Live music is a privilege, its a wonderful thing and it baffles me how so many of us out there do not get amongst it, encourage it and down right support it. Writing this from the leafy suburbs of Melbourne, we are coined as being Australia’s premier live music city in Australia, if not the world. It is a big call and one that often surprises me having spent 11 odd years in London, but the question Id like to lament over is whether it is a question of quantity over quality?
At a recent gig, I casted my mind back to the first independent/alternative gig I saw when I was much younger, it was 22 odd years ago that I purchased my ticket to Nottingham, UK band Neds Atomic Dustbin, a band that drew me in and taught me what it is to be in a band and the importance to”live it like you love it”. Very few people in the audience knew who they were, let alone what they were about to witness. Live music was cheap enough to take a punt on seeing an international band, especially when music was that more difficult to access back then. Live music was one of the few ways that we could discover new music.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin strided like a pack of excited lads on their first night out, strutting on to the stage as if it were Madison Square Gardens. The stage was their’s, as was this glorious night. It was at that specific moment that I realised just how important first impressions were to a band playing live and the importance of believing what you do, and if not, damn well acting like you do.
While living abroad and completely immersing myself in the live music scene in some great cities like London, Manchester, Leeds, Dublin, Paris and Barcelona, I witnessed some truly amazing gigs, performed by bands who played their first major gig (Coldplay, July 2000) to those who finally cracked the big venues (Florence & the Machine, 2008 at Shepherd’s Bush Empire). I don’t claim to be a the righteous one when it comes to gigs but, to this date, I cant help feel the lack of urgency in our Australian Music Scene. What I mean by this is “attitude”, “belief” and “confidence”.
Many complain that Australian audiences are pretty tame, non-committable and slightly chipped shoulders. There may be some truth in that, but what about the bands themselves. Where is there commitment? I have lost count of the countless times that I see an “Australian” band that takes to a stage with such lack of confidence, you feel every bit of nervousness that they feel, and the band are 10 gigs in. Don’t get me started (oh, go on then, this is a Lament after all) those other bands that constantly apologise for the music that they play live. What about those lead singers who start to mumble about what the song is about and then cut off their own sentence with the word “whatever”. And finally, a band that enters the stage, barely acknowledges the audience and then mumble “thank you” before stumbling off stage.
Equally one thing I love about the last lament above is a band that plays an entire gig without saying a word or even acknowledging their audience but for reasons that they are so committed to their music, the audience is irrelevant but the result is an audience that are so engaged in this commitment, the bond is electric.
Bands like the Sex Pistols, The Stooges, The Velvet Undergrounds, Joy Division etc etc, wrote extremely simple songs, songs that sometimes were built upon 2 repetitive chords yet played with such gusto, such attitude and such passion, that the music became part of the offering of the live experience. The audience were drawn in to the music, seduced by the power of performance. I don’t suggest that every band should make their live experience a riot, but what I wish were that bands would realise who they are, believe in what they create and stand by it.
We Australians are first to mock those who take themselves too seriously but when it comes to live music, its more than just the music, the musicians become the performance and its time us Australian punters stop taking the piss out of bands that want to take themselves seriously. Its Rock n Roll and we are missing the goodness from it.
A friend of mine just got back from Europe with her Melbourne band and one of the first things she said was how European audiences go mental for live music, and if you then ask the question about the band they go mental too, well there is a good chance that they are giving out something that warrants such brilliant energy whether it be jumping around like mad or playing with such focus and passion, the feelings are reciprocated.
Long live Rock N Roll.