Friday, March 16, 2007


To those of you who are turning up right now to protest: I am sorry. This whole campaign against Peter Bjorn and John has pushed me to what I now realize is a total mental and emotional breakdown. I haven't eaten in forty-eight hours, and the friends I am staying with have basically asked me to get out. I simply can't carry this burden any longer. I have packed up my car and am leaving town.

I started this blog to take the fight to Peter Bjorn and John. Obviously I can't claim to have won that fight, but I hope that the fight will continue without me today. Maybe someone reading this right now will decide to make the fight their own. As for those of you who like Peter Bjorn and John, who are raising them up to some sort of demigod status even as we speak -- well, you can go ahead and pile on me if you like. Call me names. Gloat. I expect nothing less from you smug indie jackals. Mark my words, though: history will smile on our side, not yours. It's cold comfort, but it's all I've got right now.

D-Day for PBJ

Just as I was preparing to go out last night, I got an email tip that I should listen to the streaming archive of KEXP's live performance by Peter Bjorn and John yesterday. (You have to put in the date and time to find it: the band went on soon after 1:45 p.m. Austin time, so that's 11:45 a.m. Seattle time.) In particular, the tipster said, I should pay attention to "Young Folks." Let me tell you, it's worth a listen: it really pulls the veil back from this phony band.

One thing that a lot of us have probably thought when listening to "Young Folks," or seeing video of their live performances, is: How does Peter do such an awesome job of whistling? He seems to nail it every time. Well, the answer is: he's lip-synching the fucking solo. The KEXP performance is 100% proof. On at least two occasions, he accidentally starts singing over the solo. The entire facade of this band crumbles. They're like a Swedish Milli Vanilli. And worse: when he messes up and starts singing over the whistling, you can actually hear him laughing about it. You can almost hear what he's thinking: these stupid American hipsters will listen to anything. You can give them a song with a whistle solo (bad enough) but then you can fake the fucking solo and laugh about it, and the stupid Americans will still go along calling you the big "buzz" band of SXSW. And it's happening, too. You try to stop something but then you can just see it happening all around you. I read it in the blogs; I hear it when I'm walking along the streets; this is the goddamned band this year. And it sucks.

The thing that especially sucks is, you all are going to realize that I was right. I swear. Give it a year, and somebody will mention the name Peter Bjorn and John, and you're going to laugh and say, "Oh yeah, everybody was excited about that band, weren't they? How funny that anyone took that band seriously." It's inevitable. What's worse, I even think that you know this now. Yes, it's fun when we all like the same thing at the same time. And yes, it's easier with something light and vacuous. But where will that take our culture? What will indie rock be remembered for?

I still hope that some of you are going to come to the protest today. I need for it to be over just so I can have any sort of enjoyment here in Austin, or in my life in general really. I never did wind up going out last night. I'm also sick of all the insults -- in comments, and in email, and even on the streets (I don't know how people figured out who I was, but it seems to have happened). No, this is not viral marketing for the band (I think I've dispensed with that here and here -- if you think that a PR person would insult the band like I have then truly you have never interacted with a PR person). No, I am not a loser, or a douchebag, or any of the other things that people want to call me. I just am trying to advocate for the long-term aesthetic interests of all of us, and even if you don't understand it now then maybe you will later.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stolen Bass

Word is getting around town that Bjorn's bass was stolen last night. A lot of people seem to think that this blog might have had something to do with it. Let me say this in no uncertain terms. I don't care how much you are on our side: if you stole Bjorn's bass last night, and you are reading this, you need to give Bjorn his bass back right away. We may hate the music of Peter Bjorn and John, but we believe they have the right to play it. Besides, if we succeed this weekend in stopping Peter Bjorn and John -- and, despite the reverses of the past twenty-four hours, I still am holding out hope that we might -- I wouldn't want them to be able to say afterwards that we accomplished it only through subterfuge.

Anyway, that's enough said about that. I want to be clear that my problem with Peter Bjorn and John is purely musical, not personal.

(On the other hand: I was dismayed to read in comments that at a show yesterday at Red Eyed Fly, they "thanked" this blog. Is that true? Can anyone else vouch for this? Let me know in comments. If so, it's pretty damn petty. Not quite worth stealing a bass over, but still.)

First Night - Report

I should start off by confessing that despite my best intentions, I did wind up walking by La Zona Rosa, the club where Peter Bjorn and John were headlining last night. And I was discouraged to see the size of the turnout -- really, it was astonishing. This blog has a lot of work to do. I went by around 10 p.m., at a time when most of the clubs on Sixth Street were just getting started, and there was a huge line that stretched for maybe fifty yards. La Zona Rosa is really pretty far out of the center of town, too, so most of these people walked a long way. I have to ask: Who are these people? I spent a while lingering around, watching the people line up, trying to figure out just what the matter with them was. Really, it was a standard collection of hipster jackasses, with tight jeans and chunky glasses; people who no doubt had just read about Peter Bjorn and John on some stupid music blog (or on this blog -- and yes, I'm aware of the irony, assholes, but my philosophy is that you need to educate people and let them make their own choices, foolish or not), who figured that they were the next big thing, and so made up their mind to get in on it. God damn it, it made me mad, the calculating cynicism of it.

