Column 104 — Defending The Who…

Category: Blog — @ 1:06 pm December 6, 2006

Day after tomorrow, folks. Plenty of tickets still available.

Column 104: They’re Still The Who
And why they’re still cool after all these years…
This is an actual conversation had, oh, a few months ago down at Sokol Underground while waiting for bands between sets, leaning on the bar, killing time. Use whatever nasal inflection you feel is appropriate to voice me or the “Pretentious Troll.” Perhaps try to act this out with a friend while you wait for your coffee at The Blue Line.

Me: Well I got my tickets to The Who concert Dec. 7. I’m pretty psyched. The Pretenders are opening, too.

Pretentious Troll: Are you fucking stupid? You’re going to The Who? Talk about lame. It’s not even the real Who.

Me: Well, it’s Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, right? (I fumble for my receipt to make sure I haven’t been duped into buying tickets to a tribute band called The What or The How).

Pretentious Troll: Man, I saw The Who when Entwhistle was still alive, and even then it wasn’t the real Who. The real Who died with Keith. I wouldn’t go if it was free. Those guys shouldn’t be allowed to perform — they’re too old! As an indie music fan, I’m surprised you’re even going — The Who are sell outs!

I didn’t have an answer for the little putz. He may have even been right, but it didn’t matter.

I want to see The Who. They’ve been on my list, along with Yo La Tengo (who I saw at Sokol in October), Silkworm (who I’ll never get a chance to see now) and Red House Painters for as long as I could remember.

The Who was my first punk-rock band. They were the ultimate outsiders that were allowed inside simply on the strength of their music. The Beatles might be the good-guy geniuses, the Rolling Stones the bad-boy working men, but the Who, well, they never seemed to fit into any category, even after their music was embraced by the masses.

To me, they were weird and different. Even at their height, when Tommy came out (in the theaters of course, I wasn’t old enough to remember when the record was released) The Who were like some sort of super-intelligent alien wunderkind. They were the smartest kids in class who dressed funny and came up with all the interesting ideas that no one “got,” then everyone copied. Their music told a story beyond the same old girlfriend-boyfriend-car-drugs-booze rock drama. They wrote about rebellion years before the snarky Sex Pistols came along and made fun of them.

And as saccharine-flavored as this sounds, some of my fondest memories are of listening to “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Baba O’Riley” on my Spark-o-matic tape deck while roaring along Fort Calhoun’s dirt roads in my rusty piece o’ shit VW. It was years before those same songs became bastardized in car commercials and TV shows like CSI. Back when The Who were still cool.

They’re still cool today. Their new album, Endless Wire, is a serious head-trip. It’s a stereophonic thrill ride that isn’t afraid to take chances. Some of them work. Some of them don’t (yet). But it’s never boring, and sonically, it’s a quantum leap above the usual low-fi made-it-myself indie jangle-pap that I’ve been listening to for the past 20 years. There’s a sense of real craftsmanship to Endless Wire that demands that you listen to it on a proper stereo or with a decent set of headphones and not — god forbid — on your computer.

I don’t know what else to say. The Troll is right. Half the band is dead. But half the band is alive, too. And judging from what I’ve seen and heard, they still know how to pull off an arena concert. And they’re coming to Omaha — something I never thought I’d see or hear. So excited was I when the show was announced, I threw down some cash and joined The Who Fan Club just to get in on the ticket pre-sale. Now it turns out that I probably wasted my money since, as of this writing, the concert is unlikely to sell out.

Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe all those people who usually go to arena shows — the ones who boo when the band plays a new song instead of one of their golden chestnuts, the ones who don’t even like music and are merely trying to relive some unfortunate moment from their youth — will stay home and leave the Qwest Center to the rest of us.

And for all you Pretentious Trolls who are reading this — and laughing — remember that all your cherished indie bands got their ideas somewhere. The more adventurous ones were inspired by bands like The Who, bands that will be here long after the current fads fade away.

Townsend did a series of e-mail interviews in support of this show, including one conducted by The Reader‘s super-talented assistant managing editor Tessa Jeffers that’ll be in this week’s issue. Do not miss it. And don’t miss this show. They’ll likely never be back this way again.

Tomorrow, The Danny Pound Band’s Danny Pound talks about The Danny Pound Band and whatever happened to Vitreous Humor. Fanboys of the Omaha/Lawrence golden days of ’90s indie post-punk take note. Anyone remember Zoom?

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

1 Comment

  • If they are as good as the other night you’ll have a great time

    Comment by AC@44 — December 6, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

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