S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: Hello, I’m Dan Stevens. Welcome to the Slate culture Gabfest. I think Jack Antonoff should leave Ed.. Today is Wednesday, July 7th. And today we’re going to talk about the new concert documentary Summer of Soul, which is also the directorial debut of the DJ performer, bandleader, Quest Love. Next, we are going to take on the Netflix sketch comedy show, I Think You Should Leave, which just dropped its second season. It’s created by a lot of SNL alumni, but it has really nothing to do with that sensibility and is its own entirely bizarre thing, which we will discuss with guest Jesse David Fox, host of the comedy podcast, Good one. And finally, if you have heard a power pop song by a young woman this summer, it was probably produced by Jack Antonoff, who seems to be the holding the producing reigns behind practically every young female singer of the moment. We’re going to talk about why Jack Antonoff is having a moment, what his sound is, if there is a Jack Antonoff sound and what his presence in pop music means. Both Steve and Julio are out this week, but I have two really fun guests that I think are going to be great on these topics. One is Allegra Frank senior editor at Slate. Hey, Allegra.
S3: Hi. Thanks for having me back.
S2: Oh yeah. You’re fast becoming a major friend of the program in the fall. And then of course, we have Ancien Regime FUP Carl Wilson, music critic at Slate and one of our favorite people to have on the show to talk about music, movies and everything else. Hey, Carl.
S4: Hi. So great to be back.
S2: The Harlem Cultural Festival was a series of daylong concerts that took place in what is now Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. They happened over the course of six different Sundays that summer and included essentially all the great voices in black music of that time, Soul R and B Gospel Pop. You had Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly and The Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson. I mean, I could spend the whole segment just talking about who sang at the Harlem Cultural Festival. But for over 50 years, this ephemeral experience, which was attended by something like 300000 people over the course of that summer, has disappeared almost completely into obscurity, even though the entire thing was put on film by a director and producer named Hal Tulchin. No one was interested in the footage. Woodstock also happened that summer. It was getting all the attention and tolerance attempt to pitch a documentary that he at the time was calling Black. Woodstock never went anywhere. But lo and behold, all of these years later, Ahmir Thompson, a.k.a. Quest Love, the bandleader and D.J. has put together as his very first directorial effort, a documentary about the Harlem Cultural Festival. It’s called Summer of Soul. It has just opened on screens and also on Hulu. It, I think, should be the movie of the summer and everybody should flock to it. And I really can’t wait to talk about why. But before we get into this conversation, let’s listen to a clip from the movie. I hope we’ll hear lots more clips of the great music in this movie. But here is one from one of the first acts we see in Summer of Soul. It’s very young and very natty. Stevie Wonder shredding on the drums. Let’s listen.
S5: The Harlem Cultural Festival was a total party atmosphere. When there was no
S1: way to pass through the security, the kids were sitting up on the trees. 1969, with a change of era in the black community, a wholesale re-evaluation of our history and our culture.
S5: The style of music was changing and revolution
S1: was coming together. We need it now. The revolution did not going stop in 1969. We all know. Black consciousness revolution. It was the right time, the right place, the dark Allegra.
S2: Do you agree with me that in the summer of twenty, twenty one, we should all be flocking to see what happened in the summer of 69?
S3: Yeah. So I probably, like most people, watched it on a smaller screen courtesy of Hulu, but in in a different era, in a different timeline, I absolutely would have watched this in a theater. And if people have that opportunity and are comfortable doing so, I would totally recommend it because this is just a totally fun movie that is so rhythmic and musical, just in and of itself, regardless of the fantastic music, it’s, you know, within it that is the centerpiece, the movie itself. I mean, I think that clip we just heard really represents it of the editing, the direction, the crosscutting between the musical performances and the really smart context to everything that the that love provides. It just makes this such a fun and smart and, you know, even educational watch because no, I knew I knew nothing of the Harlem Cultural Festival. And I I’m sure many other people would say the same because so much of this was lost to time. Right. Because as you said, this footage just sat in a closet or a basement until now, which is really unfortunate. And I grew up with, you know, a dad. And both my parents are very into this kind of music, and I’ve never heard them speak about it either. So it’s something that I’m really glad is now being aired to a mainstream wide audience, because not only is it just a really fantastic film, but clearly an important cultural document to you,
S4: even among sort of music kids, this story is kind of under known. And if you listen to Quest, let’s talk about his motivation for doing it. One of the very first things that spurred him was being told by the people who had the rights to this to this footage that this existed. And he was like, I barely knew that this happened. And if you know anything about lives kind of personality as a music person, he’s basically the guy who knows everything. He has kind of an eidetic memory and is incredibly dedicated person to digging in the archives and all of that. So for even him not to have known much about this having happened shows how much of a mindblower it is. Now, a couple of years ago in twenty nineteen, there was a fiftieth anniversary concert event in New York to commemorate it, and a bunch of people wrote about it at the time. So that was kind of the beginning. And the rumors are that this film was going to come happened then. But but yeah, it’s an extremely under noted event in history and it’s partly that overshadowing by Woodstock. But I think it’s also that it doesn’t fit neatly into the music documentary category. And it’s a really creative effort to to kind of make it as neatly packaged is when you realize that this happened over the course of six weeks in the summer, also packed with events and and kind of cultural ferment. Even though we get a lot of those shots of the audience. There wasn’t a roaming camera there way. There was at Woodstock and other festivals to really probe in. And so you to really get that kind of personal touch and this poignance of like people who were little children at that event talking, talking about it. Now, that stuff is really affecting in the way that the social cultural context is woven in. You know, Wesley Morris in The New York Times commented that you can really tell that this is a film made by deejay and a drummer and that that the editing is syncopated as the word that Wesley used. And it’s really appropriately most of the time. What happens in music documentaries is that you have music footage and then it stops kind of dead for talking heads or else there’s kind of like some background music woven in. But there’s there’s really that feeling of the two things competing is often a big problem with music books. But what you get here is this kind of seamlessly woven together tapestry of the two that makes each of those things more and more meaningful as the film goes on, that that’s the most powerful part of its achievement, along with some of the real musical highlights, I think.
S2: Yeah, the work the Quest Love is doing. I mean, he’s he’s credit as the director, obviously. But what he’s really doing is, is a massive, massive work of editing because I mean, he’s talked about this. He was working from 40 hours of total footage that had been filmed in the. This movie is just about exactly two hours, so, you know, he obviously had a very big ratio to work with. I’m sure he left some incredible gems by the wayside for the sake of preserving that rhythm that you’re talking about. And the talking head elements are incorporated so effortlessly and skillfully that it didn’t feel to me as if there were any almost I mean, after you finished watching the movie, you realized, oh, yeah, we listen to you know, we saw a lot of these performers watch themselves, you know, and sort of keep responding to their memories of this time and this all incorporated in such a way that you don’t feel like you’re being lectured at. You feel like you’re at a musical performance. Maybe this is a good place to put in another clip. Was there a particular moment Carl that you’d like us to hear? And what do you think was the musical peak of the documentary?
S4: I mean, there are a few, I think kind of undeniably the Mahalia Jackson Mavis Staples moment.
