Sunday, January 30, 2022

Bee-otch of the Day: people who treat modern rock music like shit

Names: Various
Ages: various
Occupation: various
Last Seen: various
Bee-otched For: wanting to kill rock 'n roll

It was supposed to be three more days of peace, love and music.

Instead, it was Altamont and The Who's Riverfront Coliseum disaster v.3.0.

Woodstock '99 was the antithesis of what the original Woodstock was all about. It was about capitalizing on an image of peace and love. But, it was perverted by greed, hot weather and even death.

It was held at a retired Air Force base outside Rome, NY. Instead of the inviting grassy farmland of Max Yasgur, the 400,000 concertgoers had to walk on miles of concrete and pavement. The weather that weekend was insanely hot and with water being $4 per bottle, people simply didn't want to pay for hydration, leading many to suffer from dehydration, and even worse, death. Three people died at the festival. 

At the end, angry concertgoers started a riot. They looted vendors and set everything on fire. There were countless amounts of women who were groped and worse, raped. Many of the female attendees decided to go around topless or totally nude. Those who didn't were bullied by male attendees. 

The chaos that was Woodstock '99 is now being discussed again in a recent HBO Music Box documentary called Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage. The flick was produced by Bill Simmons, the mastermind behind ESPN's 30 for 30 series. Other episodes in the series deal with the sudden rise of Alanis Morrisette, DMX, Kenny G. and disco mogul Robert Stigwood. 

The docupic points fingers at Woodstock '99's downfall, including the high walls to prevent people from breaking in to the lack of water to even the music itself. They claimed that the lack of female artists created an atmosphere loaded with angry white men who treated the women there like their personal sex slaves.

Of course, this was the late 1990s, after all. By then, alternative rock had two avenues to choose from: the kick-ass, hard rock/nu-metal route or the wimpy soccer mom road that was the equivalent to the soulless easy listening that the parents of boomers forced their kids to grow up with. Starting around 1993 or so, grunge was more mainstream than ever while pop was dying because of a number of factors. The teen pop of New Kids on the Block and Debbie Gibson was no longer cool. Clean rappers like MC Hammer gave way to gritty hip-hop and the barrage of lip-synchers like Milli Vanilli, Black Box and Technotronic tarnished pop music's image. 

By the mid-90s, top 40 radio was all but dead. Most CHRs were mixing alternative with hip-hop with a few other genres mixed in. However, by this time, many major cities were without a CHR. In Milwaukee, 102.1 WLUM flipped from CHRban to alternative because the station's owner, football hall of famer Willie Davis was angered over a tragedy where a black 21-year-old man shot and killed his former high school principal. Plus, in the late night hours, the station would play unedited hip-hop. Davis felt that the negativity surrounding gangsta rap was hurting the African American community. These days, WLUM is still alternative and actually gets better ratings locally than the market's sole CHR, Audacy's Kiss 103.7. 

But, it wasn't just WLUM that bid adieu to the sounds of Ace of Base and Boyz II Men. Detroit's 96.3 WHYT was also a top-rated CHR - which like WLUM - that leaned rhythmic. In the Summer of 1994, they started adding more alternative music to their playlist. At the same time, they were starting to call themselves Planet 96.3 as opposed to 96.3 Jamz. By the Fall, the only rap heard on 96.3 was from alternative artists like the Beastie Boys and Lucas (remember "Lucas With the Lid Off"?). In 96.3's case, the reason for the switch was simple: money. Advertisers were leery about associating themselves with gangsta rap. Even New York City's heritage CHR, Z100 had an alt-rock lean in the mid-90s.

In the Planet's case, by 1996, they decided to become more of a modern AC, eliminating harder rock songs from their playlist. Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Hootie and the Blowfish were A-OK for them, but White Zombie, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and others weren't. Clearly by the mid-late 90s, new rock was on two different roads. Woodstock '99 tried to bridge the gap, but quite frankly, people who love KoRn, Rage and anything new rock just weren't into Jewel, Sheryl Crow or Alanis Morrissette. After all, those three females were now mainstays on soccer mom AC stations. 

