Over the last few weeks I’ve been fretting over the apparent malaise that seems to be resting upon and stifling American music. Okay, let me specify. I don’t mean American Classical music; the one-two punch of Ned Rorem and Phillip Glass exhausted that genre 30 years ago. And I don’t mean Top 40 American music either. That substance-less train wreck is alive and well. I’m just thankful that Top 40 and Country have finally merged, made sex, and begat American Idol. Now if WWF and NASCAR would kindly do the same, our country can get back one more modicum of its dignity.
Friends, I’m talking about Rock n’ Roll. I’m talking about American Black music interpreted and recreated by angry people of all colors, cultures, and flavors, their one common denominator being a frustrated bird flipped at the status quo and the antiquated powers-that-be.
My concerns were briefly assuaged last week when I heard the new release, “Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters. I immediately found it edgy, compelling, and musical. I was delighted to learn that it was recorded software-free on analog tape in a garage. But this past weekend I was truly relieved and soon enchanted when I began watching the YouTube-streamed Coachella Music Festival from the grapefruit and tangelo-stand known as Indio, California. The intensity and urgency of some of the acts restored my faith in the musicians and the genre that helped raise me. The Friday evening performance by Lauryn Hill captivated me. She dealt with audio problems and complacent band members and crystallized the moment drawing everyone on stage into urgent awareness. The Foals, Cage The Elephant, Jack’s Mannequin, Mumford & Sons, Yelle, and so many more bands seemed to be immune to the dulling cacophony that bleeds through our TV’s, radios, cell phones, iPods, and satellite stations. They seemed to say to me, “Hey, I hear you! I’m not a robot either! Let’s make this moment real and beautiful! And screw you Status Quo!”