Saturday, March 11, 2006

Metric, Hipsters, and Happiness

Last night, Raj, his friend Ernest, and I went to see Metric play at Webster Hall. The evening started with the boys hunting among convenience stores for cans of Sparks. I felt like I was back in high school, running around town trying to find wine coolers I could swig on the sly. For some reason, unfathomable to me, Raj and Ernest love Sparks. I personally would never touch them. For those of you who have missed them, they are alcoholic, highly caffeinated drinks that taste like cherry cough syrup. The boys were ultimately successful in their Sparks quest, and then we all stood on a corner outside Webster Hall chatting while they downed their sparks before going in to see the show. Yet another incident that makes me think boys are strange, and pushes me one step closer to admitting that there might just be inate (though culturally and evolutionarily produced) differences between males and females.

Metric is one of these Canadian bands in the "cool because they're not" category of music - otherwise known as "hip" - who, despite their hallowed place in hipdom, are actually pretty damn good and fun to listen to. As a general matter, I'm deeply suspicious of all things "hip." Usually, because those things labled "hip," are all too often a load of conformist garbage. The Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon wrapped up in standard hipster attire: A pair of too-tight euro jeans and too-small shirt with an ugly plaid pattern for boys, and a mini skirt and combat boots with pale skin, thick eyeliner and a block of too-short bangs for girls. I've never understood the point of identifying as a non-conformist, while being allegedly "non-conforming" in such a blatantly conformist way.

Take for example, Emily's outfit (see pictures). Emily Haines, the lead singer and keyboardist of Metric, who admittedly kicks ass, was wearing a form fitting white mini-dress slash skort ensemble with high heeled silver shoes, and short sleeves capped with a perky bow on each arm. The shoes were cool. The skort was... a skort. She had her hair pulled back in a rough pony tail and her blond bangs hung in a ragged curtain that hid most of her face. In another decade, or a social scene, her outfit might have been mistaken for that of an uber rich prepster from the upper echelons of Connecticut high society. However, preppy paired with raggedy hair has become the new anti-uppercrust outfit. Preppy is now hip, and because it's hip, everyone trying to be cool-because-they're-not is doing it, in pretty much exactly the same way, including Miss Emily.

However, despite being hip, Emily and Metric are actually really good, and they put on a great show last night. Emily's vocals in particular, are beautiful. She sings in a haunting, breathy, sometimes raspy, vulnerable little-girl voice that fits perfectly against the harder sounds of her band's bass, guitar and drums. The first time I heard Metric, they reminded me a lot of Belly; Emily's voice has an open quality similar to Tonya Donnelly's and both Metric and Belly can rock in the same way. Last night, they played a lot of the songs that I liked, including "Dead Disco" and "Poster of a Girl." Here are some lyrics to "Dead Disco" that we couldn't figure out after the show (they're sad):
"Dead disco, Dead funk, Dead rock and roll.
Remodel. Everything has been done.
La la la la la la la la la la
I know, I know you tried to change things.
I know you tried to change.
I know."

Unlike me, who thought the show was good, Raj and Ernest thought Metric was "awesome" last night. Don't get me wrong, I had a great time last night, but I didn't love the band as much as the boys did. Partly, that's because Raj and Ernest are both way more into going to shows than I am, and they are huge fans of Metric. Whereas I enjoy going to shows, I don't see it as the end all be all of great times, unless I absolutely love the band, and then it's a totally different story. Lately, whenever I go to shows, it is an oddly introspective experience. Seeing music tends to evoke memories for me of different times in my life, and I end up taking stock of where I am and thinking about where I've been.

Like last night, I spent a good amount of time thinking about the moments in life that matter to me. I started down that train of thought because, in the middle of the show, Raj leaned close to me and yelled over the music, "This is what IT's about!" I was incredulous. Could this person that I love really think that the greatest thing in life is getting drunk on Sparks and watching a rock band? What did this say about our relationship and how he felt about the time we spent together?

I was perplexed by this for most of last night, and into this morning because I couldn't understand whether he was actually saying that he really only experienced the height of happiness, and "felt alive" as he said, while watching shows and being blasted by waves of sound. When he first said that, I looked at him quizzically, and then started thinking about what I think this, as in life, is all about. I can assure you, it's not about standing in the middle of a crowd of people, getting jostled about, listening to a band that's good but not awesome (at least not to me), drinking warm corona out of a plastic cup.

Later, after we were out of the din, I asked Raj, "What about laying around on the couch with me watching a movie?" "What about making dinner with me?" "What about just feeling in love and happy to be with me?" "Isn't that what IT should all be about???" As you can tell, I have relationship, trust, and love issues, and they pop out, inconveniently but humanly, all over the place and in all sorts of interactions.

When he first said that during the show, I thought that he was saying that life is about going to shows and all of the attendant drinking and carousing that goes along with it (not to mention, checking out the female lead singers, which I suspect probably happens) - what I consider to be fleeting and ultimately meaningless moments of life in and of themselves. How could I think this you ask? Like I said, I have issues, and sometimes Raj doesn't say exactly what he means, leaving his words open to all sorts of interpretations.

I thought that Raj was saying that the happiness he was experiencing watching Metric somehow eclipsed the happiness he feels when it is just the two of us sharing moments together. I thought he was taking for granted all the moments between us that I find special and important. The little moments, like walking down the street holding hands, sitting in the theater sharing popcorn, snuggling on my futon watching a movie, bumping into each other in our too small kitchens while making dinner, catching his eye across the gym and smiling at one another, or having one of our many conversations that make me feel loved and understood.

Those are the moments that are important to me, just like similar moments with others that I love, and those are the moments that bring me a far greater happiness than seeing any type of show could ever do.

This morning, I was finally able to understand that what he meant when he said, This is what IT is all about, was that he loved being with me and his best friend, the two of us getting along, watching a band that he loved, having a great time and cutting loose, and being able to release some of the stress of the past work week. He meant that life is about moments of happiness, and that we should enjoy and savor each one of those moments of happiness as they come. He meant that last night was a moment of happiness, not the moment of happiness for him. He was happy because we were sharing that moment together. That is apparently what it was about to him. (That's what he told me). It took me a while, as these things sometimes do, but eventually I got it. I had fun with him watching Metric too.


Anonymous said...

What an insightful piece. You have an enviable ability to analyze things in an entertaining way. And I might check out those bands too!

Buttercup said...

Sweetie, I think the only one who has something to envy between us is ME having to envy YOU b/c you are ESCAPING LF world!! I can't believe you're leaving me in two weeks!!

Bean said...

I am glad that you both got that figured out! Are Sparks like Red Bull and Vodka?? I have never seen them in Utah...not a surprise out here though.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly what I meant when I said, "This is what it's all about." A moment of perfectly comfortable happiness - almost euphoric - being with my girl, Buttercup, and my good friend, Ernest, enjoying some good tunes. Being happy with the people you care about. Good post, girl.

Anonymous said...

'Metric is one of these Canadian bands in the "cool because they're not" category of music'

Oh shut up.