Main Image

Notes from Boston Calling

A Tweeted History of Cage the Elephant

Supporting Cage the Elephant was my first taste of hipsterdom. When I saw the band open for Stone Temple Pilots in 2010, I was one of the fifteen audience members who knew the words and stood by the stage. The hundreds of seated attendees who had never heard of the opener could see that I was a real fan.

With every step the band took toward mainstream success, I tried to claim them as my own. I broadcasted my excitement for Cage the Elephant releases on Facebook (Figure 1). I refused to take pictures on my flip phone after their concert, fearing I might somehow replace my home-screen photo of lead singer Matt Schultz jumping into the audience.

When I heard the single from their 2013 album Melophobia inside an elevator, I knew I had to accept that Cage the Elephant was popular. Though I had carried my copy of Thank You Happy Birthday everywhere I went on the day of its release in 2011, I couldn’t even be bothered to click through Melophobia on YouTube. Cage the Elephant’s indie-ness wasn’t gonna to cut it if I wanted my friends to think I was a real music person.

This put me in a complicated position when I ran into Matt Schultz by the press tent porta-potties at Boston Calling 2017. Cage the Elephant’s set that day had reminded me how disconnected I was from their music. When the band began their closer, a wall of cell phones went up in front of me to Snapchat-story a song I had never heard before.

Talking to Matt Schultz, I struggled to hide the four-year gap in my Cage the Elephant knowledge. Instead of asking Nardwuar-style deep cuts, I forgot everything I had learned from Noisey’s “Here Are the Shitty Interview Questions You Should Never Ask a Band” article. I spent the next four hours beating myself up over things I could have said to prove to Matt that I was different than the other fans—I was there from the beginning (Figure 2).

Near the end of Tool’s headlining set that night, I decided to leave so I could avoid the crowd that would swarm the square when the festival finished. During the ten minutes I spent pushing my way out of the audience, three different bearded bald men wearing white tank tops each said something along the lines of, “Here’s a real fan—he hears insert unfamiliar song title and leaves.”

I wasn’t offended, because it was generous of them to assume I knew any Tool songs at all, and I was relieved to see that every band had snobby fans like me. I left Boston Calling wondering what it is about alternative music and that encourages this kind of competition, and more importantly, how I could show people I’m realer than that.

Figure 1:

I know these are rough. They were painful for me to read. But keep in mind that this was 2011—a time when kids carried out conversations by posting on each other’s Facebook walls, and I thought I could escape eternal damnation by sharing this:

Figure 2:

Things I Said to Matt Schultz, Lead Singer of Cage the Elephant and Idol of My Early Teen Years

Things I Could Have Said to Matt Schultz, Lead Singer of Cage the Elephant and Idol of My Early Teen Years

  • I’m a huge fan.
  • What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
  • What do you think of Boston?
  • Tell me about your songwriting process.
  • I cried when I couldn’t go to your January 11, 2011 in-store performance at Newbury Comics.

  • I cried again when I watched the video of you performing in the rain at Lollapalooza 2011 because I knew I would never do something that cool.
  • Would it make you uncomfortable if I told you that I’ve been on your personal Facebook page?
  • What if I told you that I’ve been on your father’s personal Facebook page? Is that maybe even a little weirder?