Cultural Accessorizing: Are Banjos the New Bicycle?

"I wish I was an artist, cause I would replace that sun with the crotchal light from Friday. That would be just awesome."
--Anonymous, August 24th, 2009, 5:07pm

(Image by Erik K)

I've long been skeptical about the idea of a"bike culture." As I've said before, the standards for what qualifies as "culture" are currently at an all-time low. Whereas once "culture" meant "the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations," it now just means something for which you can purchase accessories. However, I'm beginning to rethink my aversion to the term "bike culture," because a reader has sent me a music video which indicates that we are indeed living in a golden age of bicycle-themed art:

The reader who sent me this video proclaimed it "the best bike song EVER," and this is not faint praise coming from somebody who is apparently involved in a "feminist slut rock" band and is also a writer and performer of "melancholy ukulele songs." (The ukulele can be quite lugubrious and is not just for large, jovial men in grass skirts.) In any case, if it's not the best bike song ever then it's certainly close, for with "Fuss Vom Gas" Skero and Kamp have succeeded in creating something truly magical. Well, at least I think they have. The truth is I can't understand what they're saying. However, I did run the title of the song through an online translator, which yielded the following result:

Obviously online translators are generally as clunky as poorly adjusted headsets, so I'm just going to go ahead and assume that "Foot of the Gas" really should be "The Gas Foot," and that "Fuss Vom Gas" is an homage to "The Gas Face" by 3rd Bass:

The high top fade etching was the knuckle tattoo of the late 1980s.

Anyway, here's either Skero or Kamp being flanked by two ladies wearing garters and riding lowrider bicycles:

Here's either Skero or Kamp riding a fixed-gear through what is clearly a very dangerous Viennese neighborhood:

And here's some guy on some kind of hinged freak bike:

Again, I'm not sure if there's a "bike culture," but there's definitely an American popular culture, and this is what it looks like when it's been smelted by a pair of Austrian rappers and alloyed with irony:

Incidentally, Skero's real name is Martin Skerwald, which is just one of the many facts I learned from his Wikipedia entry (run though the same online translator):

Skero (* 1972 in Mödling, also Skero One, actually Martin Skerwald) is a Austrian Hip Hop musician and Street kind artist. Since 1989 it argues with Graffiti and organizes themselves since then several exhibitions. Admits became it as a member of the Linzer Hip Hop group of Texta, which were formed 1993. 2009 brought Skero out its first solo studio album memoirs of a giant, who among other things guest contributions of the rappers Kamp and Whizz Vienna contain and were in Germany to appear. With the radio single artist it created it at place 1 the FM4 Charts. [1] Skeros music is called mixture from Hip Hop, Reggae and Viennese song. [2]

And Kamp's real name is actually Florian Kampelmühler, which amazingly is Prime Minister Pete Nice's real name too. Even though he's ten years younger than Skero, he seems to be the more accomplished of the two, and his Wikipedia entry is far more dramatic:

Kamp (* March 1982 actually Florian Kampelmühler) is a Austrian Hip Hop musician, who is active since end of the 1990er-Jahre. Table of contents [Hide] * 1 life * 2 Diskografie * 3 Web on the left of * 4 single checks Life [work on] Already at the age of 16 years it appeared as MC, on which it was invited into the FM4-Hip-Hop-Sendung Tribe Vibes. it gave a successful concert to 1999 in Vienna after Eminem, which led to the fact that the Dortmunder Independent label Deck8 (among other things Waxolutionists, totally chaos) under contract took him. However this bankruptcy had to announce, with which the partnership ended. With staircase 44 from then on its publications appeared. At the beginning of of 2007 was nominated Kamp for the Amadeus as Best alternative act. [1] 2009 it published the album failure without future, which by the German Hip Hop magazine Juice was gekürt to the album of the month March 2009 with Whizz. [2] Besides he was nominated 2009 altogether two times for the Amadeus Austrian Music Award.

Indeed, two Amadeus nominations is nothing to sneeze at--or to laugh wildly at like Tom Hulce in the movie "Amadeus."

But while Skero and Kamp pay homage to American culture, the truth is that their Vienna is in stark contrast to Brooklyn, where the feet are much gassier and the choppers are considerably funkier:

Also, the hipsters don't ride around on shiny lowriders while rapping. Instead, they pluck dolefully on banjos:

Between all the melancholy ukuleles and doleful banjos in New York City you'd think somebody would have composed a song about the Big Skanky by now.

Still, while walking around Brooklyn with a banjo might seem more gritty and authentic than rapping on a lowrider, the truth is that such behavior is equally affected and contrived. It's simply a part of the hipster/hillbilly phenomenon. In fact, you can probably expect folk instruments to become the hot new fashion accessory. Really, nothing says "authenticity" like bellying up to a Brooklyn bar and withdrawing a Jew's harp from the pocket of your fashionably distressed jeans. However, it will probably be a little while before the trend becomes so pervasive that you can purchase a washboard or a musical saw at Urban Outfitters. In the meantime, the distinction of accessory du jour still belongs to the bicycle:

The above is yet another Republic/Urban Outfitters bike, and I've been simultaneously amazed and disturbed by how pervasive they've become. While I'm certainly pleased that people seem to be riding bicycles, there's just something insidious about the way that the site's "choose your own colorway" feature has resulted in legions of bicycles that are superficially different yet fundamentally identical. It's the same feeling I get when I see groups of men in identical suits whose only means of expressing themselves is tie color. However, unlike the men in suits whose jobs often mandate specific clothing, Republic/Urban Outfitters bike owners are at liberty to choose from among a wide variety of bicycles--they just don't. Instead, they focus on important things like color choice. Perhaps when folk instruments supplant bicycles we'll instead see bars full of identically-dressed people differentiated only by which instrument they're not playing.

By the way, I'm not sure who the owner of the Republic/Urban Outfitters bike was, but I'm thinking it could be this guy:

Not only is he regarding me with uninhibited nonplussitude, but his shirt also matches the bike and his accomplice's feet are extended towards it in a proprietary fashion.

But even though I find the spread of Republic/Urban Outfitters bikes disturbing, I also recognize that it represents a simple way for the uninitiated to purchase a bicycle. Hopefully at least some of these uninitiated people will in turn become initiated cyclists, and we'll no longer have to read articles like this one, forwarded by a reader:

While I agree that more and better bike parking would be nice, I'd argue that general cluelessness is also an important factor. If more people would ride in the first place instead of waiting around for things like parking then perhaps our "culture" would grow more accepting of cycling as a viable means of transportation and the amenities would follow. Then again, it's difficult for the "culture" to do so when people on bikes keep running into members of the "culture" and riding away:

Man who hit me on bike 8/11 (SoHo)
Date: 2009-08-24, 2:20PM EDT
Reply To This Post

Hi there,

on 8/11 I was hit by a cyclist while crossing Broadway and Houston around 7 pm. I am female and in my mid 20s.
I am looking for the man or for any eye witnesses who were there. Any help would be appreciated and please only reply if you were present at the time or know anything regarding the accident.

As troubled as I was to read this, I'm confident that the police will nab the perpetrator. In fact, they've even formed a road block in the Sands Street bike lane:

Either that, or they're just hanging out.

Speaking of hanging out, I'm pleased to announce that my partner in bromance, Stevil Kinevil (formerly of How To Avoid the Bummer Life) now has a new Webular home called "All Hail the Black Market:"

Not only will Stevil continue to bring you the sorts of hijinx you've come to expect, but he's also branched out into the world of online banking, so in addition to reveling in cycling irreverence you'll also be able to open a free checking account.

So stop by and be sure to give him "The Gas Foot."

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