Detour: A roundabout way to get the exact same place as everyone else
The current Los Angeles scenester/hipster/hippie-scenester/club-kid/alternative-anything crowd isn’t what it use to be. It use to represent some elitist, exclusive culture of those most aware of all that progressed in art, music, and fashion. As of last Saturday at the Second Annual Detour Fest, though, it seems to now be infused with a wide array of Urban Outfitters look-book styles from page 16 of their fall/winter catalog and only a marginal amount of decent originality.
When the gates of the second annual Detour Festival in L.A., California opened at noon, most ticket holders flooded the opening, eager to lay eyes and ears on the early bands still warming up with sound checks and routine last minute tuning. The festival featured the likes of Justice, Bloc Party, Shout Out Louds, Le Castle Vania, DJ Mehdi, Busy P, and The Cool Kids, to name a handful of the 30 plus bands and DJ’s scheduled to perform that day.
I, on the other hand, managed to make my way to Detour Fest a solid seven hours late, just in time to see all of the headliners, A.K.A. “good bands.” I guess the problem (besides my blatant disregard for time) was expecting a festival named “Detour” to have some type of easy access as presumably its namesake implies. But maybe I should have had a dictionary handy because Detour was one of the most difficult music festivals to actually get to. If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, then I made circles around it and crossed it twice, driving maybe two miles out of the way just to find $8 parking next to a graffitied wall.
I guess it was worth it because the moment I stepped onto the scene I could already hear the mix of Sebastian and Kavinsky’s synthesized sounds off in the distance. The energy in the night air pulsated in even measures with the heavy beats electro DJ’s were spinning from the four stages that outstretched in every cardinal direction. I could feel the ground thump beneath my feet and rattle the shaky tin foldout fence—positioned to herd all of us around the stages like hipster cattle. As I made my way through a thick crowd of choppy-haired, Ray ban-clad teens and twenty-somethings, Kavinsky, who hails from Paris, France—and I thoroughly appreciate all music coming out of Paris, France—began playing the song “Wayfarer.” A maybe too predictable cheer rose through the crowd as a sea of fists shot their way into the air in unison. I found myself neck deep in long-haired boys and short-haired girls, all made sense in the universe again.
Multiple bands played simultaneously on separate stages so it became increasingly important to be very decisive in how one wanted to spend one’s time. For many of us, strict attention was paid to the times Justice and Bloc Party went on and masses of people trampled nearly on top of each other (it’s every scenester for his/herself) as their set times overlapped. Luckily, the two Parisian guys who makeup the phenomenon known to every hipster, scenester, or electro-club kid as Justice put on a surprisingly mediocre set that kept the attention of very few. I had just told a group of fashionable Spaniards how amazing Justice was and how lucky they were to experience them while on their week long visit in America. Begrudgingly, I had to retract the statement and defend my previous claim with the “known fact” that most electro-club DJ’s are super contextual and the experience only loses its profound
nature when its environment consists of a huge, open street with the music spinning off turn tables and laptops a minimum of fifty yards away. Justice, and many other DJ’s who spun at Detour, need to be experienced in the cramped confines of a dark, smoky, grungy club in Hollywood (or insert any other dirty, hip city here). The Spaniards didn’t really speak English, but I think I made my point excessively clear. Then the song “D.A.N.C.E” began, all remixed to perfection, and my entire previous notion faded into the background. The song commanded, and every person in the crowd cleverly danced in a jerky rhythmic fashion that I’m pretty sure we all use to make fun of our dad’s for doing when a James Brown song came on. There we all were, doing “the D.A.N.C.E.” And the way we were moving WAS a mystery. Those Parisians are so brilliant. Have I mentioned how much I love France?
Teddybears, who went on right before Bloc Party, were one of the few bands that performed that lived up to their immediate expectations (any band who collabs with the likes of Iggy Pop is absolutely amazing in my book). The walk—or more accurately, the run of the hipster wildebeests—from the Justice stage to Bloc Party’s smelled like an equal blend of Lycra with a plate of French toast at 4 a.m. that’s gone uneaten. A quick dart to the right and the air then filled with scents of sweet meat wafting directionally at the crowd from the many concession stands lining the north street. A gentleman to my left, who seemed to be well passed his club days, gripped onto any ounce of hip left in him and wore a baggy fluorescent green tank top that flashed “Totally Totally Rad” across the chest and tiger print spandex pants with the beast’s eyes conveniently located… um… on the bulge for maximum attention.
