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There’s a lightness of spirit in that
A little essay from my time on the road with High Command
Hello! Sorry about the off-week last week.
Later this week, we’ll be back to regularly scheduled Worcester Sucks programming. There’s a lot to get to: Police Department and Public Schools budget hearings and the municipal election ballot in its final form and the ever devolving situation of our overall failure to recognize the unhoused as human beings.
This post however is not “local journalism” in even the loosest sense. It is an essay on touring bands and life and moments of poetry in a rare stillness and the difference between “art” and “content.” Worcester is discussed within but Worcester is not the subject. This is a weird one. Just letting you know off the bat. There’s no “news” being made and it’s not “time sensitive.” It is by no means required reading. So feel free to skip it.
And if you do read it and do enjoy it thank you I am very proud of it. Like it’s a fucked up little demon baby coddled in my arms. I started writing it in the notes app on my phone while in the van last week on the way to Quebec City. I filled in the rest yesterday. We’ll call this Part II of the Worcester Sucks travel essay series. Part I was back in October 2020, about my time in Joshua Tree: The Desert is Dead and Beautiful and Still. At this pace we’re looking at one travel essay every three years or so. See you guys in 2026 with the Part III.
Anyway please consider a paid subscription!
There’s a lightness of spirit in that
Here’s how it goes: You wake up after a restless sleep—on a bed if you’re lucky or a couch even but just as likely a floor—and you’re probably hung over and you’re on the verge of getting sick like you have been for the past couple days. Like I am as of writing this, waking up on a floor in a living room of an AirBnB a few hours outside Quebec City. It’s a Wednesday. I’m with High Command and we’re midway through a 10-day run. We left a show at the Palladium last night at midnight and crossed the border around 4 a.m. Now it’s 9 a.m. and I might have gotten an hour of actual sleep and we have to leave at 11 so what’s the point of trying for more.
So here’s how it goes: you get out of your sleeping bag and you roll it up and take a shower and brush your teeth and comb your hair then you get back in the van and you drive off to the next venue. You have to be there for about 4 p.m. The tour itinerary says 3 p.m. load in time but after a couple days of arriving when asked you make the executive decision it’s not worth it to arrive on time. If the tour manager or anyone else calls you on it you say ‘whoops sorry.’ The subtext being ‘what are you gunna do about it buddy we made it here.’ When you get to the venue, whenever you finally get there, you have to find a spot for the van and this is often an elaborate procedure which involves a lot of traffic violations and middle fingers and yelling. And then you schlep all the hundreds of pounds of gear from the back of the van into the venue. Amps and road cases and speaker cabinets the size of coffins and cardboard boxes full of merch that have almost completely fallen apart. It’s the same pile of equipment and merch and instruments you took out of the last venue around midnight the night prior. You put it in the new one. Every day it’s like that and every day it’s harder on your legs and back and psyche. Loading into the venue before the show and loading out are like two mini shifts at a moving company, interspersed by drives where you can’t afford bathroom breaks and shows where you’ve heard every set before and you’re bored by it and the volume is painful. This is the routine stuff of tour that doesn’t make any rock documentary. No rock star legend. No trashed hotel rooms. Just work. Hard, physical work. Every day the work happens, once too early in the afternoon and once too late at night. It leaves precious little time for anything else.
Touring takes you to a new city every night and that’s exciting but it also also takes you straight to a specific venue on a specific street to which you are chained and cannot stray too far or for too long. If the drive’s not bad you might have a few hours beforehand. If you load in early enough, you have a few hours between then and the start of the show. If you’re looking to paint the town red you can usually do so after you load out, but it depends on the city and it depends on the sort of drive you have the next day and there are nights where you’re too exhausted to have any genuine fun anyway. Not to say the fun nights don’t happen, mind you.
