Maybe writing an article high on the influence of night nurse and paracetamol might not be the best idea, but it is interesting to see what thoughts are allowed through when the normal inner quality control is off its guard. Although my reasons for such a state are fairly mundane (trying to shift a particularly virulent chest infection) it’s interesting to note that Lester Bangs seems to obtain his best insights when wacked out on cough medicine and Shelley was at his most poetically otherworldly when running on sleep deprivation and Laudanum. Not that I would dare to rank myself alongside such literary choirs of angels, but it’s interesting to note none the less.
It seems that every time I open Facebook, someone is posting a banner to tell me to Support Live Music, often with a reference to Simon Cowell or some music reality show. Blaming lack of support for live music on Cowell is like attacking Dan Brown for not being Truman Capote. Cowell makes popular entertainment shows that have the veneer of musical trappings but in reality is about ratings, any short-lived music deal with successful contestants is an added bonus. His programs are very addictive to the feebleminded and fashion-fickle, but if you are staying in to watch these programs when you could be out supporting something more worthy, then that says more about you that it does him. If I became addicted to sniffing glue, would I then be justified in blaming my local hobby shop for supplying the stuff in the first place? And if you object to the wave of TV shows that are taking over peoples lives, then the answer is simple, it’s called the “off” button, or at least the remote control that can take you to the Arts channels or BBC4 and the like. TV shows are ratings driven and low ratings are the only thing that they fear. You have the power to induce that fear; you have the power to induce change. You have the power.
Facebook – the place that has turned the worthy cause and the political statement into a dichotomised world of like and dislike. Has anyone ever changed their habits or lifestyle because of something that has been suggested on a social media site? I doubt it, so the banner is more about the person posting it than it is about any solidarity amongst music fans. Look at my banner, how worthy am I?
But the term “live music” is a phrase weighted by expectation and probably has many different meanings to different people – classical renditions, original bands, covers, tributes, marching bands, buskers, brass bands, living room jams, guerrilla gigs, etc…all live music. I suspect that the intention of these banners is to imply that the poster is advocating switching off the TV and going and watching music performed by people with instruments in the traditional format – a very worthy propositon, but I think it doesn’t go far enough. I suspect many of those posting these instructions spend much of their time reading Q magazine, watching “Later with…” playing old Who albums and watching their mates stodgy cover band run through someone else’s creations and then feel like they have the moral high ground on supporting music.
As regular readers may know, I don’t really advocate cover bands or tribute acts. For me music performance is at its best when it is creating something new and original. The performance is a moment in time, a sacred half hour or so where miracles and wonders can be conjured up, a moment of spontaneity, surprise, energy and communication. A half-baked rendition of a song that had its time of originality 30 years ago is selling the moment short. Tribute bands are even worse. Why try to be someone else when you have the opportunity to be something else?
I’m going to advocate a new, slightly altered instruction. Support new music. Music that isn’t driven by expected payment or a pre-determined familiarity with the material, as covers and tributes largely are, rather bands that strive to get noticed through their performance and songs, bands that are genuinely bringing something new to the party is where I advocate your loyalty should lay. And like I say, it’s all about the performance, that interaction between performer and audience, music as art, music as communication. If the cover bands pander to people too content to exist solely within their comfort zone, then maybe those people would benefit from being taken from that bubble and experiencing something totally new to them. Offer them an unexpected and truly unique experience, offer them something that they don’t get from their regular musical experience, after all the best performances are those that offer entertainment and confrontation in equal measures. Bands like Crash and the ‘Coots and Super Squarecloud, who have the ability to baffle and amuse, sculpt new musical shapes and warp prior expectation or take it further still and you find bands that are truly confrontational such as Mr Hello and His Honesty Club who crucify convention and live on the edge of poetic terrorism. Welcome to the T.O.M.Z. – the Truly Original Music Zone. It’s not a place or even a movement in the conventional sense, more an attitude or state of mind, a backlash against convention and the lack of imagination in the mainstream, a terpsichorean revolution akin to Ontological Anarchy, Situationism, punk ethics but above all original thought.
I’m not trying to tell you what to like, I’m just trying to interest you in the idea of true originality. It is when the bands that make up the true original movement are supported that you begin to have a real live musical movement. Try something new, pick a band that you have never heard of and go and check them out. What’s the worst that can happen? You find you don’t like it and you leave, but you may just find something that challenges, fascinates and entertains in equal measure, trust me I have been there and it’s an amazing place.