Photography Credit: Stephanie Kimberly

It’s early November and nearing 11 o’clock at night. This weekend there will be a music festival, and it will kick ass.  But right now Sean and I are stuck in traffic, headed to a show in the Red River district. Sean Marlin is a friend of mine, a journalist-turned-artist with good sight for the Shadow between the Idea and Reality. He’s my ride tonight, with the Honda having been my third junkyard-bound victim of a certain carefree driving habit that I can’t seem to shake myself from. Being young and reckless in this country is not cheap, and this is especially true in a state that values its prison system over all other social institutions. The Honda was a fun little machine but lasted for just four months, before burning out after some other deranged, wide-eyed maniac swerved out of the parking lot of the Lunatic Asylum in North Austin and slammed into me head on.

It’s okay though because there are plenty of other 90’s-model rice burners that are still on the road[1], and I’m in one of them right now. Halfway to the venue we pass an auditorium emptying with people of all ages; people wearing AC/DC shirts and red, glowing devil’s horns. Sean turns to me from the driver’s seat and asks, “How could we have missed that AC/DC was in town, man?” shortly before rolling down the window and turning up the volume on his Wu-Tang-Clan CD. Method Man flows something like, “CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME, CREAM!! GET THE MONEY DOLLA DOLLA BILL Y’ALL,” which gives us something to laugh at as we, two grizzly-faced white boys, earn blank stares of awe. Confused little heads turn to look as we crawl through the swarm of washed-up hair band fans at ten miles-per-hour, and somewhere between these devilish music fans and the end of “C.R.E.A.M.” I try to make sense of what Method Man is saying but can’t, and wonder: Has the advancement of technology & introduction of hyper-connectivity to our generation caused some sort of creative halt, and is this The End of the West’s cultural imperialism? Various modern thinkers have introduced this theory as fact; a result of Disneyland’s creation of Main Street, USA and now I intend to take in tonight and the music festival until I find an answer. Little in my education has prepared me to do so, and trying to take on the social implications of consumer culture and of the effects of visual illiteracy on the Creative Class will prove to be daunting. For whatever reason I figure that Beauty Bar—one of seven in a service industry chain that caters to young people with an ear for pop music and an eye for whatever else is chic at the moment—should serve as a good place to start.

My introduction into the thriving world of today’s hipster[2] came after moving in to my brother’s living room in the projects of East Dallas in mid-2007, not long after James Murphy released an album with a detailed blueprint for what would be my every night that summer; ones spent not with my brother but our other roommate, his soon-to-be ex-wife who would run around to various bars and houses, dressed head-to-toe in American Apparel with a lollipop hanging out of her mouth and calling herself “The Life of The Party”. And, as much as I would have liked to sit alongside my brother at a desk every morning in the Crescent Court hotel—clean-shaven and being as fake as possible so as to please its money-rich patrons—there was something in The Life of The Party that I could identify with. So I injected myself into the Scene, hitching rides in various Volkswagens to The Party, only to return to my futon smashed on high amounts of cheap beer and with ears still buzzing with the songs of the moment. Around midday I might wake up next to M&M, a fashion school girl who liked to use my bed as a convenient location to end her night; a girl who couldn’t always remember everything about how she got back from The Party with no panties and into a face full of bloody vomit, but would make damn sure to stand in front of the mirror for an hour the next night ready to do it all again.

Yes, thanks to The Life of The Party and her friend The Morning After Monster, I’ve had the opportunity to look through the glass at today’s bohemia, one that bears almost no resemblance to the world Kerouac and Cassidy journeyed in and out of during the ‘40s. Today’s art scene has been created for us by the Gurus of Marketing, and I’m sure they have no problem sitting comfortably on a throne somewhere, reading Edward Bernays’ Crystallizing Public Opinion while getting a blowjob from their Barbie Doll wives as various young people are busy throwing money at their feet in a Slum far away. These “bohemians” seem only to understand to the fullest extent that alcohol, live music, and frivolously spending one’s earnings on the trendiest fashion can be a remedy for a great number of life’s problems, and they have taken these three aspects of our culture with such seriousness that their scope of what’s actually relevant to the world contracts so much that they become less of the independent type (as seen in actual counter-culture movements of the past) and more of an ultra-consumerist; would-be artists who can constantly play the fashion game of “I’ve conformed sooner than you” and win at it. I cannot say this for all of the people that wear trendy clothes and listen to great music—as I have had the pleasure of meeting some genuinely unique people at squareless hangouts and dive bars in Dallas—but the overall energy I absorb from this crowd is negative; one of nothingness which I can only assume stems from the large, spiritless swath of nihilists and hedonists that are attracted to whatever is advertised to them as Beauty.

