Jack Johnson @ Red Rocks AmphitheatreBy Loren Speer | August 19th, 2008 | No Comments »
Jack Johnson’s laid-back lullabies attracted a particular bro-tastic crowd at Red Rocks on Sunday. Photos by Laurie Scavo.
Jack Johnson is hard man to hate: Socially conscious, eco-friendly, “totally chill dude” — as it were, in bro-slang. His music, simply-wrought folk songs from a man that loves life, his family and surfing, is so innocuous and vaguely charming that it doesn’t even begin to stir the bilious disgust that a critic might have for some other band or genre.
However, something does stick in the craw of this old critic. While Jack may have bland (but not bad) musical qualities and is a vanguard for peace and our environment, these elements are not what led me to agitation Sunday night at his Red Rocks performance.
The source of the anxiety came from the majority of people stacked around me in the amphitheater. They are the college frat boys, wannabe surfer-jocks, preppy debutantes and sorority chicks — the detestable status quo of my generation. Evidence of their presence hit me right away when I scooted-up the windy road leading to the outdoor theater — their SUVs, labeled with University of Colorado stickers, were parked bumper to bumper and were so numerous I wondered if people actually listened to the words in Jack’s music, or knew that he made a valiant effort to make his tour “green.”
To see show-goers like “Chad” and all his bros, all with their hats cocked oh-so-slightly to the left (mirror images of what one can observe on MTV) singing his heart out to a song like “Good People,” was hilariously hypocritical. This Chad and his bros are the type of people Jack laments in the song “Where’d All the Good People Go?”
Not all the fans were of this type. I saw some downright adorable clusters of people: a father with his seven or eight-year-old daughter dancing the way fathers and daughters dance, an older couple furtively smoking a poorly-rolled joint, a few young couples swaying in each others arms. They were the type of people one would expect to see at a Jack Johnson show.
Despite the major flaw of having the second-worst fan base in the world (the first being the fanatical hippies in the jam band scene) Johnson’s music is friendly and accessible. To the music snob, his acoustic jingles would be considered insipid, but not horrible. They’re just watered down, mopey, commercial versions of revolutionary folk music.
For the activist, his lyrics fall painfully short of influencing his loyal legions as evidenced by those in attendance last Sunday — but still, Jack does just enough to earn the respect of the activist. The impression I see is that people who have even a slight notion of the musical tradition would never be caught dead listening to him, but I don’t think they’d go out of their way to bash him, either. Johnson is like the government-controlled music the masses of China have to listen to — nothing of any real substance, nothing controversial, just fluffy little ballads about love and pretty stuff that won’t get anybody too riled up.
The show was undoubtedly a success: it was sold-out, the freakish storms had finally let up, and the natural beauty of Red Rocks is incredible. As my sister, Courtney, said of the night: “It was majestical” – a portmanteau of majestic and magical. Everyone seemed genuinely pleased. Even I had a good time sipping beers, easily ignoring the detestable status quo, and enjoying the majestical-ness of Red Rocks.
Loren Speer, a.k.a. The Bartender, is a Denver writer and regular Reverb contributor.
Laurie Scavo is a Denver photographer and regular Reverb contributor.