You're Too Big For Your Britches....Music (Part II)
Today finds us following up our two-part 'Too Big' series (first was Sports) with a musical number, so to speak.
I grew up in a musical family. Well, let me rephrase that statement. My mother is a music teacher and one hell of a gifted musician. She made it a point to take her kids under her wing and expose our young curiosities to the wonders of music and the instruments with which to create. My father couldn't play the triangle if you asked him to. He couldn't even give Will Ferrell a run for all of his cowbell money.
So I grew up with the piano, followed by the guitar, the mandolin, drums and various stints in various choirs. On top of all those nuggets our family embraces the live music scene. My uncle owned a record shop and is a 100% organic Dead Head. The first show my folks took me to was James Taylor and I've never looked back. Christ, the guy played THREE ENCORES! The experience of a live show cannot be replicated. From the beer at the venue, to the weed at the venue, to the crowd surrounding you, and most notably, to the band up on the stage. EVERY show brings something unique that few could ever forget (this of course depends on how liberal you were with the aforementioned beers and weed).
Having said that I fear that our concert experiences have become increasingly more lackluster. Timeless greats such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Dead, Queen, and so many more have been pushed aside for the joke products of shows like American Idol and The Voice.
Side tangent: What the fuck is going on with our country and their insatiable hunger for these pathetic circus acts? Sure, some of these kids have pipes on 'em. They can sing, I'll grant them that much. But how many of them write their own music? How many of them form their own bands? Their success is measured by a public audience who knows close to ZILCH when it comes to musical talent. They lean towards the contestant with the sappy backstory. Great criteria, ass mustache. Or better yet, let's pick the kid who's got 'the look'. That'll sell some records. Give me a damn break. And the panels?! Jennifer Lopez: Next. Paula Abdul: Stop. Shakira: Your hips are lying to me. Everything has to be a competition today. Why?! What was wrong with talented musicians grinding their way through the jungles of dive-bar gigs earning their way up the ladder with a 'we'll take what we can get' mentality? THAT was the real path. THAT was the real work. And when a talent trudged through all of that mess and came out the other side it was THEN that we knew they made it. Success became the payoff.
And we're back. What ever happened to a group of friends jamming at the front a venue captivating audiences with their sound? Hell, a guy with a guitar and a mic could bring people to tears. Now you have arena shows with these glitter-clad whores being hoisted up over the crowd on cables, fire shooting from every crevice in the building, and more stage-dancing chimpanzees than you could find at the San Diego Zoo!
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?! Sure, sure. it's entertainment. But music is supposed to be at the forefront, yes? My theory (or fact) is that today's acts put so much glitz and glamour into their shows in order to cover up for all of the hot garbage they have spewing out of their mouths. The lyrics! Have you listened to some of the lyrics from modern 'artists' today? It's almost as if they took a dictionary, ripped out all of the pages except for one, and that's what they were left with to write a song. Call Me Maybe? How about I call your family after I finish digging your grave?
Onward we press! As with our sports article, I want to touch on the SIZE factor of live music today. Again, what is our obsession with everything having to be BIGGER and better? More, more, fucking more. No one is ever quite satisfied. My God, some of the best concerts I've seen have been in coffee shops that fit no more than 30 people! There's something to be said about the close proximity of the band and its crowd. It's a much more passionate and engaging experience, in my opinion. Who the hell wants to see a show from the very last row of Soldier Field? At that distance I don't even think the Hubble Telescope would get you a solid view of a the stage. Oh, but you want to say you were there, right? Awesome, dude! Hey, I was in another city when that show was going on, too! The only difference is that I didn't pay an astronomical amount of money for a ticket.
I just wish some of the better bands out there today would sprinkle in some smaller shows. Maybe go a little nuts and roll out an acoustic/unplugged tour. Sadly many of our favorite bands appear to be just as greedy as their fans. Bigger, remember? Most of your options today are arena shows where face value is tickling with triple digits or well over that amount. It's the same issue I have with going to a college basketball game at a gigantic football stadium. The entertainment I paid FAR too much for to see is now something that I physically cannot see!
Why soil your talents with greed? Yes, you are correct if you're thinking that they've earned the position they're in and all of the fame and fortune that comes with it. I will not argue that point. I will, however, whip my goose eggs into a frenzy when these success stories take advantage. Quick story. I saw The Lumineers right as they were breaking onto the scene up near Fort Collins, CO smack dab in the middle of nowhere. We went to a classic bar on a river and there couldn't have been more than 150 people there. The energy whipping around the venue that night made the hairs on your neck stiffer than a photographer's boner during a Victoria Secret swimsuit photo shoot. It was electric. The band rolled a damn piano out into the middle of the crowd and just started jammin'! Our tickets were $15. Fast forward no more than a year later and The Lumineers were back in CO over at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheater and tickets were going for more than $50 a pop. Come on.
In closing I suppose I just yearn for the simpler things in life again. Don't be discouraged, though. The local live music scene is still very much alive and kicking. Keep an eye out there and do your best to catch a favorite up-and-comer before they're asking you for $100 to see their show.
You're getting too big for your britches....music.