“Rockville, CA” Not Quite Up To “Empire Records” Standards

Feb 24th, 2009 // 15 Comments


Yet another sign that “indie” is on the wane: The trailer for Rockville, CA, a Web series created by The O.C. brainchild Josh Schwartz that’s set in a totally cool Los Angeles rock club (hence, Rockville—get it????) and brings to mind such culturally deaf end-of-an-era curios as Go and Empire Records. That setting winds up being fodder for jokes about guest lists and the relative hotness of bass players and the relative hotness of tambourine players, as well as more than a few digs at the commercial savvy of music-geek types. (Burn, you guys. Burn.) And drug use! Because it’s on the Web and away from the Standards And Practices-employed Man, so it can be edgy like that. The only thing that helped me watch it in its entirety was the fact that Ryan “Dick Casablancas” Hansen basically played an amped-up, nuance-free version of his character from Veronica Mars, but your mileage may vary. [YouTube]

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  1. doublewhiskycokenoice

    i regret not the things i have done, but those i did not do.

  2. Nicolars

    How many reviews of this will be titled, “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”?

  3. MayhemintheHood

    I didn’t watch this, only because you say they talk about the hotness of tambourine players. Is there a joke about mullets, too?

  4. KurticusMaximus

    “Culturally deaf”?! I don’t know what you’re talking about. Empire Records is amazing.

    That’s ok, though. Empire Records doesn’t need to explain its art to you, Warren.

  5. Jerkwheat

    Is it Rex Manning Day yet?

  6. Brad Nelson

    Trailers like this make me wonder what the point is of doing ANYTHING

  7. mattowles

    that was dull.

    and that band was dull.

    and who “signs” anyone anymore?
    it sounded weird to me.
    and that band didn’t sound like a band that would get “signed” in my opinion.

  8. Anonymous

    @mattowles: There is still a large sub-culture of bands and fans who talk all day about “getting signed” and “making it”.
    I think the bigger question may be: What sort of music geek is embarrassed to be called a “music geek” and isn’t immediately all over the brunette with glasses? My guess is that this was originally written as either a prequel for High Fidelity or a sequel for Singles.

  9. judois

    That was just..ugh. I didn’t like Empire Records that much. I loved the O.C. (usually). But this trailer makes me yearn for Anthony LaPaglia in leather pants.

  10. Anonymous

    these alarmist type posts crack me up.

    So based on a 2 minute preview of a web based show that isnt even premiered yet, indie rock is on the wane?

    I seem to remember people saying that Animal Collective released the best album of the year, the day it was leaked, and of course they are indie. this was only a few months ago.

    And its not like Josh Schwartz isnt having any success with Chuck or Gossip Girl, all of which feature indie soundtracks.

    Name your hit tv show, Scrubs, GossipGirl,, Chuck, Heroes, Greys Anatomy, every single one features an indie soundtrack and every single time they feature a song on the show, check out a youtube version of the song. Hundreds of people suddenly post comments along the lines of “I heard this song on One Tree Hill, this is awesome”

    So yeah, it seems indie rock is on the wane!

    You have any evidence at all other than your feeling this Rockville, which hasnt even premiered yet, is a bad show?

  11. Maura Johnston

    @radiohead33: i’ll be happy to give you declining sales figures, although the whole ‘bands aren’t going to be able to rely on commercial money / that elusive currency known as ‘exposure’ as much since the economy’s going into the tank and taking the ad market with it’ research will probably need a few months of actual data to bear itself out. (but it will. trust.)

    also, you know, not everyone thinks that a certain album by a bunch of capitalism-eschewing knob-twisters is the record of the year. hell, most people probably don’t even know that it exists!

  12. Anonymous

    i dont know, i just think outposts like Pitchfork and Stereogum are more popular than ever, more popular than 2003/.2004 when I would argue the modern indie scene started with releases by Death Cab, Modest, The Shins, Postal and the like.

    Can you make any argument at all about the importance of Pitchfork or Stereogum? As far as I know, they ARE the tastemakers for music right now. They are both more powerful than MTV, VH1, Rolling Stone, Spin and all that

    Declining sales figures are bunk and useless. The entire music industry as it existed 20 years ago, or even 7 years ago, no longer is around. Its common knowledge every single year since 1999 or the year Napster hit, cd sales have plummeted. Every single year, Every single month.

