Back when we launched this site five months ago, Chicago DJ/producer Deathface, a.k.a. Johnny Love, curated a playlist for Vanyaland to celebrate his DJ set at the CVLT dance night at Middlesex Lounge. He described the 45-minute Leather & Sweat mix as “More music from the era before bros discovered ecstasy and ruined partying for everyone.”
That sentiment is a good jump-off for an online diatribe Love launched today on his tumblr and other social media, in which he calls out the internet for essentially destroying the long-standing barrier between the mainstream and underground subcultures in which many of us were raised. The times, they are a changing, and Love speaks a lot of truths to what’s going on in places and scenes that used to exist on a different plane than the rest of the world.
Subculture as we know it is dead, and its all the internets fault.
Before you brand me as some guy who’s “gotten old and doesn’t get it anymore”, please, tell me what youth-driven subculture exists now that is as substantial as rave, grunge, punk etc and etc (and by subculture I mean something that is multidimensional; not posting “intel inside” animated gifs from 1998 on your tumblr.)
I know someone out there is gonna say Juggalos: I’ve already taken that into account. If the only people left carrying the torch of “underground” (and I use that word very loosely in regards to Juggalo culture) is a bunch of white, redneck, meth-heads, we are in deep shit.
Remember the uproar Rihanna caused on SNL because she had “stolen the look” of what passes for ‘subculture’ for todays’ city-dwelling, mostly white, middle class art school teens and 20 somethings? The problem isn’t Rihanna, it’s that most people have been focusing on establishing the superficial elements of their subculture without pushing the actual substance (music for example) so that when people want to “look cool”, all they have to do is put together a uniform and they’re instantly visually identified. You can’t cry about pop stars stealing your subculture while at the same time you don’t get infuriated when some kid who shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch a month ago decides to to dye their hair green, grab an outfit at Urban Outfitters and take a photo of themselves on their shiny Macbook and post it up on tumblr. Its the same damn thing! Especially when that person is probably gonna get re-blogged for their ‘kawaii’ hair, and they’re gonna sit back watching their heart count go up while blasting the newest Justin Bieber song. Its like not taking care of that case of chlamydia and instead spreading around until it gets to a flight attendant (or traveling musician) and now everyone is a diseased fuck, congratulations guys, no one stopped the disease of being inauthentic and now the pop music machine is feeding it back to everyone human centipede style and everyones lapping it up like its mothers milk.
When you have small clothing brands rooted in a subculture getting their concepts stolen and re-marketed by places like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 to get bought up by suburban young republicans, is it any wonder why shit sucks as much as it does? Its because 90% of Youth Culture exists online, and doesn’t have time to actually grow before having a spotlight shined on it. Who knows if, given time, some actual musical movement would have sprung up from all that tumblr driven culture? (and no, putting water drop sounds over a juke track doesn’t fucking count) I doubt it, especially since at nearly every fucking party I’ve gone to in the last 2 years that had any kind of kids dressed head to toe in Actual Pain, who think they’re fucking kvlt because they just discovered the lesser key of solomon (actually fuck that, don’t give em that much credit) and triangles, or kids who look like extras from the movie “Hackers”, there was rap or terrible Black Eyed Peas sounding top-40 garbage blasting from the speakers. What the fuck happened to going to parties where you DONT have to hear whats being played on the radio, how did these parties just turn into the equivalent of a costume party you’d find at a shitty bro sports bar where everyone is pounding cheep beer and singing along to “shots” by lmfao?
I got into a huge twitter argument/discussion with a dj friend of mine who refused to admit “the underground” and subculture wasn’t dead, his example: tons of kids are taking E at festivals he plays at. Oh, great, so being at the EDM version of Ozzfest surrounded by shirtless bros sweating profusely on shitty molly is what passes for “underground” these days?! How the hell did the bros win the culture war? Why have their numbers not diminished? Is it because you cant date-rape on the internet?! But whats worse than that? As one friend of mine put it “the big problem is you can’t tell the douche bags apart from the actual people you wanna hang out with anymore.” I mean, seriously, when I was 18 and joined makeoutclub to bone ‘hot indie babes’ every girl I hit up asked me “so what record are you listening to right now” or “who’s you favorite band”. Now whenever I meet some some 21 year old broad (or dude for that matter) at the bar, it’s guaranteed that at least one if not all 5 of her top 5 choices in ‘bands’ are top-40 acts. Whats the problem with that? The problem is these people are dressed the same exact way as the people I used to hangout with when I was 21 (which wasn’t even that long ago). Where as 4 years ago I’d go home with a girl and she’d put on The Knife before we got to it, now they’re reaching for that Ke$ha mp3, great, my dick just went soft.
Remember a time when if you showed up to school with some band shirt that you didn’t know shit about, someone was gonna ask you if you even really liked that band and to name an album, or three. That kinda pressure to actually know what the fuck you were representing was really fucking important, because, at least with me, it pushed me to dig into the music I was listening to and learn more, you’d think when you have all the worlds information at your fingertips you’d think kids would get a clue, but for every 1 kid downloading french coldwave compilations or the UR discography you have 1000 kids playing the same fucking skrillex song on youtube. And here we come to the real crux of the matter: the less people who participate, the more people end up just becoming consumers, and if the only people producing things for these people to consume are corporate entities, then we’re subjected to an overwhelming quantity of spewed-out, predigested ‘culture’.
People have stopped participating and are content just being present, and thats a problem and whoever thinks “oh shut up dude, this happens all the time” you’re wrong, the internet leaves nothing hidden, every fuck dick can copy and paste a personality they found on the internet, and thats never been possible before. But fuck it, who needs to actually go out and do something worthwhile IRL when you get the same chemical reaction from 100 internet strangers telling you your outfit is awesome.