Are Dave & Carole Arts Haters?
And should we care about their comments? Reconsidering the value of Milwaukee’s arts scene.
My father is a man of simple pleasures. He enjoys a cold can of Miller High Life, a beer-soaked bratwurst, complaining about Wisconsin sports, classic rock music, and Dave & Carole in the Morning. Growing up in my parents house Dave & Carole were the Voice of God during breakfast before school. Their inane brand of banter was the sugar sprinkled on my cereal. Kevin Brandt aka KB, their slapstick sidekick, surely influenced my taste in comedy.
Around age seventeen I started to take myself quite seriously. I read books on philosophy, US foreign policy, and Black nationalism. At some point I realized that Dave & Carole & Co. were, you know, jejune, so I stopped caring about what they had to say. I started bringing books to the table, studying for a test, or generally ignoring them. I haven’t really thought about them since my last day of high school. But turbulence in the local airwaves has brought the morning radio team back into my headspace.
On a hot and humid summer morning one Tuesday in Milwaukee, a trio of radio hosts sent the arts community into a sweaty rage with their disparaging remarks about opera and “the fine arts.” It started with an innocent list from Movoto.com that catalogues the most boring cities in Wisconsin. After Carole questioned Oshkosh’s place in the top ten the conversation took a turn into arts bashing.
A discussion on the merits of the arts eventually lead to Brandt to say, “Actually, the quality of life is higher without the arts, in many people’s lives.” Carole added an anecdote about walking out of the opera, for good measure.
KB suggested a high percentage of people don’t care about the arts, can’t be bothered to attend them, and actually believe their lives would be better without them. That’s like saying since most people prefer driving their own cars, why give a shit about public transportation? What’s good for us isn’t always what’s popular, which is, I believe, the real reason the arts community got so incensed by the comments made on WKLH, whose audience surely outnumbers that of most, if not all, local performing arts groups.
I’ve cooled down since my pretentious pre-college days and I can savor low-brow humor, to an extent. I thought KB’s “pupa” joke during the dig on the arts was funny, but overall I was annoyed by their position. Yet I didn’t let it bother me. And the arts community shouldn’t either. Here’s why: Dave & Carole & KB are not arts critics.
They do a silly morning radio show for people who would rather listen to classic rock all day.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Queen just as much as the next guy, but exclusively playing “classics” is inherently closed-minded. This is for an audience that doesn’t care about all the great contemporary music being created and only wants to listen to the music of their youth.
You could argue that the fine arts community, for the most part, does the same thing, but there is a major difference. The performing arts breathes life into classics. They feature live actors on a stage, in front of a live audience, under one roof, where anything can happen. Moreover, groups like the Florentine Opera and the Skylight Opera Theatre do sometimes present new works, which in a way makes them more in touch with contemporary musicians than the Dave & Carole show.
But the bigger point here, art aficionados, is there is no need to care about the fact that a woman who thinks huge outlet malls are fun walked out of the opera. I know it hurts to hear that someone didn’t like your work, but don’t sweat the numbers, focus on the mission. Heed the words of Jim Higgins and Jonathan West about creating exciting new work and reaching out to new audiences. If a couple of guys who don’t value art and would rather live in a quiet suburb or rural town say something negative about the arts, don’t let it concern you.
And about that list on Movoto.com, which was pooped on by both sides of this skirmish; a high population density with more nightlife, live music, arts, parks, outdoor activities, less fast food, and lots of young people are all things cities should aspire to have. So it is an absolute sham that Milwaukee didn’t finish last on the list, it’s clearly the least boring city in the state. I’ve been to Superior and it makes Duluth look like San Francisco.
Anyways, what does “boring” even mean? It’s such a vague, relative term that is thrown around so loosely by today’s media-obsessed youth. It’s just fodder to fill the air on a radio show.
But I’ll tell you what, when I was a kid, the opposite of boring was when “Bang on the Drum All Day” by Todd Rungren came on WKLH every Friday at 5 o’clock.