“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." — Ronald Wright from A Short History of Progress
We rightfully mock Billy McFarland and Ja Rule for the disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, but it would be irresponsible for us to overlook the important lesson they taught us about the power of “influencers.”
Millennials tend to have socialist sympathies in proportion to the size of their outstanding student loans, and many live hand-to-mouth. Offer them an intimate festival where they get treated like royalty and hang out with Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber, however, and they will fork over whatever money they can.
Migos and Blink-182 were simply an afterthought to these Fyre people. The big kahuna draw was that they would fly in private jets, lodge in luxury cabanas, hang out on an island once owned by Pablo Escobar and be within proximity of a Kardashian.
Doesn’t that sound sexy?
Baby boomers and Generation Xers ride like Lady Godiva on a high horse when it comes to knocking millennials who advocate for socialism, post pictures of their food on Instagram or take selfies at a concert. Nevertheless, anyone at KAABOO Texas’ private party with Jon Bon Jovi at the Joule in Dallas might have noticed that the boomers and Xers there behaved pretty much the same as millennials when it comes to Instagramming and enjoying the fruits of privilege.
Music was an afterthought.
There was a time in the ’80s when the working class was shrinking and people felt disillusioned with the American dream. Bon Jovi captured this zeitgeist in one of their biggest hits, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” in which Bon Jovi paints a picture of Gina, a waitress tirelessly working at a diner, and Tommy, a trade unionist out of work following a strike that has yet to be resolved.
The same person who implicitly called on workers of the world to shed their chains was playing a private gig at a 4-star hotel Thursday night to promote his new celebrity-branded wine. At this event of about 100 guests was a coat check, concierge, open bar (serving Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water™), food tastings and celebrity appearances from Jason Witten and Dirk Nowitzki.
What was perhaps most striking about the event was just how unaware people on every other floor in the hotel were that it was even happening. When advised that I possessed press credentials, one of the coordinators said, “Are you here for the, uh, thing?” She clearly did not want anyone within earshot to know that 10 stories up was a Dallas Cowboys player fresh out of retirement, the most beloved athlete on the Dallas Mavericks and one of the world’s best-selling musicians.
Even people one floor below the party were detached from the fact that a star-studded event was happening above their heads.
Guests took pictures of the food they were tasting. They took selfies with the celebrities. They were taking selfies just to prove they were breathing the same air as celebrities. People who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s were acting like millennials at Coachella.
When Bon Jovi finished posing for pictures with the guests, he arrived on the stage at 9:15 p.m. to perform an acoustic set. When he belted through “Livin’ on a Prayer” like the chore it must be by now, his backing musicians whoa’d in this unintentionally hilarious Gregorian-like chant. His acoustic version of “You Give Love a Bad Name” was just as insipid.
None of this is the fault of Bon Jovi or his accompanying musicians. They actually performed impressively considering the narrow creative palette they were working with. It’s just that when you have made a name for yourself as an arena rock band with larger-than-life production and lyrics as spiteful as “Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame,” an appearance at an exclusive celebrity bash hawking your own line of beverages seems a little out of tune.
The acoustic instrumentation was drowned out by the crowd chattering among themselves. Bon Jovi even made note of the crowd’s bad manners by quipping that some in the audience had too much to drink (of Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water™, no doubt) but nonetheless resumed the set in an admirably professional demeanor.
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Maybe he didn’t care because he was endorsing a new business venture. Or maybe he didn’t look fazed because he had an extravagant paycheck coming. But members of the audience did not care that they were seeing Bon Jovi play to only 100 people, and Bon Jovi seemed to give only a subtle indication that he was flustered.
One thing is for certain, however. Gone are the days in which Bon Jovi tapped into the frustrations of the American proletariat.
Some would criticize Bon Jovi for “selling out” and playing such an opulent affair, but if you are benefiting from a capitalist society that venerates the wealthy, would you fight it? If you are offered a ridiculous sum of money to play a private gig like Bradley Cooper’s character in A Star is Born, would you compromise your principles and cash the check?
Your answer may depend on your age and the size of your student loan debt.