S2: I agree. We should definitely hear that clip. And I think that maybe the only set up that it would require is the background knowledge if you don’t have it already, that this was Martin Luther King’s favorite hymn and it was a song that he would sometimes call it Mahalia Jackson on the phone and have her sing to him over the phone. That’s a moment that’s referenced in the movie Selma, I think. But it is it is something that actually used to happen. When he needed inspiration, he would call her up and say, Sing my precious lord on the phone. And Martin Luther King, of course, had just been assassinated the previous year, just over a year before this, the anniversary had just passed. So everyone in the audience would have been acutely aware of that while listening to this performance.
S4: Yet the remarkable thing about that is not only just the power of the performances itself in the context, you know, doing precious Lord, take my hand as in as part of a tribute and kind of a storytelling moment about Martin Luther King, but also that there’s this kind of generational thing going on in the whole gospel section of the film. You know, you know that this is music that’s partly being presented to create this kind of cross generational energy that, you know, you don’t associate, particularly with 60s concert films and and and music festivals, but that this is really about a neighborhood and it’s really about Harlem. And that gospel section makes sure that, you know, that the aunties and the grandmas are being represented as well.
S2: Yeah, that may be one of the emotional pieces of the documentary. And it happens pretty early on, but there’s a lot of different emotions. I mean, there’s that emotion of gospel uplift. But, you know, there’s still plenty of other emotions to come Allegra. I wonder if there is a musical moment or a talking head moment that that constituted one of the emotional peaks for you that you’d want to talk about and maybe play a clip from.
S3: So the part that really stood out to me was the discussion of the moon landing, which happened while the cultural festival was happening in July 1969. And they go between the festival itself and people on stage referencing that this just happened and the news stories with predominantly white news anchors, you know, famously tearing up or speechless about this footage of seeing men on the moon, a man on the moon, and then on the ground, interviews with various people in Harlem, both attendees at the festival, and then also just locals talking about how, well, who cares about the moon landing? Why are we putting a man on the moon for millions of dollars when there are people starving and dying black people in Harlem and across the country, let alone the world,
S1: so that, you know, like never mind the moon, let’s get some of that cash and
S5: then you might be paying the states.
S1: People, I think it’s a waste of money. People are going hungry all over the United States has to do something about poverty or not straightening out our problems.
S3: You hear pop staples in The Staple Singers performing. It’s been a change and it’s just everything just sounds like music. I mean, when they’re cutting all these interviews and it still sounds like the music. So it’s just really brilliant stuff.
S2: I mean, this this documentary is really impossible to summarize and I think has to be experienced. Right. Like any live musical performance. And it does feel very live when you’re watching it. But I think we should maybe close out with at least one more musical moment to give people a taste and Allegra. I know you had one that you wanted to talk about.
S3: Yeah. I mean, of all the fantastic people in this, you know, in this film, it’s just like a parade of some of the most famous and popular and important black artists. And it is honestly shocking to me that this was all free and like lasted a whole summer. But when Nina Simone comes out, I think at the toward the very end of the film, I was like, oh, my God. And she was here to like, this is like an all star cast happening right now. And we were treated to several Nina Simone tracks. But young, gifted and black was just, I think, a really fantastic I mean, fantastic performance, but also just a powerful inclusion in the film, because this came after discussing how, you know, Harlem at the time did suffer from economic inequalities and there was this drug problem. And also just in America itself, being a black person in 1969 was very it was very difficult. It was incredibly difficult as it continues to be. But just a really harrowing time then as well, even coming out of the civil rights movement. But to have her leading this crowd of 40 or 50 thousand people in performance of young, gifted and black was just so, so powerful in the.
S5: There’s a young boy. And girl.
S4: That’s, you know, just to add to what you were saying, that I think, you know, it’s such a stirring performance in and of itself, I think it was the moment I teared up the most during that during the movie. But also it’s really an example of a thing that happens a lot in the film, which is, you know, if it was there’s a lot of energy and there’s a change of style and there’s a change of generation. And there’s a lot of talk about revolution in the film. But in a lot of ways, you know, behind that energy and color, there’s a mournfulness to this film that I think just runs through it and an undercurrent and in some ways that this was a vision, you know, inappropriately to the suppression of the footage of the loss of the footage. It was a vision of a of a new black America that in lots of ways the 70s turned out to be a betrayal and a loss of. And you know, that what happened what ended up happening in Harlem in the coming years as New York sort of fell through an economic hole and a lot of the city ended up burning in the next 10 years. You know, there’s there’s that sense of all the promise that’s gathered together in this cultural festival. And that is our energies that we’re still trying to, like, gather together and make real again today. And I think, you know, that’s, you know, Nina Simone in her own inimitable way, that that mixture of power and sadness that she always had in her voice and in her style, it’s it’s very much, you know, the kind of. Shadow truth about the whole film in the history that we’re seeing, that I think part is part of what gives that performance is cumulative power, seeing it again now.
S2: All right, well, the movie is Summer of Soul, it’s streaming on Hulu, it’s also playing in theaters around the country and we can’t recommend it strongly enough. So please go see Summersville. Now is the time in our show when we take a moment to talk about business and we have two items of business this week. The first one is to continue to implore you listeners to send suggestions for our summer playlist. This is the crowdsourced playlist that we create every year so that we can talk on a future show about the song of the summer, songs of past summers and generally music that makes you happy to walk through the hot streets listening to in your ear buds. We’ve already gotten some really good selections. We’re compiling them to a Spotify playlist. We’re going to start listening to it very soon and thinking about when to do our show, which will be a little bit later in the summer than usual this year, because we’re waiting for Julia Turner, who was the inventor of Summer Strutt and one of its greatest enthusiasts to be ready to come back from maternity leave, at least long enough to talk music with us. So if you haven’t sent a song and you have some inspirational ideas for music that makes you feel good on warm summer days, send it to Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom and we’ll put it on the playlist again. That’s Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom for some restruck. The only other item of business is that in today’s Slate plus segment, we are going to be talking about live music since we have Carl Wilson Slate’s music critic with us today. We’re going to have a conversation about what live music means to us. What’s the first concert we want to hear after the pandemic is over or now that it is beginning to be something like over and maybe what’s the last one we went to before the pandemic began? I think all three of us this week have very different relationships to live music. One as a music critic, one as a pop connoisseur like Allegra is, and one as somebody who really discovers pop music only through this show like me. So we’ll have a conversation about all those different relationships to going to live concert venues in our Slate plus segment. And of course, if you’re not a Slate plus member, you can sign up to be one at Slate dotcom culture. Plus, it only costs a dollar for your first month. And for that dollar you will get ad free podcasts, bonus content like the segment I just described, and members only programming on other Slate podcasts like Slow Burn and the Political Gabfest. And of course, you will also get unlimited access to all the writing on Slate. You’ll never hit a paywall if you’re a slate plus member. Once again to join up, you go to Slate Dotcom Culture Plus. OK, back to the show. In 2019, a new comedy sketch show premiered on Netflix, it was created by and stars the former Saturday Night Live writer Tim Robinson, with his co-writer Zack Cannon, also an SNL veteran. It’s also produced by a trio of former Saturday Night Live comedians. But in spite of it Saturday Night Live credentials, I think you should leave in its own very odd, idiosyncratic arrhythmic, completely different kind of comedy show. It just dropped its second season on Netflix. And here to talk about it with us today is Jesse David Fox. He is a senior editor at Vulture and the host of A Good One, a podcast about jokes. He’s been a guest on our show before. We love to have him here to talk about comedy or whatever else he pleases. Hey, Jesse, good to have you.