Also by the late 90s, CHR was back in a big way. Boy bands, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and others were being heavily promoted while nu metal acts were locked out of pop radio. As a result, the Backstreet Boys and 'NSyncs of the world were heavily taunted. It was if Stewart Stevenson from Beavis and Butt-head was running the game. 

It was no doubt that Woodstock '99 was a disaster. It was hot, people were literally dying of dehydration and it ended in a fiery inferno. The Music Box doc did a lot of finger-pointing as to why it was what it was. But at times, it felt like it was produced by South Park's P.C. Principal. 

Of course, one of the biggest problems involved women being groped and some even raped. The doc pointed its finger in part to the fact that porn was more popular than ever thanks to the internet and the Girls Gone Wild series. Well, it was true. However, what the program didn't mention was that more than ever, young people simply didn't know right from wrong. More and more teens were being raised in a latchkey society and thanks to assholes like then-Texas governor George W. Bush preaching abstinence only education, well, this is what you get. When I was 13, my father bought me my first Playboy. Not long afterward, we visited a relative's house and he had magazines that made Playboy look tame. It was the first time I was exposed to hard-core porn, and guess what? I'VE NEVER DONE ANYTHING UNCONSENTUAL TO ANYBODY, PERIOD.

Of course, a lot happened after the Woodstock melee. The events of 9/11 and the wars that followed shooked the world. We had a massive economic breakdown in 2008. Hundreds of unruly and brainwashed losers stormed the Capitol over lies spread by Drumpf. And as some see it, rock died.

In 2001, three of the top ten selling albums were from hard rock groups. Back then, every major city had an active rock station or at least an alt-rocker that played some harder tunes. Two decades later, things have changed.

This past year, no new album from the hard rock or metal genres made Billboard's year-end top 200 album chart. True, there were strong offerings from the likes of Wolfgang Van Halen and his one-man act Mammoth WVH, plus newcomer guitar virtuoso Ayron Jones and others. But, people weren't necessarily going out to buy their albums.

Of course, another issue regarding hard rock is the lack of actual radio stations in bigger cities playing it. Right now, Dallas is the biggest market with an active rocker. Detroit is another major city whose main rocker, the legendary WRIF does quite well in the ratings. New York's last AOR, 92.3 K-Rock went off the air many years ago due to poor ratings in part due to Opie and Anthony. Chicago had a similar issue with 94.7 The Zone, which begat to oldies WLS-FM and better ratings. Interestingly enough, a few years ago, WLS-AM barely got its ass kicked in the ratings by an active rocker out of Racine, WI, WIIL. 

Another hard rock-less market of sorts is Los Angeles, which has heritage rocker (and former WRIF sister) KLOS and two alt-rockers, iHeart's Alt 98.7 and Audacity's KROQ, which just might be the longest-running alternative in America. However, KROQ's ratings have been an abomination for a few years. Word has it that Audacity is going to force KROQ to throw in the towel and flip it to active rock. Alt 98.7 is currently at a 2.3 and 14th place, KLOS is at a 1.9 and in 19th place while KROQ is in 26th place with a 1.4. KROQ is getting their asses handed to them by many Spanish stations and a few signals distant to L.A. 

Currently, active rock is thriving in the same smaller markets that rejected wanting a good rock station 25 years ago while the bigger markets have seemed to kick them to the curb. But, there's other good reasons for that. There's the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed media companies more control of what they could own, but also allowed for less competition. There's the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl nip slip, which gave the FCC an excuse to jack up indecency fines for radio and TV stations. But, of course, there was the growth of digital media, such as SiriusXM, Pandora and Spotify. Back in the day, if your favorite terrestrial radio station went off the air, you'd want to run to the studio in protest. Today, it's no biggie because you have the digital world at your fingertips.

But still, no new hard rock or metal album made the Billboard Top 200 albums chart last year.

Back to the Music Box documentary on Woodstock '99. One group I follow on Facebook is a burlesque outfit here in Grand Rapids. One of its members was nice enough to compare the revelers of the event to the Capitol rioters on 1.6.21 and those who worship Drumpf. 

Yes, the doc painted a bad image of those who love hard rock and metal. They cried about them being angry white guys who use the n-word religiously and inappropriately grab women. And yet, the number one album of 2021 was by a country singer who got caught on a doorbell cam using that word. The owner of the footage sold it to TMZ and within hours, he was banned by radio and TV stations alike. Many have canceled out rock because its fans are angry white guys. Yet, Morgan Wallen is, well, an angry white guy.

