I’ve probably had the “scene” conversation with everyone I know, unless of course we’ve recently met, in which case you should expect it soon. I’m not sure why I do this, but I do. Something about the various trends we all adopt, support, and embellish intrigue me. I could go to a club, party, mall, or franchise coffee shop of my choice and see all sorts of scenesters. So why is this common observation fascinating? Three reasons:
Reason 1: No scene is above any other(no matter how much it’s enthusiast insinuate, inflict or otherwise assume to be true.) No one is cooler than anyone else. Similar in fashion to how religion divides countries, idealistic perception to what is cool divides culture, except there tends to be less blood shed over how one chooses to wear their hair. There are pundits running around in every scene and they will unknowingly assume their scenes ethics to be the victor, which is ridiculous because these scene kids are the same kids who adopted punk idioms; gothic make up, raver beads and greaser…er, grease. A good example would be: An emo kid tells you he dislikes punks because they are assholes. Is he telling the truth? Yes, because he was one less then 2 years ago.
Reason 2: Our fashion is determined by what music we prefer or better yet, the music one prefers is derived from their sense of style. This is important for several reasons, but the most important is that music and fashion go hand in hand; even if for only marketing purposes, there is no denying it. If you live in Juneau, Alaska(which receives only 30% of it’s annual possible sunshine) and your favorite band/artist is wearing Chanel shades, you will have a new found appreciation for sunglasses regardless of whether you need them. A bands image is as important(maybe even integral) to their success as the music, artist need to catch your eyes as well as your ears. Corporations adopt trends from what you are watching, listening to, eating(i.e; the spork.) and drinking. If this is true, then one could argue that fashion saved music and this does not bode well for all those who say fashion is the death of musicianship. Because were it not for fashion, music would not be the industry it is today. No one would want to be famous if we still dressed like 16th Century settlers, right?
Reason 3(the most important and implausible reason.): In all scene philosophy being cool is not be confused with being popular, in fact popularity is strictly uncool while obscurity gets you street cred. Allow me to provide an example:
I was once in a record store in 2003, a small indie(for lack of a better term.) record store. I walked up to pay for my cd selections which happened to include the new AFI cd Sing the Sorrow. The conversation played out like this:
Record store clerk: (pretending to sound confused) “Is this the new AFI album?”
Me: “yeah, it is.”
Clerk: “do you have their older records? I like those”
Me: “yeah those are great.”
Clerk: “my favorite cds are the first two, when they were still punk”
Me: [I did not ask you] “yeah those are cool…”
Clerk: “…you ever hear their b-sides? Those are way more awesome than what’s on this new record! They just made this cd for the money”
Me: [that’s ridiculous artist make cds for free? how do they pay their bills?] “well maybe they just wanted to try different things y’know? Why make the same record twice?”
Clerk: “yeah I guess, but they suck now that they’re all over the radio. They betrayed all their loyal fans by selling out. I don’t understand how people can like them anymore”
Me: [wondering how 4 guys can betray such a large group of people they’ve never met.]”well they were getting popular already. It makes good sense to sign a deal that would increase their fan base and potential.”
Clerk: “Major labels are run by Satan himself! My band is NEVER selling out. That’ll be $22.95.”
Me: “Thanks, see ya and good luck on your record store clerk career.”
Why is obscurity cooler than mainstream? The sheer fact B-sides are B-sides mean the band wasn’t even cool enough with them to be heard by anyone, how is this cool??? More importantly how does knowing every aspect of a band/artist you apparently don’t even like anymore make you the senior authority on my taste?
All through middle school and high school all everyone wanted to do was be popular, so they could in essence be “cool.” Weren’t the popular kids the ones referred to as “the cool kids?” In fact I can remember several instances where I would catch someone I know talking to the presumably “cool kids” which would in turn result in me pointing out the fact that he had now backslid and bitten fruit from the social tree of knowledge and for this we’d all be condemned. It’s not that I didn’t want to be popular, I just didn’t fit the criteria. I’m a horrible athlete, I had lousy hair and my taste in pants was undeniably shameful and I wore glasses(the universal uncool.) There was nothing cool about me back then(and probably now for that matter) but, being the underdog isn’t supposed to be cool, it’s about not being cool and being just fine with it and I was just fine with it. Then again I also knew these kids would one day not be cool or popular anymore, nothing can stand the social test of time; popular trends come and go: Clothes, music, shoes, cellphones(imagine walking around with Zack Morris’s Phone, how cool would you be)? They all change by the day. Someone is always trying to have one up on everything and everyone.