This morning for instance before we started the drive to the venue we drove to get a better view of the lake that was next to our AirBnB. We were a few hours outside Quebec City and we only had a few minutes to spare if we were going to make it on time. We drove out to a place where we thought we’d get a better view, but it was raining and the view wasn’t all that impressive. So we didn’t even get out of the van. We said “ah well what can you do” and headed for the venue. As of my writing this we have some vague plan to hit up an old cemetery in the city. But it’s 12:44 p.m. and we’re two hours away from the venue and we have to be there at 4 p.m at the latest. Otherwise we fuck up the whole operation. So that leaves us about an hour of cemetery time if we don’t stop to eat and shit and piss. So we’ll see. The pre-load in plans never tend to pan out. You don’t get to be a tourist usually. More, it’s like a group of line cooks working the dinner shift at a specific restaurant in a specific city in a specific order of cities over a couple weeks. Every night a new shift in a new place. It’s work, at the end of the day. One difference is that line cooks are guaranteed to make a certain amount of money per time spent working. The deal there is not ambiguous.
For most touring bands, it’s not about making money so much as it is recouping money. Breaking even on the overhead costs of a tour is a victory. In the ever-changing media landscape, touring is increasingly the only way for musicians to exist as such. T shirt sales and door money. That’s it. Friend of mine in a well-established band joked that all touring is basically an elaborate scheme to sell t-shirts. At the same time, touring is increasingly cost prohibitive and the whole time you’re on the road myriad industry types are finding new scams to run on you. It requires a vigilance and not a small amount of lies and deception to navigate it. High Command and countless bands at its level go on the road for the chance at someday reaching a level where “touring musician” is a sustainable profession. You have to tour in order to put yourself in a position to get there. Touring is how you purchase the lottery ticket. But the industry only affords a winning ticket to a relative few acts, the majority of which are coasting off the legacy of some past version of themselves.
At the same time the industry relies on the majority of bands operating at a loss or breaking even in the hopes that one day they’ll join the ranks of those precious few. The “paid in exposure” ethos is as alive in music as anywhere else. Support slots that make shows possible are built on this premise. As it is in writing or any creative field, aspiration is merely an avenue for exploitation. Influence is leverage and influence is purchased more than its earned. You have to know the right people and pay them what they command by nature of their being “the right people.” The art itself has nothing to do with it. Kindness gets you nowhere. Camaraderie does not exist. To expect otherwise is to make a mark of yourself. To “make it” you have to be good at your craft. Have something that resonates. But that’s not enough. You have to be ruthless. Or have a ruthless person working on your behalf. And the whole thing rests on the reality that the art is a secondary concern.
You have to wonder how many real artists have fallen on the wrong side of that concession. How much talent and real art has been suppressed by the logic of the industry, and where we’d be if it wasn’t like that. If artists didn’t have to be ruthless. Didn’t expect to get scammed. Didn’t have to give up because they couldn’t afford to keep going. And I wonder if I might myself end up among that anonymous cohort, unwilling or unable to navigate this logic.
That said I love my friends and I will do anything at all to help them play this game. I love them and I love their art and I want to help them succeed. Thus I’m the “merch guy” on this tour. Thus I’ve recorded some of their demos and played on their records and helped with any number of things. It makes me happy and it’s easier to be hopeful and excited for someone else’s pursuit of success than it is my own. Mine happens or it doesn’t and my feelings about it just get in the way because none of those feelings are good ones.
We’re on the highway now about halfway to the venue and I’m thinking about how it was nice for a moment walking out of the AirBnB this morning. There was a light rain and church bells ringing in the distance—an echoey mush suggestive of other lives lived somewhere else we’ll never know—and there were crows cawing directly overhead loud and clear against the muted backdrop of the distant bells and the pitter patter of rain and the stillness of a sleepy morning on a quiet street somewhere far from home. Foreign and familiar at the same time. A brief moment of serenity there with the crows on lead vocals and the bells and rain lending a backing track. The leaves on the trees around us were that sort of special green that only happens when it rains in the spring. Vibrant and muted at the same time, shaded by a soft yellow invisible at any other time. Like the whole world in that moment was under the soft glow of some streetlight on a still night. There was a natural poetry there in that moment. The real kind. Hard to come by. But I’m carrying it with me as I look out at the lush forests bordering this Canadian highway content to be quiet and still. I wonder if this sort of poetry is always there around you and it’s just a matter of being able to notice it. Like it’s the perceiving that’s the problem not the… Ah, we’re stopping at a Tim Horton’s now. I’ve lost my train of thought.
