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"One of the things about rock 'n' roll, in our future — or now — is it makes a human connection in times when things don't always feel human. What rock 'n' roll can provide for most people — with or without a breakthrough — is a human thing that I think people get less and less of in their daily lives," Finn says. "That community can happen — especially when you're at a rock show. Some guy is wearing a Deer Tick T-shirt, and you turn to him and go, 'Dude. Nice.' And it's not weird. He's not like, 'Get away from me.' He's, 'Oh, yeah, I just saw them.' All of a sudden you're talking to a dude you don't know."

Rock music's ability to forge bonds and galvanize attention never diminishes. It just falls out of fashion from time to time, but it's usually the better for it. Obviously, the entire industry has changed since Nirvana's breakthrough. Recording has become democratized. Now it's very easy and inexpensive to release music, yet hard to make a lot of money doing it.

Perversely, this probably is a good thing. Call it survival of the hardiest. You want the person you back to really mean it, and not offer you lip service. It's about sharing something rather than selling it. Of course, some musicians are motivated less by connecting or expressing something than the selfishness of a deep personal devotion.

"There's nothing else to be done," says Kirkwood, sounding like a character from Waiting for Godot. "Look around. Life is disgusting... What are you going to do when everything else is mewling and pathetic? Might as well do what you do."

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