Anyway, stopping by there was clearly a big mistake, and I obviously should have listened to those of you who emailed me not to do it. I see this now. Part of the problem was just how long of a walk it was: by the time I got back to the center of town, I had missed a couple of the things I wanted to see, and the other ones were already really crowded, with lines out the door. I wound up hanging outside a show by a really cool band who was playing under a tent -- I never did catch the band's name, though, and meanwhile there were so many other loud concerts going on at the same time that there was all this shitty extraneous noise. One other bright spot: I did have a drink after that at a sort of cool bar, where I ran into a friend who said he's planning to come to the event, which is awesome. By the way, definitely still email me if you're planning on coming -- a couple of people from my original crew have bailed, it sounds like, so it would be good to know if I will have some reinforcements.

Rereading this post, I feel like my report is kind of a downer, but I really don't mean it to come off that way. I'm really having an awesome time in Austin, and I really do think that we will succeed in stopping Peter Bjorn and John. Part of the benefit of this blog, I realize, is just to make people aware of the problems with the band, so even if they jump on the bandwagon at first, the doubts that we've lodged in their minds will stay with them in the future. At least I have to hope so. More later.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Night

I'm about to head into town to see some shows, but I did want to make a quick post before I go. A few of you have emailed to say that you're getting to town tonight, so hopefully I'll run into you later. I spent a long time today going through the listings, listening to MP3s of the bands, etc., and I've got what I think is a pretty stellar itinerary lined up. Late tonight or first thing tomorrow I'll tell you all about the bands I saw. A bunch of you have asked me (in comments and in email) about who I think we should be paying attention to, besides Peter Bjorn and John, and I'll give you reports after I see the bands.

One club I won't be going to tonight, obviously, is the one where Peter Bjorn and John are headlining (I won't name the club, so I don't get slammed with another round of you're-promoting-the-band nonsense, which I hope I dispensed with here). This turns out to be sort of a shame, because a couple of the acts before them sound pretty cool. But hopefully I will get to see them at shows later on in the weekend.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

In Austin at Last

Austin, or at least what I have seen of it so far, is a terribly dispiriting place. It didn't help that I arrived during a near-torrential rainstorm. But the city itself feels joyless, empty. Before heading out to where I'm staying (at a friend's, a ways out of town) I drove straight to the site for the event on Friday -- the corner of 6th and Lamar -- and was struck by how bland and suburban even this "downtown" intersection felt. The record store, which incongruously seems to have some sort of brewpub attached & affiliated, is catty-corner from a gargantuan Whole Foods supermarket that I have since learned is the largest in the world. So before you come to protest, you can stock up on pricey organic prepared foods.

Compounding my bad mood was the Peter Bjorn and John album, which (ill-advisedly) I had decided to play as I drove in, so I could hone my argument and focus my mind for leading this campaign. That it did: I had disliked the album on my few initial listens, but I was struck on my re-listen in the car at how poorly the songs wore on me. All the phony slapped-on sounds are so apparent: "Start to Melt," which is lame faux Guided by Voices; "Paris 2004," which is lame faux Wilco; "Objects of my Affection," which is some wack-ass lo-fi Proclaimers shit. Even "Amsterdam," the one track that I had begrudgingly enjoyed somewhat on my first few listens, came off as hollow and cloying.

Fortunately, though, all storms must pass, and all albums must end. The rain let up, finally, just about the same time that the nightmare of Peter Bjorn and John yielded to something more pleasurable. (To the next track on my iTunes, alphabetically by artist: "Freek-a-Leek," by the inestimable Petey Pablo & company.) Now, after settling in at my friend's place and enjoying a fine Shiner beer, I have nearly forgotten the heartache of a few hours earlier.

Anyway, more tomorrow -- can't wait to see all of you here.

From the road, Pt. 2

Back out in the car reading some more comments.... I can't believe that I have to say this, but: this blog is NOT some stupid reverse psychology stunt to support Peter Bjorn and John. I don't doubt that there is some PR company out there that would conceive of such a retarded thing, but that sure isn't me. Maybe I can convince you by telling you more directly my opinion of Peter Bjorn and John's music, which I realize I had perhaps been diplomatic about before. A few adjectives will suffice: manufactured, over-cute, lazy, vacuous. Would a PR blog use those words? And I could go on.

This does raise an interesting point, though: the whole "buzz band" phenomenon, in which indie bands get pumped up by PR people, the media, the labels, etc., has made the fans incredibly paranoid. Any positive (or, apparently, negative) press about a band immediately draws accusations that it was orchestrated by the band in question. The whole idea behind the event on Friday against Peter Bjorn and John is that, after all the ethereal "buzz" and counter-buzz and so on, we will make an undeniable physical statement against Peter Bjorn and John and for other bands.

but I also think that this paranoia, this focus on buzz, is unavoidable when it comes to bands like Peter Bjorn and John, whose music is totally empty and derivative and market-driven. The only way out is to support bands who make art, with serious songwriting and startling vision and painstaking craftsmanship -- the sort of thing that gets derided these days as "rockism," but the fact is it's still how good music is made. And if you agree with us, then come out on Friday and help us stop Peter Bjorn and John.

Ok, went on for too long.... I've gotta get back on the road....