Back in the van now thinking of the day ahead and I’ve lost that bit of poetry I was holding earlier and the trees keep rolling by but not in the same way. We ordered our coffees and our sandwiches and we ate them in mostly silence. One of the guys commented excitedly that the breakfast sandwiches have real eggs in them unlike the breakfast sandwiches at the analogous places in the United States and I thought for a second about how it’s pretty fucked up that that’s a thing to be excited about and how it might be grounds for a “hot take.” I took a minute to formulate a tweet in my head but nothing was coming. And the egg sandwich with the real egg was actually pretty good. The real egg feature was cause for legitimate excitement.
Now I’m thinking about the load in ahead and whether the show will be good and how I don’t know anything at all about Quebec City and I’m hoping there’s a decent turnout here unlike Philly and Brooklyn and Hartford Connecticut. There’s something to be said about every day being different from the day before and knowing the day after will be reliably different from the current one. There’s a lightness of spirit in that, and I wonder if that little moment of poetry I was holding onto earlier amid the crows and bells and leaves and rain might be a byproduct.
Dolly Parton’s “Here I Am” is on the stereo now as we’re driving through the countryside.
Her voice trilling and freakishly beautiful and all the trees have that little splash of yellow they get in the rain and the rivers are so blue they’re black running hard and fast and textured by little white caps cresting up against the rocks. That feeling of being close to poetry I felt in the parking lot is back now. With these rivers and these trees it’s always gone like this, some immortality we can’t perceive as such, and it’s never given a shit about any of us and it’s never needed us and it’s never considered us. Not when it was fur trappers way back when, not when it’s bands on tour now. We kill each other and climb for power and control and the only thing the river ever feels is our blood seeping to the groundwater and the industrial waste we’ve dumped and our foolish attempts at controlling its flow. Otherwise we don’t matter.
“I can help you find what you’re looking for,” Dolly sings in that lilting effortless tambre and it slices through me like a soft cheese.
She’s one of those singers that can pull so deep from an interior world it drags you inside in such a way it convinces you it’s your world, not hers. But really she owns the thing you’re just renting. She sings “here I am” and you just have to believe it. She’s there. You don’t have a say in it. And you’re there too but not where you really are. You’re where she is. That’s the power in her voice.
While we’re talking about rivers it’s dawning on me her voice is a river in its own right. It’ll carry you straight to the middle of her if you give in to the current. Just like the physical artifact of the black river by the highway, Dolly’s river doesn’t care about us at all. We’re irrelevant at best. Could be that river in Dolly’s voice doesn’t even care about Dolly. She has a gift in that voice but she doesn’t know who gave it or for what reason and all she can do is use it while it’s still there. And all we can do is appreciate it. But we don’t know why we do. Not that we need to but the point stands. It’s not of our making or our control. Beyond human engineering. Something we cannot understand and as such could never teach to a computer program. If we don’t know how it works it can’t know how it works. This isn’t hard to understand, yet somehow it is apparently.
No one knows where art really comes from, least of all those who create it. There’s no underlying equation. No riddle to solve. Nothing that could be learned or taught. The source lies beyond explanation. All an artist can do is seek out its presence. All craft amounts to marking location. All works of art maps to a given place. The quality of art is defined in these terms: Whether the map is legible, whether it’s accurate, whether whatever was there for the artist is still present upon our arrival. You could spend a lifetime making these maps and never once succeed. You could succeed and not even know it. All an artist can do is try. It’s the trying that makes a person an artist. It’s the reason that six of us are in this van right now, on the way to Quebec City, to another venue where we’ll keep on trying. It’s the reason I’m currently writing this and the reason why I’ll share it if I ever decide to do so. Like Jason Molina sang in Farewell Transmissions:
The real truth about it is no one gets it right
The real truth about it is we’re all supposed to try
The new Spiritual Cramp song is on the stereo now and it’s exactly the kind of straight forward no nonsense rock and roll which currently juices my bones. The track is called “Phone Lines Down” and it’s an extremely simple two minute banger.
I don’t need any help from you, I’ve got the answer. I’m sick of looking at my phone.
Feel that right now. And from the second verse:
Another fuckin day in this hard fuckin life. I’m gunna gouge out my own eyes.
