“Distorted Chord Fatigue or something else?”
Cover bands and DJs are a kind of spreading virus that seeks to numb our ears and make our tastes complacent, tired, and worn out. This is all just first-hand experience, as I’ve played in various original and cover bands over the last 10 years, throughout central MA.
Cover bands/tribute acts represent a consistent dollar figure that club/bar owners can easily rely on, as the now tired mantra, post-economic collapse of 2008 goes, “but the economy is so bad right now”. It’s also repeated in many other walks of life and playing it safe has never seemed so appealing due to this mentality. You have your Chinese restaurants, your bars with several karaoke nights, and tribute bands that sometimes pay tribute to acts that are recently retired or even currently touring. Then there are several bars, turning towards the Dance/DJ format, which is really emerging as “pop music” among 18-30 year olds. I’m in no way knocking DJs as there are plenty of original, creative, and dynamic local artists that deserve recognition in this field. This is more a reflection on where the original rock bands fit into the scene or if there truly is even a scene left to fit into?
Most people want to drunkenly grab the mic and belt out some Journey or dance to some Lynrd Skynrd while sucking down Mai Tais at Chopsticks or Singapore. But where are the days of the tried and true rock band that could play in the suburbs and build up a grassroots following? The larger cities have been and still remain the only areas to play to a large group of people on a consistent basis. Rock music has narrowed its focus towards a younger audience, playing to college aged kids, and capitalizing on that energy and expendable cash/college loans.
I’ve played in an original rock band called “Miranda: for the last 2 plus years around Central MA. I see that a large amount of the people getting into the music, are actually musicians themselves, or are even playing that night with us. There aren’t a lot of casual fans there, just to check out live music. Everybody is either a friend of the band, a friend of a friend, or related to the band member in some way. Maybe original rock music is just in this part of the cycle, where it feels more like a hobby among friends?
It also comes down to being 29 and playing original music in the suburbs. I play it safe as well, as I could hypothetically move closer to a larger city and pursue music more directly. I’d say for me it’s the act of creation that is much more of an orgasmic payoff, then a few hundred bucks per gig or an overly curious fan base. However this naive approach can fade too, the longer you live in the great United States of America.
Our society is so wrapped up in rapid progression and if progressive dollars are not tied to a creative act, and then we view it as failing or falling behind; Similar to the notion of a job requiring college students or entry-level people to have 4-5 years of relative work experience!? The contradiction here is obvious, but applies to a club, demanding that you bring in 20-30 people at your first gig, which may possibly be 40-50 miles away from your hometown.
You also have to consider “unlimited choice” and the ability to get all of your musical needs met via your Iphone, Pandora, Spotify, XM, and the list goes on. Pre-internet, let’s say 1995 and before, people wanted more than what was on the radio, and had a more flexible attitude towards discovering new acts. I think there was a level of open-mindedness that was more rampant and ironically, as we evolve as a people, maybe we’re becoming less open-minded and more into the idea of having a “closed circuit” approach towards entertainment and media?
We all plug in our favorite bands into Pandora and a self-generating web of related artists can play on for us for as long as we like. Why step away from the screen? We have the unique ability to be our own DJ, minus the commercials.
Why surround yourself with strangers, an unpredictable environment, and pay too much for drinks? The “I” generation model is taking over and it’s much more preferable to hear music when you want to and to know exactly what you’re getting into beforehand. This is similar to the online dating model which seeks to pinpoint everything down in such a precise way, essentially acting as the human resources department for your heart/mind. Leaving anything to chance seems like a waste of time and too imprecise.
This current state of live original music isn’t of course all doom and gloom. It forces bands and musicians to truly bypass the tired routes of promotion that acts/clubs have been using for the last 50 years. It forces musicians to be just as much businessmen as they are creative entities. It forces your band to create your own, self-sustaining musical empire, without a staff of people that are mostly in place to leach off of your talent and success anyways.