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Rocking with dinosaurs

by Brian Clarey

Rocking with dinosaurs

I did not watch the big 12-12-12 benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy.

This is not because I do not care about the victims. More than most of my local readers, I have a connection to the afflicted areas in New York and New Jersey; it goes back to my birth and even before, when Pellegrino Pagano, my great-grandfather, came over from the Old Country and settled in a suburb of New York City.

And it’s not because I don’t care about music — though, admittedly, I care a lot less than I used to. There was a time that I would camp out at a Ticketron to score concert tickets, or spend my last $5 to see a rock’  show instead of, you know, food.

And I didn’t skip out on the big extravaganza because I had better things to do, unless you count catching up on past seasons of “Six Feet Under,” a 10-year-old HBO show that has been defunct since 2005.

No, I didn’t watch the benefit concert of the century because I am convinced it exemplifies everything that’s wrong with this country.

My problem is not with benefit concerts per se. A one-off benefit for a sick Triad musician at the Blind Tiger is a fine and noble thing — I’ve participated in and contributed to many events like this, where cash from the door and proceeds from silent auctions and the donation jar go directly to the person in need.

The 12-12-12 concert’s proceeds went to an organization called Robin Hood, at robinhood.org, which provides real relief for the many communities devastated by Sandy. But I know too many Katrina millionaires to believe that someone didn’t make a few bucks off this concert.

But that’s not my beef. No, my problem is with the show itself, and what it meant.

For one, it was a spectacle created just for its own sake. I can see the pitch now: “Hey! Let’s get a the biggest names in rock all on the same stage!” Granted, it was a stellar lineup, but the best thing I can say about this concert is that it happened.

The lineup itself, though, was more depressing to me than the destruction of Breezy Point.

The Who. The Rolling Stones. Bruce Springsteen. Billy Joel. Eric Clapton. Roger Waters. Can someone please tell me what year this is?

This is a lineup that could have run 20 years ago. Or 30. Knock out Bon Jovi, and this could have been the biggest show of 1975.

Yes, yes, I know: Alicia Keyes. Kanye. A Nirvana reunion. But I posit that Keyes was placed on the bill as a token, the only female performer and one of just two headlining African Americans. The other, Kanye West, who I understand showed up in a kilt, I suspect was booked in the hopes he would say something stupid on live television.

The Nirvana reunion… well that’s a big deal. I suspect the stunt represented, for the promoters, something for “the kids” — forgetting that those who were of age to see Nirvana, and their cohort Eddie Vedder, who as also a part of the proceedings, are now in their 40s. I know because I’m one of them.

And with a characteristic bow to the Baby Boomers, they placed one of their own at the helm of my generation’s greatest band: Paul McCartney.

I guess I’m okay with the casting. Kurt Cobain was a huge Beatles fan, and McCartney certainly knows what it’s like to stand in front of a microphone while history is being made.

But on the other hand, it’s bullshit. Why is it that we still look to artists of 30, 40, even 50 years ago to make a huge spectacle of a concert? Is it because there are no new bands as good as these dinosaurs?

Of course there are — and I’m not talking about Kanye West, who wouldn’t know what to do with a guitar if you handed it to him and placed his fingers on the G chord.

What about the Roots? What about Arcade Fire? What about the Black Keys? The Shins? The Drive-By Truckers? My Morning Jacket? I’m just pulling these names off the top of my head, and trust me when I say I don’t know jack about popular music these days.

Musicians in their 20s, 30s and even their 40s proliferate like never before, writing great songs and delivering killer live performances. But you’ll never hear most of them, because they’re trapped in an industry that lionizes senior citizens and overlooks new talent at every single turn.

Sure, a few bands manage to bust through — not studio creations like whatever boy bands happen to be making noise right now or hip-hop protégés that ride coattails into exposure.

But as in every other industry in this country, Baby Boomers hold all the good jobs in the music business. And they’re not going anywhere.

So screw the Rolling Stones. Screw the Who. And — I can’t believe I’m saying this — screw Billy Joel.

But please do give to the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy at robinhood.org or 12-12-12concert.org. The place is a mess.

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