I like to be online as much as the next guy but a good thing about tour is it’s a lot harder to be very online in the way I am back home. Most of the time I’m tugged into the phone and toward The Discourse and really it’s my job to be there. But on the road it’s the other way. I’m tugged out of the phone. It’s not a matter of wanting or not wanting to engage, it’s more of a “can’t” situation. Like I open Twitter out of habit and scroll once or twice then close it out and I didn’t really read anything. The idea of interacting with the phone is exhausting. Something is making me run from it. The burnout feels acute, probably because it’s not constant like it is back home in my day-to-day. The fact it isn’t so constant could account for my feeling the poetry of those leaves and bells and crows and rain. Might not have noticed it in my normal routine. Likely wouldn’t have.
It’s a very good thing to step back from the discourse. It’s necessary. Tough time to care. Caring is in itself punishing. Futility felt as an ambient physical pain. We need to care, obviously. If we don’t care then nothing good will ever happen again. But we also need to acknowledge that the caring itself is difficult and we cannot be expected to care all the time without end.
High Command like any band has its own interior dynamic and in that particular dynamic there’s no room for caring in this sense. Not in a pro caring or anti caring sense no one’s going off about “woke” either for or against. it’s just not a relevant concern. Rock and roll has always been about feeling good and turning up and that’s what this band is about in a pure sense. Nothing else. Let the good times roll. Not any more complicated than that. We try to make each other laugh and put on a show and we ignore the rest.
In the Very Online world we like to joke about Twitter rotting your brain to the point it’s a tired cliche but we don’t talk nearly enough about the steady recumbent tax it takes on simply enjoying your own life. Somehow that’s a harder thing to talk about than the number of brain cells we have left. Easier to say the thing is killing you than to admit you are killing yourself with the thing. I suppose. I don’t know. The sure thing is we were never meant to process so much communication from so many people all at once all the time.
It’s sort of like we’re all consoles running games that are just a little too big for our operating systems and our cooling fans are whining and the frame rate is dipping and the graphics are getting pixelated. You can play through a game like that if you’re motivated. If all you want to do is beat it you can still beat it. But it’s not gunna look as nice as it should and it won’t be all that immersive the way the developers wanted and it’s going to be vaguely frustrating the whole time. And of course you run a higher risk of crashing. Eventually you keep pushing it and the system will just outright break on you. Red ring of death. Return for service.
On the stereo now we’ve got “Angel From Montgomery.”
Bonnie Raitt’s singing “how the hell can a person go to work in the morning and come home in the evening and have nothing to say.” John Prine wrote that. Cutting poetry from the perspective of a person he doesn’t even know and could never be in a situation where the contours are irrelevant and the sentiment universally felt. Bonnie Raitt picking up that poetry and saying “ok watch what I can do with it. Look at the conviction I’ve imbued in your words, John. Love you buddy but you can’t do that like I can.” Both true artists, both contributing to one of the most gorgeous songs—the clearest maps—in American music history.
The way things are going, there are less and less people who have the time, energy and financial incentive to dedicate themselves to the creation of meaningful art. It is not a fun thing to try to do, having tried for most of my adult life. It is more often than not a futile and fatalistic enterprise you do out of a compulsion. Out of fear of what will happen to you if you stop.
The prospect of “making it” or “having a career” in the pursuit of real art is more and more impractical and absurd. Across the board, based on personal observations and conversations. Musicians, writers, visual artists, filmmakers, etc. There’s no room. It’s all downsizing. AI is looming. Venture capital is picking the meat off any bones it can find. The pay is impractically low in pretty much any creative field. Except maybe the ones directly in service of capital like graphic design and copy writing but hoo boy if ever AI had a good target. When it comes to trying to make art for the sake of it, it seems only the “nepo-babies” can afford to suffer through the early career struggles required to establish themselves. So much so it’s been a meme. And the underlying meme is not necessarily that they don’t deserve their place but that they’re the only ones the market allows to actually try. Because they can get floated. And they get to live in the hip neighborhoods with absurd rents where everyone else is similarly floated. And they make those connections with all those people who have powerful families with powerful connections And they have no idea what it’s like to not be floated. They never have to directly confront that reality. When criticized, they defend themselves as artists, and in doing so they look like little piss babies. But it doesn’t do anything about their being floated. It doesn’t make room for anyone else. So increasingly they are the only people who can actually make the early career sacrifices that artists have to make in order to give themselves time to pursue their craft. Everyone else has to either figure out a con, go homeless, lean on their parents, or give up. A lot of people are choosing the con, leaning into the con, and calling it “content.”
