Critical Fandom for the Blogosphere "Pop music has for decades possessed the power to transport the human spirit and to serve as a vehicle for the transcendence that we seek." --Bill Friskics-Warren


Would Lester Bangs Listen to the White Stripes?

I almost didn’t go to Birmingham on Monday. I read it on the White Stripes “Little Room” fan-board that Jack sounded sick on Sunday in South Carolina. I had to borrow $40 from my land-mate to make the bus-ticket. I had less than $3 in my bank account (and even though my monthly paycheck would be deposited at midnight, I feared that the hotel might reject my Visa debit card at check-in, just like in the movies when the star is suddenly destitute for whatever reason).

I was feeling just as my friend Kassi wrote recently on her myspace blog, saying it succinctly, surely, and sweetly: “i cannot afford my rock n roll lifestyle. but i also cannot afford not to live it.”

But we find the way to make it, no matter what, because the music pulls us in and pulls us to another rock and roll road trip, helpless addicts all of us—like the prostrate muslim during proper prayers or the worst crack-and-meth-afflicted-junky-ho.

So, I left the farm with my family and a flat tire in the trunk. We had to stop on the way to Nashville to repair the tire, and we almost didn’t make it downtown in time. The crowd in the bus station overflowed into the street. I had that awful moment of “What was I thinking?” But somehow, there were just enough seats on the bus. And I got to Birmingham just in time.

Checking into the hotel was without worry, but my “hard ticket,” allegedly being Fed-exed from the friendly publicist in New York was not waiting. A phone call and email later, I discovered that I would have the usual access at will-call after all. Within a short while after that, I’d connected with the amazing Anne from Houston and the fansite, and she’d agreed to give me a lift to the show. It turned into a carpool with Chris and Sandra from the Atlanta area. I love the serendipitous fan connections with folks who are willing to go into debt and sleep-deprivation and probably worse just to travel to a show.

On the way to and from Birmingham on the Greyhound, I read Let it Blurt—the amazing biography of rock writer Lester Bangs written by Jim DeRogatis. Since Lester, Jack White, and I all share some serious Detroit energy in common, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Would Lester Bangs like the White Stripes?” He certainly wouldn’t care for the fact that the band wrote a song for Coca-Cola, I mused. But the revival of the Detroit garage sound that the Stripes made famous and infamous still seems most insistently Bangsian.

But Janis and Jimi bless Google, someone had already posed the question. A blogospheric rock critic who claims to channel Kerouac and Bangs had already posed the problem in a sideways manner. (See

It began with a record review of Icky Thump that took the form of a fantasy involving the writer and Meg White (who can blame him, really). And them the comments raged with all things anti-Stripes and pro-Stripes and all things in between.

I tend to sympathize with the poster called “JC Mosquito” who wrote:

“Would Lester have liked the White Stripes? Hmm... historical (or hysterical) rewriting in the making - I'd say yes he would. He liked the Guess Who, he liked Metal Machine Music, and he took matters into his own hands when he started a band. He would've liked them becuse his sense of humour was right in tune with the lo-fi DIY Stripes' ethic.”

When my male-menopause-cum-midlife-crisis kicked in a few years ago and fully fueled my rock music fan obsessions, I felt blessed to find a burgeoning underground scene made even more palpable by the instant access provided to DIY by laptops and the internet. And almost with perfect synchronicity, while technology made everyone an engineer, a promoter, and producer, this same DIY ethos drove people away from the computer and back to more purely rootsy forms, which in part explains why so much of the old-time music scene is comprised of ex-punks.

So many bands keep me busy that it’s hard to think about just one. But the Stripes are one among the many.

Please see my 'official' review at

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