S6: Thank you so much for having me to talk about this show. I’m very, very excited.
S2: Before we get into our conversation with Jesse, let’s hear a clip from the new season of I think you should leave. I think this is pretty self-explanatory in that it is just as random and bizarre as everything else that happens on the show. So let’s roll.
S1: What the fuck?
S5: Come on, man. Go.
S1: What is your problem, man? You know how to fucking drive? No. What? No, I don’t know what a fucking drive. I don’t know what any of this is and I’m fucking scared. What are you talking about? You psycho, you got to draw. Not everybody knows how to do everything. Driving need to be all these things. Just move your car, okay? I don’t know how I get. My God, just grab the steering wheel by. Oh, yeah, it does it does hurt, actually. What if you get to where you’re going? It’s a job interview and I turn out to be the ball. I’m not going to a job interview. You could be a year from now. Everybody says, oh, that guy, he’s going to say, hold on, wait a minute. That guy yells, God, I can’t. Why not talk? I’m good. Thank you. What? I’m good, thank you. You don’t want to help me. I just want to go back. Not just the horn. I don’t know that. Go on,
S2: Jesse. I’ll start with you. I don’t even know how to frame this. I know that you have been a big advocate of this show on your Twitter and in your writing and your podcasting since it premiered in twenty nineteen. If listeners like me knew of this show prior to this segment, mainly through its intense meem ability and pictures of a guy and a hot dog costume that circulated on social media for a long time, tell people why they should be watching. I think you should leave on Netflix and what it brings to the comedy sketch world that it’s been needing.
S6: Sure, yeah. I mean, it is the pinnacle of, I guess, like, modern stupid comedy, stupid not meeting. It’s, you know, stupid is such a complicated word in comedy because, like, it is smartly done, but it is like it revels in sort of stupid space. It’s very low brow, but not bad, just sort of like that. There’s a lot of poop jokes and cursing and yelling. And it is just sort of he just there, Tim Robinson, who you heard in that sketch, and his cocreator, Zaken, and their co-writer John Solomon, who you also heard in that sketch. They just have an ear for just sort of like a laugh that is like deep inside of you. That is like with like the type of laughing that you did as a kid, like that type of stupid humor. And I think it is there’s like no one that’s operating at that level of that type of comedy. And it’s such a relief because comedy has been so serious, especially over the last few years.
S2: Allegra, what about you? What is your history with this show and how is the second season striking you in comparison with the first? Did you feel like the show needed a second season and it’s doing anything different with it?
S3: I absolutely am in love with the show. I mean, it feels like so long since the first season premiered, but I’ve been eagerly anticipating another season of it, like it’s the kind of thing where I could watch fifty episodes, you know, like I love sketch comedy, but especially like absurdist sketch comedy. And a bunch of the people who are on this show are like some of my favorite people. Tim Robinson, you know, he originally had been on SNL for a season that didn’t quite work out. And I just like watching this show. Imagine a version of SNL or like somehow of a mainstream, widely known comedy series that has this very strange, loud, angry but hilarious, unpredictable sense of humor because that is completely in line with my own. So I watched it like day one back in twenty nineteen now I guess. And yeah, I’ve been, I’ve been so excited for a second season ever since, so I’m very excited and glad that it’s back now after such a long wait.
S2: I want you guys to help me describe to our listeners what sets the show apart from sketch shows that I’m used to or just, you know, sketch style that I’m used to. Like you said, the two creators of the show that Conan and Tim Robinson come from writing for SNL and Robinson’s case for performing. And it’s also produced the show is produced by the Lonely Island Trio. Right. Of Andy Samberg Jorma to Canadian Akiva Schaffer. But although it has a lot of SNL in its genes, this show feels very, very different. And to me, what kept striking me as I was watching my way through both seasons is the shape of the sketches. I mean, because they’re not performed live, right. They don’t have to sort of announce their intention is early on. They can unfold, like you say, Allegra in very unexpected ways. And it seemed to me that you could almost I started to think that you could almost diagram and graph the shape of a typical sketch from this show in that, you know, it sort of starts in one place that is usually a very ordinary scene from daily life and then spirals into some tiny detail of that scene. Right. So that the graph would almost sort of look like, oh, here’s a line, you know, slowly ascending on a graph and then suddenly it sort of falls into like a swirl of spirals or something like that. Does that makes sense? I mean, this show is just all about exploring little moments where the humor comes from and those moments become loopier and loopier as the saying goes on it.
S6: What’s interesting about the show, like it is both so like it’s so clearly rooted in sort of an SNL structure of one weird person enters a. Normal world and then increasingly gets weirder as the people around them are trying to be like, why are you being so weird stuff being so weird, right? That’s that’s like pretty classic SNL structure. It heightens three times the way they shoot the show because it’s not living, because they have time. It’s so different in that they write really, really long scripts that are like 20 minutes long and they shoot tons of stuff. And then they essentially then re edit it back to what is somewhat like an SNL pacing, at least in the first season when the sketches were shorter. So it has that. But because they’re shooting so much, the beats feel not normal. I think that also allows them to sort of like take an SNL form and hybrid with more of like a Tim and Eric thing where like at any moment can go sideways, which allows you not to feel like the sketches are as predictable. That said, Season two has a lot more tonal variation and like structural variation in that, like sketches will like it starts in one place with a classic. I think you should leave minor grievance of like this guy makes a joke about his wife. Right. And and you think it’s just going to be that thing where he, like, apologizes over and over again to his wife, but instead he just has a fantasy of auditioning for a play, getting the role, and then how his wife was really supportive as he has this rivalry with another actor named Jamie Toco, I believe his name is. And that is a completely different thing. Or there’s a sketch that stars Michael Bryan, who also is on SNL with Tim, who is credited as a writer in this episode. So it might have been his idea, which is this is such a crazy, but this is the premise of sketch. But essentially, Michael Bryan has two little drops of pee on his pants and a co-worker calls him out for it and Tim and enters and goes like, no, that’s actually what the pants are styled to be like. Right. And then he’s like, go to this website,
S1: go to Carl cockup pants dot com Kalikow, Calicut pants dot com. Right now, it’s not that big a deal if you don’t believe me. Go ahead. Look it up right now. OK, fine calico cunt pants dot com, oh, yeah, here it is, I saw pants, a little dots on them. That’s got nothing to do with piss. Oh OK.
S6: Sorry. And then the sketch is like an eight minute long exploration of, like, their relationship that like plays out like a weird psychodrama. And that’s a completely different style than what we think of when we think of it. I think you should leave sketch.
