(Alternative) Universe

Listen here.

Driving home from Nashville last Sunday, we land on AltNation (Channel 36 on SiriusXM).

At about Paducah, In the Valley Below is freezing on the beaches, reaching for the sweetest, sweetest peaches.

I’m just letting the art wash over me.

Stuck in Interstate 57 road construction somewhere in southern Illinois, Elle King tells me her ex’s and oh’s always wanna come but they never wanna leave. I start to wonder, at what point do alternative artists become mainstream?

I learn later that Elle’s Rob Schneider’s daughter (“Makin’ copies...”). So the old man may have shared some pearls about niche-carving.

AltNation’s Madison (deejay) says Vinyl Theatre is inspired by all manner of music. “We’re like human sponges, absorbing just about everything...” In less-than-exhaustive research for this blog entry, I found that quote 2-3x. Trouble with spin in an online world is one set of talking points wears thin PDQ.

By St. Louis, I feel like I should be wearing a hipster hat and black horn rims. I’m ready to exit the freeway and get a tattoo.

Big Data, The Business of Emotion. Twenty One Pilots, Tear in My Heart. A Silent Film, Tomorrow. The Griswolds, If You Wanna Stay. Night Riots, Contagious. 

“Look out and into the sky... full of light, full of life.” 

About the time we’re crossing the wide Missouri west of Columbia (“M-I-Z...”), It strikes me. 

This music. It’s all so... earnest. 

But is it any less so than the music of my life? You gonna tell me Lindsey Buckingham, clad in his peasant shirt and white man’s ‘fro didn’t bleed when he wrote The Chain? Really, audiences pretty much stopped breathing when they heard Art Garfunkel croon For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her.
“And when you ran to me, your cheeks flushed with the night...” 

By the time we hit KC, I’m getting smarter. Bands I already considered mainstream (Coldplay, Panic! At The Disco) are staples on AltNation. 

I Write Sins Not Tragedies is so... 2005.

“It‘s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.” 

Driving directly into the sun at Lawrence, Walk The Moon’s Different Colors prompts a memory fade to Pleasant Valley, cruising Doodah in the 1970 harvest gold Chevrolet Townsman station wagon with the 8-track tape player mounted on the tranny hump.

At 15 with her learners’ permit, my older sister would look for excuses to drive, which included ferrying her pain-in-the-ass little brothers to our various and assorted pressing engagements. Viki had Jethro Tull’s Aqualung squirrelled away between The Ray Coniff Singers and Boots Randolph's Yakety Sax in my folks’ faux-alligator 8-track case.

“Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea.” 

By Wabaunsee County, it’s dark. Jackie’s napping. 

I ponder generational comparisons, our tastes and our uniforms. A scarf around the neck and a hipster hat is really not that much different from my generation’s feathered hair and platform heels or my mother’s saddle shoes, bobbysocks and poodle skirts. 

And if that’s the case, maybe the music’s not that much different either.

Some things just transcend time.

I mean, c’mon... Matt & Kim’s Get It is every bit as rhythmic as Earth, Wind & Fire’s Boogie Wonderland.