Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?

Sometimes I think about where people who were really into post-hardcore/emo back in the day are now. Sure, there are plenty of people I know that still speak highly of seeing bands like the Promise Ring, the Get Up Kids and Hot Water Music, but this number is a lot less than the number of people I saw coming out to the shows. I remember seeing Fitzgerald's packed in '98 when the Promise Ring and Jets to Brazil played there. Yet finding people that still speak highly of this time in music is like following a long paper trail. I wouldn't say the number is as small as the surviving Jedi finding each other following Order 66, but still, the number is small.

Back before the youth marketing machine became the well-oiled machine it is now, there was a cool thing about seeing a band like the Promise Ring play to a packed house. The most you read about the band were little blips in AP, but that was it. There were no cover stories about how Davey von Bohlen is handling fame and what material possessions he has. There were no corporate sponsorships, designer clothes or tons of articles picking apart the music. This was a time when people weren't all about donning a macho attitude and kicking ass in a pit. This was a time when people were tired of talking about how straight edge you were. This was a time when lines weren't so divided among music. It was OK for Coalesce, the Promise Ring and Braid to play on the same bill to the same people. Are these particular days gone? Of course. Am I sad? Not really to an extent, but I think they should be talked about.

I've realized that I can only experience the thrill of being young once. There are things that I was into back in high school and college that I don't really want to go through again. As much as I enjoyed my 3 1/2 years in college radio, I've moved on. While I would love to still go through KTCU's "crap" box every few weeks, I know I can't go out of my way for that anymore. I'll let someone else discover stuff that way as I'm too entrenched in other ways of finding other kinds of bands and music.

Maybe my reasons for not wanting to go back are some of the same reasons why a number of old fans aren't speaking up these days. I don't expect everyone who was a fan to still be a fan, but then again, I wonder where everyone went. How come I, one person, out of 700 people attending a gig, am the only one trying to document a movement that meant so much to so many people? Life is based on perspectives and not every perspective is the same. I guess a lot of people aren't so inclined to do such for post-hardcore. I don't mean to say that in an arrogant way, but I'm hoping for others to write their own books on this topic.

I wouldn't necessarily call this nostalgia, but seeing how played-out, sappy and dull this music has become for a mainstream audience, my friends and I wonder what happened. In these old days, "emo wasn't an industry" as Kyle sings in a Hirudin song.

I will say this, all sorts of people I've met in the last two years still speak highly of these bands. The age of the person varies, but the reverence in the person's voice is very similar. While I'm sure there are plenty of people who dabbled as a fan, I have yet to meet them. This isn't the kind of music that people briefly put their toe in the shallow end. I might be wrong though.

For a lot of people that were into these bands, we've expanded our musical palettes. To be honest, I don't listen to all of the bands I'm spotlighting on a regular basis. Though Dag Nasty's Can I Say and Hot Water Music's Forever and Counting and No Division have received some special attention as of late, that's just part of the story. There's also some Tom Waits, Figurines, Moonlight Towers and Counting Crows in the mix. I definitely didn't have a time where I listened to only post-hardcore. Hell, I distinctly remember listening to Ben Folds Five as much as Static Prevails back when I went off the college.

Anyway, the wondering continues. My best assessment is that these people have grown up in their own relative ways. I have yet to meet a crusty old emo punk still wearing clothes that barely fit him when he was 17. I have yet to meet a person say, "Things were better in '96." I guess I need to meet some more people.


Anonymous said…
i would probably be one of those people. i don't know why, i just don't listen to new music all that much. i'm pretty content with the collection i amassed in college and the couple of years after.
trevor kelley said…
Hmmm... this post stirred me up a little. Which is probably a good thing.

While I will agree with you and Kyle that this musc was a tad more interesting in the mid-90s (or at least it felt that way) as someone who is just as invested in the emo scene of the mid-'00s (God, that's weird to type… ) I don't think it's become any less diversified. Actually, I think it's become MORE diversified.

Take for example Bamboozle. I went to this monstrosity and in one day watched a female-led pop-punk band (Paramore) play before a weed-obsessed rapper (Method Man) who played before a straight up disco group (Men, Women And Children) who played before a lot of great post-hardcore bands (Silverstein, Minus The Bear, Mae, take your pick).

More proof? I'm looking at the new AP right now and I see articles on Dashboard Confessional (emo adult contemporary), Nightmare of You (emo Smiths tribute act), and Head Automatica (emo ’60s invasion band). None of these bands sound alike, but they are all considered "emo" and are all a part of a community that will keep them on bills together for the foreseeable future.

That's the thing that I think most skeptics of new emo bands tend to miss. Mall Emo (PLEASE, someone run to Wikipedia and credit me for coining this phrase!) actually makes good on the promise of community that the early emo scene only insulated. The emo community now includes major labels and Verizon Wireless, sure, and that kind of sucks. But its spirit is STILL THERE and that’s an incredibly cool thing to be around at 27.

So, to get to the primary question of this post – what exactly did happen to those 700 people at a Jets To Brazil show in 1998? Well, they got old. And community meant less. And that's a shame. But that doesn't mean that the idea of bringing different people together has really gone anywhere. It just looks different now that we’re on the other side of our 20s.

Holler, TK

P.S. I really LOVE this blog.
Eric Grubbs said…
This is the kind of discussion I like to see. Instead of feeling like I'm talking to a wall, feedback is always welcome.

I see what you mean by diversity and that's a cool thing. Yet the thing that bugs me is a greater division between band and fan. Maybe I'm being naive about how people perceive fame, but somebody like Pete Wentz is no better or worse than me, my mailman or my mother. Yet the way somebody like Wentz is treated is as an untouchable person, in the same league with Superman.

Simply, I miss the days when bands playing this kind of music weren't engulfed by major label machination.

That said, I'm reminded of when I saw Ted Leo last year. He played to a packed audience and once he was done, people went up to the stage to talk to him. He didn't hide; he just packed up his stuff and talked to them as humans. There were no bouncers, managers or roadies keeping us "kids" away from "the artist." This was a celebration of being on the same level.

I know this community is still out there and I'm glad that the spirit is still there. Yet adding in big business and a big desire for fame strips a major part of the intimacy away.