I moved to Worcester so I could pay a $300 a month rent in a disgusting apartment shared with six people illegally. It gave me time to maintain my $24,000 a year starter journalism job while actively pursuing more interesting and engaging prospects that didn’t make immediate money. It worked. I’m better for it. It’s the reason I’m even on this tour. I am forever grateful to Worcester for that. But that Worcester I moved to barely exists. The Worcester of weirdo crusty artists and punks and dive bars and a “dangerousness” you know to be overblown (once you accept that poor brown people in dense neighborhoods are real people and good people and crime is is not crime in the way the city officials who maintain these neighborhoods as if they’re reservation claim) and possessing a real unique organic culture that is beautiful but hidden and takes a while to really perceive. All of that is dying. Killed by people who don’t care about it. Like the beneficiaries of “content” are killing art without knowing it or else caring.
When real estate speculation turns to a city that was previously free from it, the speculators necessarily homogenize. They have to be nimble, after all. The project they might have gotten a tax break for in Youngstown Ohio could just as well end up in Worcester, Mass. if it gets a better tax break. It’s gotta be a package that works anywhere. So they offer a vision the “urban experience” that’s universal, sounds nice enough and is devoid of meaning. Content. A marketing tool that has nothing to do with any specific neighborhood or city or population but instead foisted upon it. Not a single bit of attention is paid to the city’s character or culture. Not by the developer and not by the growth machine of Worcester’s or any other City Hall. The things that make cities unique and interesting and vibrant are destroyed, or else repackaged for the hip and horny youth of elites who can afford to pay the premium to live a branded lifestyle in a branded pastiche of a real, organic urban neighborhood. I don’t consider these observations especially unique or insightful. I think they are widely felt. They are rarely if ever discussed in City Hall. The culture of the city is not cause in that building for genuine concern. You can’t talk about it and be taken seriously. The death of what makes Worcester special, supplanted and overpowered by what makes it attractive to hedge funds, will not be recorded as history. It won’t be written about in the paper of record because the City Manager would never say it out loud or put it in a press release. History won’t remember that Worcester had a chance of being special and anyone who saw that moment firsthand has nothing to show for it but a boring story.
Worcester is becoming “content” is what I mean to say.
In the decades’ long absence of significant capital investment, Worcester was allowed to grow on its own and build its own character and be idiosyncratic and weird and supportive of the sort of people that capital necessarily oppresses. Now that the Sauron’s Eye of real estate has turned, Worcester has to be palatable to a certain sensibility, priced at a certain level, and free of the sort of unseemly things present in some more unfortunate place. It is no longer a culture in pursuit of its own identity, it is beholden by way of property value increases to the hedge fund’s vision of an “up and coming city.” That’s the content. Everything that does not conform must relocate or hide in the dark places no one can see. Protein House replacing a place like Belmont Veg in the vision of this content. No room for The Bridge. No room for Worcide. No room for musician practice spaces or artist studios in the long-vacant warehouses. Those are for developers who treat the city like the stock market. They don’t care if there’s art. They don’t care if there’s a unique and endearing culture. They don’t care about the legacy a culture of artists imbues upon a city. They don’t understand that that’s literally how Brooklyn became Brooklyn. Why tech chose San Francisco. They don’t see the value in art or culture. They don’t understand that it’s literally a city’s genuine capital. It doesn’t fit on a spreadsheet. They’re short sighted and looking for a quick return. Thay return is only possible because of the tax breaks they get from City Hall, which in turn gives the political machine a short-sighted and cheap political gain. Cranes in the sky. Articles in Boston outlets about being “on the map.” More developers proposing more developments that require tax breaks and jack the average rent. It is all built on cheap speculation. It has nothing to do with Worcester or the people in it.
