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Plugging holes in your self-esteem

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Voodoo Shuffle.

Voodoo Shuffle.

Listening to a cover-band in a country town exposes a common type of snobbery - or it did so in me late last year as I watched the inevitably-named 'Voodoo Shuffle' belt out Rolling Stones songs at Young's annual Cherry Festival.

The band lacked it all: a singer wearing a bowler hat and tuxedo tails over a t-shirt and tattoos; members who'd have looked more at home playing World of Warcraft than musical instruments; a set list of decomposing 60s hits and an audience of grandparents and pre-teens in lawn chairs.

I was in town to shoot a promotion for Young's chamber of commerce and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know one of NSW's more picturesque and dynamic rural hubs. However, I'm aware fronting corporate videos is not hosting Top Gear.

Yet, as I walked amongst the crowds and carnival rides with a radio-mic clipped to my rakishly unbuttoned shirt kidding myself I was Jeremy Clarkson, even I had the gall to momentarily peer down my nose at the creative expression of a bunch of rural residents on a temporary stage.

It's an impulse I often check in myself when visiting western suburbs cafes and central coast boutiques with hand-painted signage. Like many other forms of snobbery, it's a person plugging holes in their self-esteem by scoffing at less-'sophisticated' attempts to do the same by others.

You know the little voice in your head: "Why would anybody wear that dress?", "Ricky Ponting actually 'wrote' an autobiography?", "Did they just buy the entire Ikea catalogue when they moved in to this place?"

It's an ugly, pointless habit and I chastised myself as I watched Voodoo Shuffle's lead singer, ummm, shuffle through the crowd, shaking hands with pensioners, even high-fiving a dude in a wheelchair.

Who am I to judge? I thought.

Who's to say four guys throwing down fat hooks, 20,000 kms from Wembley Stadium are not having as much fun, or more, than the jaded superstar musicians they're impersonating?

I said as much to my producer as we headed to our accommodation, a lovely Federation-era rental home, and sipped Scotch watching a Nelson Mandela documentary. The great man had died the day before, so when my producer said "I met him," I assumed the single malt, too, was shuffling.

"When?"

"He'd just got out of prison. It was his first trip to Australia," he replied.

Mandela had agreed to a single pool interview during the visit, a combined radio and TV affair for which my then-youthful producer was one of two, lowly sound recordists crouching in the shadows of the studio.

The rest of the space was crowded with dignitaries and the preening host yet, when the father of modern South Africa entered, he walked straight to the people he judged lowest on the social totem pole and shook my producer's hand.

"Hello, I'm Nelson Mandela," he said, greeting both sound recordists, then the cameramen, before sitting to be questioned.

Snobbery always tells you more about the shortcomings of the snob than the snubbed. It's instructive a man dragged as low and lifted as high as Mandela refused to be defined by either situation, or to let it inform how he interacted with others.

Something tells me he would have enjoyed Voodoo Shuffle.

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer daddy hugs to all.

10 comments so far

  • Dancing along to a pub covers band is one of life's true joys! Much more fun than pretending to have a good time down at Tio's or Lobo Plantation.

    Commenter
    Ruddiger
    Date and time
    January 07, 2014, 9:35AM
    • Good article on the perils of snobbery as an ego prop, Sam. A good life lesson for men.

      That Mandela story is similar to several in the Bible about the acts of Jesus, humbling himself before the humble, washing their feet etc. I'm not a Christian but it seems to me that many who claim to be Christians don't follow the example of Christ's humility at all. Perhaps the current Pope is trying to tone down the opulence and splendour a bit.

      Another thought provoked by the article is how in a modern secular world we seek modern examples of Jesus, a la Mandela.

      I'd prefer to see even a bad Rolling Stones tribute band, free on a temporary stage, than pay $500 which is the asking price to see the real Rollling Stones in Australia this year. At least you could get up and dance to the tribute band, as @Ruddiger says above. The whole idea of paying a whopping price to see a rock band in a huge soulless arena where you have to stay glued to your seat or risk being ejected if you dance - ridiculous.

      Commenter
      rudy
      Date and time
      January 07, 2014, 10:52AM
      • Some of the funnest nights I have had have been dancing to cover bands. In my youth the local RSL would have Friday night karaoke followed by a cover band. The agreement was that if one of your group of friends was singing then the rest of the group had to be their groupies and dance.
        In terms of snobbery I can understand it and do my best not to display or even think it. There's too much of it around that is unrecognised and it is unjustified superiority based on whatever prejudices people hold. Much of my extended family lives in the country as farmers or running pubs and I do like visiting them and seeing more of the country.
        That reminds me. It's almost time for an extended road trip. I'll have to figure out my destination and work on that.

