The big dogs of publishing might have Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, but the little ones have indie rock. Unclear when the flirtation became a marriage, but the benefit concert held Sunday night at Beacon Theater for 826 NYC, the McSweeney’s-sponsored reading-and-writing program for kids, seems a good indication that independent literature and independent music are happily locked in a warm, wordy bear hug.
New Pornographers frontman A.C. Newman opened the show and Spoon singer Britt Daniel closed it; in between the crowd was treated to short sets by Feist, Grizzly Bear, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and a few guys from Broken Social Scene. The crowd loved it – and why shouldn’t they? As Rick Moody explained to me once when I asked him about The Believer’s annual music issue, “people who care about ‘good’ music tend to like ‘good’ writing.”
Midway through the evening, Sarah Vowell gave a nice, rather inspiring speech about 826—which started in San Francisco as the brainchild of McSweeney’s chief Dave Eggers—and talked about how the program encouraged kids to read, write, and make movies when their school or their parents couldn’t afford to. “I know what you’re all thinking: Hitler,” Ms. Vowell said, before suggesting that the Fuhrer might have grown into someone quite nice if he’d had 826 available to him as a boy.
Later, right after playing a song called “Fucked Up Kid,” Broken Social Scene singer Kevin Drew asked the audience to call out the name of their favorite book on the count of three. It was hard to hear answers amidst the shouting, but someone in the back did say The Gay Science.