Stories in High Fidelity: A Pre-CMJ Night of Music & Stories
On Monday night, the Highline Ballroom hosted a benefit for the launch of the Stories in High Fidelity website—the self-described Huffington Post of the music industry. Cramming four decades worth of influence and relevance into nearly one-and-a half hours of rock oratory, authors Chuck Klosterman (pop-culture essay messiah), Rob Sheffield (post-Nirvana audiophile), Robert Christgau (Dean of rock criticism), Dan Kennedy (gonzo-rock enthusiast), and Mark Spitz (Green Day, Bowie biographer) took turns riffing on pop music history. Down below, the eager, culture-starved audience perched at the venue’s quaint lacquered tables, noticeably fidgeting, cumulatively representing the last stage in the concertgoer evolution: dress shirts, slacks, and sensible hairstyles.
Perhaps fittingly for a celebration of rock journalism, although almost certainly unintentionally, the artists that performed all seemed destined for the Turkey Shoot. First came the alt-country, Neil Young-meets-Travis-sans-talent hybrid, Rocketship Park; the event culminated with the delightful West Village facsimile of My Brightest Diamond, JayMay. Sandwiched in between was an evening of immortal rock stories: David Bowie’s unbridled ’70s cocaine habit and subsequent belief that witches wanted to “steal his semen,” via Spitz; the most enthusiastic Guns N’ Roses cover band in Ohio’s rich history, via Klosterman. Sonically, I expected to be welcomed forcefully to the jungle, or perhaps bid farewell to a tin can with Major Tom inside. Instead, all I received from the musical end of the lineup was a sad face and a bill for my drink.
Not to say the night was disappointing. Sheffield began the evening discussing how the advent of his musical appreciation appeared at the height of his awkward stage: sex, independence, and drugs. Christgau stormed the stage in a mustard yellow Obama shirt and spoke on the purity of early ‘70s rock. Dan Kennedy meanwhile, ever prosaic, walked the audience through the mundane reality of writing about music in an office setting.
Then there came in the inevitable moment in the evening where a complete stranger informed me unabashedly that if Rob Sheffield’s book didn’t make me weep, I am not a human. He seemed like the kind of guy I’d hang out with if I weren’t concerned about hanging with people like myself. Meanwhile, the pantheon of rock journalists on the panel may have had it even worse: they were stuck with us, a crowd of plebian, white-collar devotees waiting patiently for them to speak, while together we endured bands that were the sonic equivalent of a saline drip.— Ryan McLendon