Here's a memory to savor from the year that was in music:
Apple followed by Blink-182.
There was a perverse genius at work behind the scenes at Q101's eight-hour, eight-band marathon Saturday at the Allstate Arena, and I
don't mean on the stage. But whoever decided to throw the waifish, insecure, complex and prodigiously gifted Apple to the wolves at the
Allstate Arena, to be quickly followed by the three prodigiously simplistic, have-fun-at-all-costs louts in Blink-182 deserves some
kind of award.
Such juxtapositions are what used to make the late Lollapalooza so enticing: the idea that what was left of the rock counterculture was
just one big fish bowl of outsiders, encompassing everyone from the Butthole Surfers and A Tribe Called Quest to Front 242 and the
Breeders. Now radio festivals such as Twisted 6 have made Lollapalooza obsolete, and Saturday's lineup was among the strongest assembled in
Q101's short life as an alternative-rock tastemaker.
With the Apple/Blink-182 pairing, two worlds collided -- and it wasn't pretty. Here was Apple, a diminutive prodigy looking like a vagabond
hippie, pounding her piano, doing strange belly dances and screaming into the microphone both during and between songs, a cabaret performer
simulating a nervous breakdown. Apple, once one of the pop world's most annoyingly self-absorbed performers, has made a strong, confident
new album with an unfortunate 90-word title, and part of her appeal is the implied threat that she could fall apart at any minute. She
represents the dark side of the Lilith Fair parade of singer-songwriter earth mothers, and her act did not go over well in
the testosterone-drenched atmosphere of the sold-out arena.
Apple struggled with a faulty sound mix and trudged off after 25 arduous
minutes, booed and shouted down by those who found her bohemian Laura Nyro-meets-Alanis
Morissette bloodletting too slow and self-indulgent for their
overstimulated hormones. The performance, though flawed, was easily the
most fascinating of the night, if only because it represented a true
alternative to everything that followed.
In a way, Apple's self-absorbed style needs bands like Blink-182 for
balance. Their intentionally offensive, crudely drawn songs exploded
across the arena like a Seattle riot squad, getting concertgoers out of
their seats. Loud, dumb and obsessed with their bodily functions, the trio
was just the breath of foul air the crowd craved. As rock 'n' roll, it
worked -- though every politically correct bone in my body tried to deny
it. It was a hot flash of energy with high-speed melodies that took
nothing, including itself, seriously. And bravo for that.
But as a statement about the
mindset of the young record buyers who are the backbone of the music
business, consider Blink-182's multimillion-selling success a capstone to
a year that gave us the rape-and-pillage Woodstock '99, the violence of
Columbine and the anti-intellectual dude-rock of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit.
Anything -- anything -- goes. The culture of respect for women, gays,
minorities cultivated by the early alternative-rock powerhouses (Nirvana,
Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam) and perpetuated by Lilith Fair has given way
to an atmosphere of intolerance that suggests we're not on the doorstep of
a new century, but trapped in Alabama, circa 1954.
The acts who countered that mood were buried early in the Twisted 6
lineup, playing to a half-full house: Moby's energetic techno-rock and
Run-DMC's pioneering hip-hop barely registered with the crowd. Filter's
attempts at rock-star entertainment were laughably cliched; singer Richard
Patrick used lots of leather, dirty four-syllable words and deafening pyro
effects, as if to deny the flash of vulnerability displayed in the hit
"Take a Picture."
Like Apple, the Foo Fighters were sabotaged by a terrible mix--Dave Grohl
sounded as if he were singing from the bottom of a volcano. That left
Oasis and Bush to offer two different takes on British superstardom. Oasis
sounded magnificent almost in spite of its sullen demeanor, cranking out
five long anthems in 30 minutes, including a dirty take on the Beatles'
Bush's front man Gavin Rossdale, on the other hand, pandered like a
Bourbon Street strip-show barker, wading into the crowd, tearing off his
shirt, performing gymnastics on the stage. His band blasted with the
polished finesse of professionals, a great but meaningless roar that sent
the crowd home with a head full of emptiness.