S2: All right. I’m glad we played that clip because that gives an idea of the loopy graph structure I was talking about, because subsequent to that opening, this sketch, which goes on quite a while, as you said, Jesse, becomes about something entirely different, which is the Tim Robinson character trying to raise money to keep the Calico Coat Pants website going so that people who find themselves in that situation will continue to have a place to live up their pants. And it becomes almost like a fundraising telethon for the pants site. And it’s just you just have to admire the sheer lunacy of how long they pursue that joke.
S6: Yeah. And it’s also it speaks to like, clearly the show had more budgets. Like the sketches are longer. It looks so much better. Like if you go back and look at season one now, you’re like, oh, man, they must have like had to knock this thing out like a couple of weeks. This is like just in terms of like camera setups and the ability to do a sketch this long with, like different parts of the office. It’s just like it’s a it’s I don’t know if I’d say the season’s better or worse, but it’s definitely just it’s it’s richer and it goes deeper and I think a little bit more complicated while also and this would be curious to hear your guys opinion about. It’s like it’s still like very dirty and very much about peeing and pooping. And I find it so interesting, like I’m open to that type of comedy no matter what. Like I’m a big Adam Sandler person. But it is interesting that so many smart people are like, oh, I love this sketch show where all they talk about is like different types of poop and such.
S3: Yeah, it is really funny because I’m the same way of like people can say pee pee poo poo poo and I’ll be laughing for the next 20 minutes. And this has happened many times. But I know so many different kinds of people who generally are not fans of that kind of comedy who also love the show. I mean, I think the fact that there are these sort of memorable moments, we mention the hot dog guy earlier, like there are these a little bit more accessible moments within the the dirty toilet humor or I’m thinking of in the first season like baby of the year, like interspersed within each episode or even within each sketch, there is sort of that nugget that translates very well to Twitter in a broader sense. So it is really funny, though, to see that sort of dichotomy of like this is filthy, very strange toilet humor, where a lot of the jokes are about poop and pee and vomit and whatnot. But there is always something a little bit easier to share with the normy among us.
S2: Within Jessee, there’s one thing I wish that this show would do more of, and I think maybe it may be reaching toward doing it more in season two. But I think this show might benefit from having a little bit more of a Annet together approach in the way that, say, Second City is to do, where it sort of creates a universe where the sketches relate to each other. Occasionally there’s there’s a moment when it does that in the first episode of the second season that I think is great, which without getting too into the details, there’s a shirt store that the Tim Robinson character is obsessed with. And one sketch, he spends thousands of dollars on shirts from this store because he thinks that the patterns are so complex. And that’s why the shirts are more expensive, because there’s like more overlapping designs on the pattern.
S1: They have this one shirt that costs one thousand dollars because the patterns are so wild. I want that one so bad. My we have to focus. I’m just not going to let Doki say that about. And flashes of the patterns are complicated. I never said that. You said they shouldn’t jack up the prices. That means that the patterns are complicated and they are even on this one, which is bargain.
S2: That’s just sort of a throw away thing that happens early in the episode. But then the episode ends with this at this moment of, you know, these all of these men wildly raiding this store at the mall and picking up patterned shirts and sort of going mad on the intensity of the patterns. I kind of wish there was a little bit more of that so that we started to have a sense that I think you should leave Universe sort of radiate it out in concentric circles. Do you do you see them doing more of that or would you like them to?
S6: I mean, I definitely see them. I see this season as like a classic second album Move, which is like your first album. It’s like all the songs you had. And it’s like there’s an urgency and it’s like punk rock. And then the second one you like a little bit better in your instrument and you expand a little bit, but it’s still the same type of show. And I imagine, especially like you can see, that they’re a little bit tired of just putting Tim every everything. Just because Tim, though, has a variety of moves is ultimately going to be a Tim type character. So you’re seeing just different people. And I said there’s the tonal variation and the tone is what always is connected it. And I think as they expand the tone they’re going to need, it will be nice to grounded in some sort of way where I think what was fun about the first season is like everything is you want nothing connected because the whole thing is about how absurd and how, like, random things are. Right. So if you had if everything was connected, then it wouldn’t feel as random. But now I think it benefit from a little bit more. And a benefit will be interesting to say. I don’t want to say it’s better or worse, just sort of would be interesting to see what it would look like for them to do kind of like what happened with Portlandia as Portlandia went on. Each episode kind of only focused on the same characters opposed to what it was when it started.
S2: Well, if nothing else, and this is something that we haven’t mentioned thus far, the episodes are only about 16 to 17 minutes long. So if you’re curious about what we’ve been talking about and you don’t want to invest a huge amount of time in a half an hour, you can cram in two episodes if I think you should leave. My prediction is you’ll want to stick with it. Jesse David Fox, thank you very much for coming on to talk about this show. Please join us again sometime soon.
S6: Whenever you want. I’m around. Thank you so much.
S2: A new track from the upcoming album from the New Zealand singer songwriter Lorde came out last month. The album will be called Solar Power and like Lords last album and like recent records by Taylor Swift, Lana del Rey, the Chick St. Vincent and others, it was produced by Jack Antonoff, who’s been a big if mainly behind the scenes presence in pop music for the past decade or so. He’s the front man for the band bleachers. He’s also a former member of the band Fun, but he’s primarily known as the producing force behind a lot of female power pop singers. Before we get into Jack Antonoff, let’s hear a little bit of that Lorde track solar power
S7: politics in that movie about the 80s. Loosen the shoes on my feet. Just my boy me to compete to
S1: be the
S7: person goes on the beaches. Come on, come on. You must seek good some kind of like pretty cheesy.
S5: Forget all of the teams to cut his. Stay off mind, I guess. Coming up, baby.
S2: I agree, I should say that Carl Wilson Sleighs music critic, is back with us again for this segment on Jack Antonoff. But I’m actually going to start with you, Allegra. We are doing this as a segment in part because you requested it, because you have strong feelings about Jack Antonoff. As you can see the editorialising of the title of this week’s show that I think Jack Antonoff should leave Ed.. I’m not sure Carl agrees with you on that and maybe you guys will fight it out. But I want to hear why you think Jack Antonoff should leave. Why do you think he’s too omnipresent in pop music right now?
