A couple of weeks ago, when I ended up writing about the only Dave Matthews Band album that I actively enjoy, I had intended to write about “The Frame I: Betrayal in the Watchtower,” the finale from I the Mighty’s 2015 album Connector. I love “Betrayal in the Watchtower.” It’s narrative and epic and overwrought in all the ways that the best Coheed songs are but it also has a certain try-hard energy that feels very much like the overcomplicated songs that my college band used to write. Even though it didn’t quite happen, it’s very easy for me to imagine my 19-year-old self writing and singing “see the sun, feel the sun, we wait for a miracle once again” and feeling utterly profound about the whole thing. “Betrayal in the Watchtower” is that rare contemporary song that is valuable both on its own terms but also in its ability to conjure a very specific type of nostalgia.
In researching that (never finished) post, I learned that I the Mighty frontman Brent Walsh had been accused of sexual assault: Here’s the headline and here’s the victim’s story. I believe survivors. And the survivor’s experience and trauma is, by far, the most important aspect of all of this. But it’s not the only one. Admitting that any impact that I’ve felt from those allegations is the epitome of inconsequential, I have to share a deeply selfish take that I imagine is shared by many:
I am so fucking tired of this.
Only a few days after I read about Walsh’s alleged assault, Chris Conley—the driving force of indie hall of fame act Saves the Day—was accused of and admitted to sexual misconduct. I did my best to put on my writerly hat in covering that: Using a metaphor plucked from John Green’s Paper Towns, I wrote about my response to that news in Thursday’s blog post. But in discussing the disillusionment of watching, one by one, as the makers of beloved art are revealed for the problematic figures that they are—abusers, aggressors, and assaulters—I didn’t hit on the complex way that this seemingly never-ending series of allegations eats away at the personal histories of these musicians’ fans.
If you love music, if you’ve built yourself out of it as I have, then you had better have a plan of action for when the individuals who made that music are revealed as not only flawed humans—as we all are—but as monsters. In covering Brand New and The Story So Far and Pinegrove, among others, I’ve had to write too many words about how the author really is dead and how art belongs to its consumers and not its creators. I believe all of that, I really do. But, for fuck’s sake, where is the end of all this?
If you want to boycott art that you once loved because you’ve learned that its creators did awful things, that’s fine. Of course it is. But you don’t have to. Your enjoyment of the work is yours. If that enjoyment is tainted by the actions of its creators, that’s understandable, but if that enjoyment remains, that’s understandable, too. I don’t think there’s one right way to handle all this as a listener but, even if you take the latter approach and hold onto the music even as you maybe denounce the creators, it’s hard not to feel worn down by allegation and after allegation. The scene that I came up in, the music and community that shaped me, was awful, it turns out. This is, most likely, nothing new for a music scene and that only makes it worse. Being a part of that indie/emo/whatever scene was supposed to be about being thoughtful and introspective and compassionate and maybe that’s what it was for some people but it was also, apparently, just regular-ass misogynistic rock’n’roll for a lot of people, but with skinny jeans, swooping haircuts and pointlessly long song titles.
I’m tired of all of this. I’m tired of learning that so many great things were made by people who have done so many awful things and I’m tired of trying to figure out what all of those awful things mean for me and these songs that I’ve come to love.
I have no answers. I’m just tired.
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