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Man. Woman. Black Cat. . . . Nothing.

By Emily Matewell
Friday, November 19, 1999


    Why Don't They Mingle? (Kathleen Carr/washingtonpost.com)
My friend Ed and I were at a show by the Boston band Come when I spotted a woman I knew Ed was interested in. She was wearing high heels and dancing with her head thrown back, black dress swirling around her legs. "Look, your crush is here," I said. "She looks beautiful." Ed, a longtime music scenester, studied her for a moment, then sniffed, "A little overdressed for the Black Cat, wouldn't you say?"

His pissy remark crystallized everything that's wrong with these kids today. I single out the Black Cat only because it is the indie rock palace; the plague extends to some shows at IOTA, the 9:30 club and a few other venues. The problem is not the 14th Street club itself, which books great music and is well configured and located. The problem is the indie music lovers and whatever is paralyzing them.

Why don't they dance? Why don't they flirt? Why is a lovely blonde in a black dress so distasteful – to a man who has the hots for her??? A deaf person in the Black Cat might guess everyone was assembled for a tedious lecture – scowls on faces, arms clamped to sides, looking left nor right, movement limited to a begrudging head bob. I'm not saying everyone should limbo under a pole, but would it be that uncool to move a little to the music? To talk to that cute girl across the room rather than place an I Saw You ad in the City Paper the next day? To simply share your love of music with other music lovers?

Perversely, the very love of music may cause the dour vibe. The Black Cat houses more passionate music fans than any other rock club in town. The men (and the extreme fans are mostly young men) have forged tender relationships with these bands in their bedrooms and their cars. This could underlie the paralysis gripping patrons of the Cat – it's too embarrassing to show that ardor in public.

And with love comes possessiveness: The worst thing that can happen to a favorite band is mass success. Hatred of the masses who plucked Nirvana et al. from the arms of I-knew-them-when acolytes makes all such acolytes guard their bands jealously. And as they hoard, they distance themselves from anything that could be construed as Hootie-loving fratboy masses behavior – such as chatting up a woman. Thus does guarding the gates of the music clique destroy the chances for a happily shared music experience.

The women at the Black Cat have a less-tangled relationship with music they love. You see their butts moving to the beat, and their faces look happier and more open. They seem more in tune with the ecstatic possibilities of rock-and-roll, which was, after all, named after fornication. I could be wrong, but I don't think most of them would be affronted by the attentions of a young man digging the music along with them.

Of course, everyone has the right to pursue happiness however and with whomever they want, and real music lovers, however repressed, are more appealing than lecherous goons who drink unthinkingly from the mainstream. As a fanboy in a female body, however, I say the baby's been thrown out with the bathwater. Fun, sexiness, flirting, dancing and fabulousness are not the enemy of good taste and discrimination. Anyone who tells you different is an ossified snob.

Am I right about the indie rock scene or is there some whole other level of sexual communication going on at these clubs just below my radar? I want to hear from you. Here's what others have to say.

Emily Matewell is the pseudonym of a single woman living in the Washington area and that's all we're going to say.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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