Hootie & the Blowfish Killed My Rock and Roll Dreams

Two poems by Daniel Nester

guitar on fire

Hootie & the Blowfish Killed My Rock and Roll Dreams

The death of college rock: September 5, 1995

I’m drunk on a Tuesday at the old Knitting Factory 
and stumble into Milano’s, where by chance
the MTV Video Music Awards is on.
Drew Barrymore presents
the Video Vanguard Award to R.E.M.
and I am 15 again, pogoing in the mud
in Piscataway, hearing Michael Stipe
sing for the first time. I wore white jeans
and a Corona poncho. I cut off the jeans,
chucked the poncho, and wore a Murmur shirt
for months. I thought I’d outgrown band worship,
but watching R.E.M. on the screen feels
as if my childhood had won, as if
arty kids everywhere had won.
The feeling does not last.
Not much later, Hootie & the Blowfish
play their hit, “Only Wanna Be with You.”
If you were able to establish
which songs were objectively awful,
this song would be the index case
against which all other objectively
awful songs were compared.
Hootie wears a backwards baseball cap.
The Blowfish are all in cargo shorts.
As they play, the audience
bobs their arms like they’re at a frat house.
And then comes the real atrocity.
After the guitar solo, the Blowfish
stop strumming and raise plastic cups.
“We’d like to drink this to R.E.M.,”
Hootie says. “If it wasn’t for them,
we wouldn’t be a band.” The crowd cheers.
The cameras do not cut to members of R.E.M.
because if they did, we would have seen
their looks of disgust and horror.
This is the moment college rock died,
in case anyone is wondering. The band
plods on, cargo shorts and baseball cap, and
my night ends like most nights ended back then:
I stumbled outside, hazy, unchanged.

On Realizing Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” Has the Same Chords as the Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular”

Of course we’re always disappointed
on some level, and since of course we know
the opposite of logic is regret,
by which we mean the act of regretting,
and therefore the prototype of heartache
are songs about cowboys who sing sad songs,
which is to say that for each brainy kid
who flips through Edith Hamilton
there is a freak who looks for certain
kinds of danger, but not the usual stuff,
to wit, epic snafus or wrecked careers,
we’re talking about the opposite of bluffing,
which is betrayal, by which we mean the act
of betraying, and a sad cowboy song
will always break you down, irregardless
of one’s cowboy status, just like
the opposite of myth is description,
which is to say the act of describing,
or why every Greek maiden pulls a double-cross,
or every poor god gets tied down to a rock
or turned into a cow, to which I would add
every barfly I’ve ever met will croon
along to Don McLean to drown out
a rehash of their fuck-ups, which is to say,
short story long, that every barfly to whom
I’ve told a joke says they’ve heard the joke before,
which is to say the opposite of a poem is
just like the ache for one more poem like it.

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