He often takes refuge in older music. He is currently occupied with acquiring every hip-hop record released between January and December of 1988, which he insists was rap music’s miracle year. He hits one hand into the other, giddy with delight as he lists some bands whose records were released that year. “Public Enemy. N.W.A. Slick Rick. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. God, the Marley Marl record. The Kid ’n Play record. It was this period when rappers were still experimenting—Sir Mix-a-Lot! 2 Live Crew! Rap was selling and the studios didn’t know why. It was like the movie studios before Jaws.”
Every couple of months, he spins a set of 1988 hip-hop at a local bar or club. He is proud of his DJ skills, to a point. “I could make it flow, and make it bleed, but I don’t really know who the audience is,” he says. “I think people want to hear music they know, not Krown Rulers. I had this girl come up to me and say, ‘Can you play something I can dance to?’ I thought, ‘If you can’t dance to hip-hop, then the music is not the problem.’ Maybe it’s me.”
He continues to review new records on Twitter, although this year he’s not going to force himself to do a thousand. And while 1000TimesYes has brought him exposure and writing opportunities, his financial outlook remains grim. Formerly the drummer in the experimental Brooklyn band Parts & Labor, he has barely played music since 2007, largely because he cannot afford to rent a practice space. He has no health insurance. He collects receipts for all expenses that are even remotely work-related, in hopes of some future reimbursement check or tax deduction. Still, he has defied his #140conf prediction of impending unemployment. “I think I’ve got another year in me,” he says. “Whether I’ve got another two years? I don’t know.”
“Does anyone have a GPS?” it’s the second day of this year’s South by Southwest conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Weingarten is sitting in the back of a pedicab, on his way to see the rock band Quasi play an afternoon set at a club called Cheer Up Charlie’s, and the pedicab’s driver is hopelessly lost. “I’ve lived here for twenty years,” he explains. “Never heard of that street.”
Weingarten fumbles with his mobile phone. “GPS is fucking terrible in this town,” he says. “In every town, really.” Quasi is scheduled to go on at 4 p.m.; it’s now about 4:40. Weingarten shrugs. “If we don’t see Quasi, we’ll see the next band.”
The pedicab passes a bar called Café Mundi, and the sound of live music spills through the small crowd congregated outside. Weingarten cranes his head to look. “Who’s playing?” he howls. Nobody answers, and he sits back down. The pedicab stops to ask directions from a postman. “You know,” Weingarten says, “we can probably hoof it from here.”
In early March, Weingarten posted a couple of tweets on 1000TimesYes referring obliquely to an upcoming act of “stunt criticism.” It turned out that Rollingstone.com had hired him to tweet-review a hundred concerts over the four-day music portion of SXSW. By the time I met up with him, less than two days into the conference, he had already seen over thirty shows; while the pace wasn’t nearly as strenuous as his All Tomorrow’s Parties trip in 2008, it was nevertheless beginning to take a mental toll. “They all blur together,” he said. “Things that happened earlier in the day seem to have happened yesterday.”
In addition to his Rollingstone.com assignment, Weingarten spoke at two panels during SXSW, one about online tastemakers and music curation, the other about music journalism in the post-print era. At both of these, he reiterated the themes he introduced last year at #140conf: the industry is screwed, rock critics are dying, you gotta do what you can to stay alive.