Precious Memories

Going through some files a little while ago, I found this document (undated, or rather re-dated to when I transferred files from an old computer, but judging by its references, seemingly from around 2004) detailing the best and worst WP shows up until that point.

I’ve had a lot of good and bad shows since then, but there’s something unique about these early, ultra-DIY adventures.

And so, from the vaults, unedited and unexpurged: The Best and Worst WP Shows Ever, circa 2004…




1.     Living room show in Kitchener-Waterloo, November 2001

I was doing a weekend excursion with Chris Mills (Just Like The Movies). We had a night off and decided that we should show up in some town and spontaneously play a show. He found out that the Hidden Cameras had a gig in Kitchener-Waterloo, and Chris convinced them that we should play on the bill with them that night. When we got to KW, it became clear that the club was absolutely not into us playing. So we decided to go find ourselves a show.

We drove to the campus of Waterloo University. I got out of the car and walked into what looked like the main building. There were some chicks hanging out, so I went up to them and asked them if they knew someplace where a couple of crazy one-man bands could play that night. One of them says, “Yeah, how about my place!”

So we went to this girl Brenda’s apartment. She invited over a few friends and we did a show in her living room, in front of eight people. There was no PA, we just sang into the air, but we did the whole show with costume changes and everything. It was intimidating but exhilerating to play in front of such a tiny crowd who had no idea what they were getting into.

Afterwards, we headed down the street to the bar where the Hidden Cameras were playing. After their set, Chris and I, still in costume, bum rushed the stage and started singing. After a few songs I declared that we would keep going until we got shut down, at which point the sound guy came and turned off the PA. By popular demand, we headed back to Brenda’s house for an encore.

That night, I crashed at Joel from the Hidden Cameras’ place. I found out much later that he was hoping to get some action, and was all bummed out when he found out that I was not only straight but married. I feel a mixture of guilt and pleasure at having inadvertently cockteased a gay Canadian rock star…sorry Joel!


2.     New Orleans, August 2001

I was opening for Peaches on a tour of the Southern U.S. –  in August. The heat and humidity in New Orleans was unreal. The gig was a party at Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s house; they have a lounge set up in the basement. All the people were so friendly and the cliché is true, people in New Orleans have amazing rhythm. For this South tour I had practiced and reworked my set until the pacing was “perfect.” Miss Pussycat told me some time later that some friends of hers had been there, and based on their behaviour she’d assumed they were on acid. Then she saw them a few days later and they said they hadn’t been on acid, they’d just had their minds blown by The World Provider. To be compared to a powerful hallucinogen is one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been paid…


3.     Basement show in Guelph, April 2002

I was playing at a house party with Chris. The Barmitzvah Brothers went on before us and they were amazing. I was drinking malt liquor and getting pretty wasted. So wasted, in fact, that I didn’t think about the fact that I was fiddling with my minidisc player in my pocket. When it was time for my set, I realized that I’d erased half my tracks. I was so annoyed, but somehow the negativity gave me good energy for the set. This show was mostly good because of the Barmitzvahs and the vibe at the house party.


4.     Uno-a-Go-Go – Chicago, October 2002

It was a one-man band festival in Chicago. Jake Austen, who puts out Roctober magazine, was putting on the fest. His wife was pregnant and went into premature labour so he had to miss the whole thing! I saw Shary Boyle’s Honkitonkioke the night before my set. She was great.

My show was in a bowling alley. I was playing on the “side stage” which meant in front of the aisles. There were about 15 other people on the bill; Bob Log was headlining. My wife came into town on a different flight which was delayed, and for some reason she had my costumes and my minidisc adaptor. She got in at the last minute and I did the set. It was my last show doing all the Elements of Style tunes, right before going into the studio to record new stuff, and the crowd was great. A chick came and stuck a dollar bill in my pants – I wish people did that more often. The next night we saw Lonesome Organist and he totally blew our minds.