The city more or less went viral in the past 10 years and that’s what caught the attention of developers. Ed Augustus’ legacy is that he leaned into the meme. Said “we’re the next big thing!” in public and “anything you want is yours if you build here” in private. He and the developers and the traditional local press and the WooSox organization worked in tandem as a well-orchestrated growth machine to amplify the meme—Worcester’s the “new hot commodity” for real estate—and it was just plain old simple content. A meme. Marketing. It was hollow as any minute-long video you see on the apps that’s trying to sell you something. Mushroom tea to replace coffee. Yoga pants for refined ass shape. Shorts for men that aren’t like other shorts.
And it worked. Extremely well. It was recorded as reckless and exuberant success, like Worcester had shaken some decades-long curse. Ed Augustus was king. Now a cabinet member of the Governor’s administration because of it. An enduring legacy.
The catch is it came with no plan at all to mitigate the effects on renters or small businesses. No concern for what made Worcester a genuinely cool place. No plans to preserve that element. It was just “the Renaissance” and the merit could not be questioned. Not a single critique broke through the mainstream discourse until the damage was already done. The process of making Worcester viral content for developers and speculators went on for five straight years until the subject of affordable housing was even broached by the administration. Worcester as “content” won. The developers bought the hype and the property value inflation machine went brrrrr and that’s not an easy thing to turn around. And the new governor appointed the man who turned that machine on as the state housing secretary. It’s not going to change. Worcester as its own place with its own culture lost. Augustus et al had countless examples of cities where the exact same thing happened with the exact same outcome across the country for decades. They knew what the side effects were. They didn’t care. They made Worcester into “content” and in doing so they knowingly sacrificed Worcester as a place with a real identity.
The above passage is a theory and potential framework drawing heavily on my reading David A. Bank’s The City Authentic. (Highly suggest it. It’s like the “one missing piece” meme and my newsletter is the puzzle head and The City Authentic is the piece). My take might be bullshit as any sort of critical analysis runs the risk of being, but it might be useful. Like most of the writing in this newsletter it’s a polemic, intended to be read as such. A “polemic” is fancy shorthand for “criticizing an overall vibe.” I hope it rings true or else gets you thinking. What I’ve done is offer a perspective you will never ever ever ever read in the traditional local press. In Worcester or anywhere else. There’s no room for this kind of thinking in the Overton window of an American paper of record. I love local journalism but I hate its failure to assess its own intellectual limitations. And how those limitations juuust so happen to align perfectly with the overall objectives of the municipal government they claim to hold to account. Not saying anything new here! I know! But it’s worth noting that when Ed Augustus turned the city into viral content for developers, the Telegram and MassLive and the local cable access station took it to be fact. The Renaissance was beyond local politics in the imagination they offered the public! It did not require the “both sides” treatment. It was just a thing that was happening. The local version of how the New York Times reports on inflation or foreign wars or drone strikes or how China is preparing for war with the U.S. for global dominance as evidence by the ~~spy balloon~~. How Russia acted unprovoked. These are just things that happen! Not debatable in any way. Nothing to be done.
Every day, the concept of “content” chips away at the concept of “art,” as is incentivized by the Internet economy. No one who takes issue can do anything about it but gawk at the absolute dullards this logic elevates to celebrity and influence. Marvel at the ascension of idiots like Elon Musk and MrBeast. But the only arena to air these grievances is the same attention economy that made stars out of subjects of your critique. And simply mentioning them reinforces the stardom while the polemic is functionally useless. A little spicy sentence about how Elon Musk is stupid (read: not as smart as you or the other “smart people” in your perceived online social circle) is registered as a mention of the name among millions of mentions. Another little piece in the totem of his influence. Meanwhile the only reason you’re even talking about these people is because they objectively won the attention economy game you’re also playing. And they won it by just literally being stupid people and earnestly broadcasting their stupidity. The attention economy entirely favors the Dumb Guy and you only help by trying to articulate what makes him stupid on the same app that turned his stupidity into influence.
