Thursday, October 07, 2010


Charles Peterson, in the film Hype, describing the Seattle music scene in the 1990s:

We were all so fucking bored out of our heads that it was get drunk, fall down, and, uh, you know, throw your body around, and all the bands that came through Seattle at that time [...] said that Seattle had the most exciting, potent scene going on in the US. They all loved to play here because everyone would just, like, go nuts, and drink themselves into a frenzy, and throw themselves onstage, and it was very flattering for these bands, you know, whereas, you go to Los Angeles or New York, and people stood there and went "hmmm... [rubbing chin] I don't know, he missed a note, there."

I was never a big fan of grunge, but do people genuinely "go nuts" over any kind of music any more? Loving music seems so... polite, these days.

[photo credit: Philo Nordlund]


mrG said...

well ... the last show we did there was a mixup in the booking and the main hall was farmed out so they put us in a lobby and the audience in a neighbouring room, so I don't know, but the show before that a few of them lept to their feet dancing in the aisles for the Clarinet Polka, and the floor was noticeably throbbing from the foot stomping (and time clapping) during the Sousa march, but then that crowd had an average age well over 80 which means they all still remember how to really kick it old-school :)

the thing is, the thing that really disturbs me, is how there is a missing generation who have been numbed to such things. and I ponder how they got so numbed. Between roughtly the ages of 17 and 50 there is this stark slice missing from every public event, if they are there at all, they are talking, there because someone dragged them there and having a horrid time just to prove a point. If they comment, they only see what is missing, what went wrong. it is, anthropologically speaking, bizarre.

But back at the people who come out to see our (totally free) shows, we think of them as stodgy old folks who only ever worked and prayed, but dig, their women loved to dance and, dig deep and well, their men loved to watch the women dance, so much so that they learned to lead in complicated ritual dances just so they could shimmy up and slither past those beauties, and what is more, they never stopped doing it.

Don't matter what's being played so long as they can grasp the melody of it. Note, the melody of it; I don't know if that is important, it could be cultural because I hear tell stories of Beale Street, but nonetheless there was something engaging by the genres of their day. And that makes me wonder, what is it that we changed circa 1960 that we tired of by 1985? (assuming the now teens aren't headed for numbness)

And then I wrestle with this comment from Sun Ra: "The planet is asleep and it is the fault of the musicans who are untrue to themselves."

What does he mean? Does he mean it is our fault? If so, what are we doing wrong? What must we do differently?

It is curious, and depressing, that when I mention that to most musicians, they invariably (almost) tacitly assume that what they are already doing is the one true correct path. Yet the planet is still asleep! To my mind it tells me that there was something that we've somehow lost, that something still shows in the 3rd world, and it still shows somewhat in some trad-folkdance circles, and thatm, whatever it is, it befalls us all as musicians to put earnest research into finding out how to get it back.

Anonymous said...

The question made me want to post a video in response, but I see it dates from 2002...

Anonymous said...

But here it is regardless. Anyways I don't think these guys' audience has changed too much.


mrG said...

LOL -- I dare say they haven't! It is also amusing to read where the comments can't click to how the adrenal rush is part actually being there, surfing the collective emotion like being in a political riot gone wrong or a rambunctious football game.

but is that what we've come to? is that the only way to get them to stop sitting like they're at the opera?

In Rossini's day even the Opera fans were far more rambunctious; Offenbach courted a police raid with his illegally-long Orpheus, not realizing it would be the outrageous can-can in the middle that would get him shut down!

Anonymous said...

I believe opera audiences in Italy can still be pretty rambunctious.

Vikram Devasthali said...

I don't know how polite it is. The average person with an internet connection has greater access to different kinds of music today than he did in the 1990s. Caring is exclusionary: you can't go nuts over everything, all the time. Even if monogamy is on the decline, though, I don't think we'll ever be completely rid of it. The person who listens to a hundred bands almost certainly likes each band less on average than the person who listens to ten, but I'm guessing he still has his favorites. And technology has made it possible to be more connected with those favorites than ever before.

mrG said...

Do we really think this makes us more 'connected' to the bands? Are we really so gullible? I knew a girl once upon a time who truly believed Todd Rundgren wrote all his songs specifically for her, and was crushed when she finally got to meet him and he didn't spontaneously recognize her. Is that what we've all become?

outside of the consumer-demographic, however, we have some fans who have been catching every one of our shows for, I kid you not, 40 years or more. They are always there, and they are not alone; we can't blame it on their advanced age because back when they started showing up, they hadn't any grey hair. Some fell in love at our concerts and continued to show every show thereafter until they had to literally be wheeled into the room. I just don't see that sort of 'connecting' to very many bands anymore. Sun Ra perhaps.

mrG said...

Last saturday I subbed in on bari with a unit that has been in operation under various names since about 1950, they play what in war-time would have been called "sweet jazz", stuff that outsold Swing 10:1 and today would be called Exotica or Lounge (we even played some Les Baxter hits!) and they too had a dedicated fan-base of regulars. Just before our last few numbers of the evening, this couple came forward to the bandstand, they were dressed to the 9's, like Vincent Price and Rita Hayworth in their heyday, they'd danced like pros the entire evening and were exhaused and wanted to apologize for not staying to the end, and also wanted to thank us personally for being the real thing. They asked the date of the next gig, and then begged our leave and were off.

I've played in a lot of bands, blues bands, rock bands, acid, fusion and award-winning pop bands, and I ain't never seen nuthin' like that before. We were the Fabric of Life Itself to those fans, a symbiotic ecology, they needing to dance, we needing to play, each diminished without each other. That's connection.

Vikram Devasthali said...

The shattered hopes of certain lovelorn young women aside, I am that gullible. I'm a couple of years out of college, and I knew plenty of people who catch every show their favorite bands play within a hundred mile radius. They know every song, sweat their t-shirts through in a matter of minutes, and, yes, a few of them have fallen in love in the process.

You may not see nuthin' like that these days, but I do. Perhaps time will reveal the things my generation cares about to be hollow and plastic compared with the ones who came before, but I have a feeling we'll make out all right. Wish me luck!

mrG said...

heh, well, yes, I've seen fans before, but I haven't seen 40-year dedicated fans, that's partly my point, but back to the thread, yes, it's those devoted fans you are talking about who also appear to be an endangered species who, like the honey bee, it behooves us to discover any means possible to keep them engaged and excited about the living process of live music.

Andrew Durkin... said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Anon. -- thanks for sharing that video. I found it equal parts entertaining and bleak. And it definitely provides a counterexample to my complaint.

Vikram -- Thanks for continuing to weigh in as the voice of optimism here. As I think I have said before, I will be curious to know if your views shift as you get older (hopefully we'll all be blogging many years hence!), but I appreciate that you're willing to keep my curmudgeonly instincts in check. And I think the point you make about breadth -- the fact that many listeners are much wider-ranging in their listening these days, because of the vistas opened up by technology -- is very important. I have been tending to read that as a tendency toward shallower experience, but I want to keep considering this idea.

Gary -- I think you're spot on with everything you say here, and you put it much more eloquently than I could. As exciting as it is to be alive today, and as much as I know, intellectually, that we are witness to some of the most amazing music that has ever been created, I still feel that something in the equation is missing. Not sure whose fault it is, and not sure if I can articulate it better than that (and certainly not better than Ra), but there's an underlying problem somewhere. Gonna keep hacking away at it on this blog as best I can.