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For scenesters, a chance to really be seen.

Byline: Serena Markstrom The Register-Guard

Today's scene kids will have to laugh at themselves 20 years from now when some enterprising cultural observer from their generation pens the next "Grease."

The retro musical would focus a microscope on consumer-driven, music-based trends at the turn of the 21st century while simultaneously empathizing and satirizing its characters: the indie, punk and emo scene kids of modern suburbia.

As long as music has been available to mass audiences, cultural scenes have formed around it. And they've always had their dress codes. It was true in the 1950s, and it's even more true now.

The biggest difference is that back then, hit songs were firmly rooted in specific genres. These days, it's a rare band that considers itself to be carrying the banner for one type of music.

Thus, there's overlap among emo, indie, punk and, increasingly, hip-hop scenes.

Another key difference between the pegged pants and saddle shoes of the "Grease" era and the of-the-minute style of today is how rapidly trends change in the era of digital music and global trade. A style can be pilfered from Harlem streets and resold to Williamsburg scenesters in mere months.

Is the hippest motif a gun? Or is it a bird or a butterfly? What day is it? The problem for those who fancy themselves outside of the mainstream is that in the digital age, nothing can stay underground for long.

"I think going back to the New York Dolls, there has almost always been a source of glamorous underground fashion that fans of those bands emulate," South Eugene student Marisa Aptecker, 18, said in a MySpace message. "I would definitely say there is always a sense of glamour surrounding this identity."

YouTube, blogs, 'zines and social networking sites host an ongoing, dizzying volley of fashion commentary. The discussions layer irony, earnest attempts at originality and ridicule of those who try too hard.

Sounds exhausting, right? Good thing they drink all that vitamin water.

The clothes make the band

Guitarist and songwriter Gary Zon found himself an inadvertent "scene boy" when he made the transition from techno music to a more rock-based indie sound with his Eugene band Aerodrone, which recently relocated to Los Angeles.

"I wanted to pursue a more popular, accessible project," he said. "Me switching into indie rock, I realized I had to fit a certain image and wear certain clothes.

"It kind of made me laugh at myself, but that's kind of what I had to do to fit in."

So he wrote a song about it: "Sceneboy." His band is asking his fans to get in on the joke by sending in photos of themselves in their best "scene" look. Contestants should be holding a sign that says "scene boy" or "scene girl," or that displays lyrics from the song.

Photos, submitted as My-Space comments, are due by Sunday. Everyone who enters could have their image in the "Sceneboy" video.

"I need new shoes/ I need new pants/ The ones I have don't fit me right," the song starts in an electronically enhanced staccato. "My hair is boring to look at/ I am so done with Super Cuts."

Right now (and this could be outdated by the time this story prints), the indie scene kids favor black, flat-ironed hair - layered for volume like an 1980s hair rocker, but with blunter edges - and flat hair jutting down into the face. Hair covering one eye or extra-long, blunt bangs are good.

For women, bows in the hair are optional. It's debatable if Hello Kitty accessories are still in style.

Females can wear footless leggings under skirts, but skinny jeans - also known as drainpipes, pencils and ankle biters - are A-OK for indie, punk and emo scenesters. Band and graphic T-shirts are a must; you get bonus points if they are vintage.

Bright-colored hoodies, contrasting belts and chunky jewelry advance the look, as does black eyeliner (for both sexes). Shiny, metallic hair accessories and belts are considered a nice touch.

"In most cases, they want anything that draws attention to themselves," said Zon, whose band used to play frequently at the WOW Hall and Indigo District before signing an online distribution deal with Warner Brothers this year.

"I don't think that kids really analyze it or understand where it comes from. There are a few that do kind of understand it, and the majority understand they are being made fun of in a kind of cheeky kind of way."

The indie scene kids are, stereotypically speaking, vain and conceited and like to take endless digital photos of themselves, preferably at shows.

Naturally, there is disagreement within the scene. Some hate MySpace, while others view it as "the best invention ever," as one YouTube video on the subject declared.

"I want to scream/ I want to shout," the Aerodrone song goes. "I feel so lonely and left out."

Several Web sites give detailed instructions on how to achieve the look and attitude, but they usually caution against making the transition too quickly. You do not want to be considered a poser.

Kade Brown, a 19-year-old Eugene resident, said in a My-Space message that he used to be a "show-goer," mainly to unknown bands at the WOW Hall. But he stopped when the scene became overrun with "Hot Topic punks," or kids who dress punk because it's the in thing.

"I feel that the scene kids are just the kids who follow the upcoming trends in high school, do what they can to pretend to express themselves or to just fit in," he says. "Another term I've come to enjoy is the term `corporate punks,' because all they're doing is supporting the corporate industries like Hot Topic to be `punk.'

"Punk isn't a label. It's a way of life."

Rocking the talk

Slang is a slippery slope. It's probably best to observe your local scene before diving too deep and overusing words such as "rad" or "stellar."

Aptecker, from South, said one new word around there is "vortex." Another student adds the suffix "-farm" to everything, as in "that show was fabulousfarm."

Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy - who has started many scene trends, including the ubiquitous use of expensive hoodies - uses the word "retarded" to mean "good."

The Aerodrone song continues, "The girls are noticing me now/ They think I'm in some sort of band," just before the song begins to make its statement. It's a sort of sad acknowledgement that the attention derived from keeping up with trends is fleeting and connection made by this social uniform is not very sincere.

"There are some people that think it's too cliche and cocky for us to be doing that," Zon, 25, said of the song and contest. "At the same time, we have a lot of kids who do buy into it, who post pictures with their images."

It's a totally self-conscious stance, almost like directly addressing the audience in theater. They seem to be saying, "I know that you know my look is media-driven and sort of unoriginal, but I like it anyway so I am going to wear the clothes and act that way because it's fun."

Some of the YouTube videos even proclaim getting hate mail is great, or that everyone who makes fun of scene kids is jealous.

"It's interesting," Zon said. "We thought we would have this backlash, but really, we didn't have much of a backlash.

"Most people think it's a fun song that they can listen to, see themselves, and laugh."

You can reach Serena Markstrom at
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Title Annotation:Ticket
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 23, 2007
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