We all want to take credit for trends, it gives us seniority which is cool. Why is this cool? Because it means you would be well known(popular?) as the person who started the trend, the first of your kind. Seniority is almost always and instantly cool. Having seniority at work is cool because you get first choice on scheduling and vacation days along with that edge that allows you to be in charge sometimes, having seniority with your financial institution is cool because you get lower rates on things, high school seniors are probably the epitome of cool; is that mot why the 9th grade girl who knew all the seniors was cool by association?(this is an exaggeration because she was only cool to anyone who secretly wanted to be her, everyone else thought she was the village bicycle) In fact the only seniority that is not cool is senior citizenship(although it has it’s own perks.) it’s a well known fact that your grandparents rarely make your “cool” list and if they do invite them out with you and your buddies Friday night and see if they can hang.
I know people who have dressed every which way possible, been every type of punk, ska kid, pretty boy, undercover emo kid and goth there is. I know people who have made these drastic changes every two years for as long as I care to remember. Every trend they incarnated was what they believed to be correct in the pop culture sense, the one that all other trends would bow to, the true form, the trend that everyone after them was just adopting to be cool. Lately one trend has become a the “Ph.D.” of social grad school. Nothing could’ve prepared anyone for the trend that takes from everything and attempts to exclude itself from categorization.
The Indie scene.
Don’t act like you don’t know what and who I am talking about because you know damn right you can spot these kids from a mile away.
Don’t misunderstand my quarrel with this scene(or any scene. I only point out this one because it attempts to accomplish so much more.) I do not think it’s bad for anybody to find an identity through the mainstream media nor do I think I am excluded from classification. I do however have a problem with the indie scenes attempt to make everything an intellectual affair. This is unseen in any other trend. For some reason indie kids portray themselves as intellectuals and that bothers me. I’m not saying they are not capable of being smart, but intellectuality is not rewarded by sitting at hipster bars and lounges every weekend, listening to “music” made up of incomprehensible sounds, drinking coffee at whatever coffee shop is competing with Starbucks or having a fetish for under rated and misunderstood artist while listening to independent radio. The only scene I would even consider intellectual is the scientific community. Indie takes scene ideology to an extreme seen only in Islamic countries. Scenes are so prefabricated it’s scary, it’s like they’re sole purpose is to swallow you alive so you must be cautious otherwise your fiends will know you’re a fake. The sheer fact you embrace every new trend does not make you smart.
I have taken the liberty of writing down a few easy to follow steps so you too can be cool like all your friends. In fact if you follow them correctly and wait patiently you may end up your scenes go to guy or girl.
Six Steps to Coolness:
Step 1.) Pick a trend, any trend. If you want bonus points pick the one less people are adopting, but be sure it’s not one people are deflecting from.
Step 2.) Select a few of your trends icons and find out who their icons are, worship them. For example if you’re artist wrote a hit song based on a book, read the book, love it, recite it to friends, explain it’s significance in relation to the song lyrics. Do you see where I am going with this?
Step 3.) Order all your clothes online. You don’t wanna be caught dead shopping at Hot Topic or Urban Outfitters. Thrift stores are cool if you want bonus points.
Step 4.) Hate something or someone, you have to hate something to be cool. Particularly you have to hate one person, artist or band that became so obnoxiously famous they ruined your chosen scene. You know like emo kids and punks hate Blink-182? You too must find this balance. Try to avoid hating something you once loved, people are out to expose you.
Step 5.) Embrace the arts. Chances are one of your icons was a fine connoisseur of the arts. Perhaps you may take up photography, sculpting, poetry, start a band, play the violin, painting, vinyl collecting, etc. You must embrace an art as a recreational tool. Take up fishing if everything else fails, you need a hobby.
Step 6.) Don’t dress the part, don’t act it, don’t even tell anyone what you’re in to unless they ask. The more you surprise people, the cooler you will be, but doesn’t that contradict the above? No, it doesn’t. What’s Fonzie like? he’s cool right? And he always knew when to show off. So don’t screw it up by dressing like the 5th Ramone every god damn day.
I only give credit to the people I know who are not confined to a scene and it’s requirements, who love music in all its forms, who don’t care where they buy their clothes and who still love Blink-182. If you can do this then you are truly what indie implies.
Do you want to know if you’re a trend? Ask yourself if a band you once loved reunited, would you proudly be at their show? Would you wait in line like you once did just to watch them play your favorite songs? Would you still support them if they became as famous as The Police and didn’t play small venues anymore?