Since the boy band craze of the late 90s, we've been bombarded with shows like American Idol and Glee that made shitty music en vogue again. I roll my eyes knowing that "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey is probably more popular now than it was back in 1982, even though their keyboardist is butt buddies with Drumpf and crooked televangelist Jim Bakker. 

Of course, we can go on. Politics is a factor. Look at Five Finger Death Punch: their video for the 2020 song "Living the Dream" mocked mask wearers and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Christian band Skillet's leader John Cooper frequently makes video blogs where he says stupid shit. One vlog has him attacking Cardi B. and Megan Thee Stallion's #1 smash "WAP" for being immoral. Another has him calling Rage Against the Machine "government rock" and so on, even though he and his wife Korey make millions off of a man who wore rags and lived in a tent.

And just recently, some in the rock community got miffed at Disturbed's David Draiman for his support of Spotify and controversial podcaster Joe Rogan after legendary rocker Neil Young told the streaming service to pull his music. Draiman - a self-proclaimed liberal and supporter of Bernie Sanders - called Spotify's decision to pull Young's music a victory for Freedom of Speech. Since then, SiriusXM added a Neil Young channel replacing "Deep Tracks" and others such as Joni Mitchell and former Young bandmate Nils Loftgren have told Spotify to remove their tunes as well.

So, what's wrong with newer rock music? IMHO, nothing. I know, maybe I'm in the past. I'm a part of the generation that fought when anything was taken away from me or out of reach. This is why I started in 1999. Back then, I was in high school in northern Michigan. No local radio station would play true hard rock and metal. Today, there's Rock 105 and 95-5, plus many streaming options. If Rock 105 were to leave the airwaves, no biggie. Same with WGRD here in my current hometown of Grand Rapids, although personally, they suck for playing too much butt rock. Oh, well. Sirius is worth every penny of the $8 per month I give them.

IMHO, all musical genres will always have their loyal fans. Look at traditional easy listening music. You know, Lawrence Welk, Mantovani, Franck Pourcel and others labeled as "Muzak". Circa 50 years ago, just about every town in America had a "beautiful music" station playing old music for old people. Most of the music was piped in on reel-to-reel tapes, making them quite easy to run without live DJs. Of course, B/EZ music was never a favorite among baby boomers and younger, and by the 1980s, they started to disappear. Today, only a miniscule amount of B/EZ stations are left on both terrestrial and digital radios. In 2015, SiriusXM dropped their B/EZ station, Escape and believe it or not, there was so much outcry that one of the last-remaining terrestrial B/EZ broadcasters left in America, Prescott, AZ's KAHM 102.1 had to start charging people to listen to the station online. Only a few months later, Escape returned to SiriusXM's radios. 

To me, rock isn't dead at all. It's just that people would rather listen to it digitally and go to concerts. Hell, I haven't bought a physical album in years. Why buy the album online when one can listen online on some quasi-illegal source for free? Terrestrial radio? It's good if you want to hear a truncated version of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" segued into Def Leppard. 

Rock is alive. Period. It's simply evolving and needs to find its voice and some good stations to air it. Plus, there's major rock festivals, including the Upheaval Festival coming to Grand Rapids this Summer. The media - including Billboard - simply need to shut up about rock. The only problem it has is when people misunderstand it. Remember when Metallica didn't win the Best Metal Album Grammy and it went to Jethro Tull instead? Plus, the fact that when they present any hard rock or metal Grammys, it's a pre-show ceremony? The situation is, is that people think that Metallica and KoRn are in the same camp as Ed Sheeran and in the case of the most-recent MTV VMAs, John Mayer, an artist whose fanbase includes my 60-something year-old aunt who's a Jehovah's Witness worshiper. 

So in 2022, I hope rock will come back in some way, shape or form. As long as people get their COVID shots and social distance, we'll be just fine and so will rock. But, the apocalypse will come if some rock award will go to the modern equivalent to Mantovani.

As Ozzy once said, "You can't kill rock 'n' roll, it's here to stay".


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