Besides religion, politics, and choice of cola beverages, nothing causes more arguments than music. People are fiercely loyal to their tunes, whether they dig classic rock or classical.
When writing about music was my primary stock-in-trade, I was forced to defend my opinions on a daily basis — to friends, coworkers, strangers, and occasionally my parents. Almost all of these situations began in much the same manner (“You cannot be serious!”) and they often ended the same way (with an agreement to disagree).
Five years ago, I would debate all comers until my throat became scratchy and my brain grew increasingly impatient. But I guess somewhere along the way, I actually developed (sigh) a bit of maturity. Because I don’t argue anymore. (At least about music: Speak negatively of the NBA or, specifically, my beloved Dallas Mavericks, in my presence, and you, my friend, have just entered what I like to call Thunderdome. Two may enter, but only one shall leave.)
Take, for instance, my recent trip to Austin for the annual South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (which you can read more about in this issue’s DownLow section). In the past, this has been the site of some of my finest band-versus-band battles, partly because there are literally thousands of music geeks roaming the streets and partly because I don’t really have many other responsibilities during that week apart from doing just that.
I guess I hadn’t noticed my newfound maturity, because when it emerged in Austin, even I was a bit taken aback. Here’s the situation: I, along with 100 or so of my closest friends, were at a bar called the Mean-Eyed Cat, which featured a heavy Johnny Cash theme. So, already, I felt like I was on friendly ground. Somehow or another, I was introduced to a young woman, and somehow or another, we started talking about Elvis Costello.
To get through this quickly, I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch of my feelings for Mr. Costello: My son’s middle name is Declan because Costello’s real name is Declan MacManus. The woman in question, well, let’s just say she didn’t care much for Costello. Hated him, really. And until recently, I would have attacked her like a wolverine.
But now? I just smiled politely and gently assured her that I wasn’t hurt or offended, even though I was a little bit. “Hey, he’s not for everyone, I guess,” I said, and let her prattle on about her own personal musical hero, Neil Young. I didn’t even tell her I think his new album, Prairie Wind, is totally overrated. It’s the new me.
The stories in this issue may start a few arguments, or maybe they’ll just give you enough ammunition should you find yourself in one. But don’t try to engage me. I’ve found my brand of inner peace, and I’m not giving it up.
Unless we’re talking about basketball. Or soda. Or… — Z.C.