Biggest Hipster Happenings of 2009 | Michael Morlaine

hipster_big-muddy.gifRooftop show + rockabilly bands + fire pit + BYOB. You do the math.



1. Sonic Youth at Live on the Levee

The words SONIC YOUTH, ST. LOUIS and FREE seldom (read: never) appear together in the same sentence, so the local hipsterati shit a collective brick when it was announced near the start of summer that Thurston, Kim & Co. would be gracing our fine city with a show on the riverfront. As it turned out, my having shown up six hours in advance was wholly unnecessary, but it allowed me to stake out the perfect seat in direct eyeline of the stage, a vantage point from which I enjoyed the spectacle that was the sound check and even rubbed elbows with Mr. Steve Shelley during the opening act. The impossibly perfect weather provided an exquisite backdrop for the two-hour-plus performance, and even my long-held disdain for encores slunk away sheepishly when confronted by a medley of "Shadow of a Doubt" and "Death Valley ’69." The sound tech drew immediate ire from the post-show crowd for having pulled the plug on the band’s impromptu accompaniment of the fireworks display (in favor of Finger Eleven, no less), but there really could have been no more punk rock ending than SY’s being cut off for making too much noise.

2. Leonard Cohen at the Fox

Those fortunate enough to see Leonard Cohen wear an old man’s mask amid the glorious trappings of the Fabulous Fox were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime event that secured them bragging rights for years to come. Despite suffering from a curiously hillbilly crowd, the music sounded more vibrant than ever, thanks to a peerless backing band and Leonard’s own age-belying sprightliness. Three hours and countless encores later, the die-hards were satisfied, and those who had only come to hear "Hallelujah" had been converted.

3. The Breeders at Blueberry Hill

Celebrating their recent appearance in the Breeders’ "Fate to Fatal" video, the Arch Rival Roller Girls were out in force for this triumphant follow-up to the band’s shindig last year at Pop’s. Yet even the majority of the team only accounted for a small portion of the crowd, who packed the Duck Room to the rafters and screamed along with what accounted for at least 75% of Last Splash. After too many years of plasticine pop idols, it was a joy to see Kim and Kelley holding it down for beautiful real women everywhere.

4. Morrissey at The Pageant

You will never see a better stage backdrop. Ever.

5. Gogol Bordello at The Pageant

By all accounts, this was not only one of the best shows of the year, but one of the best showsThe Pageant has ever seen. Alas, I was unable to partake, having worked that night at Suite 100 next door. Nonetheless, even my limited perspective treated me to one seizure, one broken ankle and at least two security takedowns. The only show that came close was the backwater bonanza of Tech N9ne, but the difference with Gogol was that they actually rocked.

6. Girl Talk at The Pageant

Even if you didn’t find your way onstage (or if you were standing still with your arms crossed, like your plucky reporter), you were nonetheless treated to the dance party of the year. A great gasping grope-a-thon that threatened to explode into an unfettered free-for-all at any moment, Gregg Gillis’s adventures in AudioMulchland provided some much-needed heat in the dead of winter. The crowd was essentially what you’d find if Novak’s didn’t have an age limit, but any bacchanal that attracts more than one person dressed as Greenman from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is worth an elbow in the chest.

7. Merge Records Festival in North Carolina

The lineup was conducted in almost total secrecy, with the unspoken but understood goal that no one could know in advance when and where Neutral Milk Hotel would be playing, lest all the other shows go unattended. Which makes sense, until you consider that the primary reason almost anyone went was to see fucking Neutral Milk Hotel, man!, at which point it kind of screams, "Scam!" But no.


8. Big Muddy Records Party

Rooftop show + rockabilly bands + fire pit + BYOB. You do the math.


Everything Else:

1. Where the Wild Things Are

The film adaptation that no one was waiting for became the defining moment of Gen X/Y cinema, a towering cohesion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and In the Night Kitchen, with Spike Jonze and Karen O packing the whimsy and Dave Eggers and Catherine Keener packing the cred. Somewhere, Michel Gondry is weeping.

2. The Weezer Snuggie

Either a staggeringly cynical promotional gimmick or a brilliantly stoopid gift for the fans; either way, the most indie accessory since DIY sliced bread.

3. Dark Was the Night

Stupidly overrated though I consider Danger Mouse to be, the idea of his collaborating with Sparklehorse and David Lynch was a stroke of genius on par with Jello Biafra’s running for mayor. The fact that the end result (featuring a draw-dropping list of indie rocker cameos) managed to exceed its own hype was no small miracle. Throw in the fillip of the album’s contentious release having relegated it to a shadowy online-only distribution, and you’ve got both the most mysterious record of the decade, and quite possibly the best.

4. I-64/40 Reopening

Contrary to their cheap-beer-swilling, MacBook-jocking reputation, hipsters love to exercise. In particular, they love to exercise with lots of other people; such is the appeal of the Fucking Bike Club, a freewheeling cadre of local fixie fanatics who revel in casual 38-mile treks around the bi-state area and rock their rolled-up pant legs as both a freak flag and a middle finger. It was therefore only natural that the announcement of Highway 40’s long-awaited completion was met with tremendous anticipation in cafés and cycling shops, as it was well known that pedestrians and cyclists would be granted the first tread upon its virgin path. Alas, the grand unveiling of the retooled interstate attracted hundreds of like-minded rovers, whose intrepid journey along the concrete expanse gave them a privileged perspective of what their motorist friends would soon be seeing whizzing by at a much higher speed.

5. The Edgar Allan Poe Postage Stamp

Well, it was a big deal for me, anyway. Also, for the record, the Joan Baez show was excellent.


Michael Morlaine

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