Musical dispatch from the middle of massachusetts

Cover bands and DJs are taking over. They are similar to a kind of spreading virus that seeks to numb our ears and make our tastes complacent, tired, and worn out. They are safe and they represent a determined dollar figure that club/bar owners can rely on, as the now tired mantra post-economic collapse of 2008, “but the economy is so bad right now” is repeated and playing it safe has never seemed so appealing. You have your chinese restaurants, your bars with several karaoke nights, tribute bands that sometimes pay tribute to acts that are no older than 10 years, and several places trying out the DJ angle. (Or primarily drawing in more females, to then draw in the male dollars.)
I think it comes down to choice and the ability to get all of your musical needs met via your iphone, itunes, and the internet at large. 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 an 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? Surround yourself with strangers, with an unpredictable environment, and pay too much for drinks? Hell no. 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 is quite intimidating as we continue to morph into a partially robotic society.
But I have to say, this great access we now have, being able to play virtually any piece of recorded music from the last few hundred years, will be a good thing in due time. It forces bands and musicians to truly bypass the tired routes of promotion that acts have been using for the last 50 years. It forces musicians to be just as much businessmen as they are creative entities. It forces you to create your own, self-sustaining musical empire, without a staff of people that are really only their to leach off of your talent and success anyways. Sure it’s all in its infancy and we all cried the most when we came out of the womb and took our first falls.
So what does any of this have to do with live music? Gone are the days of idolizing musicians, as everyone can be in their own rock band via playstation. Everyone can at least work on their vocals and maybe try out for american idol or another talent show in the area. Gone are the days of not having enough outlets to explore your musical side. And when life becomes fairly normal and humdrum, all people want to do is hear the songs of their teenage/college years. They don’t want to chance one of their only nights out on a developing act. They either want to drunkenly grab the mic and belt out some Journey or dance to some ZZTop while sucking down Mai Tais. Gone are the days of the tried and true rock band that plays in the suburbs and builds up any kind of 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 is about the youth market, playing to college aged kids, and capitalizing on that energy and expendable cash. It’s not about serving up alternative/progressive music to people that only yearn for traditional means of entertainment and something that is safe.
I guess it comes down to being a 28 year old playing original music in the suburbs, but stuck here because of my job. I guess I play it safe as well, as I could hypothetically move closer to a larger city and pursue music more directly. I’d say writing original music is similar to painting, or at least it should be viewed in this manner. Most famous/successful painters aren’t discovered until after they’re dead. And while they’re alive the focus is less on just getting large amounts of paying crowds to constantly view their work and more on just having the time/freedom to create what is relevant to them.
I’d say it’s the act of creation that is much more of an orgasmic payoff, then a few hundred bucks per gig. However this naive approach fades 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, then we view it as failing or falling behind. Of course some kind of payoff is expected, when considering the amount of time/energy/emotion put into anything in the art realm. I just think that art has become too tied in with commerce. I think the fact that music is free in so many ways now, will be a good thing for the industry moving forwards. Bands will really only be able to make a living off of live shows and this will seperate the legits from the studio fakes. This will bring music back to the 60s when it was more about the community and less about just listening on your own. Recorded music should be free, it should act as a gateway drug to see someone live. Record companies were the real devils in disguise as they packaged music as commodity from day one, rather than an experience that should be available to the most amount of people. My hope moving forward is that the “live, be here now, kind of experience” is placed at a higher premium and we revert back in this way as music listeners.
Or we just wait for a grand EMP attack and everything electronic is fried, forcing all of us to start over with bare bones acoustic tools, coupled with a 21st century mindset.

Just like lacing up the musical skates

Yesterday marked a day of renewal. Matt, Zach, and myself joined forces again and assembled in my basement, home of many musical creations and in general good times. The short of it being Matt moving to Florida for 3 years and playing drums in the band Cadence Wednesday. Zach joined the Marines and had quite an experience in Okinawa, Japan. I took an excursion to Phoenix, Arizona having no real ties to Massachusetts upon graduating from Umass. So we all bounced around a bit and got outside of a narrow New England mindset.

We all played together in the band “Foster” for close to 2 years and at the time we were just starting to grow as musicians. Our heads were clearly in putting together songs and we were quite naive in the context of promotion and finding shows. Any musician is aware of the great gap between paid original gigs and paid cover gigs. I suppose it’s been this way for quite some time and I haven’t awoken to it within the last 10 years. Everyone has their own theories behind this apparent fact. I think the point is to not over think the process of writing music and just to live in the musical moment the best you can. Of course there’s a business side to almost any relationship, but if that’s where your head is entirely at the start, then how can you not sell out creatively?

It’s a process and I suppose we’ve all just slammed on the reset button again. But oh how good it feels