Skinny Little Dude in the Air Vent

This weekend, I managed to dance along to a room full of people who jumped so enthusiastically that you could feel the floor flex a good six inches. It was a great deal of fun.

The floor-creaking incident happened at the Macklemore show at the Masquerade I hit with a couple of friends this weekend. Given that Macklemore puts together a strange Seattle rap-dance hybrid, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from the show (my usual concert bands are along the Avett Brothers/Decemberists continuum, and no one dances because of feelings).

Two songs into the set, Macklemore noticed one of the folks wearing thrift shop coats and asked to borrow it. It was duly passed up, and he broke into the one track off the album that every drunk college kid in the audience knew by heart. There was jumping and lights and at one point Ryan Lewis, Macklemore’s producer, climbed on an air vent and jumped into the audience. It is rare that I see skinny little white dudes from Seattle leap from the ceiling.

Afterwards, Macklemore made sure the dude got his coat back, and riffed for a while about giving the teen werwolf that coat was made out of a doper death than it must have had in its previous existence. He also went on about how he had skateboarded past the line into the show and no one had noticed and he was very disappointed in us all, which got a laugh.

Because Washington–Macklemore’s home state–legalized gay marriage on Tuesday, he sang “Same Love.” Everyone joined along, and it was moving. The song, for those who are not familiar with it, is basically the “how the patriarchy damages straight dudes” lecture from a women’s studies class, but set to some soulful piano and sung by a dude who is decidedly Done With Your Shit. I tear up when I watch the video, but then again I am a sap. (I also watch all the other videos with hawk eyes, because Macklemore? Super fine.)

There were a few more highlights (Macklemore talking about his beating drug addiction, relapsing, and then starting back over; jumping up and down while lights blinked), but overall it was just a completely great, weird show. I do still love my usual mix of wispy folk and aggressive bluegrass, but I was happy to have stepped out of my NPR transition music comfort zone.

Beyond the genre-mixing fun, Macklemore was an interesting reminder of the different places in which independent musicians have really done well (and done so by creating interesting music). In my corner of the internet, everyone talks about Jonathan Coulton and Amanda Palmer. Lit nerds have Cory Doctrow. All the YouTube geeks have the entirety of the DFTBA Records stable, particularly Charlie McDonnell and Alex Day. Anti-folk alt grrls hang out with Kimya Dawson. There are not-insignificant numbers of artists doing well for themselves by cultivating relationships with fan bases, primarily online, and doing primarily independent production and distribution of their products.

What is interesting to me is that every time I see a discussion about this, people are mostly talking about the artists working in their own littler corners of the net–there is not a lot of talking between those groups, as best as I can tell. I’m interested in seeing how that works out in the next ten years or so. It’s possible that this leads to people reinventing the wheel as they figure out this new kind of commerce. It’s also possible that this protects the integrity and history of the genres that each of these artists represents.

I don’t know any of the answers, but this sort of thing interests me when people talk about the future of the arts, particularly in the US.

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