    So to argue that indie bands are selling fewer albums than they did in 2004 is useless and counterproductive. EVERY band is losing cd sales.

    As I said many hit tv shows now use indie bands songs for scoring a scene. And as fasr as I know, this is a major way our generation hears of new bands and songs now, as MTV, VH1, radio, rolling stone and spin are merely shells of their former selves.

    All I know is that, when Pitchfork or Stereogum rave about a band, suddenly that band starts to pick up steam and get “popular” in the indie scene. And I know that when bands songs are used in tv shows, youtube hits of that particular bands songs increase and comments on youtube reflect that.

    For indie to wane, I think popularity of its flagship bands like Death Cab, the Shins, Modest, Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine and so on, would have to wane as well. As far as I can tell, these bands are doing well concert wise and popularity wise.

    I think its fine to talk about exploitation of a musical scene, as no doubt is the case with indie now, and with every other musical movement in history.

    But to get hysterical and basically sound the death knell for indie based on something gleaned off a 2 minute preview, I dont know that just seems ridiculous to me.

    You say bands arent going to be relying on commercial money. What band does anymore? Any band that is coming up now, and is expecting to make money off anything other than merch, and concert tickets is ingesting copious amounts of drugs and needs to check their head.

    Exposure via tv, for indie bands is definitely not on the downslope. Last I checked Heroes, Scrubs, Chuck, Gossip Girl and Greys Anatomy arent dropping music soundtracks from their tv shows. Did any of the shows not have music on them this week, or last? Or recently?

    This would alter the whole dynamic of just about every single major hit show on tv, And you think in a few months they will not be having music on their episodes? I politely disagree. There is no evidence to support this at all.

    As I said before, if a band was advertised on Grey’s or One tree Hill and no one responded or tried to check out that band, then I could see your point. But I personally check out the playlist from episodes after each episode, and I am sure, I am positive I am not the only one.

    Its funny, I would say Indie Rock is the dominant musical movement of the moment. I see it gathering speed rather than slowing down. I dont think the depression we are in will stop that.

    Modest Mouse had the opening date for their current tour in my hometown of Eugene, a place they last played in 2004. The show was on Feb 20. The show sold out in 2 days. As an avid concert goer in eugene I cant remember the last time a band sold out a show that quick. Doesnt that indicate the fever pitch of indie rock is just as intense as it has ever been.

  13. Anonymous

    maybe Rockville will be a bust and no one will watch it. Maybe it will be the worst failure ever.

    But to suggest anything other than complete sucess for anything Josh Schwartz does is a little insane.

    He had a hit with The OC. He had a hit with Gossip Girl. He had a hit with Chuck. Thats a damn fine batting average.

    its a double edged sword. I dont know about you, but I am in love with indie rock. And many people wouldnt know about it currently if it wasnt for The O.C. That could be a good or bad thing. And, as much as Death Cab want to say they worked for years as a band before the OC premiered, which is of course true, I dont think they would be half as popular now, if Josh Schwartz had chosen Seth Cohen’s favorite band to be u2 or bob dylan as opposed to Death Cab.

    Indie is popular because of things like The OC and Gossip Girl.

  14. Maura Johnston

    @radiohead33: gossip girl a ‘hit’? newsflash: media mentions are not part of the nielsen survey. sure, it does well for the cw, but the bar for that particular network is not exactly high. (also, does that mean no doubt is indie now?)

    i’m not going to comment on your statements on web sites being tastemakers, only to say that maybe you should get outside of your bubble and talk to people who aren’t necessarily ‘in love with indie rock.’ take 10 people off the street, and i can guarantee that at least eight of them will have no idea what you are talking about. indie’s ‘rise to prominence’ is as much a result of the popular-music landscape fragmenting as it is of people in its demographic becoming tastemakers on second-tier network shows. it’s great that you’re excited about music — i wish more people were! — but you may want to look at the bigger picture before making hyperbolic statements about popularity. some of us are a little sick of the current incarnation of indie, and its white-bread, tasteful, made-for-information-workers’-background-music hegemony. and some of us, through that tempered disgust, see a bubble slowly fizzling, and a landscape getting saturated.

  15. Maura Johnston

    @radiohead33: also, how are bands supposed to make money off concert tickets when no one has money to actually BUY said tickets? i’m eager to hear.

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