Teenage Hissyfit In A Public Station

The University of Pennsylvania has got Sonic Youth to headline its Spring Fling concert, with Cat Power opening, and get this – its students aren’t happy about it.

“Who are they?” College freshman Elizabeth Jefferson asked. “I’ve never heard of them.”

Wharton junior Lloyd Thomas said he feels “disappointed,” especially considering what some other schools have performing this year.

For example, Snoop Dogg will be headlining Cornell’s Slope Day concert and Ben Folds will be playing at Brown’s Spring Weekend.

“I think we deserve a bigger name,” Thomas said.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I guess anyone who thinks Snoop Dogg or Ben Folds are “bigger names” than Sonic Youth really does deserve to get them. Hell, why not shoot for the moon and try for Ashlee Simpson?

Other selected quotes from students’ comments posted in response to the articles:

“I am very disappointed at the choice of band. Yea, Sonic Youth was a precursor to the grunge-era but grunge died when Courtney shot Kurt. I understand SPEC is trying to be “different” but I guess they don’t realize that although “bad” is different from “good”, people won’t respect that decision. I am not wasting $20 to see a washed-up grunge band that didn’t even make a lasting impact. I compare them to Ace-of-Base, an afterthought, almost a novelty act.”

“If they really wanted to get a good non hip-hop band what’s wrong with Jimmy Eat World, Saves the Day, The Format, & Taking Back Sunday????”

“nirvana is very influential but just because they are, and sonic youth came out before them and they are relatively the same genre, you can’t say that sonic youth is as influential as nirvana. that’s blasphemy!”

Okay, I’ve decided. I’m laughing. Hysterically.

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking. What a fucking snob. The thing is, I have no problem with people not knowing who Sonic Youth are. But I really do fart in the general direction of anyone who would whine about a band simply because they’ve never heard of them, or spend time broadcasting those whinings on the Internet when they could just type the band’s name into Google (or, like, download some albums – what are they in college for if not to abuse broadband filesharing?) and work on reducing that ignorance. I must say, for a “washed-up” “grunge” “afterthought” with no “lasting impact”, 712000 search results isn’t bad. And I’m even sure that only 711990 of those results are from this blog.


  1. Speaking of Nirvana, Pitchfork’s review of their With the Lights Out box set begins with an interesting anecdote of the reviewer’s 13-year-old cousin walking into his office or something, seeing a photo of Kurt Cobain and having no idea who the fuck it was.

    A few days ago, ST Life! ran a story on today’s punk bands (I shudder to even call them that) such as Blink 182 and Good Charlotte, and how they eschew the anti-establishment stylings of the Ramones and Sex Pistols in favour of songs about heartache.

    My point is, every generation has its own icons and heroes. The articles you reporting here remind me of this amusing fact.

    An aside: a personal fantasy of mine is, if and when I do get in a band, to do a cracking gig, announce the encore number with “you probably haven’t heard this in a while” and launch into Smells Like Teen Spirit just for the sheer heck of it. I wish…

  2. I remember a year ago people complained about getting 3EB in Yale instead of Outkast (in Harvard.) Regardless of what you think about 3EB’s musical merit, the issue really boiled down to the fact that 3EB was not flavour of the week.

    You know, there’s also a very good reason why people want bigger names – you want to know their songs. Sure you can go on the Internet and download their tracks but it’s not the same as nodding your head to a familiar groove you’ve recently heard on the radio.

    If you’re proud of your distinct musical tastes, then you shouldn’t expect the ‘mainstream’ to be happy with an unconventional choice of band. It’s statements like these that make you a more discerning critic than others. So revel in it.

  3. Well, I know nothing about Sonic Youth, but I’m digusted by this post. However, I remember seeing an article on ‘The Onion’ entitled something like ’90’s punk sneers at 00’s punk revival’, in which an enthusiastic follower of Rancid, Greenday and The Offspring slated Good Charlotte and Less than Jake as ‘not real punk’ and as just being for the money.

    I’m afraid we’re not cool anymore. Ten years ago, we could have had the Sonic Youth conversation about, say, AC/DC as a poor substitute for a fledgeling Steps. I’d be with the college kids, let them have their Steps, even though I love that riff from Back in Black.

  4. Oh, I see I repeated the same point that had already been made above me, twice. Sorry guys. Nice to speak to you all anyway. I’m mostly killing time so I don’t have to cycle through the rain, anyway.

    Let them have Taking Back Sunday – bloody students.

