BY OLIVER KOGOD //
There is a special feeling that arises in me after I hand over $5 and enter the cramped basement. The room is packed with college kids, everyone is sweaty, drunk and/or high, and all dressed up for the concert. It feels like a ritual. We look forward to these shows. We arrive together and dance together and get our ears bombarded with loud noise together. For a long time, these crowded shows were my favorite nights. I took care of schoolwork and errands knowing that once I made it to Friday night I’d be enjoying live music with my friends.
I guess something changed when I actually took the time to take a look around me at one of these shows. Everything looked the same. I felt I was caught in a wave composed of multiple me’s – other “indie” kids who looked the same as me.“What?” I thought to myself, “I thought I was special because I had long hair, but here everyone does!”
Although I am projecting, and one could certainly shoot down my projections, I am being honest when I say I felt as though I was trapped in a hierarchy of indie-ness. At the top of the ranking were the most “indie” looking folks, the untouchables, while at the bottom were those who weren’t up to date on the hippest trends (therefore looking different). I notice that people are always looking at each other- how many holes do their shoes have? Which thrift shop did they buy that top at? Wow, look at their Tame Impala shirt! That’s what it all feels like to me.
I know some socially conscious person would say “But you are judging people based on their looks and not their personalities, and that’s not right to do” and that is true. I believe that if I sat down with everyone from that show individually I would hear at least a few intriguing things from each person. However, I am focusing on appearance meaning how we choose to present ourselves. Yes, we might think our own ways and have our own personalities, but why do our appearances all look so similar? That’s my question.
What does it mean to be “indie?” The word, like other broad ranging descriptors, clearly does not have a single definition. I think all the indie kids like me would each talk about it in a different way. But, I do know that indie is short for independent (something that I did not even consider until recently). If the self-described indie kids are rooted in independence, then I don’t understand why there are so many similarities between our appearances. For instance, with clothing and taste in music. Yeah it’s totally cool and okay to like the same bands and dress similarly to you friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, it builds community. But doesn’t that sameness build up to a higher level of uniformity? And doesn’t that higher level of uniformity across a “scene” rooted in independence kind of contradict what it means to be “indie?” Is the current indie scene totally built on a contradiction? It advocates for self-expression, but when people do it, they all express themselves in a monotonously similar way? I would think that independent units would be distinct ones, but that does not seem like it is the case.
One could argue me and say isn’t the point of a scene the uniformity? Because those bonds are what makes the community and what makes the scene? And I would respond with yes, that is true, but other scenes aren’t created “in opposition of mainstream culture and music” the way that indie was/is (source: the wikipedia page on the Indie music scene). And I am choosing to focus more on the predominantly white, college indie scene that I have experienced (rather than the entire wide-ranging international indie music scene that I know little about). To reiterate an earlier point, I don’t get why a scene that prides itself on self-expression is made up of people who present themselves so uniformly with each other.
I just feel like everyone tries so hard to be different that they all come out the same. I don’t mean to blame them, I fell for it too. I still do it too. But I do think the time has come to critically think about ourselves and the labels we use.
Please reach out with your thoughts/questions/disagreements. I’d love to hear them. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Peace