Twitter and metal
Twitter has become a huge part of the metal scene. Call me a Luddite, but I'm ambivalent about this new technology and what it means for the music. True, I learned how to type on one of those bulky manual typewriters that were used by 1950s secretaries, and I fondly remember the eight-track tape from childhood. Many will discount my opinion because of my vintage.
I see the positives. Metal has always thrived on word of mouth and flyers on power poles in crappy neighborhoods. Now I can go to a band's Twitter feed and find out not only when they will be in my town, but also what they ate at Arby's last night (roast beef? cheeseburger?) It's unsurprising that a group of people that often feel isolated in their own communities use the latest technology to reach each other and spread the word about good music. That's a good thing.
What concerns me is that Twitter can lead to the things metalheads outwardly claim to detest: cliques, egos, scenesterism, and nonsense. Metal has always been about individuality and cultivating a sense of self-worth. When misused, Twitter leads to the opposite: the notion that worth can be calculated by the the number of followers, the quest to try and say something arch, the reduction of meaningful dialogue into a series of brain farts.
In the hands of a staunch minimalist, a tweet can be masterful. I'm thinking about the Goatwhore tweet about In-N-Out Burger cooking their fries in the bowels of Hell. For others, it's become a mass stream of consciousness churning out needless updates about bathroom habits, drunkenness, band crushes, and beard lengths.
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Oh, sure, you'll get an interesting link to a story or review. But it can also be like sitting on the train next to the person who never leaves and never shuts up. Writing is an art. In the wrong hands, it has become a reflex, like sneezing.
The worst part? During the past year, half the people I see in the audience of shows are updating Facebook pages or sending Tweets. Didn't they pay to see the bands? Even if they are on the guest list, they should try to pay attention.
When I go to show, I consider it a special space. I hate to answer my phone. I don't want to talk much. I'm there to listen to music, to lose myself in the experience. I'm annoyed enough by modern technology in my daily life. I don't need it intruding when I am listening to music I love.
If I'm reviewing a show, I bring a small notebook and a good pen, like I have for years. I don't tweet to anyone that I’m going to show; the people I might want to see know I will be there. I'm not saying a metal show needs to be a staid affair, but it certainly shouldn't resemble a Silicon Valley boardroom meeting with added denim jackets and back patches. If I'm writing about a show, I take my time to think about it. I try to construct a narrative, paint a mental picture of what it was like. I'll try to say something besides "this band really rules", even if that is the truth.
Tweeting takes some of the mystery out of performance. Concerts should be a place to go to have a collective experience that is nonetheless intensely personal. Now shows seem like a place many people go to have as a springboard for their Twitter account. Look, here I am at the Marduk concert! Forget the idea of losing yourself in the music; the first thing you need to do is tell people you are there.
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Read for yourself an admittedly overwrought selection of tweets from the fictional @hesher666theband to see what sometimes constitutes meaningful dialogue:
@hesher666theband Driving into San Antone tonight, FRIDAY NIGHT, gonna make it San Antone Rock City. Jager again tonight.
@hesher666the band TELL YOUR FRIENDS. WE’RE AT @THEMETALLOVESHACK tonight. Tix still available dudes and dudettes!
@metalgirl Holy shit! Hesher666 is playing tonight. Drinking already, bitch.
@glasswarez Will be selling new line of smoking devices at merch table of the San Antonio metal gig tonight. Come buy and say (get) high – LMFAO!
@hesher666theband #FF @stryper, @whitesnake, @thedevilwearsprada, @fivefingerdeathpunch, @metalsanaz
@hesher666theband Arrived @themetalloveshack. Good club. Free lasagna and beer for the bands. Wasn’t even on our fucking rider, dude.
@evilthomasaquinas Oh man the new Tritpykon is great! Going to see Hesher 666 The Band play tonight, stoked.
@blackmetalconvert Avoiding @hesher666theband tonight. My new favorite band is @watain. Will be lighting candles, invoking spells.
@NuclearAbortion We are opening for the mighty @hesher666theband. Twenty minutes. Come out and raise those friggin horns dethheads!
@NamasteBukakke We were second on stage. Had to pee real bad through whole set. Come buy some merch if you are reading this on your iphone! PORNOGRIND!!!
@hyppmetalhed trying to chillax but the drummer of @hesher666theband looks like Eazy-E. Weird.
@suemetalgal Think Hesher is on but I’m in line for bathroom; lots of people here tonight are wearing bulletbelts. Trend?
@madmetalmaxx Long drink line, think the band is playing “Pussy Parade” or it might be “Stench Of Lubricated Leather.”
@fire-breathing-lass My old friend is seriously fucked up! We are pulling her outside to the cab.
@suemetalgal The bathrooms at @themetalloveshack are gross.
@hesher666theband 4 a.m. and loading out. Rocked the shit out of this damn city tonight . we’re wasted @!^&*(
@madmetalmaxx Read my 5,000 word revu of @hesher666theband here (bit.ly) complete with iPhone pics! HAILS!
I’m still open to the idea of starting a Twitter account. It might be a good way to get my work to more people. It’s nice to be read, even if that isn’t your goal. Everyone says that things have changed and you need to promote your own work on the Internet. I’ve never thought of myself as a promoter, just a writer. How about this for starters?
@justinmnorton I hope Invisible Oranges tweets this so more people will read it.
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