Music in Duluth

What is your genre?

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Is live music dead or have many bands just digressed to the point of where they don’t really care if anyone likes their music?

Being a “reviewer,” I spend many weekends out and about listening to live bands perform. Sadly, a lot of the time I have to try to find something that is compelling enough in a band’s music to tell other people about it.

My hope by writing articles is that others will go out and experience the nightlife, eventually making it a better environment for all… Because in the end isn’t it all about the energy of a place? If the band sucks then the energy sucks, and if there are no people at the venue then there is no energy either, and so on, and so on...

Sometimes it is easy to find something in a band that the majority of readers will identify with, but other times it is more of a stretch. Just like almost all national bands today, most locals can at least write one hit song on their CD. Others make you cringe and make the job difficult...

So should I tell you about the crappy local bands or just not write about them?

History shows that there are so many more one-hit-wonder bands out there than there are bands who can sustain a long term erection of a music career. Most bands couldn’t even raise a sail with a healthy dose of Viagra and a great producer at the helm. (Maybe that is why Phil Spector is knocking off girls at his house?)

The real question is why don’t small time bands realize that they are one step above a garage band? Quite a few are premadonnas after recording a few tracks and bank their future on being “rockstars”.

Some bands that suck will even talk about “genre”… Most of them are bands that stink and they use the “genre” argument to justify their awful music. Just because they copied some obscure band that only a handful of people liked but they found provocative, they think that they are making the crappy sound work. I tend to disagree.

Not that I am saying that everyone should write sugar-coated pop ditties that grandma would even dance to, but at least open your eyes and notice when a crowd is unimpressed. Throw in a cover of a good song, or do you think that songwriters are overrated or something? Do you think that in 2007 you are going to be the band that changes it all? Do you think any band that ever made it did so without playing a few covers?

Truth be told, bands like Led Zeppelin will flat out tell you they ripped off tons of songs, and were sued by blues artists and rock and rollers along the way. How many songs on the radio today are rehashed old songs? Hit songs with things called “hooks”...

Heavy metal fans and lots of harder bands don’t like me, and frankly I don’t have enough anger in me to understand their music anymore.

While watching Ozzfest on MTV there was a 40ish guy wearing a Scorpions t-shirt talking about how harder, heavier metal music chooses the person, not vice versa. Thank goodness I was never “chosen”, but for my young and angry days I found rap appealing in the same respect.

Don’t we all grow out of our angry stage of life though? Once you hit your twenties is there really a venue for hard music outside of at the gym with some steroid-inflated, wearing a fanny pack and Zubas, grunting while lifting weights kind of place?

Eventually rap music became crap music toward the mid-to-late 1990s and then it all was just labeled hip-hop. Where rap had originally exposed racism to middle-America, hip-hop was all about being a player and had less political affirmation.

Then came the turn of the century and dark music for that whole new generation. Those same Iron Maiden types of the 80s were the next generation of Korn and Tool black t-shirt wearers. More angry music that really never stands the test of time (unless you count that new car commercial on TV with the African American guy calling out the dude with Michael Bolton). I am just a bit too old to have relished in Korn’s greatness, but instead I was looking for something more substantial in my music.

Which at that time was a band called The Doors. Then came a healthy obsession with The Beatles, Stones, Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, Monterey Pop Festival, Isle of Wight, Otis Redding, Cream, Deep Purple, John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat, The Animals, Crosby, Stills, Nash , & Young, Elvis Presley, Love, Jim Hendrix, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Chuck Berry, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan.

I wanted the vinyl copies of these bands too, the authentic stuff that had the “dirt” in it as Brian Jones of the Stones called it.

I wanted to hear what music sounded like that was being dripped into an acid test in San Francisco in 1966 to hear why it was so earth shattering. I read Lester Bangs’ Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and learned how music was once everyone’s entire being.

Bangs once wrote about Jim Morrison’s 1968 Miami incident, “How inspiring to see the onetime atropine-eyed Byronic S&M Lizard King come clean stumbling around the stage with a Colt 45 in hand and finally wave his dong at the teeny minions who came there to see him hold both it and his gut in and gave them some more vivid production which communicated nothing real but suggested everything a fertile pube brain could dredge up!”

After reading that I knew I could never write at the level he did, so obviously my music was never as important to my generation as it was to his.

Now when you read “reviewers” who try to sound like that in every magazine out there and pretend to know everything that they are only faking it. We never have people like Lester Bangs today, and music as inspiring as this.

Bangs once wrote a review of Van Morrison that was ten pages long and had about two sentences about Morrison. It talked about a mid-1960s song called “96 Tears” and how it was rough and a precursor to metal. (Or was Jimi Hendrix, of whom Heavy Metal was coined for according to some sources in rock lore?)

The point is that the whole genre thing with “country” or “metal” is really a disguise for crappy music. If it is great most people will acknowledge it, if it is put into a category than the war is already over.