“I can’t keep up
Can’t keep up
Can’t keep up
Out of step with the world”
– Minor Threat, Out of Step
A while ago Carter asked me if I had any ideas for new features on OVRLD. At first I did what any curmudgeon of my stripe would do and told him to get off my lawn. After thinking about it for a while though I realized that maybe this was just the outlet I needed. So I emailed him and suggested he give me a monthly opinion column where I could sound off about whatever was bugging me in the world of music – with a focus on Austin, of course. I mean, why tell one person to get off my lawn when I can tell the whole Internet to get off my lawn?! Carter must have been high or something (kids still get high right?) because he said “yes” and now you get to read my incoherent rants every month or so in a little column I’m calling Out of Step. But screw the exposition already, let’s talk about hipsters!
I can’t stand it when people call me a hipster just because my taste on music borders on … uh, has a summer home in … well, is firmly entrenched in the obscure. Listen here: just because I wasn’t aware that Carly Rae Jepsen was a music artist and I’ve still never heard “Call Me Maybe,” but do know every word to all the songs on Zlam Dunk’s last album doesn’t make me a hipster … What’s that? You’ve never heard Zlam Dunk? Oh. Well they were a local punk band. You probably don’t know them. On reflection it’s exactly that kind of statement (which describes 90% of my music purchases over the last decade) that tends to get me in trouble. It’s a vicious cycle.
Seriously though, there is a broad chasm of difference between someone who is genuinely into obscure, non-mainstream music, and hipsters. In general a hipster wants to be hip, but in a world of poseurs (the hipster’s mortal enemies since the beginning of time) the hipster feels the need to call attention to the fact that they were there first and aren’t just on some kind of pop culture band wagon even though they totally are. This is why the hipster is “into (things) before they were cool.” What the Internet has done is democratize cool. In a world where everyone is a potential taste maker, there are just as many potential hipsters who were totally on board before the rest of the crowd.
How we get from all that to mustaches, fixed gear bicycles, and skinny jeans is anyone’s guess. It’s a safe bet that some oblivious (perhaps reluctant) trend-setter somewhere was already wearing skinny jeans while riding a fixie and waxing his mustache when a bunch of proto-hipsters caught wind and started doing the same damn thing. You know … because it was ironic and most certainly not mainstream cool. The hipster has no sincerity and just wants to be seen as cool before the greater public catches wind. Hipsters are more contagious than zombies.
Now I’m not trying to say that I’m that trend-setter and I’m certainly not trying to be, but as it pertains to music, I’m totally sincere about the obscure stuff I’m into. When I see people just latching on to it in order to be cool or ironic, it bugs me. Getting lumped in with those people is not only an insult to me, but the music as well. I don’t listen to obscure bands because I’m trying to be cooler than anyone; I do it because I’m addicted to music, and your average mass-produced songs no longer satisfy me. I need a constant influx of new strains and blends of music to satisfy my hunger, but I’m sincere about everything I like and that’s where the hipsters fail.
Nothing bugs me more than a lack of sincerity and in a city like this, where any given night offers up dozens of shows by bands that one could legitimately be into “before they were cool,” I see a general lack of hipsters in the crowds. Instead they’re at Stubb’s or Moody Theater for the already established, indie-mainstream acts that they’ve purportedly been into for years. Of course once those bands become mainstream cool or cease to be cool, the hipsters disappear into the shadows like the insects they are. To me the hipsters are the poseurs and to be lumped in with that is an insult. I may listen to some obscure stuff, but if I’m listening I’m doing it for me and I don’t care if you think it’s cool.
Hipsters never go the distance. They’re about as fake as you can get and it drives me crazy. Their whole schtick is acting like they’re sincere about things that most people aren’t into, but it’s just that: an act! My challenge to hipsters is to put up or shut up. There are so many great bands in this town that deserve to be heard and I’d never stop listening to them just because no one’s heard of them or because they got “cool;” in fact I want them to get cool because it means more music for me. And yeah, when Quiet Company, The Eastern Sea, or Mother Falcon become nationally known acts I’ll be just another person who was into them “before they were cool,” but I’ll be into them after they’re cool too. I’d like to see a hipster say that.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at @bjaudette.