Styx and Steel, Part Deux

Styx is in town tomorrow night, just in time for the start of the Steelers' campaign for another Super Bowl victory.

The Trib covers the cultural linkage between the band and the region.

Apparently, reporters have given up even the teensiest bit of surf-based research.  Because Pittsblog has been there, done that.  Three years ago.

Ironically, if I were writing that "Styx" post today, I'd back off the claim that there is some deep cultural narrative that links Pittsburgh and the modern Steelers to Styx or bands like them, which ruled the airwaves 35 years ago.  There are too many other great musical traditions in Pittsburgh -- jazz, as we are repeatedly reminded in the post-WDUQ era, being at the top of the list -- for the power ballad to stand as Pittsburgh key musical signifier.  WDVE, for all of its durability, is just a radio station playing rude comedy in the mornings and old music the rest of the day.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  I listen to DVE myself.

No, I think that Styx thrives in Pittsburgh for the same reason that Def Leppard thrives in Pittsburgh or AC/DC thrives in Pittsburgh.  (For the record:  I'm a big fan of Def Leppard and AC/DC.)  There's a large community of people in town who just love really loud, vapid music.  A lot of genres of popular music are best listened to when they're loud.  ("Loud" might just define all of rock 'n' roll.)  But a lot of rock music, even when it's just loud, has an edge.  The lyrics aren't just placeholders for people who expect words (Joe Satriani (rock) and Al DiMeola (jazz/fusion) are fabulous guitarist, but neither is a pop superstar); the lyrics are trying to tell a story, or convey a message.  Styx has no lyrical edge.  Styx is just loud.

No one needs to go too deep with any of that stuff.  You have Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young and even Billy Joel at one end of the spectrum; you can pick your own favorites for the other end.   But it isn't right to put Styx on that spectrum at all.  The point of Styx, and pop/rock bands of that era (say, Queen, another great band from that era that is occasionally heard on PA systems in NFL stadiums), is to crank the music up to 11 and stomp and scream, preferably surrounded by other people doing the same thing, in some semblance of rhythm.  Playing "Renegade" at a Steelers game is the closest thing Pittsburgh has to flash mobs.  Aussies do flash mobs to Kylie Minogue; the Belgians do them to Julie Andrews; Chicagoans do them to Black Eyed Peas.  Steelers Nation does them to Styx.

Does any of that have a larger cultural meaning?  Does it resonate with Pittsburgh's alleged working class ethos?  Does dancing to Kylie Minogue tell us anything about Australians?

I hope not.

Party on, Wayne.  Party on, Garth.

{Corrected on 9/1:  Originally, I placed the Julie Andrews flash mob in the Netherlands.  I've changed that, to Belgium.  Sorry to all offended Belgians.  And offended Dutch.)

Comments

1 Response to "Styx and Steel, Part Deux"

MH said... 8/31/2011 3:09 PM

Except Queen could actually make music.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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