  5. this year i requested for tatu to play at my school’s spring concert. we got ludacris instead. stupid selection committee. but apparently a lot of people are happy with it so that’s good.

    i like the effort of the upenn committee to try and expose the student body to “new” music that they think is good, but i don’t think that’s the right event to do that. we all like to get what we pay for, and since students (in the form of our student activity fee) essentially pay for the concert, i think they should get what is popular among the student body, even if it was a band of five pez dispensers singing sappy love songs to the tune of happy birthday.

  6. Don: I see what you’re saying but can’t personally identify with the bit about every generation having its own icons and heroes. Sure, I listened to lots of Britpop and grunge etc. when I was in my early teens, but Sonic Youth (who are old enough to be my parents) are the only band I still listen to as regularly at 25 as I did when I was 15. My annoyance with the Penn students isn’t of the “What rubbish these kids listen to today! In MY day we listened to real music!” variety, it’s of the “Please consider for a moment that there may be great music out there that you’ve never heard of” variety.

    Dom: Again, I take your point but can’t personally identify with it. Some of the gigs I’ve enjoyed most in my life were gigs where I’d previously had no clue who the band was or what they sounded like (eg. Bart Davenport, Magoo, the first time I saw The Observatory). In contrast, I’ve quite often been rather disappointed in gigs where I already knew the material, because the songs didn’t work anywhere as well live as they did on record (eg. Mercury Rev, The Czars, Calexico’s live version of Black Heart). So I’m usually perfectly happy to go to a gig having heard none of the music, as long as I’ve done some reading up and think it sounds promising.

    To me it’s less about having discerning musical tastes (I like a lot of shit!), and more about being openminded. Revelling in my personal tastes impresses only me, and makes stagnation too easy.

    Matt: I am appalled by your musical taste. Anyone who knew anything about music would surely recognize the infinite superiority of S Club 7 over Steps. (There ain’t no party like an S Club party, MUTHAFUCKA!) Rephrase your analogies in terms of musical touchstones I approve of, and maybe then we can talk. :)

  7. I’m not taking anything away from S Club 6 (as they became) but as someone from, for the sake of argument, the North of England (actually the Midlands, but very much not the South East and everywhere else may as well be the North) my loyalty lies with Steps. I hope this doesn’t damage our friendship any more than my preference of Arbys over McDonalds….

  8. I’m not convinced someone from oop North would accept you as one of their own, Matt. You pronounce words like the rest of the world, after all. But don’t worry, if our friendship’s survived you attending about a million more Radiohead gigs than me, it’ll survive Steps.

  9. Ryan Cabrera is performing this weekend at the University of Texas’s “40 Acres Fest” which I’m sure is our humble equivalent of a Spring Fling. Haha man. That’s a skinny, skinny level above Ashlee Simpson.

  10. Aaall that she wants is anotha baby, she’s gone tomorrrroow. All that she wants is anotha baby Uuuwhooa whoaa.

    Do dooo dodododo do do do doooo do do do do.

    Best. Spring Fling. Ever.

  11. And another thing – how is it blasphemy to suggest someone is more influential than Nirvana? It’s not even that bad. Nirvana were influential in many ways, but (in my humble opinion) in as many bad ways as good. They’re “Different” in fact. All those 14 year olds who want to kill themselves cause Kurt did…

    Sorry, joining the rant rather late there. And this is probably the wrong place to suggest that people attach too much importance to popular music.

  12. I guess it might be blasphemy to someone whose “alternative music awakening” started with Nirvana, but I’m not the best person to ask. To me Nirvana were a good pop singles band, nothing better, nothing worse. The only CD I own by them is their Greatest Hits collection, which I keep next to my Roxette and Def Leppard greatest hits collections. (And I listen to the latter two more often.)

    When you say people attach too much importance to popular music, do you mean popular in its “Top 40” sense or its “as opposed to classical, jazz and world music” sense?

    Pharaon, I see your point about it not being the right event, but what annoyed me about the reaction of the students was that they weren’t expressing an informed preference for 5 singing pez dispensers over Sonic Youth (I’d be fine with that), or actually give any serious thought to which experience would turn out better. They just wanted the comfort of something they knew over something they didn’t, and while I do realize many people think that way when they’re old and stodgy, it still pisses me off when the rot sets in even in university.

  13. If I meant either I meant the latter, but a good question always makes someone put forward a clearer statement – I think I really meant musicians in general. People who play music very well are fantastic entertainers, and there’s nothing better than hearing some (insert genre here) played, live, to a high standard. But, to be honest, unless he did it on stage, I don’t even want to know that Kurt shot himself. That’s between him and the shotgun. Same goes for movie stars, people on TV and radio, artists, inventors, scientists from before WW2 and monarchs and their families, of course. And I said I’d stop ranting….

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