        Commenter
        M
        Date and time
        January 07, 2014, 11:08AM
        • Superficial snobbery, how boring, there’s loads if it doing the rounds and it’s comical to see it in action, it’s even more entertaining to see the superficial snobs pretending to not be one, they are more akin to tossers.

          Commenter
          Victorious Painter
          Date and time
          January 07, 2014, 12:18PM
          • I think one of Roger Ebert’s best little phrases was “snobs exclude, they do not include”. I don’t think that means you have to like everything, but it’s a handy thing to remember. I can be dreadfully bloody snobby - given the tattoos post yesterday, so can everybody - but I (and most people, I think) have more-or-less successfully managed to come to terms with the fact that not liking something is not the same as it being without value. I think watching soccer is boring, for instance, but I’m not about to sit down and argue that it’s crap.

            And I have to be honest, Sam, I was about to triumphantly call you out by pointing to your “What Is Art” blog last year as a prime example of snobbery, before I realised a) you hadn’t claimed Voodoo Shuffle were artists, b) you never claimed Lady Gaga wasn’t enjoying herself, and c) I don’t want to be That Guy. Nobody wants to be That Guy.

            Commenter
            AdamV
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            January 07, 2014, 2:39PM
            • You can always find something negative to say about anything if you try hard enough, and you don't have to try that hard. The bog-standard fall-back is "derivative"...I always like to question what exactly it's derivative of, and I rarely get an answer.

              I find if you enjoy things for what they are, or even what they attempt to be, life is much better.

              Commenter
              JEQP
              Date and time
              January 07, 2014, 5:18PM
              • It's human nature to want to feel superior to others and establish ourselves as higher up the pecking order. We're social animals that want to define a pecking order. The higher up we can achieve the more 'secure' we feel ourselves to be. People like Mandela know they have achieved a lot and realise how silly it all is.

                A few years ago I was holidaying on the NSW mid-north coast. As I was looking around the town it occurred to me that everyone there appeared to live just for the weekend. They had jobs that took up their weekdays but that was mainly to pay for the boats or whatever else they spent their time on (big 4WDs for beach fishing was another thing). I then resolved to pursue something more like that rather than the rat race of Sydney all for a few words on a business card. Pleasure is leisure.

                Also, while you were judging them, Sam, think they could have been judging you. The bloke singing probably had the time of his life. They probably saw a guy paying a lot of money to rent a small unit next to a beach that you've described as Sydney's whore because it ends up full of people and rubbish at the times of the year you can actually use it. Then it takes you an hour to drive a few kilometres because of traffic.

                Commenter
                Bender
                Date and time
                January 08, 2014, 10:23AM
                • A perfectly times article.

                  What take the commenters on your previous article who showed their pure unadulterated snobbery clearly by equating people with tattoos to being unintelligent, thugs, conformists, insecure, self absorbed have on this piece should be interesting...

                  Commenter
                  Meh
                  Date and time
                  January 08, 2014, 11:36AM
                  • What a miserable and negative view of the world. I was at the Young Cherry Festival and enjoyed this band 'Voodoo Shuffle' very much. They were entertaining and played a range of songs that the audience enjoyed.

                    The Festival itself was fantastic with lots to do and a great street parade on the Saturday. My friends and I also had a great night out on the Saturday and after touring a number of venues we settled into the Commercial Hotel and enjoyed voodoo shuffle for a full night......not only did they play some rock classics but some great blues and a couple of great originals.

                    So perhaps the author would have been more comfotable with a DJ playing Lady GAGA - I for one appreciate a good band playing live music. I think the author owes this band an apology.....................................

                    Commenter
                    Mick Jones
                    Date and time
                    January 09, 2014, 4:45PM
                    • keeping one's own snob in check is probably linked to the ability to suspend judgement.
                      not easy away from one's mileu, where employing your critical faculties at least has some utility.

                      i'd argue that playing covers, imitating or following in any shape or form, will tickle the snob in everyone. being oneself? seems to be a work in progress:

                      who are you, who who, who who.

                      Commenter
                      beno
                      Location
                      campin'out
                      Date and time
                      January 10, 2014, 10:50AM

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