Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Lucas Jensen | April 16, 2009 4:00 pm

This past weekend, Dan Deacon played a show at the Masquerade in Atlanta that ended…poorly. The club cut him off mid-set, and mild chaos ensued. Deacon fans were livid at the club, but the DJs who were scheduled afterward said that Deacon and Co. (and the opening band) went over their allotted time. Now you may think that cutting off Dan Deacon for a DJ is a bad idea, but there are schedule times for a reason, and I tend to think that everybody deserves their shot. (That’s why I don’t run a club.) I’d be willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt over the Masquerade’s management, but his Athens show was also two hours late in getting set up as well. You can read a few sides to the story here and here.

Still, slow set-up times are one thing. Show cancellations are another thing altogether.

I’ve been following the saga of Crystal Castles‘ Dallas show over at Gorilla Vs. Bear (now picked up by Pitchfork). The band allegedly kicked its opener, VEGA, off the bill for “stealing equipment” and then canceled a sold-out show because the Granada’s soundsystem was somehow inadequate. (It has hosted shows by bigger electronic-y bands like Animal Collective.) The band’s publicist has leveled a few snarky protests, but to me this seems like a pretty clear-cut case of assholery.

The above evidence may be anecdotal, but it dovetails with what I’ve seen as a rising tide of jerkiness in the last few years. Plenty of other stories are out there. At SXSW, I heard a horror story or two regarding “superstar behavior” from a certain iPod-endorsed band that just signed to a major label. Actually successful band Peter, Bjorn, and John treated their big showcase with maximum dismissiveness, noodling around on their instruments after starting way late.

As a publicist, I noticed a growing sense of entitlement that was inversely proportional with success. More and more small-timers demanded more things without being willing to pay for them. Expectations started to get way out of whack, seemingly driven by a few blogger success stories (thanks a million, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!). There was a lot of “If that band gets to be successful, then why can’t we?” I also heard an increasing amount of crazy stories from the road. Some friends of mine played Baltimore and actually had a local dance-punk act set up on the floor right before their set and start playing because they didn’t want to wait until their headlining slot! Some guy in a band that rhymes with Fretty And Lice actually called my then-wife the “c-word” onstage! My friends who work at clubs tell me a story a week about prima-donna behavior. (Many involve Kings of Leon.)

What happened to people acting like professionals? What happened to indie rock ethics and punk ethos and karma and all that? What happened to being grateful that you have fans lined up to see you? What happened to the “show must go on?” You are Crystal freaking Castles. You don’t get to call off shows because of a sound system.

Now, I’m not one for false nostalgia. I’ve read Get In The Van. I’ve heard Damon Che and James Brown stories. I know that jerks have always been here and always will. Most of the artists I’ve dealt with have been total sweethearts, but there is always going to be some jerkwad out there. I heard some crazy Ray Charles stories from a former bassist of his. Membership in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band was like being in a cult. The problem I have is this: those guys or Bob Dylan or Elvis or even Stephin Merritt earned their right to be jerks. (Phil Spector, however, went way beyond those bounds; nobody earns the right to kill somebody.) I don’t think that Dan Deacon or Crystal Castles or whoever has the career to back up their “Do you know who I am?” behavior. A band might be a Pitchfork Best New Music designate, but the answer to that question may still be “Huh?”

My theory is this: the incessant Internet chatter has made mini-celebrities of even the smallest bands, and this has emboldened this kind of behavior and created this sort of entitlement. Most musicians have some measure of egotism or narcissism, now matter how self-effacing or humble they may seem. Getting up on stage and playing your silly love songs requires it; you have to believe that what you are doing is worth somebody else’s time. This kind of breathless fawning, no matter how small, strokes these egos, and artists start to believe their own hype. More breathless press outlets than ever before lead to more entitled jerks than ever before.

And perhaps a lot of this bad behavior is just a function of this increased publicity, and the corresponding faster news cycle. Someone gets a bad vibe at a show and then it’s Twittered and then it’s on blogs and then it’s on Pitchfork. I heard that Dan Deacon apologized to his audience for the lateness, and he’s always been cool about doing all-ages shows. But the word gets out there that he’s consistently late setting up and that’s what sticks.

Am I hypocritical to give people like someone like Dylan a pass over someone like Crystal Castles? Should there be some sort of sales/quality/influence litmus test for being able to act like a jerk? Am I crazy for thinking that people are more and more acting like entitled jerks?

Crystal Castles Vs. Dallas [Gorilla Vs. Bear]Crystal Castles Dallas Shitstorm [Pitchfork]What had happened was… Dan Deacon + Preston Craig = adorable chaos [Creative Loafing]So…About Last Night [Kiss Atlanta] [Pic via zzzed]