S3: I don’t begrudge people for wanting to work with him because obviously he’s found extreme success. You know, ever since helping out on nineteen eighty nine and seeing that win album of the year with Taylor. But he’s gone from being, you know, a talented pop songwriter to being like a force where he explicitly, specifically works with a group of popular white girls who are singing a lot about boys and breakups and whatnot, which is one of my favorite kinds of topics. But I continue to find it both frustrating that Jack Antonoff is sort of like the keeper of this specific genre, the very mainstream version of it. And that he is. Yeah, a white male working almost exclusively with white women as the the sole interpreter of these feelings. And I don’t want to blame him because I know the music industry is incredibly male, especially when it comes to producers and very successful or expensive big name songwriters. And of course, he just slots into that. And, you know, when you’re Taylor Swift, you’re going to work with someone who’s a big deal. You’re not going to work with some unknown, although I wish she would. But I’m just I’m quite bored by and tired of Jack Antonoff being that go to, because not only do I just find it frustrating, it’s like, you know, why can’t Taylor Ward work with another woman who I think might be a better choice to relate these sorts of ideas in a more comfortable way to me as a female listener around their age, around Lord’s age. But also it’s starting to sound very samey in a sort of bland way, like I love to 1989. And then Jack Antonoff was the one working primarily on reputation with Taylor, which I think was not a good album for the most part, and sounded like nineteen eighty nine, but much more boring and sanded down and bad. And then I think Lord in her first album before she hooked up with Jack, it’s like I thought her first album was fantastic and unique and everything sounded so vibrant and different from each other. And I know a lot of people love melodrama, the album where she really worked with him. And I just find it to be uninteresting. Like I find these things to sound very similar. It’s all like slightly synth, the very pop, a little bit out of the left field with some, you know, interesting sounds. What not some more unique sounds, but I just don’t find it interesting. I find it like it’s becoming more of a Jack Antonoff sound than like a Lauren sound or a Taylor sound. I could just go on.
S2: I know you’re going to have things to counter, but in in your response to Allegra, I want you to cover one thing which. Which is what how precisely would you define the Jack Antonoff sound? Because now as somebody who is coming to him, knowing him mainly as the guy who used to date Lena Dunham and Hiles about her and saying that one hit song with Janelle Monae, I had no real sense of who he was except as a personality. I’ve now read all these profiles of him and tried to get my head around who he is as a producer, and I still don’t know what his sound is supposed to be.
S4: OK, so there’s a lot going on in this conversation. But he have to address the question of the Jack Antonoff sound. I mean, there are people who would say that there is one. I think it’s an important thing to his ubiquity in the last five years or so that there really isn’t there are things that stereotypically are associated with him, kind of an 80s synth sound and sets of batteries. That way, the acoustic guitar is kind of weaving into that often kind of warm strings on slower songs. His kind of approach to building a chorus to kind of get to an epic kind of feel and an emotional climax there, all of those things. But I think the reason that all these people work with him is that the real Jack Antonoff sound is the sound of of an excellent collaborator. And if you really look at the track lists of things that he’s worked on with people, you know, it ranges from like totally beat oriented things and new wave sound and things to, you know, much colder. Kind of robotic oriented things to balladry and sometimes to sort of strip down entirely acoustic ballads. There really isn’t, you know, aside from some sort of trivial markers, I don’t think there really is a Jack Antonoff sound. And I think that much more than ascribing to him this kind of poisonous blend, defining influence on these artists. I think we have to ask what these artists wanted out of him. And by all accounts, it is this kind of fluidity of collaboration, his ability to help encourage them to take ideas further and to and to pursue the vision that they want to pursue. The deeper question, you know, we need to point to how often these kinds of collaborative relationships have been building up recently. You know, with Olivia Rodrigo, you have this guy, Dan Negro, who’s similarly also a former like kind of power pop band guy who she found and and turned into her primary collaborator after working with other people. You could look at Billy Eilish working with her brother Phineas, that same kind of diad Lord, before she started working with Jack Antonoff, worked with this producer, Joel Little, who she had a very similar kind of symbiotic relationship with. And there’s two central questions. I think one is what benefit is there to these young women to have somebody that they work with that intimately and continually to kind of create a safe atmosphere in which they can they can pursue things self expressively. And I think, you know, you can contrast somebody like Antonoff and the way that he seems to be in studios with the legacy of people like Phil Spector, God forbid, Dr. Luke, these kind of legacy of exploitive producers over the years who used female artists as kind of, you know, artists they were going to manipulate to fulfill their ideas. And Jack Antonoff seems to come out in a different way and so do these other producers. But the but there is this fundamental question that Allegra kind of hinted around early on, which is the enormous problem that there are so few women producers in in the music industry. You know, studies have said that in charting music, the number is something like two percent of songs that get on on the Billboard charts that have women producers involved. And this has been a conversation that particularly about five years ago, Bjork brought up in a in a pitchfork interview where she talked about never being recognized as a producer herself. People like Grimes have talked about it. It’s an enormous problem that there’s this barrier between women artists and access to sort of the means of production literally in the studio and the sort of boys clubbiness of that. I think that these kind of empathetic producers, I would look at more as bridging figures who are helping advocate for women artists on this level. We can go all the way back to Joni Mitchell, who refused to have a producer explicitly and made herself the producer, but worked with an engineer named Henry Louis for years and years and years as her kind of main sort of studio medium. And and I think that women often need that kind of presence in that kind of ally in that in the male dominated world of recording studios. And I think that’s what’s going on with Jack. And I find it hard to find that pernicious.
S3: Yeah, I think you put it so much more eloquently than I could, even though we do have different different views. But, yes, it’s the it’s not that Jack himself is, as you said, pernicious. And again, I don’t want to fault him because I do love a lot of the music he’s worked on, even going back to fun. First of all, an album is great. Great album, second album. Horrible, but that’s OK. I just as again, as someone who is a woman, there is just something that frustrates me. And I find this too, with Theby Bridgers and Conor Oberst, why do we have to rely on men to help us extract our music and get our music and especially quite emotional music in the cases of all of these women? All for examples here. It’s frustrating that we have to turn to men here to be our closest collaborators. And, you know, it’s not to say that men cannot work with women and do a great job. And I think all four of those women music, it’s very honest and true to who they are. But it’s just the the optics of it that I find so incredibly frustrating. And also the fact that, like Jack has not, he worked with Kevin Abstract, which is one of the only man he’s ever worked with, and a black man and. Very different from the rest of his oeuvre here, but also the lack of diversity in his collaborators really frustrates me, too. It’s like. You know, it is like he only works with this kind of beautiful white woman, blonde or brown hair, who a lot of them are friends. It’s just it’s boring. And it’s not that he is making the music bland, but to me is making that genre bland. And all of these people could be so much more. They just could have they have so much power here that they could be lifting up other women of different different identities and backgrounds in really interesting, powerful ways. And I just don’t think they’re doing enough there.
S4: Dana, I wonder if listening to this conversation, you think about similar dynamics in film, in the ways that the ways that these divisions of labor happen there.
S2: Yeah, well, when you said gave that two percent figure for the amount of charting music that is produced by women, my first thought was, wow, that’s even worse than film. Right? I mean, that’s even a lower percentage than what we have. I mean, I guess the equivalent would be directing. Right? We think of that as sort of the auteur of a movie. And I’m sure that we have at this point more than two percent of of major films being directed by women, although for many, many years it probably was close to to something like that number, maybe because producing music is more behind the scenes. Right. I mean, you’re more likely to get into a band without necessarily knowing who was on the production team. It’s more of an invisible problem and it takes connoisseur’s to know about it. Right? I mean, with the movie, the name is right up there up top. And I do feel like as bad as the situation is for women in film right now, at least we know it’s bad, right? At least there’s sort of, you know, studies and graphs that come out every year to show whether the situation’s improving. And, you know, obviously, a woman just won best director at the Oscars. And it’s something that’s starting to be on people’s radar in the mainstream. And I don’t think that that is necessarily the case in production. But that could just be the fact that I’m more tuned out of pop music than most people.
