rock 'n' roll don't come for your brain

The full quote is “Rock ‘n’ roll don’t come from your brain. It comes from your crotch!” It’s not really screamed but more whined by James Franco’s character in Freaks and Geeks towards Jason Segel’s character. The debate is this. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and that other dude are all in a band together. But it’s the version of a high school band where you all get together once every two months and stumble your way through some classic rock song, and then spend the rest of the afternoon doing some dumb rock and roll tricks like kicking cymbal stands over or miming a smashed guitar.

I’m bringing this up because I got into a weird pseudo internet confrontation about a year ago that I’m still a little confused about. Here’s what happened: There’s this guy that I’ve known at least peripherally for like 7 or 8 years. He plays in some bands and we’ve done some shows together. So last fall he posted on Facebook a screenshot of James Franco yelling about rock and roll and genitals and wrote something to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing because he ultimately deleted the post) “Is there anything cheesier than a band running a scholarship for college kids?” It was something like that. What he was referring to is that Dérive had been doing just that. We were running a bunch of benefit concerts and a whole bunch of the money was going towards a scholarship we were getting off the ground. We took submissions from anyone trying to study anything and all they had to was write a little bit about how DIY had an impact on their life. We did two rounds of it and with the band now being more or less defunct I suspect it won’t happen again. At least it won’t happen under Dérive’s name.

But I always thought it was a pretty cool idea. I still think it was a pretty cool idea and even though we never raised a whole ton of money there were a few kids who didn’t have to worry about textbooks for a semester or two and I’m proud that I was able to help them with that. The thing is that I feel pretty strongly that a band can be more than a group of friends playing some music together. I think that’s a great thing in itself but I also think that music can be a direct force for change. And this isn’t some “oh yeah Woodstock and a great song can change the world” shit. I’m talking about direct action. A benefit concert is a really great example of this. Or what about Anti-Flag using their major label status to establish non-profits to fight the laws that allow the military to poach students information from public schools? The things about punk music that i still find the most inspiring now 17 years after I got my first album are the things that showed that punk could be more than music. When it transcends a concert or a record and actually makes something happen.

The person who posted this I don’t think actually had a problem with the scholarship. I think he actually had a problem with me. I don’t know what his problem was because he never responded to my messages afterwards because it’s much easier to say something shitty on Facebook than it is to have a real discussion. His problems with me (I assume) stem from my insistence that when bands play shows they come on time, watch all the bands, and participate in the event. I think it’s sad that it’s a point I’ve had to remind people of but I feel strongly about it. A concert of any kind, whether it’s a basement show or at The House of Blues, is a community event. And community events only work when everyone there is an active participant. My favorite shows have been when all the bands work together to make something awesome happen, rather than two or three bands relying on one person to do a lot of work. The most common courtesy you can show to someone running a concert is to just show up on time. Be ready to load in, set up, and stick around for the show. Leave your egos at the door. The particular person who posted this thing about me was at one time upset because I chewed his band out for being all sorts of late to a show I was running. What was truly frustrating about it was that they had no reason for being late other than just being late. I remember thinking to myself, “Why should I be doing this band any favors if they can’t give me the courtesy of vague punctuality?”

The problem that Mr. Facebook Shit Poster has displayed isn’t that he’s been made uncomfortable by me, it’s that people in general need to see things as black and white, and have a hard time viewing anyone as a complex person.

So that guy essentially viewed me as a hardass who doesn’t want to have fun. He’s probably referred to me as P.C. because I feel that it’s inappropriate for a band to be too drunk to perform to the best of their abilities. His opinion is that a show should just be fun and if that’s how people want to unwind then that’s how they should do it. Of course I would argue that you can just get trashed at home and not force people to watch you do it on stage but that’s another argument. The point is that he has a hard time believing that I can view punk rock as both something that is serious and community minded, as well as something that can be fun and silly.

My band Dérive had this issue constantly. We were creating what we thought of as serious artsy hardcore music. But we weren’t afraid to have fun and be silly either and it always threw people off. Maybe we just didn’t do it the right way. But I’ve always felt that people need to see a band as one thing or another. For that reason a lot of people didn’t know how to handle Dérive. They couldn’t decide if we were Holy Molar or if we were Fugazi. Speaking of Fugazi - talk about another band that was never afforded the right be a few things at once.

The same thing happened recently with the plastic straw debate. All of a sudden everyone wanted to ban straws because they never get recycled and contribute to a lot of ocean pollution. So everyone is getting all hyped up about getting rid of straws and then a few people start to make the point that people with certain disabilities rely on plastic straws to get through their day to day. At the same time other people are saying that not using straws doesn’t amount to anything and we should really be holding the corporations accountable for creating the majority of pollution in the first place. People need to view issues as all or nothing agendas. There’s no reason that we can’t say, ban plastic straws while coming up with a viable solution for those who need them, AND hold corporations accountable. All three things can happen at the same time but these quick social movements are more often based on proving somebody wrong than they are looking for solutions. The argument that individual actions don’t amount to anything because there are mega corporations creating so much mess that we could never counteract is just silly and counterproductive. Again, imagine a world where we could simultaneously reduce individual impact WHILE holding those in power accountable for the mess they’re creating. Of course, if you don’t recycle a little bit today it’s not going to end the world, and on the same token if you somehow completely eliminated your carbon footprint it’s not going to save the world either. But the assumption that individual actions can’t help anything is defeatist and not needed. What we really need is a social movement that can pay deference to the complexities of any given issue and not reduce it to a black and white display of one upmanship.