First off…I AM SO, SO, SO, SO SORRY ABOUT THE COMIC SANS. My WordPress theme automatically updated, and it deleted my Typekit fonts. And replaced them with Comic Sans. And I can’t get Typekit to fix it. I just want to let you know that as someone with eyes, it’s traumatising me too, and I’m really sorry.
*UPDATE – I THINK I’VE FIXED IT?*
I am also sorry about the complete lack of posts in the past 6 months, I’ve been busy with college and the student protests and emotional crises (approx 5 a day). More significantly, I was too ashamed about the Comic Sans to want to link to here. I’ve started a lot of drafts in that time though, so hopefully I’ll have the discipline to actually finish some of the ones which aren’t completely irrelevant now.
This post is the product of something I’ve been thinking about generally for the past few months, but with some key events along the way. The first of these was taking my younger brother to see a still-somewhat-well-known-but-on-the-way-down emo band. I was super cynical, for obvious reasons, but went because it meant a lot to my brother. The last time I actually went to see anyone live who’s big enough that they make Proper Music Videos With A Budget And Stuff And Won’t Reply If You Message Them On Facebook (more on both of these points later) was Nick Cave in 2008 at the Hammersmith Apollo, which I believe is something like 5000 capacity. But this was at the Underworld in Camden, which is only 500, due to aforementioned emo band’s on-the-way-down situation. I know that a few years ago the same band had played the Astoria (RIP) which is 2000. Anyway, the relatively small venue gave me some hope, although to be honest I was still apprehensive. My main thoughts were: I’m going to be the oldest person there, who hasn’t grown out of emo by the time they’re 16? I’m going to be the only person there who doesn’t have dyed black hair and skinny jeans and I’m going to spend the whole time filled with laughter/contempt and oh fuck they I.D. people at the Underworld so I’m going to have to do this sober. And, most of all…I’M GONNA LOSE SO MANY SCENE POINTS.
So, we got there about 15 minutes before doors (after eating way too much courtesy of everyone’s favourite alien-worshipping vegan cult) because my brother wanted to, and joined the ‘queue’. And by queue, I mean about 10 people. Weird. I knew they were less big than they had been, but I was expecting more than that. I looked at our fellow pavement-dwellers, expecting the familiar pangs of contempt…nothing. WTF. There were three guys in front of us who had obviously come from the suburbs (I can tell). Their ‘alpha male’ was probably about 19, kind of chubby and awkward, short hair, wearing a t-shirt from a previous tour. Here’s the thing…everyone was too GODDAMNED FUCKING EARNEST. Their bad hair, guyliner and enthusiasm was really endearing, it warmed my cold black heart. I mean, it’s still kind of funny…but d’aaaaaawwwwwhhhh, she’s wearing a Green Day t-shirt in public! I haven’t seen that for YEARS. Adorable!
So, we went in, and sat through a couple of sub-mediocre support bands. The venue was still really empty. Like, really, really empty. For other gigs I’d assume it was because everyone was in the pub and too world-weary to bother getting there before the main band. But that really wasn’t this crowd. As I said, earnest as fuck. Time for the main band. It was still awkwardly empty – I’ve seen shitty punk bands fill up more of this venue before…They played. Obviously not really my thing, but, I was struck by how fucking into it the small crowd were, some of them were on the verge of tears. You could tell this was everything to them, and to the band’s credit, they definitely delivered. Despite not enjoying the music much, it was pretty beautiful to observe as an outsider the amazing connection they made with their fans.
I know there’s lots of critiques to be made of the concept of ‘fandom’ and the hierarchy that creates…blahblahblah. Yeah, they were selling expensive merch and were probably staying at a hotel that night, not your sofa. But I couldn’t help but feel it was a far more authentic experience than a lot of DIY/punk/squat gigs I’ve been to. It was honestly kind of refreshing to go to a show where everyone was just there because they loved the music. The kids were actually much less posey and more down to earth than a lot of people at the kind of things I normally frequent. There was less bullshit…it felt more authentic in a lot of ways. Wait, WHAT?
