There was a point in history when the look pictured here was entirely relevant in rock music. It was, dare I say, normal. Normal! Let that sink in for a minute. Spandex and hair-sprayed hairdos reigned as king until that fateful moment we all know as the “Alternative Revolution.”
As grunge/alternative music became mainstream, flannel shirts and baggy jeans soon slouched irreverently off of an angst-ridden youth. I remember feeling the pressure to ask my Mom to buy me something flannel-looking before school was back in so I could look cool. ‘The Bugle Boy t-shirts will do no longer, Mom. Get me some flannel!’ But before long, alternative music and its accompanying dress code suffered the same fate as it’s glam rock predecessor.
Since then, you and I have seen the tides of time bring the following into fore: skinny jeans, vests, slice-y emo hair cuts, Affliction/bedazzled graphic t-shirts, mustaches, beards, horn-rimmed glasses, and then somehow flannel has made a triumphant (but unassuming ’cause hey, it’s flannel) return. I’m betting zebra-print spandex is not too far around the corner again… bring it, I’m ready.
Anyway, doing my bar room entertainer gig over the years has offered me a unique perspective on culture. For about a decade now, I’ve watched trends wash ashore and then be suddenly swept back into obscurity while I’ve clung to Journey’s advice to “Don’t Stop Believin.” If I were to mark time by the number of performances I’ve done of the song “Piano Man,” it would look something like:
“Piano Man” performance #723 – I open my eyes and scan the room, seeing dudes in Affliction t-shirts hunting down chicks
“Piano Man” performance #801 – Looking up, I’m struck when I find the same dudes mentioned before now wearing flannel t-shirts hunting down chicks
“Piano Man” performance #830 – Hey, why are there so many people wearing glasses with no lenses in them?
And as I’ve continued to pursue a music career (being a man in his early 30’s whose values have changed according to his age), the whole picture and the importance people place on adhering to these waxing and waning trends has started to look a bit silly. It’s like we’re all playing dress up but often forget that it started out as a joke.
I suppose this blog is really a response to those über-trendy folks who, apparently to their dismay, unwittingly find themselves at one of my shows. Judging from their expressions, you’d think that I was doing something revolting on stage. It’s classic contempt – arms folded, stance planted, head kicked back, cynical grin. I can tell that my worth is being assessed, not by the quality of my performance, but by whether or not I’m acting in accordance with the identity they’ve presently chosen. While enjoying the high of reducing my essence into a graspable set of negative definitions, they’re oblivious to the fact that I’ve seen the very same character recast in my life over and over again… just in a different trendy outfit each time the character reappears.
I understand wanting to appear fashionable. We all must roll with the times. What I don’t get is feeling a sense of superiority because of an identity you’ve purchased. This type of person believes that their own taste is so much more profound than that of the common person. It kills me because this feeling of eminence comes not from anything they’ve earned or achieved, but from an assemblage of consumer choices they made in order to fit in with a certain crowd. Remind me..who’s the shallow one now?
So, to the self-righteous hipster sneering at the guy playing cover songs in a bar to pay his rent, you really should reconsider the whole elitist asshole attitude. From my perspective, the only thing that will endure in the end is the content of your character, not the items you’ve adorned yourself with. Don’t leave behind empty shells of hoodies and horn-rimmed glasses as the sole representation of how you made your mark on this earth. In five years time the veneer you currently don and feel so empowered by will look as silly as the spandex get-up I’m sporting in the picture above. Take it from me, your friendly neighborhood musician who’s seen a lot in a relatively short amount of time, it’s all transient unless your do something meaningful with what little time you have. Be kind.