Easy Fame in the Pitchfork Era: Be Young, Find a Trend, Get a Drum Machine

Dirty-Beaches-SXSW-1.jpg
Dirty Beaches: This could be you!
Did you want to play at SXSW, but perhaps felt you weren't ready? Are you comfortable with stylish gloss instead of creative substance? Do you know how to work a drum machine?

Well, good news kids: You don't need to work much at making music anymore -- at least not to get Pitchfork-famous or play SXSW. You just need to record some shit and find a cheap way to get attention. (You might also need some tattoos.)

No, seriously. Look at one-man hype-magnet Dirty Beaches. Dude played a show in Austin the other night with just a Stratocaster, a hair comb, and a big box that actually made all the sound happen. Onstage, he muttered nonsense into some crappy microphone, arranged his greasy bangs, noodled a little on his fretboard, and stood around looking arty. The drums, bass, rhythm guitars -- y'know, the song -- came out of the box and went straight into the P.A. It was like a karaoke performance with props. And it sounded great!

Well, okay, not great. Not even really good. But it was enough to keep a room full of blog-weary eyeballs staring at him like some newfound god. The TVs in the club were showing videos of label heads talking about what a genius this guy and his boombox were, and the shill worked. How much effort, songwriting, or innovation did he put into the music, or the show? What creative revelation did he produce? Nevermind -- what you should be worrying about is how to get such a cool press photo.

Even if you look like a total dufus, like the one guy in Cloud Nothings, you can still summon enough buzz to share a stage with Toro Y Moi. Just write a bunch of power-pop songs all at the same quick tempo (spend about four minutes on each one), stick a clothespin over your nose while you sing into your MacBook, conjure up some spiel about playing in your basement, and send the MP3 to Gorilla Vs. Bear. Then watch the attention come in via your Twitter feed.

Of course, don't go making music in some blog-unfriendly genre like jazz, country-rock, non-African world music, or basically anything that can't be described with the prefix "indie." No one -- or at least no one that matters -- will go to your SXSW showcase. This also won't be a problem for you, but don't be too good at any instruments. Only old people care about musicianship. Also -- obviously -- don't be old. In fact, please try to be under 21. There's this whole thing now where people are really excited about the fact that 19 and 20-year-old kids can write a few halfway decent songs and perform them onstage. (Apparently music fans don't go to all-ages punk shows anymore.) And the novelty of seeing an underage band perform in a 21+ club is always good for selling a few tickets.

If you can't jump on the youth bandwagon, try to nail the sound of a previous decade that's about to be cool again. Which reminds us: Sorry, Yuck, but the early-'90s revival is already getting boring. You'd better start looking at post-grunge, a la Eve 6 or Better Than Ezra -- or perhaps late-'90s pop-punk like Blink-182, but with a bit less artistry. You might even consider jumping out ahead of the impending nu-metal revival.

Even if some critics talk shit -- say you're lazy, say you're a tepid rehash, say you don't actually play any instrument, or even a body part -- that'll just get you more attention. And anyway, beyond a numerical Pitchfork score or a New York Times think piece, no one really gives a damn anymore what the critics think. The Twitter is your public, baby! The blogosphere is your sounding board! So yank that guitar out of the closet, snag yourself a cracked copy of Ableton Live, and record a song right fucking now! Don't be shy -- send it off to the content-hungry bloggers! If you don't, somebody else will -- and you'll be here next year, thinking you could totally have done what they did, thinking you could totally have played SXSW to an adoring crowd, and had your song on Altered Zones, and been so cool. And you'd be right: these days, there really isn't much to it.

----
Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at Facebook.com/SFAllShookDown.
My Voice Nation Help
16 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Erin
Erin

music journalism with zero research + laziness = someone farting their opinion on the internet about music. What a jaded turd.

Chris Hicks
Chris Hicks

This must be the most scandalous article to come across all shook down in awhile!

VeronicaGuzzardi
VeronicaGuzzardi

I'm confused...what's blog-unfriendly about jazz? Have you ever read the liner notes on a jazz record? Often more words than the musician has notes to play, and the musicians are playing a lot of notes!

_______
_______

Hey Ian! of course you are entitled to your own lame taste in music so if you didnt like the show I dont care but do some research before lashing out at Dirty Beaches. He is a talented and hard working artist with a long broad history of musical experimentation. You sound like a total A-hole by the way.

JNASTY
JNASTY

But Ian S. Port LOVES the Smith Westerns, even though they cannot sing, sound terrible live, and are all under the age of 21. It's a great album, but because of all of the above, it's crap and you're an idiot for liking it. Also, SF Weekly, Geographer is terrible. Thank you.

Ian S. Port
Ian S. Port

Well, I like Dye It Blonde, even if I think it's been overhyped, and I'd agree that Smith Westerns are not an amazing live band. (I saw them for the first time this week.) And yes, certainly I contributed to the hype about them — hype which, three months and however many positive stories later, now seems excessive. But FYI, the point of this isn't to call anyone an idiot. I'm just trying to get all of us to think again about what music we value and why.

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

Ian- were you aware or not of the fact that Dirty Beaches has been putting out full length releases on obscure tape labels for the better part of a decade or not before you wrote this piece?

Anonymouse
Anonymouse

alex has been releasing music as dirty beaches for a decade, the fact that people decided to take notice at 2011 sxsw or just before doesn't mean he just started making music. i think this writer is completely ignorant of the hard work that Alex/dirty beaches has put in within the noise/tape underground and is letting that ignorance guide his aesthetic appraisal.

emily savage
emily savage

Jaded? Perhaps. But I think that misses the point. It's about being able to tell the truth on a music blog when that is often not the case. And doing it with humor. Just because you like a certain band he mentioned, it doesn't make his assessment of the situation wrong. It just means you like that band. Great piece, Ian.

brendan
brendan

completely agree re: dirty beaches. talentless. his songs are literally 9 second clips, looped, with murky vocals over the top. boring.

yuck is awesome tho, actually takes a modicum of skill to do what they do.

NICK
NICK

keep the sports commentary to sports, not music.  PLEASE

Breakfast Time
Breakfast Time

Dirty Beaches is AMAZING! And he has been doing this for such a long time. He deserves the hype. You jerk.

god
god

dirty beaches is a sham

Anon
Anon

you are a b****.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Drink

San Francisco Event Tickets
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...