Vanity levels run high at such places, and by both wearing symbols of fashion that are considered hip and by rejecting symbolism altogether, its patrons fail to realize that they are just another product of Corporate America. Being used—by Apple, American Apparel, Levi Strauss & Co. and various other corporations—to sell “cool” back to the mainstream American consumer. And, having been completely sold down the river on this idea of “cool”, the one-dimensional hipster fails to realize what a commodity they make of themselves. Many will proudly stand behind a cash register at a number of retailers, looking like mannequins and being paid nothing to learn nothing; a labor rabbit being eaten by the capital snake, waiting to be dismissed by the time clock to go and fashion themselves into their spoon-fed style and head out into the night to a party until they find The Party, where they tramp on under the clouded nighttime sky with an avid willingness to be used by both corporate hustlers of alcohol and street hustlers of stimulants, until they can be used no more and have to shut themselves off from the city.

* * *

Now it’s midnight and well over two years after my introduction to hipsterdom as Sean and I approach the bar. The bouncer scratches our names off of the list and we are allowed into the Pre-Party. I make my way past M&M and several other fashionably thin girls in their early twenties to the bar where I demand a glass of whiskey from a bartender who greets me with a pale stare which could have only been granted to her by the Gods of Fashion. I fork over my debit MasterCard and get lost in the crowd to absorb the DJ’s rhythm. But before I can try anything ridiculous out of my repertoire of dance moves, I see a couple of familiar of faces out front, two DJs from Dallas who have made the trek down for the weekend’s music festival. I walk outside for to greet them, and after a cigarette & general music talk I ask Tommy (the more successful of the two) about what it takes to be a good DJ, as he just recently had earned a weekly spot on the rotation at one of the more prolific bars in Dallas.

“So when you DJ you’re not actually creating anything new but remixing other people’s work?” Tommy takes a sip of Lone Star before looking me straight in the eye (I think) through his wayfarer shades and says,
“Yeah, but I’ve been DJing for twelve years. Right now I use Traktor. I may not be creating anything new, but I know how to throw a party and fuck every pretty girl in [the music scene] that you’ve ever laid eyes on, including those models from Studio S.”

And with that he shoots me a grin full of big, unnaturally white teeth and all I can do is take a sip of my whiskey and admire his candor. Mark, the other DJ who is already in a drunken stupor, turns to me with eyes glazed over and slurs out what I think is a comedic touch in agreeance to whatever Tommy is saying.
Amazement begins to fail me when I look to my left and notice Sean sitting at a table nearby, so I get up and head toward one of two empty seats and sit down, trying to ignite a serious conversation about Guy Debord’s theories before realizing both that Beauty Bar would be an awful place to do this and that it might just be time to let go; forget about my ambition for the rest of the night and take up that familiar lust for pretty women & good music and just enjoy myself. There is something very primal about the pleasure that a good beat & dancing women will give a man, and with enough alcohol in his system it is impossible not to be consumed by this pleasure. Given that, and taken that Sean’s ex-squeeze is coming through to snatch him up for the night, I start to feel the Wolf coming out, ready to be consumed by the pleasures of the night. And consumed I will be, as I catch the eye of a girl from Dallas I remember having lusted after on the dance floor outside with her friend, a chatty photographer with the same fire of ambition in her eyes as mine. They’re mingling with two members of VEGA and Neon Indian[3] and after talking with Palomo (the group’s frontman) about the best taco stands in Austin or something of that nature, I secure an interview for the following day.

[1] It’s nearing the end of 2009, and in the midst of the Great Recession and mind-blowing that Detroit isn’t already a ghost city.

[2] Hipsterdom, I’m forced to write, although no one can argue against the fact that this is not a subculture, but a fashion.

[3] An act from our hometown, bent on an interesting mixture of electronic and analog sounds; some original and some sampled from other musicians. We had seen them play as both outfits many times before in Dallas, which (coupled with blogosphere hype) had served as a launching pad for the group.