Music as Dumpster Pizza by Rob Miller from Bloodshot Records
We all like music, right? We love it, as a matter of fact. It’s the art form that speaks to us on a profound level, connects us to the greater world and taps into some of our most deeply held feelings and beliefs. Many of you, like myself, have used music to aid in your personal journeys, have let it expand and define your outlooks and, yes, if we want to get all mawkish (don’t worry, no one is looking) let it touch our souls.
The Sex Pistols told me to GET PISSED and I took it to heart, I looked around me and saw that I didn’t have to take what was being shoved down my throat and follow someone else’s rules. I felt Otis’ pain in the lapping bass line of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” when I moved to the Bay Area on an ill-fated follow-the-girlfrie-out-west fiasco. Man, that was lonely. When the Mekons dared me to “destroy my safe and happy life, before it is too late” it was like a jagged rock being thrown into a pond, the ripples spreading through my life to this day.
Even an entire generation of trust-funded, junk-bond-traders-to-be were entranced by the rallying of Give Peace a Chance.
Music means something. Right? RIGHT?
When I was at college in Ann Arbor, Michigan, there was a pizza place that would, at the end of the night, throw all the unclaimed pizzas away. Being right in the prime years of our stick-it-to-the-man, Raskolnikov-light poverty we’d stake out the dimly lit alley by the dumpster and make off with whatever pizzas were discarded.
Toppings? Size? Square? Round? Who cared!
Fresh? Hot? Slices missing? Misshapen pies that had slid to one side of the box?
Didn’t worry about it…
Bags of doughy, greasy bread sticks? Bonus!
Soon word spread, and, like an army of Morlocks, a growing horde of students descended on the dumpster for their rightful repast. Every evening the garbage gourmands had to stake out their space earlier, or be craftier with their timing. Eventually, complaints about noise, concerns over health and safety and liability led the place to start locking the dumpster.
Far from being discouraged, the hungry rabble of the night merely moved on to the next pizza joint. Brand loyalty? Hah! Free pizza is free pizza. Furthermore, since the alluring patina of OUTLAW had been attached to these raids, the pepperoni was that much spicier, the rubbery cheese that much more crema della bell’italia, the bland sauce that much saucier. Every night was a potential pizza night and the efforts to obtain this free bonanza became more and more elaborate as security and competition heightened. Soon, there were entire message boards dedicated to the wheres and whens and howtos of dumpster diving. No restaurant was spared. Hell, it didn’t even matter if we were hungry; it was the getting that mattered.
Just because we CAN have everything, should we? Just because we CAN download entire bodies of work with a couple of mouse clicks are we experiencing them Just because we watch Citizen Kane on an iPhone, does that make us appreciate artistry? Does anything sink in? Can it sink in during an age when the expectation and a smug environment of entitlement insists it is all for our taking? Will Lollapalooza 2019 be celebrating the cultural impact of the Arctic Monkeys? Is mere accumulation an end?
How do we craft an identity out of this? “Everything” is not a self; it is not a journey of revelation and awareness. There’s no soul in it. The music becomes ephemeral, a mere soggy box. If the Vampire Weekend dumpster gets locked or too crowded, we’re on to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart before the anchovies cool. The bins behind Snow Patrol and the Strokes seem like positively ancient ruins (like my brother TOTALLY dove there like forever ago), trite and dismissed.
I dunno. Maybe these are just the rantings of a crank. Maybe it’s a good thing that the only ways for musicians to ply their trade these days is to pray for getting a cut on Gray’s Anatomy or a plum slot at the latest “it” festival. Maybe the effects of Twitter and MySpace, which make old fashioned Lester Bangsy criticism seem like a Russian novel, are a healthy democratizing of the hype machines. Maybe it’s a boon to creativity and artistic expression. But maybe it’s something to think about the next time you’re at some mega-event with scores of bands, loads of “lifestyle” booths selling “ethnic” crafts and hemp shit all underwritten by phone companies and multinational retailers trying to get into your pockets. You’ve spent $100 plus just to walk through the gate, but somehow putting a value on the music itself is outré. Way to stick it to the cruel overlords who’ve kept music from its rightful place in our earbuds! Now, let’s play some ‘sack and enjoy that rad new energy drink!
Ask yourself this, though: Am I a music fan, or am I indiscriminately rooting around dumpsters and anything’ll do? Is the event, the doing, what I carry with me? Will I wake up in the morning with a deeper appreciation and insight to my life and my world, or with just a goatee of grease and a vile rumbling in my gut?