5.     Sanchez Bros. Vernissage – Montreal, April 2003

The Sanchez Brothers invited me to play at their vernissage. They had made a film in their grandparents’ living room. One room of the gallery showed the film on a loop and in the other one, they recreated the living room down to the smallest detail. I had been playing a bunch of gigs, so I decided to do a set of tunes I don’t do very often: covers, older stuff, and still-in-progress new songs.

The Brothers invited me to come down early because their living-room set had an organ. I came down and figured out some stuff on it. At the show, their whole family including grandparents showed up and hung out in the living room. When I came and did the tunes on the organ, their grandmother was sitting in a wheelchair right beside me, rocking out. It was so awesome.


6.     El Mocambo show with Peaches and Mignon – Toronto, September 2001

This was a month or so after the South tour with Peach. It was her first Toronto show in a while. There were about 600 people packed into the Elmo upstairs, and they were really hyped up. I did the “perfect” set from the South tour and people were just going crazy. The Elmo shut down shortly after that. A few days after the show, I was at the Cinematheque and a guy came up to me and told me that my show changed his life.




1.     Berlin, July 2001

This was a huge bill, put on by the headlining band. They’re a great band and cool people, but as promoters they didn’t have all the bases covered, shall we say. Among those on the bill were Taylor Savvy, Mocky and myself. The gig was in this huge, cavernous club that seemed to have some bad kind of chemical in the air, asbestos or something. I had really bad allergies so whenever I’d step outside, I’d want to go back in, and then I’d come back in and breathe chemical dust until I had to go back out.

The door was at 9 but the show didn’t start until midnight. Because of the delay, the promoters asked us to cut our set short. We explained to her that Mocky, Taylor Savvy and The World Provider weren’t one band. Her response: “Yes you are!” What can you say to that, so we agreed to shorten each of our sets.

The sound guy had cancelled at the last minute, so they got some other guy to come and do it, who seemed none too pleased. During Savvy’s set, the above-mentioned promoter came up to me and said “When is he going to be done?”

“He just started,” I said.

“Well, someone told me he was going to be done in ten minutes.”

“Who told you that?”

“I don’t know – I’m too pissed,” she said.

Shortly after this exchange, the sound guy got on the mic, ran to the front of the stage, and started angrily berating Savvy in German. During his set. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Despite all this, my set actually went over fairly well with the crowd. And I was excited to be playing in Berlin. But there’s no denying that it was a Murphy’s Law kinda night.


2.     Hamilton, April 2002

This was on one of the weekend jaunts with Chris. The show was on a Monday night and it was pouring rain. As we were pulling into town, we realized while listening to the radio that the promoter of our gig was doing a show on the campus radio station. We drove over to the station hoping to do some extra promo. Not only did he not seem particularly happy to see us, and wasn’t into having us appear on the air, but he didn’t even have our CDs to play on his show. That was the first bad sign.

When we got to the club, there was a situation: the sound guy had come and kidnapped the PA because the club hadn’t been paying him. There was some talk of the show being cancelled, but then finally someone came through with another PA.

During the gig, the band we were opening for didn’t even watch our set. They were playing pool in the other room and all their friends stayed with them there. There were five people in the audience during my set: Chris, two guys who’d showed up to DJ (but didn’t because of the PA fiasco), and this couple who’d come from KW after seeing us the night before. I was so tired and out of it that I played a half-assed show. In retrospect, the fact that people came from a whole other town just to see us – and were effectively the only actual audience – should have motivated me to at least put some effort into the show. Giving such a lame performance for those people is one of the biggest regrets of my World Providing career.


3.     Atlanta, August 2001

This was the only bad show on the Peaches Dirty South tour. There’s not too much to say about my set; the people of Atlanta just weren’t feeling it. I went on after Har Mar Superstar, who totally slew the audience, and I guess they just weren’t in the mood for my thing. He’s a hard act to follow, I don’t know why I didn’t go on first.

The vibe of the club was really fucked. Everyone seemed to be on coke. They had set aside a VIP room because it was rumoured that Madonna was going to show up, but she never did, so it was just full of all these sketched-out people.

