Rain, ego, and marionette rock stars

It’s gray outside, which isn’t exactly new, but the persistence of the rain is. The temperature has dropped decidedly into fall territory, which seems a bit early to me. A year ago we arrived in Berlin to scout, and it was hot, T-shirt weather, a beautiful Indian summer. Since in SF we get our summers starting right around September, that seemed natural to me.

We spent a long weekend in Paris, to see our first and probably only European Rock Festival, the Rock en Seine. Lineup worth mentioning: Radiohead, Beck, Broken Social Scene, DJ Shadow, TV on the Radio, Morrissey, many sundry others. To save money, we brought our tent and camped at the festival itself, held on the banks of the river at an old aristocratic garden, lined with mediocre statuary and a lovely renaissance-like fountain. In practice this meant tents lined up tightly enough to bump against one another, porta-potties overflowing within minutes of being emptied, and forget about showers for a few days.

It’s possible I’m growing a little old for this.

Music ranging from hideous to ecstatic. A few new Radiohead songs, but otherwise largely the same set list. Still brilliant, but their impatience to move on is obvious. Beck played with a full marionnette-show, he and his band done in professional puppets, mimicking their every movement on stage. The best of all the performers, a musical chameleon, and still I wonder where his musical heart is. My favorite perhaps was watching the knit-hat unpretentiousness of Broken Social Scene, a collective in the rain, an antidote to all rock posturing.

Because there is more and more of that. Here and elsewhere. We are reentering an era of cock rock, emphasis on the cock; ’70s music, which is fine, but the stadium-sized egos (and ambitions) are back too. Two examples: Take Back Sunday, a mediocre post-Green Day band, singer with a desperate glam strut, throws the microphone in the air, twirls and spins, uncomfortable in his own skin and craving only the release of adulation. He crouches and catches someone’s glance, and says “That’s right, this is called fucking you with my eyes.” But it’s simply pathetic, not even confident enough to be truly obsene. Then the Raconteurs, Jack White’s new band, a supremely confident group that has every bit of rock/pop swagger and hook nailed. Songs stay in my head for days. And still they seem empty, as though they have everything right but the soul.

I prefer knit hats and violins. Or the weird bearded harmonies of TV on the Radio.