For what it’s worth

By the end of last Friday’s Pixies concert at the Sun Dome, I realized I’d probably seen the best set performed in my life. Every song was a classic, with familiar songs played with new creative vitality, as if being played for the first time — every reunion tour’s dream. It was also refreshing not to hear Black Francis mumble out of his shiny head, “Oh yeah, don’t forget to vote on November 2. It’s like the most important thing you can do.”

Something to that effect has been said at every other concert I’ve been to in the last year.

Politics is far from a trivial issue, but, as a media geek, I’m tired of the same people preaching to the same choir with the same partisan rhetoric. There’s a religiosity; an unctuous, solemnly important tone that seems to say, “You are ignorant until you hear my opinion!” from those who are celebrities due to their political snortings, such as Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken.

Most people probably agree with the stance of celebrities during this political season, citing Bruce Springsteen’s Vote for Change tour and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

“At least they’ve got people talking about politics,” is a frequent argument. In fact, the only topic discussed more than the weather is politics. Only when a hurricane comes around or a volcano explodes is there competition with politics for the front page.

Some of these bands that go on political tours seem at least halfway relevant, such as My Morning Jacket, Le Tigre and Bright Eyes. But when was the last time some of the other bands did anything special? The Dixie Chicks, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt have all created nothing better than diarrhea lattes over the past 20 years. It’s easier to jump on the bandwagon against a billionaire pro-war conservative and pretend you’re Johnny Rotten than it is to create a meaningful album. A more appropriate tour name would be Millionaires against Billionaires.

Part of what makes the Vote for Change tour a seeming bandwagon is its lack of issue, because it simply wants Bush out of office. Perhaps the argument is self-evident as to why, but that idea is more self-righteous than self-evident. In contrast, Michael J. Fox’s position is clear and vital: Bush’s ban on stem cell research constitutes negligence in American medicine whereby people in Fox’s position will die because of it.

It feels like the same thing every election year, with two guys competing for the title of “Lesser of Two Evils.” As Andrew Sullivan, writer for The New Republic magazine, puts it, the election is between that of “the incompetent versus the irresolute.” Once upon a time in America’s history, Americans had a choice between John Adams, who was the president of the American Philosophical Society, and Thomas Jefferson, the chairman of the American Society of Arts and Letters.

In this age of information, the line between political information and entertainment is not always clear. Though at least there are better forms of entertainment besides politics, including hurricanes, volcanoes and the Pixies.

Contact Entertainment EditorHarold Valentine at