Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The Warehouse


I felt England this weekend at the Warehouse, Preston’s three-floor testament to alternative culture. It’s a dog’s fart compared to the London scene but that city’s imprint is still undeniable in the North, especially with regards to the hair.

The Hair. Cut to look shaggy but combed and styled to perfection. A man’s hair should never be combed—nature should have its way with his scalp, show the world the beasts we really are. Limited finger manipulation is acceptable and maybe a little product for the truly unfortunate. But these cool kids? With the super slim jeans? What the hell…?

The hipster elitists were there. They’re easy to spot. They want to be. They don’t dance. They sip drinks on the side. They have the Hair and a fine-tooth fashion sense. Expressionless faces. Some wear ties. Cardigans. Flannel. Middle Eastern scarves—the ones everyone wears, the kind I’m wearing now.

I’m no stranger to hipster snobbery—Vancouver is full of it. But back home the ‘cool kids’ model themselves after the British elite. They think it’s original but I know, the outsiders know, and surely the cool kids themselves know, on some level, it’s just hand-me-down chic they pass off as original. But Snooty Bohemian is what they are so they own it. I don’t blame them. Vancouver doesn’t have much that’s its own.

It’s different in the UK. England made this style. They arguably have one up on New York when it comes to fashion. There’s nothing self-conscious about these UK hipsters—they seem to believe they really are the Hot Shit. And maybe they are…to some regulating entity that dictates this kind of thing.

Maybe they feel they’re original or offbeat—and perhaps as individuals they are. But as a mass, they’re only drifting along the same shallow stream of culture like the rest of us. Whether they’re of a different school or class or culture or whatever doesn’t really matter—they’re just like everyone else in that they’re only interested in something. That really doesn’t mean much in terms of our humanity. What sets them apart is that their pretentiousness turns them into assholes in the eyes of everyone else looking in.

I should have been partying or dancing instead of gawking at these hip freaks in their leather jackets, thinking about all this. I was leaning against a wall and wishing I had hair like that.

I sipped my beer. I knew better than that, that proving oneself to the world can only be on our own terms, not on any based on any fashion or music or philosophy. Take from as many different ideas as possible, ideas that are of interest to the I. Not because someone else thinks highly of them but because they suit our individual selves. The foundations of Western culture is based on the individual and yet so many stick to what others have proposed. Fatten up on other ideas. Don’t feed purely off the junk of Pitchfork magazine…


Then again, these people might not read Pitchfork, based on the music they’re dancing to. The ground floor, the busiest floor, spun British indie rock all night and (gasp!) it all sounded the same. Arctic Monkeys what?

I hate to say such a thing more than I hate Hate itself—and as a writer it’s a lazy way to describe anything—but there’s no other way to put it. Clichés have their purpose. "All the music sounded more or less the same." College kids in cardigans and scarves bobbed along and guzzled beer. The women did something that I suppose resembled dancing but in a room full of white folks that never works out. Besides, the music wasn’t exactly danceable…

I’m not ragging on indie rock—whatever that means—or the merit of British music as a whole. This island has provided the templates for great music of all varieties. Radiohead are the King Biscuit in my books, never mind the Beatles or Bowie or British Sea Power.

But right now, there’s very little making its way across the Atlantic that can appeal to the North American taste. There’s desperation for change and a call for progress happening on that side—politically, socially, spiritually and, as a result, artistically. Musically. Leading ‘indie’ acts like Arcade Fire and Animal Collective sound nothing like their peers. There is a template for indie music, of course! whether it's North American, British or whatever, but there’s something progressive happening over there that I now realize to be unique to North America.

Most of what’s passing as indie in the UK is, on the surface at least, quirky riffage, youthful howling and college anthems. Entrails of the zeitgeist. Indie for indie’s sake. There’s a reason the Rascals are popular only in Britain.

This is more or less what I was thinking about watching drunks stumble and sway along the dance floor, sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. Some kid, Dominic Monaghan identical twin brother? kept bouncing along, snarling, shouting along to every word of every song. He was living it. What I r thought then couldn’t have made a difference—nor should have it. My opinions are only mine. Those words and those sounds, that night, were his youth and he was but one in a crowd loving and taking it all. None of my bitching about the scene or anti-social behaviour could ever change that.

I sucked at the bottle and danced to the best I could. A multi-coloured strobe light washed over the crowd, over my face and in my eyes so I ducked out, raised my hand in the air. Another song, “Hey Boys, Hey Girls”…as the lights danced on my hand, on my wrist, washed up my arm. And the beat, it pulsed and I danced and I think I lost my key that night but I didn’t care. I was living youth too that night. I was living England, tragic music and cardigans be damned.

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