S4: I mean, I think producers and music are more. Top of billing than they ever have been before, and that’s part of why Jack is like a noticeable enough presence for for Allegra to get irritated by being everywhere. But, yeah, I mean, that’s the dilemma of how the music industry is going to recognize, especially now that there’s so much more home recording equipment and that sophisticated, you know, somebody like Clara, whose work working with Jack on her new album has been like a bedroom pop auteur who’s really had control of the knobs and switches herself for most of her career and now trying to expand to do something sort of wider screen pop notable is turned to somebody like Jack to do it. And there has to be a built a bridge built between those people who know how to work with Ableton and out of tune and love that all of the things in their bedrooms to coming into a studio and graduating to that next level. And it’s really happening at nowhere near the pace that it should be.
S2: It seems like, from what you are saying, that one thing that he and other male producers in this scenario should be doing is opening up internships. Right. For women trying to encourage women producers that they should be using their platform more to say like, hey, let’s bring in people from different backgrounds to do the job that we’ve been hogging for all these years.
S3: Yes, fantastic.
S2: Well, I’m curious what listeners think of this conversation, whose side they take in this argument, if any at all, or if, like me, they’re sort of neutral on the fence trying to figure it out. If you have a Jack Antonoff opinion or a song he produced that you love, that you hate that you want to make an argument for against, please read as a culture fest at Slate Dotcom. We’d love to hear from you. Well, we’ve done it. It was such a phone conversation that it zoomed by, but we’ve reached the part of the podcast where we endorse. I guess I will start with you, Carl. What have you experienced in the past week that you think the rest of the world should experience?
S4: And this is going to be a slightly extended endorsement just because I want to talk about the work of Lauren Berlant University of Chicago based cultural scholar and critic who sadly died last week of cancer at the age of just sixty three. It’s kind of tricky to know where to point listeners because Berlant was an academic writing mostly for other academics, and their work can be a little dense to grapple with. I’ve observed a lot from their excerpts in interviews. Dana, you posted a good one on Twitter after the news of their death. But I was influenced by Berlant thinking and so were countless others that they mentored and taught and worked with. Berlant was a leading figure of what’s called affect theory, which I’ll summarize no that purely as trying to treat public and private emotional expressions and overtones as meaningful cultural and political occasions for analysis. Their two big books were the female complaint about the legacy and influence of sentimentality in American life and cruel optimism, which is basically about the mirage of the American dream and how the so-called pursuit of happiness can itself become one of the main factors preventing people from accessing their deepest desires. But for a more bite sized glimpse, I’ll suggest in August 2016 post from their blog, which is called Trump or Political Emotions. It was written after both the Republican and Democratic political conventions that year as a protest against the common complaint that what was wrong with Trump was that he was making politics dangerously emotional. And Berlant wanted to say that politics is always emotional and each side just wants to see themselves as rational. And so very brief passage for many Democrats. Berlant wrote, quote, The equal distribution of suffering has come to look like democracy, which is why they are so excited by the phrase the one percent the rich are not suffering. It’s not fair. Everyone should be equally vulnerable. But Trump’s people don’t use suffering as a metric of virtue. They want fairness of a sort, but mainly they seek freedom from shame. Civil rights and feminism aren’t just about the law, after all. They are about manners and emotions too. And these, quote unquote, interest groups get right in there and reject what feels like people’s spontaneous, ingrained responses. The Trump emotion machine is delivering, feeling OK, acting free, being OK with one’s internal noise and it and demanding that it matter in the political, emotional, contemporary world. Internal noise matters. Quoting it from that way risks reducing all the ins and outs that follow and make this short piece really feel still illuminating five years later. But we’ll put a link up on the show page. And in any case, I repeat Lauren Berlant, you will be missed.
S2: That was a beautiful endorsement. Thank you, Allegra. What have you got?
S3: OK, I’m going to do a hard pivot into something that’s not very beautiful or meaningful to most people. But I have been a big fan of a video game that was recently released on consoles. It was it was originally a free download on PC and Mac, but now they have released an expanded version for the switch, the four and the Xbox. And it is called Doki Doki Literature Literature Club plus, which I know is a pretty inane title to probably most listeners. But it’s actually an incredibly interesting game that I have become obsessed with. It’s what is called a visual novel. So it’s that genre is predominantly based on reading and making some dialogue choices, but not you know, there’s no shooting or even walking around. It’s mostly about the story. And this story ostensibly is a cutesy reference to many other visual novels and anime and other Japanese store, Japanese manga and anime stories about cute schoolgirls and the boy they all have a crush on. So it’s the player characters boy who joins at his friend’s behest, a literature club at the high school where they just read and they write poems to each other. But it soon turns. And this is a little bit of a spoiler, but the game originally came out in twenty seventeen. So most people know this at this point, but very soon after it begins, it turns actually into a very disturbing horror game. So it’s it’s subverting the genre of, oh, you’re just a boy with crushes on cute girls and it ends up being very meta. It takes on both the visual novel genre, but also video games as a medium where the characters become. Sort of sentient and you have to go in and actually delete files from the game in order to continue playing the game will glitch out and crash throughout. So it’s very unexpected and odd. And that’s what makes it really fun, the part with the cutesy schoolgirls where they’re on their knees and you’re supposed to button their blazer, but it’s too small because they’re, as they say, their boobs have gotten bigger recently. That’s that’s one thing. But what the real appeal is, once you get past that, the real appeal is that suddenly these girls are going through this horrible trauma that is completely created by the game itself. And you have to go into the meat of the game as a digital digital product in order to progress. So it’s really interesting. It’s funny, it’s self-aware. And it’s a pretty quick play. But there’s multiple endings, multiple ways to go through it. So I’ve been having a lot of fun with Doki Doki Literature Club plus specifically on the Nintendo switch. I’ve been playing it well.
S2: I love how completely divergent there’s two endorsements are. It’s great. Yeah, got it all here in this. The Gabfest. All right. My endorsement is this is a very me kind of thing. I love sites on the Internet that allow you to see what’s happening in real time in different places. I mean, I guess Google Maps would be a version of this. Not that I spent a lot of time killing time on Google Maps, but explore dog, which I’ve talked about before on the show, which is live cams on animals and nature all over the world, is a place that I love to visit and just sort of have an attack in the background so I can go see what’s happening in Nome, Alaska, on the Brown Bear Reserve or whatever. So I’ve found another thing that’s similar to that. But in the world of Radio Carl, you’re a music guy. Have you heard of Radio Garden website?
S4: Oh yeah. Yeah.
S2: Gabfest around
S4: with it. Yeah. This gets passed around music critic, Twitter and music critic, social media in general, like every six months or so. And there’s another wave of people discovering it. It’s it’s amazing.