There were too many people in the crowd to truly get a decent view of anything on stage except Bloc Party’s black and white graphic of a cityscape that hung behind the band. We did what we could, pushed our way into small alcoves long enough to get a quick glimpse of the action. There were boys sitting on the shoulders of boys (who looked like girls) and goth couples perched on the ledges of nearby buildings like gargoyles overlooking the city. Bloc Party played a number of songs off their new album “A Weekend in the City,” but I wished they played more than what they had from their breaking album, 2005’s “Silent Alarm.” Maybe I’m just a sucker for nostalgia. And for “Banquet.”
They closed their set with “This Modern Love,” and the crowd seemed to be as appreciative as I was. Of course, by then most people were glazed over in the eyes from 11 hours of alcohol consumption and kabobs from Brody’s Hawaiian BBQ stand. I turned around to notice a tall, heavily windowed building that read in stark white lights “THE TIMES” adjacent to an unoccupied construction site filled with silent orange bulldozers and cranes that looked like sad dinosaurs as they hid in the night’s shadows. It all seemed so fitting. Downtown LA, indie bands, fedora hats, acid wash jeans, and forklifts.
I remember a time when the word “hipster” was ultra pretentious, somewhat terrifying, and definitely exclusive. After Detour Fest, I can see that epithet carries less weight than describing someone as “sorta short” or saying “he was maybe kinda cute…in a non-cute kinda way.” It’s about as descriptive a word now of what once was a hip sub-culture geared towards hyper-exclusivity as describing that one hippie girl as having “longish, shortish, kinda blonde, but probably more brownish hair.” Whether you got your sweet vintage duds from your mom’s musky end of the closet or your neighborhood Goodwill, these days it seems to be a lot less about the time you spent scouring dingy racks for that one shrunken blazer that was going to make a “statement,” your “statement,” and more about how many scene-y words you can correctly type into a Google field (Blackel, if you’re uber hip).
Now, it’s more about how many names you can drop in casual conversation or how many obscure indie films you can nonchalantly mention in passing in hopes no one will ever have any clue what you’re talking about, thereby earning you 1,000 scene points. I use to be able to see someone at a show or at the store and say, “Damn, that motherfucker’s cool.” But now it’s like we’re all some modified variation of the person next to us and it’s become increasingly difficult to accurately stereotype anyone of the “scenester youth” anymore.
Wait…isn’t that a good thing? No more stereotypes? Not necessarily. Stereotypes will always exist so now everyone, no matter who they are, can easily be lumped into ill-suiting labels that prove once and for all we must not judge a book by its cover. It becomes a hugely disgusting negative when the four girls and boys (damn you, unisex) sitting next to me at Starbucks drinking their iced soy Chai lattes are all wearing the same oversized American Apparel grandpa cardigan…you know, the same one I have on right now.
We’re all on the same street style and music blogs, biding on the same indie items on eBay, “amazon.com-ing” the same things and buying the “If you like this, then you’ll love this” recommendations. Consequently, subcultures are not as exclusive as they used to be, as my friend Noey pointed out early in the evening at Detour when several passersby were all adorned with the same white Wayfarers and classic Nike Dunks.
With one simple Google search, anyone can become anything they want as fast as their broadband will take them. And can you blame them? If you know the road to “cool,” why be left in the dust while everyone else masters the trip? Does it really matter that technology has dramatically lessoned “cool’s” inaccessibility and, therefore, mystery? Does that change its desireability at all? Or are we going to keep pretending we were all born this cool…? We all weren’t born with a leather jacket on our backs, you know. I guess this is a lesson to the innately cool out there that you are just going to have to try that much harder to stand out from the crowd. Oh, wait—not try harder, but try even less hard. Maybe not at all. Or maybe try even harder to look like you’re not trying at all. Yeah, that’s cool. I think some B-list celeb told me that once. Or maybe I saw it in some super-indie Vincent Gallo movie that you probably and most likely have never heard of. I can’t remember which. I’ll tell you about a different movie next year at Detour.