Pitchfork Music Festival 2011, Sunday: OFWGKTA
When I was a little kid, I think my greatest desire was to be included. I would do anything to play made-up games based on the Ninja Turtles and Three Ninjas movies at recess, even though my parents wouldn't let me watch them. I resented them restricting my movie-watching, as it meant that I always got stuck with the third-wheel characters nobody else wanted in those recess games.
As I got older, around fifth and sixth grade, I figured out how to be a member of the in-crowd. I learned how to be a smartass. I said the stuff you're not supposed to say in class, laughed at inappropriate moments and generally got my kicks by pissing off my teachers. I got in trouble a lot, and my parents couldn't figure out how to make me cut the shit. I couldn't either, and I didn't care; it was how I made friends at the time, and I was proud of my big mouth. Eventually, I think I even felt that it was my responsibility to act like a dick, talk shit, curse out of turn and act like the snarky stoner I never really was.
When I went to college (I was smart enough not to say "Fuck school!"), I left my little microcosm in Connecticut and dove headfirst into a gigantic Chicago university. It was like I had hit the reset button on my ego. I had no reputation to live up to, no character to play, but with that, I had lost a sense of security I didn't know I had. There's something really safe and comforting about everyone—yourself included—knowing who you're supposed to be.
At times during their set, I imagined OFWGKTA leader Tyler feeling like I did in high school: a character, with a following and a world of expectations beyond his control. How could he not shit talk the domestic-violence "protest groups," as he called them? How could he not turn to the VIP stage and tell all the "faggot-ass bloggers" to suck his dick and write a negative review about his band? It's true, no one in the VIP section was rapping along. Most of us laughed nervously when he made that shout-out, then dipped back into our beers. Sorry, bro... we don't want us here, either. Not to beat the deadest horse in the blogosphere, but we're not cool with promoting rape and homophobia. (One writer has taken to calling Odd Future fans "swaggots," which I think is pretty great.)
If anything can be said now about the state of OFWGKTA, it's that the phenomenon is now in the sweaty white hands of the people. These Odd Future kids have made something that almost everyone still in high school seems to embrace, and good for them. I admire anyone who can make a name for themselves by doing what they want, but that's just where the whole thing goes sour for me: Is this really what they want? Clearly, Tyler is a young man with daddy issues and a very understandable amount of anger. For me, and for a lot of people, that reactionary attitude is the first thing to catch my eye about Wolf Gang. But what, for fuck's sake, is the point?
I wouldn't ask them. If you did, they'd probably tell you to fuck off, which is, in fact, the point. They are a group borne in antagonism and reactionary rage, which has now turned to pandering. The out-crowd that was Tyler and company has become the in-crowd. And now, I can't help but feel sympathy for them. Have mercy, for they know not what they do.
The defining moment of the show, for me, happened before any of the crowd surfing, deafening chants of "Smoke weed!," "Bitch," and "Kill People!" It happened right after subgroup MellowHype's warm-up. When he first showed himself onstage, Hodgy Beats knocked over the stool that sat in front, declaring fuck on that shit and going buck wild, as he does so well. Minutes later, when Tyler took the stage on crutches and in a cast, he had to pick his stool up himself. The one mechanism for support that sat on stage for him was knocked over, by his very own Flavor Flav/Redman/Costello sidekick. It was sad, and weird, and there were several other moments where Tyler sort of pointed at Hodgy, seeming to say "I don't know either, guys." At times, I don't know who to pity more: the young men in this band who have to spend the rest of their adult lives living down a reputation of hateful, ugly ignorance, or the kids who have to look back on an adolescence they spent worshiping America's youngest false idols.
At least a shitload of kids had fun watching them. Their weekend, probably their summer, was made this afternoon. I guess it would've been cool, if they didn't have to be such swaggots about it.
Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I only know that rape isn't funny because I didn't say "fuck school" when I was eighteen. That's pretty cool, I guess.
I mean swag. It's pretty swag.