In most every band, I heard ceaseless flogging at the same crippling blues-country-jazz-rock-folk elements, a narrow emotional range (rock “passion,” country-folk sensitivity) that said real music has to be happy or gloomy or angry, goddamit. The overall lack of new direction was especially glaring when I considered how, back at the convention hall, the proceedings were so dominated by the scads of new Internet downloadable-music sites and software. This American problem — we’ll make it yours, too: The technology is leaping forward, but content isn’t keeping up.
Back in my hotel, I watched a limitless flood of broken-heart tales on TV, and it struck me how much Americans want to feel sad. They like their music that way too — weepy, lonely — because it suggests depth, painted in very, very broad, brightly colored strokes.
In Austin, I saw something really funny, though: A supercharged salsa band is absolutely ripping the almighty bejesus on a flashy, stylish yuppie-club stage — and no one is dancing. Empty floor. Everyone’s just standing there, slurping their beer.