On a carousel

The average length of the school day in American high schools is seven hours, or about 6 hours and 57 minutes longer than the duration of the buzz OK Go generated this year with its YouTubed video for "Here it Goes Again." (That's the one with the synchronized treadmill heroics. If you haven't seen it, it's probably time to ditch the dial-up.) Actually, that's not true — the average U.S. high school kid is still griping about being stuck in class for seven hours a day, but OK Go spiked the hype matrix again last week when its tomfoolery was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Short Form Video category. A Grammy? Everyone knows those aren't cool in homeroom — MySpace friend totals are. But that kind of juice will at least garner offers to soundtrack kissing scenes on The OC, and play a few holiday package deal concerts for modern rock stations around the country. Unfortunately, those gigs can also signal the fizzle of recognition. Because seven hours is a long time to hold anyone's attention, and by the end of the average school day, a high school kid might be downloading some other group's shining YouTube moment. Here it goes again is right: in 2006, being a band on the pop-punk/emo/post-hardcore axis is, like, so 2006.

Let's take a ride on this year's carousel. On Dec. 12, our boys in OK Go will be in Glendale, Ariz. for The Edge 103.9's "How the Edge Stole Xmas." So will melodic hardcore quintet Taking Back Sunday. On Dec. 11, emo-core darlings Fall Out Boy will be in Minneapolis for the KDWB Jingle Ball, and on Dec. 10, My Chemical Romance brings its mascara and melodrama to San Diego Sports Arena for 91x's "Nightmare before Xmas."

But Detroit's in "luck," too — all of these types and more will be here for 89x's own yuletide modern rock extravaganza, which in its ninth year has expanded to two nights. On Dec. 13 the State Theatre will host the 89x Nutcracker (will the wacky Christmas-themed double entendres ever end?), featuring Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, and Cobra Starship, a band whose buzz is tied to this past summer's Snakes on a Plane, the first film to be fueled entirely by Internet clicks. Then on Dec. 14, the station takes over Cobo Arena for its main event, "The Night 89x Stole Christmas." My Chemical Romance headlines — Black Parade, the New Jersey band's third album, is the current soundtrack to Generation Y heartbreak — and the bill is filled out by Taking Back Sunday, Angels and Airwaves, OK Go, and local sparkplugs the Hard Lessons.

Anything look familiar?

It's true, Detroit area teen terrors — you're getting the same thing for Christmas as your counterparts in Arizona, California, and Minnesota. Shit, you'll probably grab your pre-show dinner from the same Taco Bell value menu. High school isn't the only thing that sucks the same way everywhere.

89x rocks the cultural moment

But participating in something on a nationwide scale can be a good thing too, or at least better than eating the same 1/2 lb. Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito with green onions as everyone else: At least half of 89x's holiday lineup can claim a legitimate piece of the 2006 pop culture zeitgeist — a living thing with audio, visual, and bit-stream tentacles that a band has to tame if it wants to stay in the homeroom conversation.

The station has landed My Chemical Romance, its headliner, at exactly the right time — Black Parade, the band's third album, is one of this year's more notable releases. Glowering from beneath his dye job, frontman Gerard Way convincingly unites MCR's root influences in East Coast hardcore and Misfits cassette tapes with a flair for the dramatic that allows for Meat Loaf and Queen references alongside guest shots from Liza Minnelli. Fall Out Boy made its mark, too, proving over two full-lengths that durable hooks and mildly sarcastic paeans to 12th-grade love can make anyone want to don a pair of skinny jeans and cruise the mall. Narcissistic loudmouth Kanye West reportedly loves them, and NSFW photos of bassist-vocalist Pete Wentz caused a stir on the Internet earlier this year. And then there's OK Go, who'll be known as "that band with the treadmills on YouTube" until a funnier or more innovative video clip dethrones them, but probably deserves better — the Chicago group's peppy Pixies reinventions can be pretty catchy sometimes.

If TrapperKeepers were still cool in 2006, all three of these groups would be Sharpie graffiti favorites, because in their best moments they encapsulate the dramas, joys, and uncertainties of being a boy or a girl in America. Plus, they overamplify everything, giving the gift of arena rock to a whole new generation. Nowadays a youth-skewing band has something going for it if you don't laugh out loud when you imagine caring about them in 2007.

Of course, package shows always have misses, too, and "The Night 89x Stole Christmas" has a few: Angels and Airwaves is supposed to offer the Serious Side of Blink-182's Tom DeLonge, but it mostly just muddles between awful Cure resets and the usual contemporary emo fallbacks — pleading choruses and riffs stolen from the past two years of Warped Tour. Meanwhile, New Found Glory seems somehow over the hill (its bassist is almost 30, dude!), and the less written about Cobra motherfucking Starship, the better. It's likely Samuel L. Jackson would even agree with that.

At least the Hard Lessons will infuse some thrill into the early part of Thursday's Cobo Arena lineup while everyone's waiting for the eye makeup and double-breasted black tunic theatrics of My Chemical Romance. For a local tentacle of the 2006 zeitgeist, the station couldn't have done much better.


The 89x Nutcracker, Wednesday, Dec. 13 at State Theatre, 2115 Woodward, Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5450. With Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory and Cobra Starship. The Night 89x Stole Christmas, Thursday, Dec. 14 at Cobo Arena, 301 Civic Center Dr., Detroit; 313-983-6616. With My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, Angels and Airwaves, OK Go, and the Hard Lessons.

Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].
Scroll to read more Michigan Music articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.