Living in New York City, it is difficult not to be especially alert to different trends and subcultures. Based on personal experiences, I have put together a list of observations how indie has become the new mainstream.
Ever since that first Get Up Kids concert I saw at the Ogden Theater, the underground subculture has played an important part in my life outside of work or school. But over the years, those values have propelled themselves to the main way of the international pop culture.
1.Last August, Jay-Z & Beyonce made it out to see Grizzly Bear at the Williamsburg water front. Naturally, the mere fact that Jay-Z decided to go see an indie band at a free concert, does not signify the mainstream influence. But the fact that the beloved Jigga Man and his life partner Beyonce decided to see the relatively unknown Grizzly Bear, gave those acapella enthusiasts much national coverage, which probably played some part in the band’s music now being featured in a VW ad.
2. GAP selling plaid and playing Band of Horses at that same exact time.
Over the winter holiday ordeal, I made it out to a Gap store in Denver’s Cherry Creek mall. Surprisingly, the store that I last remembered selling worn-looking beach bum clothes, has transformed itself to an American Apparel clone shop with multiple selections of plaid shirts and skinny jeans. To amplify the effect, the store is now playing the likes of Band of Horses, a respectable band with a strong independent track record.
Also, Target sells these now.
3. Dodos in the Miller commercial; Phoenix in Cadillac; Noah and the Whale in Toyota, Passion Pit in Verizon, Grizzly Bear – VW…
Staying with the music scene. Above is a list of just a few indie notables “selling” or “selling out” (you decide) their music to corporations and their relative commercials.
4. Ads now mostly feature hipster looking characters, which are often portrayed as borderline stoner, borderline jobless freeloader likes.
Naturally, Madison Avenue, the epicenter of global advertising, is in New York City. From a personal experience, many people working on Madison Ave. do reside in certain parts of Brooklyn that are known for skinny jeans, mustaches, and Wayfarers. Hence, this is how Brooklyn has a far reach in many of today’s cultural aspects.
Even the low-brow car commercials now regularly feature an ironic hipster type as one of the characters. Guess which one? (Now that you do, apparently the guy in the commercial is a well known photographer named Noah who documented 6 years of taking photos of himself everyday in this YouTube video…..)
5. Finally, it would not be a PBR blog if I was not to mention the old lady herself. PBR is now one of the top selling beers and the winner of numerous awards from the Brewers Association, the organization behind the Great American Beer Festival. It is no longer a beer that Portland bike messengers took a liking to and as the result propelled it as the most ironic hipster beer to be canned on the planet. PBR is the main street beverage from the farmlands of Nebraska to the artist studios of Gowanus.
On a side note, I can now tell whether or not PBR is served at a bar, because when I walk into a place that serves it, there is always an abundance of cans sitting around. If PBR is an option, it becomes the only option probably because the irony (=credibility) of drinking a cheap redneck beer at the Music Hall of Williamsburg almost never wears off.
To sum up, the culture scene has become so fragmented in the past decade that the meaning of “main stream” has lost its spark. Everyone tends to seek and often finds something that is relatable. And as tough as it to see the shitty ironic shirt you spent a Sunday afternoon digging for at your local “Salvation Army” shop, or the new cool indie band with a bearded guy on the vocals and an Asian girl rocking her synthesizer you went to see, or the beer you swore by back in your Midwestern liberal arts college (or bike messenger days in Portland) all become popularized, the overall process just inspires more innovation. Nonetheless, the current pace of cultural cycles that is amplified by the might of the internet, will only produce more of the uniqueness all of us so desperately seek.