At 3:50 p.m. on Sept. 26, I looked down at my phone and saw I had a message from Twitter. The update, short and to the point, read “zingerman’s bliss #annarbor.” I promptly started to freak out — not because I’m a fan of Zingerman’s — though I am — or because I love Ann Arbor — which I do — but because the person who made that update was none other than Edward Droste, the vocalist, guitarist and pianist for acclaimed band Grizzly Bear.
Edward Droste is just one of the millions of people using Twitter, the ubiquitous online micro-blogging site that limits tweeters to 140 characters per entry. Since the site’s creation in 2006, Twitter has been used by presidential candidates, celebrities, protesters and — of course — the plain Janes and average Joes convinced that everyone cares about their answers to Twitter’s famous question: “What are you doing?”
According to The New York Times, Twitter’s creators intended the site to be a “mixture of messaging, social networking, ‘microblogging’ and something called ‘presence,’ shorthand for the idea that people should enjoy an ‘always on’ virtual omnipresence.” This, for many people, is the appeal of Twitter — the constant feeling of interconnectedness, of being able to keep tabs on friends and family members.
However, for me, Twitter has transcended this realm of provincial postings, opening the pearly gates to the heaven of indie stalker-dom. Sure, I “tweet” a little and occasionally look at my friends’ Twitter profiles, but I spend most of my time following the lives of indie celebs.
In addition to Edward Droste, I follow such prodigious individuals as Chris Bear (also of Grizzly Bear), Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy, Nico Muhly (a contemporary composer) and Vincent Moon (an independent filmmaker who creates music videos for indie bands).
It may seem a bit unhealthy — or pathetic — that I wish to be constantly updated with whatever 140-character bone these indie titans wish to throw me. But in all actuality, being (admittedly, quite loosely) connected with these admirable individuals via Twitter is extremely enriching.
Also, Twitter is often the place where artists first post a link to new music videos, interviews or photo sessions. By using Twitter, I spend less time blog-hopping and get the same information sooner. Plus, it makes me feel a bit more “in the know.”
Twitter followers knew that Owen Pallett was going to cancel his Vancouver show on Sept. 25 before many of the concert-goers did, as he began tweeting about his flu diagnosis at 9:09 a.m. We also knew that of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes interviewed Daryl Hall and John Oates for the most recent issue of Under the Radar before the magazine was distributed. Additionally, some musicians will post information about last-minute ticket offers or special deals on upcoming album releases, which is always appreciated by those who procrastinate and follow a strict budget (like me).
Following famous indie Twitterers also satisfies my curiosity about what my favorite artists are doing when they’re not performing, writing or recording. Most recently, Nico Muhly has become addicted to iPhone Scrabble and constantly posts which words the program recognizes and which ones it doesn’t. It is hilarious. I receive messages like “YOGA yes ZEN no ATEN no SHIVA yes SH yes SHH no” at random intervals.
It’s endearing to see these indie geniuses tease each other via tweets. Nico Muhly: “Who left Calendula Massage Oil in my house!? @owenpallett? Who all else has been up in here. @crbear (Chris Bear)?”
Twitter is the one place where I can observe these indie behemoths stripped of all their powers, made mortal by the effects of everyday life. Nico Muhly: “There is never any neosporin in Europe.” Chris Bear: “Damn…..Dentist tomorrow…”
Contrastingly, Twitter is also the one place where I can fully observe the gap between the lives of us human weaklings and those of the indie-famous. Ezra Koenig: “this week, we got shouted out by Miley Cyrus and dissed by Alice Cooper. next week: iCarly and the Nuge?” Edward Droste: “Can’t believe I just met Brian and Lizzie of Gang Gang Dance at a wedding in south of France, and on friday we play together! #small world.”
But, most importantly, Twitter makes me feel like I have a legitimate connection to these formerly distant individuals. When Edward Droste tweeted about Zingerman’s the day of the Grizzly Bear show in Ann Arbor, it gave me a crumb of happiness to know that we have something in common. It was nice to know that Chris Bear thought enough of Ann Arbor to tweet, “Michigan theatre is beautiful. Super nice folks. Got our zingerman’s fix in. reunited w/ beach house.”
Through these specific tweets and countless others before them, Edward Droste and Chris Bear have become more than indie icons — they’ve become individuals, personalities with which I can identify. And knowing more about these two indie moguls added a whole other dimension to the Grizzly Bear show this September — it was the best Bear performance I had ever seen.
For indie-stalkers like me, Twitter is a gold mine of information and anecdotes. It may be creepy. It may be pathetic. But it’s always interesting to know how some of the brightest and most fascinating individuals of the musical world chose to answer the question “What are you doing?” Furthermore, when their answer to this question is something along the lines of “Thanks Michigan!” (as it was for Edward Droste at 11:50 p.m. on Sept. 25), a bond is formed between stargazer and star. And in the end, that’s what social networking — and music — are all about: connecting.