Monday, October 1, 2012

Defending Jack White

Being that I am just another twenty something with a useless blog and a taste for writing I figured I, as well as every person on the planet will lend my reaction to Jack White’s New York City Antics this past weekend. As any other audience attendant I have been devouring the story. On our way into the city on Sunday, my Husband searches the internet to see if anything was written about the night before. When we found out about the walk out, my heart broke a little. These tickets were his gift for our one year wedding anniversary and a make up for when we missed out in May. We are avid Jack White fans, and have been for quite some time. We were buzzing with excitement to see the man himself live. This does not have to mean anything to anyone, but I figure before I over-analyze anything like the rest of the internet I will start at the beginning. 

To illustrate my bias, music is my favorite type of media. My favorite art form. My favorite escape. I discovered the healing qualities of music as a child when my parent’s large black boom box seemed to be my best friend while I blasted the Aladdin soundtrack until I went through the CD cabinet and stole Carly Simon, Billy Joel and Carol King albums all because the covers were nice to look at for a child. Little did I know these albums held records that would never leave me. ‘River of Dreams’ by Billy Joel is my favorite song (and yes, as a music lover I do have a favorite song) and whenever it comes on my world reverts into a blissful 6 year old’s existence. I connect with music on a personal level and each song that I take a liking to nourishes a part of me whenever I listen to it. Growing up my music taste evolved and grew, the roots inside my parent’s CD towers. From Simon and Garfunkel to the Beatles the classics were instilled in me. The knots of the trunk formed branches and I ate up every single genre of music and studied them. I wanted to know everything and everything about songwriters and what it takes them to create their art. My Mother would dance and sing to Queen, my Father would relax to Bob Dylan and I would collect a musical catalog that would keep me company and teach me lessons as my tree grew taller and taller. 

These songs became a soundtrack to every event in my life. Each new song I attach to will pull up or create memories, and music will always be a love that never leaves me. I cry at most concerts because of this. When a song gets played live that I scream in my car, or listen to on repeat, or just hold close I lose it when I see the musician lay it out on stage. There is nothing better than a musician performing their songs the way they intended to. It is absolutely brilliant how the performance of one of your favorite songs illustrates where that piece of art came from, where, and how. In a way, it is a gift to the listener - a type of ‘yes, I know you hold these lyrics close, I wrote them, and here is why’. It is a sacred thing, which is why most music lovers flock to live shows. 

Unfortunately, live shows are a lot like sporting events now. The ticket price is high and most of the time the event is ruled by trends. Most people flock to live events to tweet through them, check in, and brag about who they saw and what happened. The music ‘scene’ is just that, a ‘scene’ instead of an appreciated experience. Because of the ticket pricing, it is hard to not feel entitled to such an experience. But the musician’s motivation could be slightly deflated because of the trends, because the audience is ruled by the economy and hashtags above the die hard enthusiasts who normally are working overtime while the concerts are going on. 

What led us to the Jack White show was a long relationship with the artist that is obviously one sided because we do not know him personally which is why sometimes writing these blog posts seem like utter bullshit. Well, they are utter bullshit fueled by self absorbency (case in point, I just rambled on about myself and music). While I do roll my eyes at myself it still does not prevent me from further typing. So, I will continue. Like a lot of people, my first encounter with Jack White was a bunch of Legos changing shapes on my television screen. Soon the barely 2 minute song became a staple onto every one of my mix CDs and White Blood Cells became a coveted album of mine. The White Stripe’s simplistic yet empowered sound was exciting and enjoyable. I remember being indifferent to Jack & Meg White as people. Their under the radar lifestyle was fine with me because their music was fantastic. I never paid much attention to Jack White until I saw an interview with him that stuck with me. While I can’t quote it, or reference who or what the interview was for I remember White talking about artists, and how true artists do not go to the store to buy teal paint, they go home and mix primary colors until they find the perfect shade they were looking for. That struck me. I understood The White Stripes on a new level at that point and my fandom only grew from there. 

For one thing, The White Stripes created a cool sound that was a backdrop to lyrics that were interesting on paper. When White’s side project The Raconteurs graced my ears I was pumped - another sound to add to Jack White and he became more interesting to me. The Dead Weathers were next - and by far my moody favorite but now I am getting sidetracked and maybe screwed up the timeline some where in there. My opinion of Jack White was honestly made once and for all when my husband urged me to go see ‘It Might Get Loud’ with him. We went to a small movie theater and I sat in awe of the documentary on the guitar, and types of guitar players. Jimmy Page is known as a God, and to watch him strumming a mandolin while strolling outside was phenomenal. But the man who took the film for me was White. The explanations he made about music, his skill, his guitars were all visual masterpieces that really blew my mind. I enjoyed his sections and admired his integrity. His busted Kay guitar that his brother gave him from a thrift shop to his custom Gretsch were all beautiful. Instruments just as interesting as the stories they play for our ears was a concept I appreciated and relished in. The fact that White has his Kay, and plays it on stage to me shows a level of integrity that gets lost in the fame of the industry, White plays for himself first, and that is made known. 

At that moment I decided that Jack White was the greatest musician of our generation because of this integrity, attitude, and imagination he exuded on screen. Him making a guitar in the opening scene to him sitting while Jimmy Page jammed away out of respect. His stories, his work, everything that Jack White presented in that film made me respect him and become a fan for life. 

