Today I woke up in the parking lot of some radio station called "The Corner" in Charlottesville, VA. I love it when stations use these goofy-arse nicknames, like "The Edge" or "The Rock" or "The Pancreas." This performance at least served a slightly more tangible purpose than the one in Nashville, as it would actually be broadcast. The load-in wasn't particularly bad, but the night before I had a nightmare that I'd gotten locked in one of the bus bays. I literally woke up pounding on the ceiling of my bunk. I'd never been the least bit claustrophobic before, but I was now. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I was again in a surly mood when we unloaded at the station.
ACB played a couple of songs and the singer was interviewed by a DJ. I never understood why the other musicians weren't interviewed (much less acknowledged by the singer), considering how much they contributed to ACB (although recent articles I've read focused more on the keyboardist and drummer, so this seems to have changed). The interviewers were always asking the same questions, and always focused on the fact that the singer is 22. Apparently ACB's management doesn't realize that once the singer turns 23 (or 24, or 25 or...gasp...30!) the age thing isn't gonna be so novel anymore, and about 2/3rds of their sales pitch will be useless.
The irritations were piling up, and I was still upset at how massively the job had been misrepresented to me. Add to that my newfound claustrophobia, and I made the decision to leave the tour.
After the radio station we went over to the Charlottesville Pavillion for the Rufus Wainwright show. This was by far the smoothest load-in I'd done. The venue had its own forklift. A forklift! This meant that I got stuff offstage and loaded into the bus quick enough to finally catch all of Neko Case's set. It was something of a wonder to behold. You know how sometimes you'll listen to a record over and over, and then when you see the performer live it's a dramatically more enveloping experience? That doesn't always happen, of course -- the times I'd seen Evan Parker live, for instance, were major disappointments; his sound fell completely flat, and listening to one of his records would actually have been preferable. But a number of times, particularly with Bill Dixon and Green (and particularly with Jeff Lescher's singing) it was a complete revelation. I'd only heard bits and pieces of Neko Case's records, but her live set was a steamroller with flowers.
The venue seated 5000, and Rufus Wainwright had sold about 1/3rd of the seats. The reasoning was that Dave Matthews was playing in town the same night, and that's where Rufus' potential audience was. His set was identical to the previous night's. The overriding concern of the performers seemed to be hitting their marks, and absorb whatever passive affirmation might happen to accidentally waft up onto the stage.
There now arose the cult of the semi-popular performer; that is, one who had an audience but remained elitist, whose cachet depended on a series of near-misses with the mass audience but whose lack of any broad base could be considered chic (and profitable). The semi-popular cults...were attractive because they allowed insiders to snub other groups of rock fans. The counterparts of those cults were the passive individualists who wanted only to be entertained, to "boogie," to get down, and these were the fans who constantly shouted for "Magic Bus" and "Boris The Spider" no matter what else was going on. This part of the rock crowd was less pretentious than the style cultists, but they didn't listen at all. If the snobs on rock's right were obnoxious, these fans were pitiable, for they'd been cheated out of the best part of what the music had to offer -- its sense of interaction.
Everyone, no matter where they found themselves in this process, was trapped and diminished by it. Even the musicians didn't really gain, for as they became more popular in a less meaningful sense, it became inevitable that the next generation of listeners would be more fickle and fewer in number. Since rock no longer mattered as much, it no longer kept a firm hold on its fans.
Thus rock's limits were set. The bands could not break past them; they lacked the will and the incentive. Neither were the kids able to summon up the energy to make a change.
--Dave Marsh, Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who