After the gig we went to a crazy strip club. People had recommended that we stay at the adjacent hotel, but our tour manager went to look at a room (for which he had to be accompanied by an armed guard), and he said that the bed was covered in ants, so he took a pass. At 4:00 in the morning at the strip club, a woman went around shining a flashlight in people’s eyes and shouting, “If you ain’t WORKIN’ here, or you ain’t FUCKIN’ someone who’s workin’ here, GET THE FUCK OUT!”

Afterwards we went to this crazy diner with a bunch of hardcore dykes. The waiter had a necklace made of human teeth, and while he was showing us the specials, he pulled out his dick and slapped it against the menu – a sight which both Peach and I later admitted we thought we’d hallucinated. A really creepy guy came and sat beside me, and was telling me stories about how he sold bulk acid and was part of the Aryan Nation.

In retrospect, it may have been a bad show, but so many crazy things happened that night that it kind of balances out.


Magnetic Powers

Friend of the WP Julia Kennedy recently posted this video on a certain popular social networking site, and it took me back.

The earliest WP recordings contained a lot of blatant, shameless Stephin Merritt-isms. I recall once spending a large portion of a European trip trying to rewrite a melodic line to hide the influence of the Luna song I’d stolen it from, only to realize after it had been recorded and released that the whole song was a total Magnetic Fields ripoff (that also contained a completely unchanged Guided by Voices riff, but I digress).

I have to admit I haven’t kept up too much with Merritt’s output in recent years, but the early albums are brilliant.

This song has some of my favourite lyrics. He goes from this in the first verse:

On a Ferris wheel
Looking out on Coney island
Under more stars than
There are prostitutes in Thailand
Our hair in the air
Our lips blue from cotton candy
When we kiss it feels
Like a flying saucer landing

to this in the second:

In Las Vegas where
The electric bills are staggering
The decor hog wild
And the entertainment saccharine
What a golden age
What a time of right and reason
The consumer’s king
And unhappiness is treason


Music, business (Part 3: The Reckoning)

A little while ago I was complaining to someone about my lack of success (in a long list of other things that were/are wrong with my life). In the course of this I mentioned offhandedly that I loved playing music, and she interrupted me:

Do you love it?”
“Yes,” I said. It seemed like a strange thing to ask.
“Well, isn’t that success?”

I chewed on that one for a while and finally had to conclude that no, that is not success. But it is happiness, even if only in brief, occasional little bursts.

At this advanced age, I’m unlikely to become an overnight (or any other kind of) sensation (although Robert Pollard was my age when Guided By Voices broke, so a guy can always dream).

But I have to ask, what is the absolute worst-case scenario? Probably something like: I have a minuscule audience and barely break even on my expenses. (I hope you will forgive me a moment of self-pity when I say that this is not drastically different from the actual scenario).

What then? It’s not like I would stop writing songs, recording or performing. I don’t think I would be able to even if I wanted to. (Whenever I do harbour the notion of abandoning it all, as in The Godfather III, just when I think I’m out, it pulls me back in).

It might seem self-evident, but the fact that my music doesn’t make business types see dollar signs when they hear it, and that it doesn’t fit into whatever the latest micro-trend might be, doesn’t have anything to do with the music itself.

As my brother, a wiser man than me, said in this interview, music is its own reward. It’s so easy to lose sight of that in an atmosphere where a few (very few!) artists’ genuine, hard-won success has filled the community with delusions of grandeur.

Truth is, there are only three kinds of people who can “make a living” in the music biz:
1. Trust fund kids
2. People who are comfortable with a quality of life one step above that of a homeless person
3. People who are really smart and serious about the business side of things.

If you, like me, are none of these, then it’s probably best to separate your artistic pursuits from business concerns.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for my more business-savvy friends. But the fact is that if I look at my own music career as a business, it is not a successful business. If I look at it as something that I do for its own sake, it actually seems worthwhile.

Earlier this year I was unexpectedly offered a job. It was kind of a no-brainer: being chronically broke is a lot less romantic in your late 30s than it is in your early 20s. I took the job, putting my dreams of rock glory on the back burner for the time being, going back to being a guy with a job who plays music for fun.

