one of my friends here in lawrence threw herself a sideyard birthday party a week or two ago. allow me to explain: i live in a building that has five apartments in it. until last week, i lived on the second floor, but over the weekend, i moved up to the top floor. same building, just a different (superior) apartment. my friend ailecia lives in the house right next door. it’s a duplex. she lives downstairs & her landlord lives upstairs. there’s a nice little sideyard separating the two buildings. the sideyard is kind of a lawrence social hub. picnics, barbecues, hang-outs, parties, little acoustic shows, all kinds of happenings go on in the sideyard. i am incredibly hermit-like & anti-social, & if i didn’t actually live in one of the houses connected to the sideyard, i imagine i would pretty much never socialize with anyone ever (besides jared).
so, birthday party in the sideyard. it was also a little acoustic folk-punk show. full disclosure: i like folk-punk okay. i know many of my blog readers do not, & i understand why. i don’t listen to much music at all, full stop, but when i do, it’s usually a mix of old riot grrrl mix tapes from when i was fifteen, dance music (erasure, the pet shop boys, madonna, lady gaga), or folk-punk. i especially like ghost mice, defiance ohio, rosa, & mischief brew. the kids that played this show were a couple of traveling kids from california–a duo with a stand-up bass. they had a solo guy with a guitar along for the ride, & the event was fleshed out with a keyboard thing by two girls who just graduated from lawrence high school.
i don’t really like shows. they’re noisy, so you can’t really hang out with your friends, they make my ears hurt, they give me headaches, they make my teeth hurt (from my cheap fillings vibrating). i don’t like shows in bars because i hate going to bars. they are also noisy & dark & usually there’s some sketchy dude being sketchy, & i hate paying for over-priced beer when i could drink it in the privacy of my own home for way cheaper & have more fun. i don’t care much for house shows either, usually because people get sloppy & annoying & again with the noise. so i pretty much expected to pop in to say hello to the birthday girl, make a showing, drink a beer or two, & clear out when the music started.
but when the music started, i was on the porch & with the way everything was set up, it would have been really obvious for me to leave & the kids playing would have seen me abandoning ship. everyone was sitting down & being really quiet & attentive & i would have had to walk past everyone to get to my door. so i stayed. & the first dude who played was so reprehensible. i wish i knew his performing name so i could warn anyone reading this to stay away. i think at least a small part of why a lot of people dislike folk-punk is because it can sometimes be very sanctimonious (just look at that ghost mice song about how chris johnston would NEVER agree to pilot a fighter plane & drop bombs on people, like it’s just that fucking easy). it can be smug, judgmental, & moralistic.
this kid took the fucking cake. it was kind of tough to make out a lot of his lyrics, because i was in the back of the crowd & there was some traffic noise (i live on a pretty busy thoroughfare that cuts through the student residential neighborhood in lawrence), & there were no mics or anything. at first i was annoyed at having to be quiet to listen to music i couldn’t even really hear. but then i did hear some of it & i thanked the lord i hadn’t heard more. this was one of those kids who think that we all are really invested in the back stories for his songs, & he stopped between everyone song to explain what the next one was about. at one point, his explanation was a long, rambling tale about how he used to have these neighbors who had an awesome dog & a nine-year-old special needs son, & how this punk kid & his roommates tried so hard to be friends with the family & hang out with the dog & the kid, but the parents were in their own little world & didn’t really try to be friends & they instead played a lot of world of warcraft. i was kind of thinking, “surprise surprise, adults don’t want to be best friends with grimy folk-punk neighbor kids,” because i don’t really want to be friends with grimy folk-punk kids & i’m only 31, with no kids or especially pressing adult concerns or responsibilities (aside from occasionally cooking dinner, keeping track of recycling day, & managing my physical disabilities). i am not interested in playing world of warcraft, but a lot of people are, & really–everyone has their indulgent little hobby that can seem like an escape from reality to others. i have zines & babysitters club books. whatever.
then he launches into the song & it’s this totally fucked up, moralistic screed taking the parents to task for playing world of warcraft while folk-punk kid & his roommates think their time would be better spent walking the dog or hanging out with their son. there was actually a line that went something like, “you need to smash that monitor/& maybe someday you can develop the social skills to be a good parent.”
imagine needle scratch sound here. hold the motherfucking phones. some smug as shit little 23-year-old (at most) is coming down like a ton of bricks on a couple of grown-ass adults with life problems this kid can’t even imagine for taking a little time out to unwind in front of world of warcraft? far be it for me, as a childless individual, to cast aspersions on how other people parent, but i know enough to know it’s not easy, & sometimes you need a little bit of break, even if your kid does have special needs. this kid was basically suggesting that the parents were neglecting their son & were terrible parents because he didn’t like the way they spent their free time. would it have been different if they spent the same amount of time noodling around in the garage, working on their own folk-punk songs? or experimenting with vegan recipes? (this kid also had a song about how sometimes he stays up at night weeping over factory farming.) yeah, probably. because it was obvious that his only problem was that he, a stranger who lived next-door, didn’t like their hobby & was going to judge them up one side & down the other for it, with an extra dose of sanctimony over the fact that they had a child. fuck you, you folk-punk asshole.
after communicating our displeasure with our eyes (& the birthday girl told me later that she heard me laughing out loud at the kid at one point too–i hadn’t realized i’d been so loud), jared & i left & made dinner. to the credit of lawrence, kansas, this kid does not live in lawrence, & in fact hated lawrence because people invited him to do stuff he didn’t want to do. he was a straight-edge vegan (of course he was), & he didn’t want to go to the bar with people or even hang out in the yard with people who were drinking or smoking cigarettes. he openly laughed at the woman who gave him a couch to sleep on while he was in town when she told him that she’d be getting up early to smoke a bowl before work. i think people are entitled to their own feelings about drugs, alcohol, & smoking bowls before work, but it’s just bad manners to openly laugh at someone when they warn you what to expect in the morning–especially if they are being courteous enough to give you a nice place to sleep. it’s not like she was smoking where he was sleeping.
another point for the kids in lawrence, kansas: the woman whose birthday it was asked me what i thought of the show later, & i was brutally honest. i was afraid i was going to offend her with my blunt assessment, but she laughed & said she felt the exact same way. & so did every other person i talked to that had been at the show. everyone was willing to give the kid a chance, listen to his tunes, invite him to hang out, etc, but when he alienated everyone with his hardline judgy mcjudgerson bullshit, no one had any time for it. i’m sure his nonsense would go over really well to a yard full of vegan straight edge kids who think the best way to end animal research is to break into the homes of the scientists that work in the labs & interrupt their kids’ birthday parties with cries of, “murderer!” (unpopular opinion #2173: i find such tactics from animal rights activists on the exact same level in terms of taste, decency, & political efficacy, as those of anti-choice activists who protest abortion clinics & threaten doctors), but that’s not lawrence. or at least, it’s not the kids i know in lawrence. thank god for that.