Pitchfork (*cough* Chicago), I love you, but you’re bringing me down

1 Kelly Merch 1rkellypictfork2013-crap

“The very mundanity of Kelly’s performance leads to my second, sadder conclusion about his presence at Pitchfork: That the formerly Chicago-now Brooklyn-based brains and businessmen behind the festival and the Webzine, … just don’t think that the music we embrace means anything at all in the real world.

It’s just a cool, digitally stored backing track for your oh-so-hip and groovy lifestyle at home, and every bit the ideal tool in concert for marketing and money-making that we see at the festival’s larger corporate cousin, Lollapalooza.”

Here’s Jim Derogatis’ insightful review of the Pitchfork fest in Chicago, and a critique of the mainstream music industry as well with the whole “irony thing” going on.

Although irony can elicit personal and cultural emotions, it’s a double-edged sword. On some level these ironic musicians and promoters must have some appreciation for the genre–albeit a guilty one–or they would not have spent so much time and energy making it happen.

What’s problematic is that this “irony booking” has a captive audience in a festival like this. But the patrons didn’t buy tickets because they wanted to see R.Kelly–they shelled out the cash to see independent, niche-oriented, genuine musicians on stage in a park, in summer, in Chicago (and because we have actual seasons here, nice weather propels people into doing as much as possible in those few short months).

Inserting R.Kelly as an ironic gesture (complete with off-color buttons for sale, that latently approve of his “misfit” behavior) can become increasingly less ironic over time, as the focus trends towards profit on the highest level instead of showcasing new, innovative music.

Remember the adage “Any PR is good PR?” That’s because the person in question is still getting attention from lots of eyeballs, even if it’s a critical gaze, just by talking about it constantly is giving it a reason to exist (before you cut me off, yes, I am doing this right now, but it’s to prove a point by showing the opposite).

So what’s troublesome is that these grassroots, niche-music communities that started out as genuine artistic and cultural endeavors are targets to be co-opted by corporate / profit-minded interests who are just looking at figures on a spreadsheet and doing some crowd psychology work to get the highest ROI (return on investment–your interest rate, or how much you will make by investing) in an emerging market (meaning low acquisition cost and high future cash returns). Singularly-profit-minded investors who study numbers will swoop in on a potentially profitable situation, no matter what the long-term outcome is on the culture–and therein lies the problem.

We’re facing a similar situation in Chicago, where profit over people and communities are being pushed aside in favor of big business chains who want a piece of the tourist and local market, and forcing cultural attractions into places just to raise property values.

City government ideally should exist as a crowdsourced way of making the city a better place–but chains and outside interests just suck up resources and give them to their shareholders, only tossing a bone here and there to their local communities. I think the miscommunication here is that zoning people, aldermen, and the mayor seem to have it in their head that their constituents will be so much happier with a suburban-model, chain-dominated city.

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why do people live in cities? Why do they travel? In both cases it’s because they enjoy a sense of community and uniqueness that you just can’t find anywhere else. Why go on vacation far away from home when you’ll only get the exact same chains serving the exact same burgers, efficiently delivered to all stores to ensure each experience is a clone of any other. “There is no there there,” as Gertrude Stein put it.

“Buy locally,” sustainability, and energy conservation are all on a roll now, and this mentality can also tie into music curation at festivals. Why travel to a far off city when you’re just going to see the same performers in any other city on their tour map?

Perhaps it’s just the nature of the Old Country Buffet smorgasbord model that as a festival becomes increasingly successful, well-established, and ever more commercialized, the ethos upon which it was founded becomes increasingly obscure. The greater meaning, if ever there was one, slips further and further away. Any role that the fest had in both reflecting and stimulating a musical community inevitably erodes. And everything is reduced to mere entertainment.

ALSO: Read another of Jim Derogatis’ pieces on how Mayor Rahm Emmanuel wants to create a “music district” in Uptown… it still hasn’t happened, but it looks like he appears to want to make Chicago into a Disneyland of tourist attractions. Not loving it.

Here is Kermit the Frog’s cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “New York I Love You” which is highly relevant.

“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

Like a rat in a cage
Pulling minimum wage

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, you’re safer
And you’re wasting my time

Our records all show
You are filthy but fine

But they shuttered your stores
When you opened the doors
To the cops who were bored
Once they’d run out of crime

New York, you’re perfect
Don’t please don’t change a thing

Your mild billionaire mayor’s
Now convinced he’s a king

So the boring collect
I mean all disrespect

In the neighborhood bars
I’d once dreamt I would drink

New York, I Love You
But you’re freaking me out

There’s a ton of the twist
But we’re fresh out of shout

Like a death in the hall
That you hear through your wall

New York, I Love You
But you’re freaking me out

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

New York, I Love You
But you’re bringing me down

Like a death of the heart
Jesus, where do I start?

But you’re still the one pool
Where I’d happily drown

And oh.. Take me off your mailing list
For kids that think it still exists
Yes, for those who think it still exists

Maybe I’m wrong
And maybe you’re right
Maybe I’m wrong
And myabe you’re right

Maybe you’re right
Maybe I’m wrong
And just maybe you’re right

And Oh..
Maybe mother told you true
And they’re always be something there for you
And you’ll never be alone

But maybe she’s wrong
And maybe I’m right
And just maybe she’s wrong

Maybe she’s wrong
And maybe I’m right
And if so, is there?

Despite having been offered a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet and majoring in Dance at Sarah Lawrence college, Rahm sure does dance like an awkward white boy, even if he did take his tie off.