From the Hip | Finding Culture Behind the Corn Curtain
After nearly three decades of moral certitude that nothing of cultural interest can still flourish in this Teutonic, bible thumping, reactionary environment, I can state with great humility that I have been proven to be full of fecal matter. There is now, and apparently has been for some time, a budding music and cultural renaissance developing that I am trying to publicly come to terms with as of this writing.
On Thursday, November 10, I attended a Memoryhouse concert which was accompanied by two local bands: House of Bread and Wooden Satellites. Both of which left me pleasantly surprised by the current Indiana-based, independent music scene. But in order to continue, I must first describe the Tiger Room at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads, and Spirits.
This modest restaurant/bar/music venue, while looking like most cosmopolitan, evening destination spots—populated by bearded, tattooed, skinny jean-wearing hipsters— it’s also friendly and affordable and manages to have “groovy vibes” while still feeling authentically Fort Wayne.
Thirty years ago, all of my left-wing pals and I tried to create this type of environment but never made it. Most of us were victims of Reaganomics, drugs, or alcoholism (yours truly included), and in general became the diaspora of our troubled times. Today, what was previously unbeknownst to me, is that there is at least a kernel of real growth in this parched cultural soil. Several other downtown area venues are also proving themselves and the current economic reality will probably result in more young people choosing the city as both living and destination locations.
Of course, music is the strongest indicator of real cultural or tribal connection to a physical space. The local scene shows that a post ‘90s generation of new scene-makers and cultural “job creators” are providing what I want to believe is an alternative to the increasingly irrelevant and economically tenuous prospect of endless vanilla suburban expansion. But, the purpose of this column is to discuss music. So, I’ll get back to the bands.
House of Bread, which is made up of two very talented guys, had a truly fun, indie rock, guitar-thrashing sound set off by the lead singer’s more gentle vocals. For me though, the lead singer of Wooden Satellites, C. Ray Harvey, was what most surprised me.
C. Ray has a voice similar to Robert Smith of the Cure, but a singing style also reminiscent of Morrissey or Murray Lightburn of The Dears. His almost pained intensity and stage presence of seriousness is beautifully juxtaposed by Andrea Harvey’s painless and pleasant singing style. All of the members make an interesting and engaging collective while playing music that ranges from near-emo to raging indie rock. I look forward to seeing Wooden Satellites again and seeing what new directions they offer.
Memoryhouse, the Toronto dream pop band showcasing the evening, had the beautiful, ethereal, fairytale voice of Denise Nouvion paired with composer Evan Abeele on synth and guitar. They had an album released in 2010 by Sub Pop Records titled The Years. (The Years EP was released in 2011.) And if you know Sub Pop, you know Memoryhouse is a band with real credibility.
I am still struggling with the gentle and subdued confidence of the under-30 kids that are the core audience for the music I now cannot escape. They are attractive and intelligent and appear to be free of any obvious excesses. Objectively, this is a good thing, right? Why does this leave me so perplexed?
Perhaps the lunacy of my generation, who are now practicing cultural and economic nihilism, speaks to this. We live in a time when reality is under assault. It is good that there are people opting to have functioning lives and cultural experiences instead of wallowing in the craziness of the cultureless “culture war.”
I hope this offering of young culture continues to help me to avoid the cable news madness that drives our times. Indie rock: Prozac for the baby boomers!
Photo by Drew Allegre