And strangely enough, I feel better about my music career already.

Music, business (part 2: Personal Rockonomics)

I’ve never been very adept at the business side of things. No doubt this comes partly from my upbringing—though my background is relatively privileged, my parents are neither numerically inclined (there was no hope for math homework help past about grade 4) or particularly capitalistic, either in their beliefs or in their actions (a distinction to be elucidated below).

Then there was my coming of age in the punk/DIY scene, which seared onto my mind the idea that taking money into consideration as part of musical endeavours was deeply morally wrong. Most of my peers soon abandoned this ethic, and I would later discover that people with the most stridently anti-capitalistic views in public are invariably the most ruthless when it comes down to negotiations over money behind closed doors, but by then it was too late for me to shake the ideological imprint.

As a young man, to the extent that I thought about the future at all (which was not very much), I just kind of assumed that an artistic career would arise out of my talents and ideas. This seems shockingly naïve in retrospect. I remember in my first year of university, I had a creative writing prof who declared that for a writer’s career, going to the right parties was just as important as developing your craft. Puffed up with the deadly post-adolescent combination of arrogance and naïveté, I waved away his advice without a thought. Looking back today his statement still seems obnoxious, but undeniably true.

It seems obvious to me now that success (however you define it) in any creative field has very little to do with talent and everything to do with good timing, persistence, schmoozing skills and extreme will power. For a chronic procrastinator with an acute allergy to bullshit and a tendency to get discouraged easily, it is not very self-evident to embark on this route.

To be continued.

Music, business (part 1)

As many of my devoted fans know, I’ve been blessed throughout my life with a lot of very talented friends, some of whom have gone on to varying degrees of success. I’m happy for them and proud of them all, but of course this can also bring up occasional flourishes of envy or of nagging self-doubt—especially when some of these successful friends give me pep talk/lectures.

“It’s the music business,” says one.

“The business side of things is just as important as the creative side—you should think of them as the same,” says another.

“Think of it as a marketing installation,” says yet another. (I admit that this perspective on the situation spoke to me a bit more).

Are these things true? Why didn’t anyone tell me earlier? And would I have even listened?

A few years back I was reading an article by Exclaim’s music business journalist Allison Outhit. Some guy she interviewed gave a quote along the lines of “If you’ve been working hard for 10 years and you’re still not successful, maybe you suck.”

The quote stayed with me, bringing along with it a stark self-questioning: if I’m not successful, does that mean I haven’t worked hard enough? Or that I suck? (Allowing of course for the possibility of a third option, that this guy is a goddamn asshole).

In 2008, I quit my job, where for the first time in my life I had a respectable income and was settling into middle-class comfort. I felt I wasn’t putting enough time or effort into my creative work, and wanted to take a genuine crack at an artistic career, which I had never truly devoted myself to before.

Two years later I found myself, for the first time, questioning the value of carrying on this project in the face of profound non-reaction from labels, promoters, and the whole trend-obsessed music business machine in general.

It’s hard to write about this kind of thing for a few reasons. First of all, I’m very grateful for whatever small impact I’ve been able to make, and I’m also acutely aware that certain things I’ve accomplished (getting played on the radio, touring internationally, collaborating with famous people, etc) are things that some artists only dream of.

Secondly, I generally feel that it’s unbecoming for anyone to bitch and moan about not being more successful.

Finally, if certain people believe that I am successful for the reasons listed above, a pretty big part of me feels that I should let them have that illusion—it’s a win-win situation for us all.

That said, there are some things that I need to get off my chest and goddammit, what is the blogosphere for if not the shameless combination of self-pity and self-promotion?

To be continued.

Quick Bit of Lit Crit

It’s my 37th birthday. I’m alone, tipsy, melancholy… a normal February evening.