Joe Rogan for instance is a guy who won this attention game and made a fortune by being the perfect level of stupid and fake edgy and consistent in broadcasting those two things without any disclaimers. It wasn’t a deliberate strategy. He is just that person and he can’t explain himself. If he wanted to be a ‘smart person’ and even once capitulated to the ‘smart person’ criticism, he would have lost. And that person—the ‘dumb guy’ who’s big enough to bring out the ‘smart guy’ haters— has the high ground in this game we’re all playing. The Unrepentant Dumb Guy is the social media equivalent of a seven-foot-plus center in basketball. An inherent advantage. Only different is that shorter basketball players don’t think they can beat a seven-foot center by saying he’s tall. “I think we got the wrong idea about these nazis” said by a Rogan-type dumb guy with the right sort of earnestness will have 10 times the reach of the most succinct and brilliant and charming pitch for universal healthcare. Posting about how that’s messed up only increases the reach of the messed up thing. Once the dumb guy ball is rolling, it can’t be stopped. There are more dumb guys than smart guys and if it comes time to pick sides, the choice is obvious for the dumb guy majority. Neil Young cut the legs out from under his legacy when he took his music off Spotify over Joe Rogan. Any revival among a younger generation that might have happened won’t now. And he did so a week of positive articles in the legacy press outlets. And it didn’t hurt Joe Rogan one bit. Didn’t “end the war” as old people like Neil Young believe protest actions do. Alex Jones is similarly fine, if a little harder to find. Neil Young lost.
The Dumb Guy prevails as a rule. They have the high ground. It’s a rigged game, and it facilitates an ambient rightward drift that was already happening in America. Dumb Guy Accelerationism—amplifies and encourages the ongoing violence with plausible deniability for all involved but the given triggerman in a given act of specific violence. Such a shame, they can say. Mental health, they will repeat as a mantra, knowing it’s devoid of meaning. Knowing another disaffected kid is planning another shooting right fucking now.
While the Dumb Guys are dictating the overall movement of the tide in this attention economy, any would-be opposition on the left is just competing in a smaller arena within the same attention economy, by the same rules. The ‘smart guys’ jockey for a place among the lucky few who get to actually make money by writing or posting or podcasting in the left-wing media world. Hoping to find a way out of “work” in the traditional sense where you’re powerless and into The Discourse where you’re still just as powerless in a functional sense but have some sort of micro-celebrity status and the opportunities that affords. I’m guilty of it. I want that! You might be too. Good chance of it if you’re reading this newsletter!
The real truth about it is no one gets it right.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, God bless you. I hope it stays that way. And I hope you find my usual writing about Worcester useful in some way! That is in the end the only real goal I have.
Now the Charlie Daniels Band is on the stereo. “Long Haired Country Boy.”
I ain’t asking nobody for nothing
If I can’t get it on my own.
If you don't like the way I'm livin’
You just leave this long haired country boy alone
A 70s country song with a sentiment that would fit just as well in modern hardcore as it would in some early Delta blues song no one ever recorded. I ain’t askin’ nobody for nothin’.
There are so many people in the history of rock music who have done the same exact thing we’re doing right nowSo and they did it over and over and over their whole lives. Most of them you’ll never know about. Most of them never became a Charlie Daniels or a Bonnie Raitt but they lived the same life. All artists, all seekers, all contributors to the grand project of sifting around in the dark for the presence of something you don’t really understand.
Tina Turner died today.
Here’s how it goes: Tina Turner died today and they’re playing her songs as house music between bands and I’m groovin’ behind the merch table and people are looking at me weird.
So here’s how it goes: Tina Turner died today and in the middle of the set Kevin shouted “what’s love got to fuckin do with it rest in peace Tina Turner.” It didn’t land with the crowd—capital M metal heads of the crossed arms variety. And not the cool kind. Mouth breathers, honestly. The kind of people who aren’t ever going to know that Tina Turner is more metal than any of them will ever be and she wouldn’t have cared at all.
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
It’s Thursday morning now and we’re on our way to Montreal. We’re driving past a big, roundtop mountain in an otherwise vast, flat plain and the scope of it all is eerie. Like the desert. Like it’s bigger than your brain can process. In the middle of that mountain facing out at us there’s an old quarry that feels impossibly large. Like humans couldn’t have done such a thing. Like a hungry God dipped his head from the clouds and took a bite out of it.
Thank you for reading. If you liked this post please let me know otherwise I’m going to continue to assume no one liked it.
Regularly scheduled local journalism coming later this week! Thanks for indulging me on this one.