Friday, November 17, 2006
Hey Starbucks, 1983 texted, it wants it's baskin robbins back
I feel a bit uncomfortable in my knowledge of the DC punk scene. Though I was in close proximity for years I never really "got it" because of DC's impenetrable wall of politics that bundles the music in sharp turns, stop and go traffic, and dissonance dissonance dissonance. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Black Eyes, but the scene there is so prickly with politics that, like the city, its hard to crack open and taste it's gooey, delicious, punky marrow.
But this washington post.com article makes me feel even more uncomfortable. I'm all about documentation, as this blog proves, especially documentation of a scene that flourished, flourishes, flourishing. Something about a documentation that takes the form of a tour, an inscribing of memories into a cellphone into the earth into a tourist into a Starbucks, seems to be adverse to something, something...something.... in my brain.
There is a plaque in Zurich that says, and I paraphrase "the cabaret voltaire was here." An example of contemporary labors to wikipedialize or charge for everything of importance and less than important importance. Guy Debord would call it the Spectacle. Contemporary Marxist critics would call it reification.
I feel the same way about historicizing Dada, punk's granddaddy, as I do about historicizing the DC punk scene. Though Dada is dead (to a certain extent) the historicizing of it's accomplishments was inevitable, flawed. Dada was meant to destroy the gallery, the inherent classist politics of sheeny marble buildings with gilt and security guards and baby-strollers out front. Plaqueing it and stamping it and rolling it in a bun is not what Hugo Ball or Tristen Tzara wanted for their actions. Actually, saying they wanted anything at all is a kind of heresy to the house of Dada.
So flash forward to 2006 where the sheeny marble building has been squished into a couple of zeros and ones. The notion is still the same but it is a dissapearing of walls; the museum has dissapeared and covers all the ground that Cell Phone signals can cover. It is an attempt by businesses to reify an event, a culture, by tricking people to think that they are not actually bourgeoise, but hey, while you're at this trip down history lane why don't you stop in at Starbucks for a cup of punk rock coffee! I'm being facetious and contrived but the point is this: memorialization of the DC punk scene like this effectively "ghost towns" the musicianship still occuring there today (as emily so adroitly put it). Its not about remembering what was once in that storefront where a hip seagreen Starbucks now resides, it is about proactively seeking new sites of progress.
Coupling this phone phenomenon with memorializing films will ultimately make the groundspace into a kind of sculpture, indecipherable from the thousands of other sculptures in the city. But this memorialization is an avatar reserved only for the community of those people who look and pass. Turning the sites into factoids removes them of their political importance at the same time it "celebrates" their musical importance.
If there is one thing DC punk is about it is political discourse. Inscribing a site into a digital medium neuters the potential discourse one might find in a band that once existed there and, because of the incestous nature of music, neuters the current bands that exist there.
The music happening in DC has always been about community. A distinct community that, unlike most music scenes around the country, has been outspoken in its attempts to include potential audiences in a dialog rather than exclude. Fugazi regularly plays free or cheap as free shows, Q and Not U would play political festivals when they were together, a majority of the music orbits the political climate; not always moonly orbiting like McKaye's The Evens, but cometing around issues of importance with bands like Del Cielo or Beauty Pill or The Paper Dolls (there ya go Talia) .