"The dancing was desperate, the music was worse/They bury your dreams and dig up the worthless/Goodnight, God bless, and kiss 'goodbye' to the earth/The other side of summer."
-- Elvis Costello, "The Other Side of Summer"
Edgefest 10 delivered the goods for the 4,000 or so folks who attended.
But at the heart of the eight-hour show -- dubbed "EFX" -- was a searing indictment, both of modern rock and of modern rock radio.
The show featured sets from, among others, the Molotov Cocktail Inc., Vendetta Red, Klear, Smile Empty Soul, Trapt, Seether, Finch, HedPe, Powerman 5000, Cold, the Juliana Theory and headliner Staind.
The sound throughout the festival was excellent; crisp, clear and well-defined. Sadly, the same can't be said for the acts.
The blame can't be placed at the feet of the Edge, 103.3 FM. That station meets the needs of its listeners and occasionally takes chances on "non-playlist" acts.
EFX was only the symptom of a much larger disease. The real problem runs much deeper.
Music has the power to elevate, to heal, to inspire, to invigorate.
It also has the power to feed into a narcissistic sense of self-pity and rage, the sort that adolescence is often infused with in the first place.
Music should speak to its listeners, should hit them where they live. But it should also challenge them, urge them to dig deeper into their own experience of what it means to be alive, or at the very least, hop them up to boogie down while at the same time acknowledging the rights of their neighbors. The acts at EFX failed to do this.
The sort of music that the acts involved in EFX offer is an altogether white and all but rootless form of rock 'n' roll. With few exceptions, the music leads nowhere; it won't inspire listeners to look any further into the annals of music history than the day Kurt Cobain shot himself in the head, won't teach them anything more about the raucous beauty of life than an episode of MTV's "Total Request Live."
The problem is, the sort of cookie-cutter, generic white-guy metal being cranked out by record labels and shamelessly playlisted by corporate radio stations serves no greater purpose than to cater to the whims of agitated kids who have grown up with the stuff.
It's an inside job. The record industry powers-that-be had them at "Hello, kiddies, this is the commodified version of adolescent rebellion we have prescribed for you; please assume the position."
Would that more people weren't buying.
It's time to face up to a very disturbing fact: Rock 'n' roll has been stolen from us. It isn't ours any longer, but rather belongs to a slew of unseen tastemakers who package its rebellious heart and sell a soft-soap version of it back to us.
Rebellion via the mall. It has all become about as irreverent as Queen Elizabeth's wig.
There were a few brief glimpses of diamonds in the rough. Buffalo's Grand National kicked butt, as it always does. The band plays power pop with passion and integrity. Its songs would sound good minus the grandiose "arena" presentation, say, while huddled around a piano in the living room.
Another Buffalo band, Klear, was the highlight of the festival. The band -- more than ready to break out -- played a version of modern alternative radio rock that still managed to be blistering and bold. The crowd went absolutely nuts for these guys; more "Klear" T-shirts were seen throughout the eight-plus-hour fest than those of any other. Good on ya, boys.
The Molotov Cocktail Inc. offered a deeply musical set that stood firmly apart from the generic radio metal of is peers. "Lydian" offered some gumshoed reggae -- well-played, my friends! -- while "Jimmy Dean" was smart punkish pop.
The rest of the lot offered an only slightly varying take on the same formula. The kids, by all appearances, didn't seem to mind.
The Edge offered its listeners exactly what they were looking for.
Still, the job of folks in the music industry today is to lead the cavalry, not to latch onto the gravy train. We're counting on them.