I’ve been reading a bunch of rock books. These are always good to read, a strange combination of brain candy and inspiration. What follows is the first-ever WP literary review…

Life, by Keith Richards

MSM baby boomers were really excited about this one. I love the Stones (up until the early ‘70s or so, natch) so I was excited to read it too. I have to say it was a little underwhelming. It’s very obvious that the ghostwriter simply had Keith talk his ear off and then transcribed it. I’m fully aware that’s how most autobiographies are written, but in this case it was really blatant. Clearly it was an authorial decision to literally capture the voice, but it was captured a little too authentically, complete with the narrator repeating himself, saying things like “you know what I mean?” and so on. Ultimately it’s a bit like being accosted at a bar by a sozzled senior, who has a lot of great yarns but is still kind of annoying. There’s also a lack of self-awareness that shines through, as you might expect from an addled multi-gazillionaire with a golden horseshoe up his ass. It does have a lot of good stories, though, and I like the nerdy parts where he talks about things like how he tunes his guitar.

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

This got a lot of good reviews too, and I think in this case they were deserved. The book is all about Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe when they were struggling artists in New York City back in the day. I liked how Smith honestly portrays her young self as a total dilletante, who wanted to be an artist but didn’t know exactly what she would do and just kind of floundered around for years. It’s no doubt politically incorrect to say so, but just as Richards exhibits typically male characteristics—selfishness, macho posturing, clueless insensitivity—Smith’s book is very feminine in a flaky, witchy kind of way. But her writing style is beautifully simple, and the story is touching and inspiring.

Black Postcards, by Dean Wareham

This came out last year or so and more or less slipped under the radar—somewhat appropriately for the perpetually underrated singer of Galaxie 500, Luna, and now Dean and Britta. Unlike Richards or Smith he never rose to legendary status, and he tells it like it is about the unglamourous side of the music business. The Harvard-educated Wareham is a really good writer—dry, to the point, and sharply critical of others, of trends and music-business sleaze, and—again, unlike Smith or Richards—of himself.

One thing all three books have in common is passages including the writer’s lyrics. Generally, they do not hold up well on the page. It’s almost enough to make me accept David Thomas’ dictum that “printing lyrics is a Bad Thing.”

But I’m being overly critical myself—they are all good reads.

That’s all for now. Last night we finished the final tweaks to the mastering of the new WP album. Exciting. More news on this soon.

Maybe I’m crazy, but…

Going insane is a pretty common lyrical topic in rock music (especially if you listen to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne), and it’s pretty common for me to wonder “Am I losing my mind?” when confronted with some major or minor mental lapse on the day-to-day. But I never really thought about it seriously… until now.

So I got the new Harper’s magazine the other day (yes, I am very urbane, thank you for noticing!) and started reading one of the feature pieces, an article by Rachel Aviv called “Which Way Madness Lies” (not available on their website, sadly) about the possibility of diagnosing schizophrenia before it seriously takes hold.

A really good article, but there were a couple of things that disturbed me. Mainly, a questionnaire developed by a psychiatric institute to detect signs of possible encroaching psychosis. The first question (or at least the first one quoted by Aviv):

Do you daydream a lot or find yourself preoccupied with stories, fantasies, or ideas?

Uh… yeah… who doesn’t? Not, for example, anyone I know. Maybe I should hang out with saner people, but wouldn’t they be kind of boring if they’re not preoccupied with ideas?

The next question:

Do you think others ever say that your interests are unusual or that you are eccentric?

Uh… wait just a second here, do these things make me crazy?!

To my relief, after that the questions get into things that might actually make you crazy, like thinking that the world might not actually exist or that people around you might not be real. I mean, those kinds of thoughts cross my mind from time to time, but not regularly. That’s normal, right?

Later on the article describes the typical personality to later develop schizophrenia:

The only commonalities were that nearly all of them had moved through childhood and adolescence feeling more thoughtful, intelligent, or probing than their family or peers and that there had been an existential tinge to their preoccupations years before their symptoms emerged.

OK, so now I’m starting to get worried, because this basically describes not only my entire childhood and adolescence, but most of my 20s as well. (These days, I’m more likely to feel shrivellingly inferior to others).

I can only come to one of two conclusions: either a) scientists have yet to make a fine distinction between early-onset craziness and creativity, or b) I am at serious risk of going insane.