S2: It is amazing. Right. I’m sorry to be another late comer, boring person discovering radio gardening, but I hope some more boring people will join me because it’s really, really cool. So Radio Garden is basically just an interactive map of the globe. It’s very simple. It’s not fancy interactive with a lot of switches. It’s almost like one of those globes that you’ll sometimes see on your individual screen on a plane, you know, where you can track the progress of the plane. And on some of the better ones, you can rotate the globe around and learn about different places. Right. I always love doing that, too. And that’s what this site is. It’s a big rotating globe. And you can put your cursor anywhere, like putting a pin in a map and here whatever’s going on on the radio in that part of the world. So, you know, for example, right now, before our conversation, I went to Morocco to see what people are listening to on the radio. And I now have it’s muted so I can talk to you all, but I have skyrocketed Casablanca. I’m playing somewhere in the background. And a really fun thing about exploring world radio is you get to hear DJs, right? I mean, I just feel like DJs, special DJs who really loved the form of music they were talking about, knew a lot about it and knew how to frame it and present it are really disappearing from the world as we listen to more and more Spotify and digital streaming platforms. And we’re not listening to music that a person is curating and presenting for us. So this is one way to do that. And it’s also, of course, a really just a cool way to explore the world. It’s not at all always the case that you’re hearing music of that part of the world. Right. So it’s very possible that if I turn up Schirach, Casablanca right now, they’re listening to to, you know, Chicago or something. But but just knowing that some guy in Casablanca right now felt like spinning a Chicago platter isn’t itself very fun. So it does have some of that adventure exploration feeling of explore dog, and it’s got that real time thing as well. So if there’s breaking news, you might hear that breaking news broken in some completely other land that you’ve never been to before. So all you do is go to Radio Garden and and start playing around with it. And I predict people will be really into it. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. Carl and Allegra. This was an extra fun show and a really lively conversation.
S4: Thank you, Dana.
S2: You can find links to some of the things we talked about today on our show page, Slate Dotcom Culture Fest. You can also always write us an email at Culture Fest, at Slate Dotcom, whether you have feedback on the show that we’ve just done ideas for a future show and especially suggestions for a Slate plus segment. In fact, we’re doing one of those from a listener today and we always love to get them. So again, that’s Culture Fest. That’s like dotcom. Our intro music was composed by the wonderful Nick Brittelle. Our producer is Cameron Drus and our production assistant. This week was Cleo 11 for Allegra Frank and Carl Wilson. I’m Dan Stevens. Thank you so much for listening. And we’ll talk to you next week. Welcome to this last segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest today, we’re going to be talking about a question suggested by our production assistant, Cleo Levin, about live music. She wanted to know what was the first live music we were set to hear now that the news was starting to open back up after the pandemic. I’m also curious in asking this question, what was the last live music that you guys heard before everything shut down? And then maybe we can just open that into a conversation about what it means to go here, live music, how much you’ve missed it, what a big part it did play and will play in your life going forward. I somehow feel like Carl you’ve got to lead off with this one because you’re the music critic. But at the same time, when we were prepping the segment and talking about doing it, you said that you might have a surprising or disappointing response because you’re not as much of a live music goer as people would think. What’s going on there?
S4: Yeah, it’s I mean, I am a loud music goer, but I think one of the things that’s really shifted a lot for me as a music person in the last five to 10 years is that I do it a lot less than I used to. And partly it’s that, you know, I’m based in Toronto and I’m writing primarily for Slate and other American publications. And so I’m not reviewing concerts because people don’t want people in New York what happened at that concert in Toronto. So I don’t do that as much as I used to. And in some ways it’s felt like a blessing because I’ve spent a good, you know, 25 years of my life being out several times a week till the middle of the night at concerts. And in some ways that, you know, I feel like there’s not a lot of things that we’re culturally. But that can a little bit I think just that the the routine of and the effort of getting yourself out and spending the night standing around, often in the setlist venue, wading through some sets you might not want to hear for the one that you do all of these things. So that shift already happened in ways that made the that the not the thing that I missed most in the pandemic. But on the other hand, the thing that I still have done a lot is go to see people I know play music and that that’s something that I have kept up and, you know, in circles in Toronto and in other places where I’ve gotten to know musicians over the years, it’s a real pleasure and kind of a communal gathering feeling to come together and go like, let’s go to so-and-so gig tonight. And that I really do miss. I was at a friend’s birthday party in a park a couple of weeks ago, and it just so happened. It just so happened. It was deliberately planned that there’s a sort of mixed amateur and professional group of klezmer musicians who have a monthly gathering in that park and play. And they’ve just started to do that again recently. Things haven’t opened up in venues here really yet, but that kind of outdoor stuff is happening. And it took me about 15 minutes into having them playing in the background where we all talk to each other. You realize, oh, my God, like music is playing. This hasn’t happened for, you know, 18 months. And and that was a real kind of chill that ran through me. And so I am looking forward to doing it. But again, the sort of social aspect of music is, I think, the thing that I’m missing the most.
S2: So do you have tickets for anything coming up in the next year or is it too early to even find such thing?
S4: I know people who are doing so, but like there are some things scheduled for the fall in Toronto that doesn’t feel like a guaranteed thing happening at all. There are there’s some stuff coming up. Massey Hall, which is one of the historic concert venues in Toronto, has been going through a giant renovation the past couple of years. And it’s due to open up. And everyone here is pretty excited to see how the space has changed. And in January, Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin are scheduled to play there. So I am hoping to go see that. That’ll be it. That’ll be a I’m sure, a really moving way to re encounter that space and with gorgeous, gorgeous music. So that’s one thing.
S2: Allegra, what about you? What’s the last musical event that you bought a ticket to and what will be the next one?
S3: Who I will always remember the heartbreak of early twenty twenty for many reasons, but I have always been a really big live music goer lover and would do it often. It was one of my favorite things to do. So I did it. You know, I went all the time and I can’t quite remember the last one I went to. I remember, though, that the week of the shutdown, I probably the last one I went to was like Beach Bunny, which then after the show I immediately bought a ticket to their next show, which was going. To be in, I think, April 20, 20, and I also had four March and early April alone, 20, 20, I had tickets lined up for the band Palm Pocho in their first US tour. I had tickets to see Billy Eilish. I had tickets to see soccer. Mommy, who’s my fave? I had tickets to see I could see beach money. I had tickets to see Bright Eyes with Japanese breakfast and Lucy tickets. I was planning to go see Wieser with Fall Out Boy and Green Day. So that was already the first half of the year. And then literally the day I was going to see Palm Pocho was when things were starting to look bad. So I am glad that I decided to stay home. And then the day before I was Sibylle Eilish is when Lockdown’s started. And so a lot of those tickets, thankfully, have been honored or, you know, so I’m going to still be able to see soccer mommy and beach bunny and bright eyes if I still feel like it. But his album last year was actually really bad, so I don’t know if I will go. And but the saddest is that so I have those concerts lined up I’m very excited for. And I also am seeing Julian Baker later this year. These are all going to start the summer. But I’m sad about the tickets that were not the tickets that were not honored and instead refunded, which includes Billy Eilish, because I bought those tickets right before the Grammys and then she won all those Grammys and then she won all those Grammys this year. So I tried to buy new Billy Eilish tickets this year to see her in the summer and last year to see her at Barclays Center, which is like the biggest Arenas stadium in Brooklyn. I paid eighty dollars this year. She’s playing at Madison Square Garden. And when I went to buy tickets, the only ones they had left for four hundred fifty dollars. Oh, my God. Yeah. So probably never seeing Billy Eilish any this year, maybe ever. We’ll see. So pretty sad about that. But at least I do have some more concerts lined up for this year. But I will always mourn the ones I lost in March. Twenty twenty.
