Hoptellectual: On Localizing Musical Tastes

Some may remember this video from a couple of Suds ago:

Those who know me know how passionate I get about  music, and I love so many things about this video.* It’s hilarious. It’s awkward. It’s fine slapstick. From the disinterested Malkmus-esque vocals to the Dinosaur Jr. guitar hooks and the oddball lyrics, this video screams out to everyone who grew up in the 90’s but was too young to listen to Pavement (not that anyone is really ever too young for Pavement). The full release, Summer of Punishment, overachieves through underachievement. Half-baked commentary (“Let’s talk of Emerson/ No, let’s not talk of Emerson”) and astute observations (“Sometimes I feel way behind my age group/ Hey man, it’s not cool unless they pay you”) share wax with unbelievably catchy melodies and unassumingly slick guitar work.

For all the praise that I can give, the thing that stands out the most is the Midwestern quality of this music. In “Of Age,” they cover both the ennui and the commercialization of the Midwestern lifestyle, “Come join us out here/ get caught drinking beers in our back yard/ growing up can only be so hard.” Not only does the video feature bearded dudes wearing Badger and Packer apparel playing Madden, but it features cameos from nondescript suburbs and college houses where we’ve all gone to party at some point in our college careers. My friend always makes the point of saying, “These guys are basically a Silver Jews cover band, which is awesome.” The truth is, they’re more than that: they’re our Silver Jews cover band.

I’ve written before about developing complex relationships with music made by other people, but this takes things a step further. The reason I get so much joy from listening to Sleeping in the Aviary, the Hussy, the Midwest Beat and Sat. Nite Duets is because we all occupy the same or similar spheres and all draw from similar backgrounds (or maybe just Mickey’s Tavern in Madison). These are songs about the Midwest, and not always the best parts. They look at the seemingly microscopic nature of things, the small-town triumphs, all while wearing their influences on their sleeve and nobody cares. It’s cool and it’s genuine, which in many ways, is all that matters.

In many ways, the traditional music industry has grown too big to support every type of listener, much in the same way Goose Island grew too big for us beer geeks who used to swear by Honker’s Ale. What about the rest of us who don’t live in Brooklyn or Minneapolis or San Francisco? How do we relate to music crafted based on slightly different experiences?  As music promotion strives to reach the most diverse demographic possible, it leaves out certain groups of listeners who pay money for good music. Smaller, localized bands can fill these holes and make the whole experience more autobiographical.

I don’t know how “big” any of these bands will get. I saw Sleeping in the Aviary play here in DC to a shamefully sparse crowd. While sad, this isn’t what makes these bands who they are. What counts is that I can slot the music into my life and it makes sense, almost completely autobiographical based on the nature of the content. I will gladly pay money for that.

Listen to more Sat. Nite Duets on their bandcamp.

Editor’s Note: Full disclosure, the bass player in Sat. Nite Duets is a friend of Brian and mine from college. This makes them no less awesome.

Yeah, I miss the Midwest. Sue me. Let us know more about your favorite Midwest psyche-punk record on Twitter (@midwestbeer), Facebook or send an email to mwbeercollective@gmail.com.


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