Now, before I get onto the second thing that happened, I should probably explain some background here so people who don’t know me get where I’m coming from with this. I don’t like mainstream music*. I know you’re rolling your eyes, I would be too. But no, I really don’t. When I was younger I basically thought I didn’t like music. That sounds pretty ridiculous to anyone who knows me now, but that was honestly what was up. It was basically because all I really heard was pop music, from my friends/everywhere, and world music and American folk from my dad. Which I now like, but that’s another story. The first time I remember really getting music was…Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. Agent Orange, Flogging Molly, JFA, The Faction, Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake (yeah, I wasn’t THAT cool), Goldfinger. That shit was awesome. And then Tony Hawk’s Underground came out. OH SHIT. Assorted Jellybeans, Social Distortion, Jane’s Addiction, Bad Religion, The Addicts. Turns out I do like music! I sometimes put my completely lack of musicality down to the fact that I didn’t really listen to music when I was little and then found punk…Anyway. I don’t do ‘easy listening’ or guilty pleasures when it comes to music. As a result, I have the most antisocial iPod in the entire world. Whenever I give it to people to play music through at parties (when all other options have been exhausted), they pretty much just flipflop between Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks and The Smiths until somebody comes to the rescue. My music taste / attitude to music has always been something of a running joke, through various different friendship groups. I am the ‘I only listen to bands that don’t exist yet’ person. I am every stereotype of music elitism and snobbery. I am also the music messiah (in my mind), because I don’t understand how you’re content listening to such fucking boring music, and I want to make you understand how much it’d improve your quality of life if you got into post-apocalyptic-folk-punk-crust-metal-bluegrasscore.
Because of the nature of the music I like, I 1) Can’t talk about music without sounding horribly pretentious, even when it’s meant to be self-deprecation (see, it’s happening RIGHT NOW) and 2) have very little tolerance for bands who aren’t at least somewhat DIY. I went through a patch of only listening to bands who had free MP3s for download. Not that I can’t get any music I want for free, obviously. But if you’re trying to force me to pay, not only am I definitely not going to, I’m not going to listen to your music. I didn’t enforce this rigidly, obviously. If I heard something I liked, I’d still get into it. But if I was going on one of my finding-new-music marathons, and I went on your website and couldn’t download anything, I’d normally just close the tab and never think of your band ever again. It still puts you at a massive disadvantage. The way I listen to music means that if I can only listen to a few songs streaming on your website, I’m not going to get into it. I wasn’t really into any of my favourite music the first time I heard it. It needs to sit in iTunes for a while gathering digital dust, and then one day it’ll come up on random play and I’ll fucking love it. I will download all your albums and pay to see you live and probably buy a t-shirt and maybe even an album even though I got it for free 6 months ago…This is what you miss out on if you don’t give me a small amount of your music for free. Only has to be a few songs. I realise this still makes me sound like a evangelical…ungrateful psychopath. On the plus side, I’ll be the first person to message you if you need a sofa to crash on during your tour, or need advice about support bands or venues. If I like your band, I will go out of my way to help in anyway I can, because that’s the only way we can make DIY work. If bands want to operate on a for-profit (and by this I mean for-profit, not for-making a living) basis, I don’t feel any obligation to offer them the same support I’d give to a DIY band. The irony being, they’re probably not even making much more money. The only reason I’m explaining all of this is to give a picture of my attitude to DIY and music. And, as is going to become more important in the next part, try and begin to get across that I don’t think music is ever just about the music.
I’ve decided to split this article/essay/novel into two, because it turns out I have way more to say/waffle about this than I expected. So you’ll have to wait for DIYdenty Crisis: Part II, featuring…MUSIC VIDEOS! WHY IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE MUSIC! AMANDA PALMER! FACEBOOK! ME EXPLAINING WHERE THIS WHOLE ARGUMENT IS GOING AND WHAT THE FUCK I’M TALKING ABOUT AND WHAT THE CRISIS IS! CAPS LOCK!
*Except Morrissey. 4 lyf.