What’s the Matter with Kansas? (The Band)

I have a wide variety of musical interests, and I have a wide variety of friends. This leads to varying reactions about particular shows I go to see. If I tell people I’m going to see Kansas at Magic Springs, the reactions vary from excitement to derision. If I say I’m excited about seeing Mr. Lif from The Perceptionists, the reactions are the same but the camps are reversed. As someone who used to be a music snob, I suppose I can relate to each faction’s opinions about music, I just wish people would open up a little.

My outlook on music is summed up pretty well by Frank Zappa when he said:

“I think that if a person is making music — even if it’s the most crass, commercial kind of crud — that person should be doing that because there are people who want to consume crass, commercial crud. And they’re doing a necessary function for the audience that needs to be entertained. Just because I’m not the consumer of that stuff, it’s no reason for me to go on some big campaign against it. I don’t think it’s particularly aesthetic, but then again, if it’s providing enjoyment for somebody, then fine.”

Music is so much bigger than any one person’s narrow view of it. It’s more than notes on a page, it’s more than timbres, it’s more than the theatrical poses, and it’s a lot more than lyrics. In a way, it’s more than art. Art implies standards, but saying all music should be art is like saying all speech should be poetry.

Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs was a big believer in the idea that rock and roll is a form of expression that is gloriously and righteously dumb, and although he decried the attempts of progressive rock to legitimize the form, a band like Kansas was at least reaching beyond the restrictions of its genre. And the better hip-hop bands like Perceptionists are making compelling sounds that may or may not even be considered “music” per se. But if you like it, who cares?

I think people in general need to let go of their preconceptions of what is and is not right or cool or valuable, because I think these only get in the way of a wider view of music. Another reason for people to let go of their preconceptions is that all humans have a tendency to enjoy feeling superior to other segments of society. Dismissing what you don’t understand or can’t appreciate only makes you feel better about your own inadequacies and shortcomings. It’s much easier to deride or openly hate what other people enjoy rather than try to understand it, or them.

6 thoughts on “What’s the Matter with Kansas? (The Band)”

  1. I liked your comments about music.

    Music is easy to analyze: good music comes from the heart. The famous music critic John Todd said that.

  2. Yes, I think just about anyone can see and feel that the song from Veracruz called La Bamba comes from the heart.

    And it make no difference if it´s the Richie Valens arrangement or if you hear it on the streets of Old Veracruz. Even though the orgins of the lyrics have almost been forgotten, it´s a song that started in 1683.

    Good music like that lasts forever.


  3. I totally agree. Which is why I still have my New Kids on the Block, Richard Marx, and Garth Brooks tapes. Take that, TRL.

    AND I have almost every album Kansas ever put out! (That’s saying alot… they’re like, Ani-Difranco-prolific.) People can say what they want, but they can’t help but rock out to Carry On my Wayward Son…. and if they can resist, then they’re souless.

  4. This will probably stand as the only point in history in which Kansas were compared to Ani DiFranco. Ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendars and tell your grandchildren You Were There.

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