In other news, a hip underground record label wrote me back recently declining to release the new WP album. (I should stress here that I really, really appreciated the reply, as the overwhelming majority of labels – no matter how half-assed they are, and even those run by people I know personally – don’t even bother to dignify my entreaties with any kind of answer).

Quoth he:
i listened to the album and it has alot of good hooks but it’s not the type of stuff that i’m releasing.
i’m into weirdo synth stuff and outsider rock.

So after a decade of being considered too weird and outsider, all of a sudden I’m not weird or outsider enough.

Sigh. It’s enough to drive a guy…. oh, never mind.

Coupla Shows

So we’re playing this weekend in Montreal and Ottawa. On Friday night at The Playhouse (one of Montreal’s strangest venues, but very accessible to lazy Mile-Enders at 5656 Parc, corner Bernard) with The Man Machine (one of the best bands in Montreal at the moment, IMHO) and Ottawa anthem-mongers Street Meat, then Saturday night in Ottawa with Street Meat and Toronto’s experimental hip-hop artist garbageface.

In my entirely unbiased opinion, these shows will be pretty awesome – a chance to see the WP band in our glorious new post-apocalyptic attire (by our new costume designers Vanessa and Laurence), performing songs from our upcoming new album as well as classics demanded by the public.

They’ll also be your last chance to see us for at least a few months (unless we get a really great offer, which is known to happen from time to time) – Stacey, Steve and I are taking some time off from the WP to concentrate on our roles as sidemen in Lion Farm, the new band (so new we’re not even online!) fronted by my longtime friend and collaborator Michael Aronson aka Mike Foxxx, who old-school/hardcore WP fans may remember as the lead singer and songwriter of Toronto underground rock powerhouses Rock ‘n’ Roll Bad Boy XXXpress and Seventy Whore (bands so old we’re not even online, though I did recently discover some rare archival video of RRBBXXX in our heyday which I will get around to posting one of these days).

In other Montreal cultural news, if you missed The Delian Mode, the award-winning film by WP keyboardist/videographer Kara Blake, it’ll be screening this Thursday as part of an electronic-music-pioneers double bill at Blue Sunshine. Highly recommended.

Finally, wanted to share this link where Brian Eno lays down some seriously thought-provoking musical musings. Yes, it’s on the apparently-no-longer-hip Bitchfork, but still well worth checking out.

The Album Beef

Flush with the revenue from my recent employ as a manual labourer (the last thing I expected to be doing at this advanced age, but you never know where life is gonna take you), I found myself walking by the mighty Cheap Thrills, one of the indie record stores still standing in Montreal, and was unable to resist going in and buying a few albums.

Right now I’m listening to Tandoori Knights, a cheeky but catchy pastiche of faux-Indian rock ‘n’ roll devised by King Khan and Bloodshot Bill. Pretty great stuff. I won’t say what the others are until I’ve had a chance to give them a solid listen or two, but I have been trying to get back into buying albums lately, and the results have been decidedly mixed.

Like almost everyone else, my album purchases have drastically declined in recent years. I never did too much “illegal” downloading (in quotes because of the implied moral judgement, which I’m on the fence about, as well as the fact that it’s not actually illegal in Canada… look it up), but I did exchange a lot of mix tapes and CDs with people—that was my main way of consuming (and sharing) music for a good few years.

For a while, I had a policy that if I heard two or more good tunes (whether it was on the radio, downloaded, or from someone’s mix) by a certain artist, I’d support that artist by buying their album. But lately I’ve been finding that all too often when I do that, it’s only those few tunes I liked that are actually good, with the rest of the album consisting of shameless filler.

I love a great album as much as the next person, but I think all the bellyaching about the form’s “death” overlooks the fact that so many albums, today and in the past, are padded out with a bunch of mediocrity just to fill a length of time that’s fundamentally arbitrary. Not to mention the fact that the long-form album has only existed for a momentary blip on the radar of musical history.

I don’t want to make any sweeping statements that I’ll later regret, but I am seriously considering making the (soon-to-be-released!) WP album (all killer no filler, needless to say!) the last one. Not the last release or the last recordings, but the last time I’ll strive to fit into this nebulous album form. Stick to the EPs and singles… better for the kids these days’ attention spans, anyway.

