October 10, 2007

When the Fans Become the Show

Print More

Waiting in Line

Ok, so this isn’t an actual New Yorker event, per say, though I did pay — in an hour and ten minutes worth of my life — but I strongly believe that one has not truly experienced the New Yorker Festival if one has not waited in line with half of New York’s pretentious wannabe literati for the aforementioned seventy minutes.
Behind me stood a woman whom I first assumed was your garden variety Jewish 40-something Sally talks-too-much-to-strangers… a few comments to the group behind me about how young the New Yorker Fest crowd was last year, getting high, the average, I’m a little needy and loud, I’m pretending to be hip and young, let’s make friends. That was until the woman started screaming nonsense at the top of her lungs and laughing maniacally as if the 100 people in line before her were all involved in the joke … pretty much everyone snickered to themselves but ignored her otherwise.
Crazy ended up being the key term for the festival — at least applied to the event-goers. It started with an unheeded request by a moderator that questions be “short and to the point, limited to the question instead of your own opinion and life story,” and ended with a bunch of crazy, overly emotional women who were obviously delusional and thought we all came to hear how much they “loved Fiona Apple, and like, [she] saved my life, and keep on rocking …” While the events themselves were fun and informative and just this side of facetious to keep the pretentious to a minimum, the crazy event-goers just got worse. Oh, how I wish I were kidding.

Outside the Box

The fact that this was the first time I’ve voluntarily risen, not only before noon, but by 9 a.m. on a Saturday is evidence of how psyched I was — five showrunner/creators of TV shows — Jenji Kohan (Weeds), David Milch (NYPD Blue, Deadwood, underrated genius), Ron Moore ’86 (Battlestar Galactica — one of my favorite shows and no, while I am a nerd, I’m not a SciFi nerd, the show is just that good), David Shore (House), and David Simon (the Wire), all in the same room, all only sitting feet away from me, all fully prepped for my questions and internship groveling (Jenji! Ron! Call me!).
The concept of the panel, moderated by Tad Friend, was to create an open discussion about the differences between prime time/cable and the creative process vs. consumerism and new media’s influence. Very New Yorker appropriate. All but Shore were on cable, something most professed to make life much easier, until David Milch, in classic academic fashion, (he was also a professor at Yale) stated that we were creating “falsified dichotomies” between the two, with network TV being anti-creative, stupid, commercially whorish and not good, and cable being the great artistic hero. His point, that cable was also selling something, a set of values that an upper middle class demographic — i.e. the New Yorker crowd — would buy — aka HBO’s it’s not television, it’s HBO slogan, is complete B.S. (You very well may be bored right now, but I’m a TV dork, I live for this stuff. Go ahead and laugh; I obviously can’t hear you. Side Note: Wouldn’t that be crazy?)

What Isn’t Hip Hop?

Ok, so I could be annoyed that I paid 35 dollars to watch YouTube videos… but Sasha Frere Jones, the New Yorker’s pop music guy, made it (almost) worthwhile, especially when he did the Crank That dance. He discussed how the music industry as we know it, especially in regards to hip hop, is dying — the movement over to YouTube, MySpace and iTunes style music buying has made records, and therefore record labels, mostly obsolete. Jones cynically claimed he wasn’t upset and blamed the record labels — spending 15 dollars on a mediocre to bad CD with 11 songs, 10 of which are no good and all of which are the same, had no other result than piracy. Other highlights were listening to Mr. Frere Jones vent about his intense hate-on for Kanye, and then being personally mocked when I asked (in true pretentious New Yorker Fest fashion) why he felt the Souljah Boy video was so popular. … “So you don’t like it.” “No, I just don’t get it.” “Admit it, you love it.” (You also haven’t lived until an auditorium filled with people who are convinced they are more brilliant than you laugh at you, even good naturedly — than again, that’s probably what my life would be like if I took science classes at Cornell.)

A Conversation with Music:
Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple, although one of my favorite singers of all time, is pretty angsty, so I don’t know why I was surprised when her question/answer session turned into a group therapy session. But that’s not a completely fair analysis: a lot of the event was Fiona answering Sasha’s questions (ok, so I stalked him a little. Ok, so I also love him. Sasha, call me if you’re looking for an intern, or … whatever. You can teach me the Souljah Boy, I can pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to music) in true free spirit style. There is nothing weirder than hearing a singer’s speaking voice, but that surreal experience quickly faded when I realized how extremely eccentric she is. She described her O.C.D. and how it limits her ability to get things done during the day, she also described each day as having a shape, “Kind of like a rorshack blob… if I start out with a pretty square day, the other side has to mirror it.” At one point, Sasha discussed how he brought a piano because he wanted her to play, to which Fiona responded “you like my clunky style?”
As idiosyncratic as she was, it did not rival the previously mentioned crazy fan base. While I laughed and squirmed when the questioners stood up (my favorite was one woman who asked what kind of dog Fiona had and then began discussing her own puppy in detail … come on, really?), hearing Fiona sing in a small venue with only about a hundred, albeit crazy, people, was entirely worth it.