At what point do you go from being one of America’s most idealistic first-wave hippies to a miserably intolerant old fart? That’s a question Phoebe Bridgers might be rightly asking this week since David Crosby reminded the world he’s still using up valuable oxygen.
Folk music’s most famous mustachioed portable sperm bank was asked on Twitter what he thought of Bridgers’s February 6 appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Before we get to that, a quick recap.
The 26-year-old Bridgers finished off her second song on SNL, “I Know the End”, by doing her best to smash the living shit out of her Danelectro Dano ‘56 guitar. Said demolition, which included piledriving it into a dummy amp that shot fake sparks, wasn’t the result of her blowing a line on national TV, having her Sportsheets Unity Vibe Mini Vibrator malfunction, or being pissed that the bread on the backstage deli tray was two sizes too small for the imported European salami.
How to explain it, then? Um, have you been paying attention to, well, everything that’s gone on in the world over the past couple of years? Donald Fucking Trump. Black Lives Matter. COVID-19. #MeToo. California wildfires. And Vladimir Putin arresting Pussy Riot—again.
Who in their right fucking mind isn’t motherfucking angry?
When Bridgers went full-on wrecking ball on her guitar, she sent a message to all of us: you are not alone. It was as inspirationally cathartic as it was beautiful. Unless, evidently, your name happened to be David Van Cortlandt Crosby. The 79-year-old has been around long enough to remember when Pete Townshend was making Leo Fender weep on a nightly basis. So somebody asked him on Twitter what he thought of Bridgers channelling the spirits of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Courtney Love.
His response was swift and blunt: “Pathetic”.
And then, in case the message was somehow not clear, he followed that up with a series of double-down tweets.
Some were of the mildly illiterate semi-confused variety: “They are not toys ...or props ...we who’ve played them for our whole lives try to treat the with respect.” Others left one wondering not only if Crosby dreamed that he saw the whole thing, but weirdly had little idea what he was weighing in on. And also that he’s a hard-core Halloween hater: “I am told that wasn’t a very good night for her and she’s really quite good ...I could not see it or hear it then ...the skeleton costumes were kind of distracting as well ....the guitar thing was old , wrong , copy cat, looks angry , destructive , wasteful , pointless.”
Melissa Etheridge’s personal baby batter dispenser also seems somewhat chuffed that Bridgers had chosen to play punisher to a Danelectro Dano ‘56, as opposed to a 1958 Gibson Explorer: “Wasn’t even that good an axe,” Crosby tweeted. “It’s the Staged part that leaves me cold.”
That was followed up by a couple of digs at Bridgers’s work: “It’s [smashing guitars] what you do if you can’t write” and “I didn’t like it when men did it either ...it’s stupid drama ...poor substitute for talent .....”
Looking at things charitably for a second, one might suggest that Crosby’s disdain for guitar demolitions is rooted in deep-seated and miserable envy. You know what would look inarguably stupid? Crosby smashing a guitar in the middle of the Sleepy Time Tea anthem “Guinevere”. Or the sunsets-and-Sominex classic “Music Is Love”.
But you know what? Fuck that guy.
Crosby’s primary reason for existing at this point in his life seems to be getting irate at everything from the goddamn kids swimming off the bow of his boat to the fact that Neil Young is spending his golden years plugging Daryl Hannah.
So, instead, let’s pull things back to Bridgers.
The unofficial narrative on her Saturday Night Live appearance is that the 26-year-old was plucked out of nowhere for the night, which was hosted by Canada’s newest national treasure Dan Levy. That slant isn’t entirely accurate—Bridgers has two critically acclaimed albums on her résumé and four 2021 Grammy nominations. But what’s more important is where she’s come from.
As the previous decade drew to a close a new wave of young female artists began taking root in the American underground, Bridgers on the frontlines along with the likes of Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, Soccer Mommy, and Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner. At the risk of over-generalizing things, said artists tend to find a sweet spot between DIY folk and lo-fi rock. But what’s truly made their movement so vital and important is what Bridgers and her fellow warriors are saying in their songs. Think sonic exorcisms where every raw emotion, dark thought, and painful memory is there to be dragged, unflinchingly, into the light.
Given the shitshow that this world has become, ask yourself who you can relate to more. Someone from a world where privileged boomers sit on their private yachts writing lines like “When I awoke this morning/Dove beneath my floating home/Down below her graceful side/In the turning tide/To watch the sea fish roam”?
Or a resilient broken-home byproduct whose breakout song, “Funeral”, had her confessing “I have a friend I call/When I’ve bored myself to tears/And we talk until we think we might just kill ourselves/But then we laugh until it disappears”? And who, without coming across as self-pitying, sounds like she means it when singing “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time”?
But back to what got us here: the guitar demolition.
The Who’s Pete Townshend used to liken his destructions to an exorcism—a way to vent his frustrations with, well, everything. But he was never so disingenuous to suggest that his guitar sacrifices weren’t great publicity, especially during the band’s early years. Even if the demolitions themselves happened on the spur of the moment in a given show, in the larger picture it was calculated showmanship that got people talking.
Given what we’ve learned from his Twitter feed, before Saturday Night Live, Crosby didn’t know Phoebe Bridgers from Regina Phalange. Bridgers’s career trajectory is headed in the opposite direction of Crosby’s, but she’s not quite a household name.
Saturday Night Live moved the needle in a big way almost overnight. If you didn’t know who Bridgers was before her appearance, odds are pretty good you did afterwards.
Only Bridgers knows for sure what her motivations were for trying to send her Danelectro Dano to a better place. (Suggesting that she’s the kind and caring sort who—like any good person—worries about the feelings of others, she reached out to the guitar manufacturer before her performance. Danelectro gave her their blessing, along with a warning that the axes embraced by everyone from Jerry Garcia to King Buzzo are notoriously hard to break.)
And the great thing about where we find ourselves in 2021? She doesn’t have to answer to or explain herself to anybody. Not us. Not the thousands of Internet trolls who weighed in with weirdly sexist suggestion that breaking guitars is a man’s game—this proven by the reality that Bridgers's Danelectro Dano indeed ended up being hard to break. And certainly not David Fucking Crosby and his stupid fucking moustache.
But as much as she doesn’t have to answer to or explain herself to anybody, that didn’t stop her from doing so on Twitter.
When Crosby tweeted “Pathetic”, Bridgers responded with two words: “little bitch”.
She might have added “miserably intolerant old fart”. But as sure as, Jesus Christ, we’re so blue all the time, Phoebe Bridgers needs zero advice on how she could be doing things better. And to prove that, consider her post-SNL performance words on Instagram. Bridgers put up a shot of her in mid-demolition, captioning it with “got some really great feedback from my performance ! next time I’ll just burn it and it will be more expensive”.
The world’s no longer a boomer-run boy’s club. It’s about fucking time.