Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Is Looking Like A Contest.

We here at Death Race are never ones to shy away from anthropological study. It was with this in mind that we managed to find some pants that weren't only suitable for a crust punk show, and proceeded down to Rod Laver Arena to see Taylor Swift in concert.


I know right? Wasn't it only yesterday that i was raving about death metal from the bowels of Japan?

While I may be kvlt as fuck, with a penchant for only the most severe musical brutality, i also have a sickening penchant and interest in the slickest of pops. And it was because of this that i found myself as possibly the only male under 40 and over 5 at the Taylor Swift concert, a nearly six foot figure, surrounded by tween girls waving glow sticks, hepped up on Fanta, and probably closer to tears than usual.

So what can i report? Well, here are some things that immediately struck me: Firstly, Swift can really sing. Like, her voice is super strong, and really quite dynamic. That was a surprise. Secondly, she's a born entertainer. In the old, costume change and lots of props and fireworks sense of the word. She had the crowd under total control. Admittedly it isn't hard to hold the attention of eight year olds when you are Taylor Swift, but the point stands. Thirdly, i reckon you could divide the crowd into two distinct groups: the younger ones, who like Swift's stories about teenage angst, because the idea of growing up is exciting. These fans are generally 5-12. Then there were the girls about my age who seem to want to reminisce about being 14 again, when listening to Taylor Swift was kind of ok. So there's this bizarre atmosphere of hope tinged with nostalgia.

I was sitting next to this little girl, who was probably about six. She was there with her mum. This girl looked so incredibly overwhelmed, I kinda felt sorry for her. She looked a bit like i did when i first saw Slayer. Mouth open, not really breathing, with the occasional excited squeak. Anyway, I kinda wanted to talk to this girl, ask her what her favourite song was, whether she was having a good time, and how much her poster cost from the merch stand. But i didn't, partly because I'm pretty confident her mother was already pretty wary of the mid twenties man sitting next to her daughter, who seemed to know all the lyrics to all the songs. Fair call, i would have been wary too. But anyway, i kinda observed this little girl throughout the performance, and essentially watched a small human being's day (and possibly month or year) totally being made. So wide were her eyes, so concentrated was her gaze toward the sparkly girl with the guitar, i'm not sure she even knew where she was.

Which brings me to Taylor herself. It's pretty easy to dismiss her as yet another bubblegum production, with very little actual musical merit. However, and as hard as it is for me to admit it, she is clearly a decent musician. Throughout the set she played a variety of instruments (guitar, banjo, piano) and engaged with the crowd in a genuine and pleasing way. She didn't seem fake, she didn't seem tired, and she really seemed happy to be there.

At some points i found myself watching 14 000 young girls lapping up the message of what on the surface seems to be stories of finding the right man, marriage, the boy from the football team, and other facets of a pretty grim patriarchal picture. But then between songs she would say things that countered the messages that appeared to be contained in the songs, until i realised that the over arching narrative of Taylor Swift (oh dear god, what have i done?) is really the idea that it's ok to be a fourteen year old girl and not have a boyfriend, that you don't have to aspire to fairy tales to be happy.

Sure, hardly ground breaking stuff, but it seems to have hit a chord in the 8-12 market. It seems, then, that Swift provides a degree of comfort for people. So, here i was, covered in glitter, surrounded by small children, wondering how the hell it had come to this, when i looked around. All i saw were very small people having a total fucking ball, trying to connect with this projection of an idea in a floor length dress (her Dixie Chix tattoos are temporary i found out to my sadness).

The only difference between this show and the Iron Maiden one i saw in 2008, was the average age, and amount of leather.

Good one Taylor.

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