Nobody Likes It Better Live (aka why we need to stop pretending local live music doesn’t suck)
If you hate the Taylor Swift on the radio and notes that sound good together then you’ll love “The Flying Hellfish” or “Potential Red” or any another edgy sounding, but ultimately inane, adjective-noun combination. While recently reading an article entitled “Has the internet killed the local music scene?” I thought, no, it’s a quantitive defibrillator.
Due to a resurgence in 20-somethings deciding that their local coffeeshop with a one step stage is CBGBs, now we can all sip craft beer and listen to some chick with dubious gender alignments scream in front of three boys in open flannel button-ups. And we all pretend to enjoy it, the ear-popping loudness in an unsuitable space, the hot cluster of flesh, the overpriced drinks and the obnoxious facebook e-vites that everybody stars as “interested”. Everything unlikeable about live music, about concerts we pay premium amounts to go see, becomes the reason we all show up to these grottos of hipsterdom, because, it certainly can’t be for the music. It’s the experience, the supporting of the “local talent”. Like watching the home team lose 20–0 against Triple-A rejects from New Jersey. Everyone has to start from somewhere right? But Robert Allen Zimmerman didn’t stay in Hibbing Minnesota and go to university for a BA in poli-sci whilst playing nights at the Happy Goat (have we all just accepted this naming format?), he moved to New York City to be Bob Dylan.
I know no one can be Bob Dylan. Almost no one even reaches George Thorogood level and he plays malls of America to crowds of eleven disoriented retirees. It’s apparent that gone are the days of “making it” in the big city anyways. Of Patti Smith reading poetry at dive bars or even of Kurt Cobain clogging up the Evergreen State College radio station. (Note: Does college radio still exist? Do they do podcasts?) Somewhere along the line we put New York City online. That’s where people who want to make it go to make it now (Youtube: If you can make it here you can make it anywhere). And yet most of these acts barely have a Facebook, let alone recorded proof of some coherent musical output. Which begs the question: what is the real goal of local music? When the talent has seemingly no ambitions of progressing past jammed packed rooms with a realistic capacity of 7 and the audience’s only interest is the slow bobbing of heads whilst slowly developing tinnitus via geolocated snapchats. A more human side of me pushes forth the idea that maybe they actually enjoy it. And for the musicians, I could buy that. I imagine the shrug of a cubicle dweller passing their colleague a flyer for a Wednesday night concert at 5pm with the words, “Just something to let off some steam.” But then I’m hit with the Instagram posts, the snapchat stories, the digitalized polaroids of un-casual smokers, the almost impressively uncritical periodicals with aggressively active twitter accounts — a ceaseless stream of diligent and purposeful documentation that will not allow me to blissfully believe in people who don’t take themselves and everything they do very, very seriously.
This is hyperinflation based on nothing. Maybe once upon a time if a band had this many pictures taken of them they could be famous, but now there’s really no differentiating between a three man ska disaster and that weird leaf pattern your local barista made in your latte. And yet for the artistic endeavors of the wholly unknown the internet is a feedback loop of inflated ultra-praise followed by two dozen hashtags of rapidly dwindling relevancy. For example: “AMAZIIINGGG concert at @BlackSquirrel last night—”
Militant validation proves toxic to greatness, or to goodness even. A spit in the face of J.K Simmons’ success-via-abuse Whiplash character with the biting quotable, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” (— other than maybe ‘hashtag liveauthentic’?).
Social media no doubt kindles extremity in all insular communities through its members’ consistently grasping reach for singularity of identity within a realm of vast glittering sameness. And still all we really end up with is thousands upon thousands of pictures of the backs of peoples heads and a declining necessitation for quality. But maybe it’s just my bias to only see the non-authenticity of rampant optimism. Or maybe I just need to go tp more “Wooden Sky” sets at “Bar Robo”. Who can say?