Friday, January 2, 2009


i was thinking today at work about "cred" ie. "scene cred" and how much of it i have, when i realized i don't even really know what that phrase means. i think by most peoples' accounts i would be called a "hipster," but since i have admitted in the past that i probably am a hipster, does this make me not a hipster? is being a hipster a bad thing? is being a scenester a good thing? and perhaps the best question of all:

since this is a MUSIC BLOG i'm going to ignore wardrobe / lifestyle choices for the most part in this analysis.

we can look at it this way, possibly the most popular "definition":
a hipster is someone who appreciates bands one can consider reasonably popular: ie. they might get some airplay on MTV (subterranean / mtvu counts), pitchfork gives them frequent scores above 8.0 / "news" mentions.
a scenester is someone who appreciates bands that you can't consider popular at all, and if the names of these bands were mentioned people would probably think you were talking about an obscure book or disease.

but then you have to answer these questions:
example I: someone who saw architecture in helsinki live / appreciated their music circa "FINGERS CROSSED" (their first album). would you consider this person a scenester, because they saw aih before they became 'popular,' or would you consider them a hipster, because architecture in helsinki did become popular eventually therefore this individual's being "on top of it" doesn't count?
example II: a person really likes a lot of obscure bands and attends their shows / buys their albums, but their favorite band is radiohead, whom they have seen 17 times. is this person a hipster, because their favorite band is radiohead and come on, everyone likes radiohead, or a scenester, because they like a whole lot of other bands too and it doesn't matter if they like radiohead because they're fucking awesome despite their popularity?
example III: i really like vampire weekend and i've seen them four times, one of which was the night their album was released. am i a total nerd, because i've seen them four times, a hipster, because COME ON IT'S VAMPIRE WEEKEND THEY ARE OVEREXPOSED, or a scenester, because i saw them BEFORE IT WAS COOL?

then we have to ask:
why are hipsters ashamed of being hipsters?
the way i look at it, hipsters want to be scenesters as they are just scenesters who came late to the party --- nothing too wrong with that! however, times are such that when you call someone a hipster, you throw on the hipster oddity that my dad calls "the brooklynvegan thing" wherein people vehemently hate a band because other people like them. you throw on the wearing the keffiyeh, the chillin' on saint marks' / in williamsburg, the pabst blue ribbon, the record player, the american apparel: the fact, in general, that this is the first thing that comes up when you google image search hipster:

a piece of wisdom:

"hipster" is a derogatory term because people associate being a hipster with being an asshole, hating things because people like them, being ashamed to admit you like bands that aren't animal collective and deerhunter, dressing exactly the same as everyone else whilst rolling a smuggled-in joint in a meaningful page you ripped from catcher in the rye at mccarren park pool (this is mostly a true story), and, when i bring up liking vampire weekend, say "yeah, everybody hates them now." (direct quote from friend of mine)
basically, BEING THIS.

my opinion is this:
taking the definition of hipster we established at the beginning of this post, there is no shame in being a hipster. it is perfectly okay to like "popular" bands. it is perfectly okay to admit that your favorite song is electric feel. it is perfectly okay that you only found out about spoon after gimme fiction. it is perfectly okay to admit that you just realized grizzly bear are awesome. IT IS PERFECTLY OKAY TO ADMIT THAT YOU DIDN'T ILLEGALLY DOWNLOAD MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION BECAUSE REALLY YOU DON'T CARE THAT MUCH AND YOU CAN WAIT FOR IT TO COME OUT.
when you mutate this to the definition of hipster mocked in great and accurate toothpaste for dinner cartoons, THEN that is the kind of hipster you don't want to be, and that is a truly derogatory term.

todd p has some great stuff to say on the subject:

"Lately I want to bring back the term "Scenester," because at least that one implies involvement in something, some formative following of an underground scene — vague all-encompassing hipsterdom strikes me as parasitically passive — whereas I feel like you gotta be active and contribute to a community to be a scenester. Subtract the scenesters from the amorphous mass of hipsters and what you have is the group of people that most folks are meaning to dis when they say "hipster" — that crew is the "Trendsters" — the least positive group of hip kids out there, trendsters surf around on other people's ideas rather than coming up with new ideas of their own.
The best kind of hipster is defining his/her own culture, and following his/her own tastes outside of trends and commercial bullshit."
--- Todd P, concert booker / show organizer / etc.

i am reasonably sure that todd means "following his/her own tastes" as "YOU CAN LIKE WHATEVER MUSIC YOU WANT AND YOU SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED." if you are ashamed to like "popular" bands because they're "popular," then you are a hipster in the bad sense of the word, and, worse, the very individual your hero holden caulfield famously derided, "a phony." to quote joan didion again, "that is when you are in bad trouble."

more wisdom:
"i don't believe in guilty pleasures." --- britt daniel, spoon frontman

to prove this, appearing for the second time on this blog is possibly my favorite cover of all time:


Anonymous said...

I think any 'label', once comment, becomes negative to the people who are already 'there'.

GarbieDoll said... was my understanding that "hipsters" listen to new indie music and old alternative (ie. The Smiths), love vintage clothes, and are (or like to appear to be) intellectuals & very sensitive. They will like things that are popular sometimes, but often claim it is "ironic". They vehemently deny being hipsters.

"Scenesters" are more into being "cool" & feeling they are "edgy". They listen to emo and hardcore and maybe some indie dance, they have big scene hair, and they sport mall fashion fads. They hate "preps". They embrace their scenester status.

Both types are into music and go to shows a lot, and have a sense of elitism.

Vie said...

if that's "hipster," then what is a "normal" person supposed to be like?

Samantha said...

who gives a shit?

Dennis said...

I only read about five sentences of your blog...being either a hipster or a scenester is a bad thing.

Frege said...

A hipster generally uses the word obscure to describe something.
So I think that you're a hipster. ;)
At any rate, when you think about it, hipster's really want to be different, and say that they dislike mainstream, etc, etc, etc. However, they don't want to be Hipster because they are all hypocrites. A hipster looks like a hipster, so they would be the same.
I believe that that's what's 'wrong' with being hypocritical, or in this sense, hipstercrictical.
If someone says something that you disagree with, then you have to either be engaged in the debate, or simply ignore him. That's another 'easily said than done' things, by the way. :)
Also, hipsters are mostly creative and very artistic. They tend to have a blog (usually Tumblr), and are very talented in that way.

Keepursecrets said...

I just change my profile photo a few hours ago and one commented on it "hipsteeerrrrr!" before I even knew what this meant. The only contact I've had with this term was in an interview of that kid that played Billy Elliott where everyone said he's a hipster, but I didn't see any similarities between me and him so I didn't look any further on it.
Now that this guy commented on my photo and called me a hipster I've been searching around the web to see what it means. The thing is th guy commented on my photo, which means he called me a hipster because of what I wear.
Now that I read your post I also found out a new similarity with the term: I listen to popular bands.
I don't thin it's enough to describe a person as a hipster so I don't take it I am one (I mean, all Muse fans are hipsters?).

What I would like to say is that WHY THE FUCK put a label on it?
And why does it have to be negative? Who are the one that judge the hipsters or the scenesters or whoever! I mean, we are who we are and if it's something 'bab', there's noone who can say that cause.. well.. the sinless shall throw the stone first!
I guess I'm tired of terms and labels. I'm not a hipster, I'm not a scenester, I'm Iris.

The end.

Keepursecrets said...

I killed the spelling on the previous commnent.

I just change= I just changeD
th guy=thE guy
I don't thin = I don't thinK
bab= baD