Maybe "indie" still means something after all.
I often buy the argument that using "indie" as a modifier for "rock" is over because most rock is now indie by virtue of the fact that it comes from something other than a major label. But last night's Dirty Projectors/Wye Oak show at the House of Blues made me think there's still meaning in the term, though perhaps I'm stereotyping. Last night I was reminded now indie defined itself not only versus major labels but versus mainstream rock practices. I've liked Wye Oak on record, but live they acted like they'd taken a wrong turn and found themselves on a stage with equipment and an audience. They performed as if they hoped nobody would notice they were there, and with enough reverb to blur every detail of the song to help efface that too.
Dirty Projectors were musically far better defined and more animated, but they weren't working too hard to connect with the audience. The songs themselves seemed suspicious of mainstream music with wonky elements and structures that screw with basic pop pleasures. That the pop survives is a testament to the fundamental strength of Longstreith's compositions, but after a while I started thinking of them as a Wilco without Nels Cline and the Americana grounding.