipster." There are people who spend a lot of time pointing out/laughing at/dissecting the sociology of the "hipster," scoffing at the hipster lemmings, but in my opinion, they're hipsters just like the rest of them.

So in my definition, a hipster = a follower with a raging case of cultural superiority.