Live music and the fear of genre

Live music and the fear of genre

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Music is something that is very personal and opinionated. An artist tells a story using music to reflect how the listener should feel. Sometimes it is a dark essence and at other times there can be a lighthearted feel. There are sad songs that can play and capture feelings from breakups and make a person stop and say, “Hey someone else has felt what I feel.” Then there are songs that come on and rescue us from despair and make us want to sing along at the top of our lungs. All in all though: music saves.

The variety and location where music plays also tells a story about the listener. There is live music, or bands that try to entertain us. Some metal bands or punks will say that entertainment is for sell-outs, but venues book bands to sell drinks and get people to come in. They know that there is a special kind of patron who goes out on an evening to listen to bands play, and their special money is waiting to be burned. The bars that have live bands usually have a certain aura compared to others. Look at The Red Star or Stargate compared to The Tap Room or Norm’s. There is cleanliness to The Red Star and Stargate that is in direct opposite to the grittiness of The Tap Room or Norm’s. Not to say that the Tap or Norm’s are dirty, but it just has this feel. It is probably the colors, lights, sounds, smells, and energy.

When a patron walks into the Red Star and orders a drink it costs a bit more than at Norm’s, but you are paying for the ambience. At the Red Star there is this upper-class feel and just by ordering one drink and stirring it with your straw you can feel like a high class pimp-daddy, or an upper-shelf spender. No “stringers” of Pabst Blue Ribbon here (ahh the Nor Shor), martinis and vodka-cranberries being sipped with straws stirring. At the Tap Room there are the beer swillers, but you see more Jack-Coke, shots, or exotic drinks being ordered. What you don’t see is someone sipping a margarita, which would only come from bars that would never play live music. There must be something about live music and giant drinks not meshing; it would be hard to shake your booty while holding a giant daiquiri from Grandma’s or Lil’ Angie’s. One common element to all of these places though is that you must yell to be heard by your nightlife companions.

This yelling is a part of the evening’s rule book too. Sometimes you will see a person with earplugs in at a huge concert, but when you see them at the bar they are always yelling. Why do people wear earplugs and then try to have a normal conversation? In fact, why would someone need earplugs for a live show at a bar? There are times when you go to a show and wonder why the music is so loud that you cannot think. Do they sell more drinks the louder the music is, thinking that the less people can talk the more they can drink? I suppose that if someone is going to meet up with friends to chat that Pizza Luce’ while a hard rock band performs would be a poor choice of where to do it. Then when the crowd yells louder the musicians get mad that people are not paying attention and turn up the volume. That is what makes the uniqueness of Luce’ work so well for little known bands; the bar is closed off from the band. How they can support TBT and The Alrights headlining Homegrown is beyond me, but we’ll see. Every bar becomes a pain when it fills up, which is why the crowds of Duluth are probably so spread out.

So far the only bar where you can get served quickly on a busy night is at Grandma’s Sports Garden. Even on Halloween after the long wait to enter it never takes long to get a drink. This might be because they have no live music and hence don’t have to make the exotic drinks we talked about earlier or have the heavy drinking crowd. Nothing is more comical than watching about 20 people in the middle of what looks like a school gym shaking to 5 year old club tunes. You probably can get a drink so quickly because this is not where a heavy drinker goes, and if they do come the “Pitcher” of fruity drinks can be dangerous. Can you imagine if The Tap Room served pitchers of drinks while TBT played? It would be like a scene out of some crazy 80s party movie with people running around with underwear on their heads and screaming.

So as you go out this weekend remember that your local watering hole has a specific genre of drinker they are trying to capture. The question is which one are you?