• René Cobar

Empire State of Mind: Music, New York City, and the Modern Age.

I was writing a review for Mark Mulcahy's latest record The Gus and was reminded of a childhood relic long stowed away: Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete & Pete came to mind since Mulcahy and his band, also the show's house band, Polaris wrote the theme song. In those nostalgic few minutes on YouTube as I listened to "Hey Sandy" I read the comments and saw a lot of sadness, a lot of people, likely my age, desperately grasping at air, seeing the particles of their childhood floating around the light of memory—you could say the modern age is here.


Generation Y is the first to be able to return to their childhood on demand, unearthing, at the push of a button, moments forever embedded in their minds, reliving them again and again. Music and television are the prime examples here: you can watch a video of a concert you attended as a teenager or lookup an old commercial you remember from childhood. Before YouTube, people were forced to forget as they grew older, or at best remember those things precious to them faintly.


I touch upon this because a couple of weeks ago, I was in New York City for the first time in six years. I walked right into my old room, where I had lived for a year, and caught up with my former roommates, everything as if it had only been yesterday. As I rode the A train to 14th Street and then the L to Brooklyn for an event, I could not help but remember the band that first got me dreaming up about rock music: The Strokes were ringing in my head at every stop.


Was it so long ago?

The Strokes were one of the last big bands of the record label empire days and the change of winds that their rise unleashed changed the landscape of music forever. It was not only the group's ardent garage rock that induced change; it was the collective youth's desire to take their music back, to promote, to take advantage of platforms like Napster and LimeWire. The story of that chaotic time in the music industry and the world at large is heavily documented in Elizabeth Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011, in case you need a good read.


The last three months for me? I have spent them covering various bands from NYC and noticing how much music promotion has changed. Many submissions pour in, mostly singles, sometimes accompanied by a well-done music video, sometimes not. That is the way of advertising today, push your single to the end of the world and hope it hits. Some bands barely book shows; they spend most of their resources promoting a single song, rinse and repeat. Take Lil Nas X from Atlanta for instance, his song "Old Town Road" is the biggest hit of the summer with millions of views on, you guessed it, YouTube.


And so the internet age rolls on, and I could go on forever detailing its many changes, but this blog post is already getting long so I'll close it out here. The modern age that The Stokes sang about nearly twenty years ago now has arrived, it continues to change how we view the world, how we interact with others, and what we choose to value. Since we can comfortably return to those moments when things seemed easier and made a whole lot more sense, I'll probably watch an episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete tonight, or listen to the New York City indie-rockers once again.

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