Since the film I watched him in various television clippings, like American Pickers and The Colbert Report. All showcasing a lighter side to him, but he always has exemplified the fact that the most important part of his persona was the music. Interviews and jokes aside, he wants to play his music, that is what he is about, that is what he takes seriously. When I read about KT Tunstall (opening for White), pressing a note into his hand claiming he was her hero and him hugging her in return was also a story that solidified his sincerity in what he does. I know his past antics included throwing an Olsen Twin out of a show, and declaring his distaste for ‘hipsters’ but none of that matters to me, his music does. I can actually relate to his dissatisfaction with the trends of today. The ‘hipster’ movement is one I will not even let myself understand. Looking like 90’s toddlers with sullen stares with artistic aspiration means shit. Honestly. You all clog up concerts and speak loudly through sets over analyzing each song and performance instead of actually experiencing the live show...

...I am getting ahead of myself again. Back to Jack White and Radio City Music Hall. Sitting on that train reading about the ‘Fuck Jack White’ Chants I was disheartened that we may get cheated out of the experience I was reading about. The Jack White who plays in parking lots, and closes big festivals. I looked at my husband who shrugged - we just wanted to see those guitars and hear those songs, and see The Peacocks (those girls can PLAY) flounce around behind the musical mastermind that we have so much respect for. Thankfully we saw a set, but we missed out on the full experience. 

Whatever happened on that Saturday night must have been bad for White and I honestly sympathize. Do you want to know why? I, like everyone else pay for my ticket. I pay a stupid amount of money that I don’t have for whatever damn seats Ticketmaster will come up with to stand on line an hour before the doors open to be herded in like cattle to the merch table where I buy a T-Shirt then I find my seat and wait some more. As this is happening I am surrounded by a crowd of people that I never seem to fit in with. Normally this is ruled by the theory I touched on before - the trends and the economy rule the audience of shows, especially in Manhattan, and I never find myself with music loving people who are there for that live connection or experience. My main example of that is that fact that people think it is perfectly fine to walk into the venue while the Opening Act is playing on their cell phones speaking loudly and creating an unstable energy in the air. It honestly infuriates me. For one reason, I waited on line to get in, to settle and to enjoy the opening act. Some of the best performances I have seen were from Opening Acts (65 Days of Static, Cold War Kids). On this night of September 30th we discovered Pokey Lafarge and the South City 3 and they were nothing other than splendid. Yes, splendid. The sound they create from all acoustic amazing instruments with a polite demeanor easily made them one of my favorite bands two songs in. What absolutely sucked was the fact that people would walk in, mid song, sit down, take a few photos of themselves while gabbing loudly and distract the whole experience of watching this band play. While the self shots were happening in front of me, behind me a very loud person arrived speaking of all of the other bands they saw in the past month or so - completely demolishing any chance of the people around them to listen to what was happening on stage. My blood boils with this. You paid the money, to come late, and miss half of the experience and you still act like the headliner owes you something. The headliner normally chooses that opening act for YOU, for the audience to experience. They set the tone for the experience. It is normally a simple tone played with all heart - but it is a brilliant experience not to overlook and it kills me that these opening acts get stomped all over. It obviously hurts the headliner too - because if they care about their craft, the total live experience means something to the big picture. 

When Pokey’s set ended, the crowd buzzed with anticipation with what could happen. When the dapperly dressed roadie came out and instructed the crowd that ‘we are going to try this again’ I had to laugh. Jack White came out with a vengeance. He tore his set up, and did not say a word to the crowd. While I danced all night, screamed every lyric, I did notice the quickened tempo and the huge elephant in the room. But in those moments I did not care. I was watching Jack White - the artist I grew to respect and adore tear his songs to pieces. Yes, I have read the reviews and everyone has analyzed the set to be spiteful and anger driven - but even so - it was a great show. I am a little upset that I did not get the normal Jack White Experience I hear about, the one where he interacts with the crowd, but I did get the experience that he plays what he feels. And if he felt annoyed, rushed, and angry over whatever happened the previous night - that is what we got. He is not a stupid person, do I think that some of the performances were calculated? Of course, but he did sing ‘We are Going to be Friends’ and ‘Hypocritical Kiss’ - which could have been a little ode to ‘I fucked up’ but are we really still stressing over a musicians antics? At least he isn’t like every other ridiculous pop star that pulls a stunt and then checks into rehab. What I found gratifying is that at the end we got a ‘Thank You’ and a bow - which is a sign of respect to the crowd. So what if he didn’t feel like talking - I paid for a show, not a therapy session. 

What I did love was how there was a pretty girl, in a flouncy dress adding vocals and the tambourine. That was amazing. And the lights, the set, the mash ups, the reprises, The Peacocks giving anyone and everyone who ever put women in music down a big fat perfectly polished finger. The whole experience was one I will never forget. I will see Jack White again, again and again. The whole stunt did not make me lose any ounce of respect for him. His walking off stage and leaving fans hanging does suck, they paid their money and took their time, but you paid for the experience. Unfortunately your experience wasn’t the best, but maybe White’s wasn’t either. Did you show up 20 minuets into the opening act spilling your beer while sending a tweet? I am guilty of checking in and tweeting with the rest of them, but during the show I am all in. Jack White does not owe any of us anything but an awesome follow up album to Blunderbuss. I know I am just a second rate wannabe freelance writer from Long Island, but I needed to lend my voice to this topic because of the insane internet Jack White blow up. The reasonings and the articles on how his set list was his explanation, and the comparisons to other performances were extremely interesting and some of the writing was quite fantastic, but enough is enough. 

I wanted to defend him, because he came onto a stage that once yelled ‘FUCK YOU’, and he picked up his Kay. 


  1. I came across this on Twitter as I've been following the "#jackwhitedebacle". I couldn't agree with you more and feel as though I could have written this myself. Thank you for putting something refreshing out there. I am excited to see him Wednesday in Toronto and hope for the full Jack White experience :)

    1. Thank you Tina! Please let me know how Wednesday goes - I will definitely go see him when he tours again! I just figured with a blog I might as well but my two cents in :) Thank you for reading!