S2: Wow. You are a serious, serious concertgoer. That is a big investment in tickets.
S3: Yeah, I definitely lost out on or was refunded hundreds of dollars last year.
S2: It is also amazing how quickly Billy Eilish rose to that level of prominence and prestige and fame. Right. I feel like I’m always going to wave the flag of pride that I was the first person to mention her on the slate culture. That’s when she was a YouTube teen sensation. And I remember Steve saying Billy, who within weeks she had made her first album and getting huge.
S3: All right, Dana, is the influencer on the.
S2: Yeah, yeah. You know, me and my incredible knowledge. Yeah, I actually I wanted to respond to Carl’s having having stopped going to as many concerts because they’re so physically exhausting. I feel like I already started out as an old person in that in that respect. In my twenties, I was dating a musician for many years who loved to go hear music and it was his favorite thing to do. And he also had lots of friends who are always playing. And basically every weekend was sort of, you know, who are we going to go here, play, whether it was a ticketed real concert or just going to an open mic to your friends or whatever. And I got really, really sick of it, even when I liked the music, because going to hear live music, especially in that kind of venue, you’re talking about Carl, the kind of concrete floor standing room only. We don’t know how many bands they’re going to be or when they will come on or in what order. Those kind of evenings were just so exhausting to me that at a certain point I just started to tap out like, I’m sorry, unless I really care about the act, I just I’m not going with you. I find hearing live music to be obviously, you know, transcendent and beautiful and amazing when it is transcendent and beautiful and amazing. But there is a lot of expenditure of time and physical effort to get to that moment. And there are I mean, this is all part of liveness, right? There are a lot of nights when it doesn’t happen in that way or it only happens and takes a spark at one particular moment after you’ve already put the whole evening in. But then I remember a night that back in the 90s that sort of taught me the error of my ways and made me see that I should be more open, which is that I got just dragged completely against my will to go see later. Kenny, before they were anything at all at a tiny little club in Berkeley. You know, just like I was so happy that it was a tiny little concrete room because it was so punk and so alive and so great to be there. So, you know, that was a night where I went from winding it. My boyfriend. Why are you making me do this again? To you know, I will follow Carrie Brownstein throughout within a space of minutes of the last show that I saw before the pandemic was pretty close to the shut down for me, given that I don’t that often by take it to a live show. And it was Joanna Newsom and it was extraordinary. Is just her on a stage with a harp and a piano, just sort of swiveling around in between the harp and the piano and accompanying herself just as simple and as intimate as you could possibly want. It was a perfect kind of last show to see before the pandemic because it had such an intimate and sort of elegiac kind of feeling. She’s really wonderful life and I would happily go and see her again, that’s all. But the next thing I’m going to see is, is actually cabaret. I guess that sort of counts as live music, right? I mean, it’s like music with with patter in between. I’m going to a cabaret night with my daughter at fifty four below, which is this cabaret in Midtown that sort of specializes in, I don’t know what you call it, sort of a combination of music and comedy and sometimes sort of old school cabaret. And it’s Natalie Walker who’s this really great comic actress and singer and sort of online personality that is one of my daughter’s Igoe ideals. And every time that she’s done a Studio 54 said, we’ve gone and seen it. So that’s the next one we’re going to see. Other than that, I mean, I don’t know what the next thing is that I would really shell out big dough to go see in a big venue. Like you said, if Eilish was affordable, she would be someone I would love to see live. Lady Gaga is now somebody who’s on my life dream list because she’s supposed to give a great live show. But that’s also probably really unaffordable. I think if I saved up my pennies for someone, especially because I would be doing it with my 15 year old daughter, who feels much more strongly about these pop stars than I do, I would probably do. Gaga, have either of you seen her live?
S3: No, I’ve heard that she is extremely fun. I know several people who have seen her, so I would love to I’m not a Lady Gaga fan, but I’m sure that would be a super, super fun show.
S2: I just haven’t been to one of those shows in a really long time. That’s, you know, that involves things coming down out of the ceiling and, you know, chorus dancers and like a big production that we often talk about on this show. But we talk about it because we’ve seen the concert Doki or something, not because we’re actually going to a giant venue and seeing it. What do you think of that experience? Carl?
S4: Yeah, personally, I’d much rather see the concert dock like that. I’ve never and I’ve missed a lot of things this way and there are regrets. I have, you know, like one of the reasons I never saw Prince live was that I wasn’t willing to go to a stadium to do it and just hope that I was going to get one of those magic phone calls where somebody told me where the after show was. That just never happened. So but yeah, I’ve never been I tapped out on stadium shows a long, long time before I slowed down. Going to see other kinds of things just because partly because I’m afraid of heights and often the seats involved kind of precariously balancing on the concrete lip of something that makes you feel like you’re going to go tumbling into the seats in front of you. So I don’t enjoy that part, but the rigamarole is just so intensive. And it’s also that, like, although I complained about it, I am a lover of of the small club. And it’s really where I feel like, you know, in lots of ways my soul was built and nurtured and and touched what kind of cultural person I wanted to be. And, you know, although I think there are lots of reasons to disparage them, one of the things to keep in mind, I think, is the pandemic AIDS is that those places are still endangered by everything that’s happened in the past year and a half. And and, you know, with Toronto, we’re going through a situation where a lot of places are under threat of closing because their insurance premiums have been jacked way up out of the results of the pandemic. And a lot of them can’t afford that. And they have to move or shut down. And it’s you know, there are there’s been some government help and there’s been people who’ve banded together to try and help small clubs survive. But it’s been a you know, it’s a real it’s a real cost of the pandemic that some of those places are never coming back and others will take a long time to really come back to health. So, you know, to the extent that you can you know, if it’s a choice between spending one hundred and fifty dollars to go see a star at a stadium show and doing that ten times, spending fifteen dollars or twenty dollars, going out to see music in your area, think about the kind of keeping the the blood flowing and the infrastructure alive culturally for for musicians and other kinds of artists in your area. That’s the thing I feel really strongly right now.
S2: Yeah, that’s an important point. And it’s something that we talked about in relation to theaters, movie theaters on this show just last week, that even if you yourself are not a huge theater person and you’re just as happy to see something on your couch, like once in a while, putting down that money for a ticket is a is a vote of confidence in the medium itself and saying, you know, I care about this continuing to exist in our culture. OK, well, listeners, if you want to talk about the next show you’re getting tickets for or the one that you regret not being able to see back in the spring of twenty twenty, please drop us a line at Culture Fest, at Slate, Dotcom, and also please give us ideas for more Slate plus segments. We love hearing from you when we. Put this segment together. All right, well, thanks so much for being Slate plus subscribers and for supporting all the work that we do. And we’ll talk to you all next week.