Saturday, July 24, 2010

1960's Psychedelic Bands Laid the Groundwork For Internet Trolling

By Matthew Jorn

A group of art students form the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas formed the band Red Krayola in 1966. They made noisy rock and psychedelia, and were contemporaries of the psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators, which was run by Lelan Rogers, brother to Kenny Rogers.

Their philosophy was simple: make music with instruments they found cheap or made themselves, walk on stage and attempt to make music. It should be noted that they had no idea how. They're recognized as the progenitors of the Houston Noise musical movement, and are in this writer's opinion artists of a very high order.

Their art is not a musical one. Far from it, and that's not to their discredit. They played a show in Berkeley, California and were paid ten dollars by a member of the audience to stop playing. They were, as current Internet parlance dictates, 'trolls.'

Wikipedia defines a troll as "someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community ... with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response." The most typical desired response is of course, anger. With the growing prevalence of inexperienced or otherwise ill-informed people surfing the internet, the trend of trolling grew out of a sort of communal outrage at the sometimes ignorant things people can say or ask while online, and the way others can respond to it. A troll turns the tables on your typical Internet wise guy, trying to make a fool of someone who's already making a fool of him.

The term trolling has since evolved to be essentially synonymous with pulling a prank, or otherwise attempting to 'get someone's goat,' as it were. A troll comes in all shapes and sizes, and indeed some aren't quite as good as others. Failed trolls can come off as lewd, unnecessary, or otherwise cruel, particularly those that are done without any finesse.

The ultimate aim of trolling is what one could imagine was the aim of Red Krayola, or nearly any artist of a particular mindfulness and consideration. They troll to produce chaos, to uproot conventions and show different, sometimes confusing or frightening perspectives, or to eradicate them, and not to mention to be funny.

A troll can miss its mark, and can offend or otherwise hurt the unsuspecting bystander. As a result, the activity itself has gotten somewhat of a bad rap. But it is the work of the true artists that deserve the attention, not the imitators. The gentlemen in Red Krayola got in a vehicle, loaded up their equipment, traveled half way across the country just so they could offend an audience until someone paid them ten dollars to stop. There's effort there. There's forethought, and for what? Maybe most of the audience got a bit of a chuckle. They did it because they could, and because they knew it would be unexpected and different, and they were recognized for it.

Most people can't resist the joy in pulling a good prank. If ancient folklore is any indication, people haven't been able to resist it, and have indeed revered it for thousands of years. The next time you're perusing the Internet, keep an eye out for these artists and their thankless art. It's out there, hilarious, and Red Krayola can be thanked for their help passing the unlit torch and putting Houston on the trolling map.

Matthew Jorn writes articles about history, music, travel, fishing, and other vaguely-related topics. Houston's long history of outside-the-box thinking is on display at Russell and Smith Ford in Houston who knows that while looking for a new Ford Mustang Houston drivers don't want a bunch of gimmicks and tricks; just the best car for the money from the best dealership for your money.

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