Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate Lady Gaga at The 5 Spot

Friends of mine in Nashville brought me up to speed with the Lady Gaga “Dive Bar” concert at The 5 Spot last night.  I really like The 5 Spot, having played there a number of times and finding it the kind of venue that really caters to our little indie world with reasonably good sound and reasonably priced drinks.  It is the kind of place where you need to play well and the crowd recognizes it when you do.  It’s very talented people playing good music that is under the radar.

Lady Gaga is in the midst of some promo initiative to get her new record out.  I don’t understand what she is doing completely but it has something to do with a concept of her playing dress up as a struggling blue collar songstress named “Joanne”.  The marketing initiative is essentially her playing small venues and creating media events while pretending to be this character from the record.  Bud Light sponsors the shit out of it and she rolls in with literally truckloads of gear.  She plays the “dive bar” and then hits the road for the next one in these carefully calculated media events.

For two days Lady Gaga locked down The 5 Spot.  The plan was for her to have a “surprise” concert a la Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Tour.  This was the worst kept secret in America as I knew about it here in Cleveland and yet don’t give a shit about Lady Gaga.  About 150 people got inside to see her play a set on the second day.  Now when I say “set”, I actually mean 20 minutes.  The whole thing was streamed on some corporate concern and then she hopped in her recently purchased super special vintage Bronco with the “Joanne” vanity plate and roared off.  How very exciting.

Lady Gaga sucked Nashville and The 5 Spot like a parasite for indie cred.  She used the venue and the implied reverse endorsement of that entire scene to legitimize her new record.  She essentially bought the seedy credibility of the real artists that inhabit The 5 Spot to suggest that she as “Joanne” is the same.  Well, the same, but better with her $50 million dollars of PA equipment and sound gear she rolled into the venue.  Why do we have to pretend that her slumming around with folks in our scene legitimizes her Chris Gaines record?

What I would have preferred to see would have been her to roll in and play Derek Hoke’s regular Tuesday night at The 5 Spot.  As far as I can see, Tuesday is Derek’s.  Derek, a fabulous songwriter and performer, has painstakingly built a regular Tuesday night where other artists guest with him.  It’s loose and a real organic thing.  Lady Gaga should have turned up and played after Derek did his set with her new material.  That’s the real thing of what she is pretending to do on this “Dive Bar tour”.  Instead of having 12 guys on her crew quadruple check every aspect of sound for a day and half before a 20 minute set, why doesn’t she just get up there and let the house sound guy tweak his humble gear as best he can on the fly on her set before disappearing from the board to have a smoke out front?  That’s the real shit.  And 20 minutes?  How about at least 45 minutes of material sweetie?

The whole idea of “the dive bar” tour is pretty insulting.  However, let’s be honest.  Lady Gaga can buy a shit ton of lights and 12 fabulous gay male glitter dancers, but she can’t buy the real artistic soul of the artists that play The 5 Spot.  Only by renting it for two days can she clue her “little monsters” fan base into what is really going on.  If this was 1979 she would have rented CBGBs.  In 1985 it would have been the 40 Watt Club.  In 1995 The Crocodile.  Now she will finish up these “dive bars” by inevitably playing in other trendy cities iconic venues like Austin, Portland, and key media centers.  It is all so contrived and simultaneously stepping on the real artists that she is trying to bleed.  Hey, you gotta move units so I get it.  It doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

Nashville is the new Portland which was the new Brooklyn which was the new Seattle which was the new Austin which was the new Athens.  It must be odd for the old residents of East Nashville to see the fame chasers roll into their town for a stamp on their credibility badge.  It used to be a good secret.  A few years ago East Nashvillians were all parking for free eating in little local restaurants that didn’t know they were ironic and kitschy.  It was small and local and cool.  The very thing that made it great, humble yet talented people doing their own thing amidst long Southern traditions, is being swept away in a sea of knit caps and ironic mustaches.  Sorry folks.  When Lady Gaga uses you for her fan base, it’s sort of over.  See you in Asheville.  I’ll bring the soy lattes.     


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