And to my fellow artists… if you want people to keep buying albums… consider making ’em better!

La Roux, New Moo: Who Knew?

Chilling at the family cottage this summer. Traditions include hanging around on the dock, hanging around on the porch, and later, hanging around by the fireplace. And listening to the New Moo.

This Vermont-based radio station (WMOO 92.1), which brands itself as having the region’s best variety (invariably causing the distressing thought of what less variety would consist of), plays almost exclusively a kind of whitebread corporate pop. It plays a lot of Top 10 and a lot of present and past Idols, excluding almost all R&B and only allowing little hints of country – forget about hip-hop, on this station tunes like Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and the Soup Dragons’ cover of the Stones’ “I’m Free” have the rap parts taken out – plus a lot of 90s one-hit wonders (New Radicals, anybody?), and seems to generally specialize in a kind of musical universe I wasn’t previously aware existed, one in which Hootie and the Blowfish and Matchbox 20 are the most important, influential bands (I wish I was joking or exaggerating, I really do).

This must sound horrible, and a great deal of the time it is. But we listen to it all the time anyway—I mean, there might be something good on Vermont NPR or the Lennoxville campus station, but then there might not, and then I’d have to spend many minutes cranking back the ancient radio to its optimal microcosmic sweet spot.

I have many great memories from years of the Moo (mostly involving ultra-cool indie-rockers admitting their secret love of James Blunt or the Goo Goo Dolls), along with some traumatic ones (joking that maybe one of the bland, generic tunes sung by thrice-diluted Alanis clones we kept hearing was the new Liz Phair song, and then finding out that it actually was).

So anyway, this weekend we’re listening away as usual, cringing through the crap and singing along with our guilty or shameless favourites, and all of a sudden on comes La Roux’s “Bulletproof.”

Somehow this disrupts my reality a little bit.

Not that I was disappointed to hear it – it’s a good tune. Or that it doesn’t fit in – it’s catchy and poppy, just like the parade of mainstream pop that surrounds it on the Moo.
But I’d been under the impression that La Roux was some kind of underground hipster phenomenon. Certainly, here in Montreal the only time I heard about La Roux was from hipsters.

(Although I am actually interested, on a strictly socio-demographic level, in the question of who or what constitutes a hipster, I will not address this here, except to submit that hipsters do exist, and furthermore there’s nothing wrong with being one. More on this later.)

Now, I am aware that we’re, at some level, past the era where the terms “underground” or “mainstream” have much meaning. The few remaining bands who worked their way up from the DIY scene to the corporate mediasphere, like REM or Green Day, are long in the tooth. Artists like MIA are doing pretty musically radical things in a mainstream context, and a lot of bands considered “indie” are way softer and sappier than anything on the New Moo.

But MIA doesn’t get played on the Moo… or MGMT, Bon Iver, Major Lazer, or whatever the cool kids are listening to these days. Hell, even something like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was too, well, crazy for the Moo. The Moo will play Norah Jones, but not Feist. It’s a corporate, mainstream operation through and through.

Conversely, the hipster crowd does not listen to Nickelback, Lady Antebellum, Rob Thomas, or Avril Lavigne (except when they’re at the cottage with us).

So what have I missed?

Is La Roux the true crossover artist of our time?

A reverse Lady Gaga, infiltrating the underground with mainstream notions?

(Some minimal research seems to indicate that, while they’re possibly an overnight sensation, they’re not a corporate creation but a legitimate indie-turned-mainstream act).

Or do I just not get out enough?

That reminds me of a brief Facebook craze where everyone was suddenly posting 20 facts about themselves, which invariably involved a lot of oversharing. From this phenomenon I learned that several people who I thought of as gregarious social butterflies actually suffered from acute and chronic social anxieties. I felt like reaching out and saying, “Hey, I found a great solution to that… just stop going out!” But then, as I’ve discovered, if you stop going out, you miss out on things.

Like how it is La Roux is being played on the New Moo.