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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hipster

I'm still in the dark with understanding what exactly constitutes a hipster. I've always thought it was a negative title describing someone who is constantly trying to be ahead of the curve. Only recently have I seen positive connotations with it. It may be better to be hip instead of not being hip, but what really is hip? How much of being "in the know" yields you to really being "in the know"?

For most of college, I thought a hipster was somebody like Kramer on Seinfeld: always in pursuit of something new while being a little out of step with the rest of the world. Post-college, I kept hearing the term used in a context of music fans. Trying to figure it out, I saw all sorts of different archetypes. I thought it was a negative label, but actually talking to people considered hipsters, I realized that there was way more to them than musical lingo.

Judging by the people that I see at shows, at parties, via blogs and message boards, I get a sense that I fit in with the general stereotype of a hipster. I don't think the actual labeling is a bad thing, but when I see myself grouped in with others whose tastes constantly sway back and forth, I get a little testy. I wonder if the people I'm grouped in with are really into these artists/bands because they really like the music or are attempting to fit in.

Then I see a big stumbling block with being "up" on music: not all music is cool to like. This is where my line and the general lines split off. Yes, I really like Bloc Party, but I also like Journey. I like Sufjan Stevens' Illinois, but I also like Hot Water Music's No Division. I love Belle and Sebastian, but I also like Converge. Telling others about my rather unrestricted tastes in music has not always been embraced by open arms. After years of suppressing, I just said to hell with it and just stood up for what I like.

For people that don't really follow underground/up-and-coming bands/artists very closely, the hipster tag is very easy to stick onto people that do follow it in some shape or form. People I know call me a hipster, but I feel like tearing the tag off and placing it onto other people that I know that know way more than me. I'm aware of what may be or may not be hip, but I definitely don't pride myself in or claim to be hip. I like what I like, whether it's considered hip or not.

I'm not somebody that really likes to roam around a lot to find something that I may or may not like. However a certain act is promoted (heavily or not) and has a sound I might be interested in, I'll check it out. I don't usually go out of my way to hear all the latest albums that people are talking up on message boards or MP3 blogs. Maybe I'm being a tad close-minded with this, but I'm not a huge fan of wasting my time on music that I don't like.

What I often find myself doing is really getting into artists I've heard about over the years. If I get little tastes here and there, I may very well end up finding an artist or band that I really love. Recent cases in point: Feeder and Tom Waits. I've heard tracks from both acts over the years, but after hearing a string of really strong songs from them in the last few months, I decided to check out some of their albums. I haven't regretted these choices, but neither of these acts could be considered hip compared to what is considered hip now in 2006.

So, if actively searching out music and keeping open eyes out on what's happening below the mainstream surface is really a hipster, then that's me to a T. But I don't feel comfortable being defined by a broad stereotype, especially when it comes with a restricted view of music. I may know more about modern music than my parents do, but that doesn't make me better than anyone else. I want to make myself happy with the music I hear - not impress others with how "with it" I think I am.

3 comments:

stonedranger said...

Damn it! I was really going to write something this week called "The Hipsters Take Over," in which I would ask what the hell a hipster was and how they took over my music. I was even going to use the exact same Kramer reference.

I hate you! Maybe I should just ditch the Kramer article and write it anyway...

Eric said...

You mentioned Converge again.

josh Mueller said...

We have a whole section for hipsters here in NYC- Williamsburgh. Going over there is like visiting the cool zoo. They used to all wear black, chain smoke and claim to be bi (alot like RISD in the 80's) but now they all wear vintage clothing and look like the extras from the film Jesus' Son.