Kill rock stars – eat the rich like sushi

I am well and truly disappointed in Tom Petty.

Wall Street Journal reports that a new VIP concert series called “Social” (one of those names that reeks of The Hamptons) is being offered to the uber-rich at East Hampton, NY this summer.

It’s a five concert series, and one must purchase tickets for all five shows. The artists cover the gamut from former Boomer heroes like Billy Joel and James Taylor to former Xer superstar Prince to Millennial fave Dave Matthews.

And the aforementioned Mr. Petty.

Oh, and the tix are fifteen grand a pop. That’s $3,000.00 per show, friends – so pony up. Bob Lefsetz has a pretty good rant over at his Lefsetz Letter describing what this kind of conspicuous consumption is really about:

So you’ve got your house in the Hamptons. And to keep up with the Joneses, you think of buying a ticket to this affair. You can’t want to go…NO ONE is a fan of all these bands. Shit, better to buy a ticket to the one gig you want to see on the secondary market. But no, you’ve got to go to say you were there. That’s the live concert experience we’ve got today, that’s why Madonna sells out. People want to be able to say they were in attendance, they’ll pay ANYTHING not to enjoy the music, but to be able to snootily tell everybody they know that they went, that they’ve got everything, a 10,000 square foot house, more cars than drivers, kids in name prep schools, colleges… It’s not about what’s inside anymore, but personal branding, creating an image that will make you look good in society.

Oh, there have been rich people forever. But now the golden age that they said could never come back has. There are the super-rich, and us. To the super-rich, price is no object. They’re the ones keeping us from getting close, not only to the stage, but to recreational haunts… And, the media says we can get rich too, it’s the American dream. Believe me, that’s untrue. It’s still about who your parents are, where you went to school and who you know. Those voting for the repeal of the estate tax will never PAY an estate tax, with the exemption presently so high, but they want to make sure those lording over them, eviscerating their unions, their health care, their job security…that their progeny can have money for EONS!

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Bob.

How is it that rock – the very music that started with black Americans living so deeply in rural (and sometimes urban) poverty that they “sang the blues until they got happy” and redneck hillbillies mourning their loneliness, wage enslavement and lack of opportunity at “the American dream” – a music that first crystallized in the work of a white truck driver from Memphis and a black hairdresser from Saint Louis – has suddenly become the plaything of rich assholes who could care less about the people whose suffering made it the powerful thing it is?

Lefsetz has one explanation:

But if you go… I just don’t get it, for $30,000…why not spend a little more and hire one of these whores for your own little affair? At these prices I want to be RIGHT UP CLOSE! And with 1,000 people in attendance, most won’t be next to the stage. Then again, it’s not about the music… These people think THEY’RE the stars, that their riches make them every bit as important as these performers.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe rich is the current rock stardom. While the term “rock star” is only a few decades old, we’ve had “rock stars” for at least 200 years. (Byron was probably the first – remember, kids, it’s because of Byron that men can wear their shirts with the collars unbuttoned.) After all, we’ve now had rock star rock stars, rock star comedians, rock star politicians, rock star talk show hosts….

Now we’re down to rock star rich people. This offers maybe some insight into the phenomenon of a Paris Hilton – a vulgar whore whose only “talent” seems to be being rich as Croesus….

It’s a little surprising to note who isn’t on the bill – The Stones (maybe they aren’t paying enough – it’s only a seven figure payday according to WSJ); McCartney (who will be appearing at your local Starbucks soon, evidently); or Madonna (who should be the poster girl for this kind of materialistic excess).

It’s also interesting to think about who wouldn’t come to this self-congratulatory circle jerk – Springsteen (a guy who still remembers who he was – and is); Neil Young (same as Springsteen); or Modest Mouse (although they’d probably kill for a payday like this, I don’t think their ethos would let them take it).

And finally, back to Tom Petty.

The other artists on this list have either given up and become oldies acts (Joel, Taylor), have a history for doing stuff that just seems weird (Prince), or have just realized they’re done and are grabbing a payday (Dave Matthews).

After The Last DeeJay ( a fine record that tanked after Clear Channel wouldn’t play it because it was “critical” of their asphyxiation of the music scene), perhaps Tom realized that no one cared anymore. Maybe he then decided to heed the words of Jerry Garcia:

We realized we couldn’t change the world, we couldn’t change the government…but what we could do is make a lot of money….”

It doesn’t lessen my disappointment, Tom, but in these times, maybe it makes sense….

14 replies »

  1. I hate this whole scene as bad as you do, but offer me what they offered Petty and see what happens.

    As I always tell people: my principles can’t be bought cheaply.

  2. I hear you – it was the late, lamented Mr. Zappa who observed “We’re Only in it for the Money.”

    And, as Randy Newman reminded us, “It’s Money that Matters.”

    So, as The Who advised , “Sellout.”

  3. I don’t know. It sounds like something Johnson might have said. He probably said it while Boswell was chatting up the bartender.

  4. I might grant you this – Johnson may not have said it (he was notoriously afraid of women) – but Boswell may have added it – he sure as hell wasn’t afraid of them…and he would always enhance Johnson’s myth when he could…. 😉

  5. The nasally whining Tom Petty is disgusting. He is prolly doing this to support his injection routine. Hope he has learned to not get blood on his groupies. Aerosmith does bat mtzvahs..Oy vey!!

  6. Prediction:

    Petty will write a scathing song about the event afterwards, which will become chiefly what our excessive rich are remembered through the lens of by future generations.

  7. Well, let’s face it: the majority of these acts are washed-up. They have been over for at least 20 years, and they’re trying to get money to retire. As for Prince, he’s definitely paid his dues, and this would be an overdue paycheck. I cannot blame most of them, but rock really has been dead since the early-1970s. Punk revived it for a short time, but it has been dead as a cultural movement of working-class people for over a generation. The rest is nostalgia, which is what the event is about. I doubt Frank Zappa would have been caught dead at this one…

  8. Not sure I agree about Zappa, Matt – he’d probably do one of two things:
    1) Play the show and flip the audience the bird all evening explaining it, as he always did, as ” musical directions to the band”;
    2) Take advance money and not show – something he was as notorious for as Sly Stone – which, I guess is flipping this crowd of piggies the bird, isn’t it?

  9. If none of these performers ever performed in a concert again – i.e. they all retired immediately after – or if they only played for this type of ticket money into the future, I’d agree with the sentiments.

    But this is a one-off. Then they’ll go back to charging what they always do.

    So if the rich want to blow piles of cash on something like this, fantastic. It gets the money sitting in their investments back into the economy. It is not the having of cash that helps the economy, it is the spending of it.

  10. I agree with you economically, Gavin, but not philosophically. I’m reminded (as I mentioned in a response at another site) of Neil Young’s lyric: “I don’t sing for nobody/Makes me look like a joke….”

    Still, any way we can get their money …you’ve got a point….

  11. With the lack of cheap-seat fans– the ones that would normally applaud and scream the loudest– these concerts are going to suck. Attendees more concerned with hobnobbing with their social set will suck all the energy out of the room. This will affect the music. Don’t look for a DVD coming out of this.

  12. What’s the big deal? All of the “artists” mentioned either suck, or are waaay past their sell date.

    Matthews is a hack, Petty is a non-starting retread with his best glory way in the past. Billy Joel and James Taylor?????? Those two have sucked the root ever since they crawled out of their own navels. The fork was stuck in Prince back with “Sign ‘o the Times.”
    If dumb white fucks want to listen to craptacular dumb white pop stars then let ’em . . . no one can touch the King, baby.