(there’s a reason why the members of The Star Spangles are to this day flossing their teeth with $1000 bills, while the members of Shellac toil in unforgiving day labor – read below)
Like many of my friends, I was saddened this week to learn of two of my favorite bands were going on self-described hiatus. Both are trios composed of awesome human beings with the sort of talent, ingenuity and wit we should never, ever take for granted, not for a second.
Their respective reasons for putting stuff on pause are certainly no one else’s business and neither band owes us anything — not after the countless amazing shows (and in the elder band’s instance, a run of 6 astonishing albums in just 3 years). That said, I cannot help but point a finger of blame in the direction of “Miami” Steve Van Vandt, who laid the groundwork for this turn of events with his open letter to participants in the 2004 “Underground Garage Festival” at Randall’s Island (“it is extraordinarily unlikely for anyone to make it as a three-piece band”) in which trios were encouraged to “add a fourth or even fifth member if at all conceivable.”
“If your band does not have a ‘look’ this might be a good time to consider it,” warned Van Zandt, who went on to state, “one of our main goals is to continue to establish a new infrastructure that allows Rock and Roll bands to make a living playing music,” (“the better your songs are, the better you look, the more musical you sound, and the more exciting your performance, the better our chances of winning this war we are waging against the exclusive domination of hard rock, hip hop, contemporary pop, and rootless, soulless, mindless, lifeless, hopeless, joyless mediocrity in general.”)
Fast forward a dozen years later and we all know how things turned out. Every band you know is making a decent living playing music. Much the way Little Steven vanquished apartheid and managed to pull off other miracles-against-all-odds (for instance, making Nils Lofgren look relatively cool by comparison) today, Rudi Protrudi earns a salary in the high six figures presiding over the Fuzztones Fantasy Camp. Hip hop and contemporary pop are mere rumors on the cultural landscape compared to the Chesterfield Kings revival that’s swept the world ever since.
Against this backdrop, I think it’s fair to say that Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes and Spray Paint never stood a chance. I appreciate their quixotian struggle and do hope in the years to come, Van Zandt’s stranglehold on the public’s imagination is finally broken.