LOS ANGELES – Last week I ended up on the set of a “music” show. Shortly after arriving at the backlot I ended up in a room jammed with people. It was unclear whether there were more hand-selected “fans,” crew, or cameras in the room. On one side of the warehouse, a minimalist stage was set up for a 3-piece band. The very presence of this made me happy, as I always enjoy seeing a new rock band play live.
As everyone settled in, the stage manager took the stage to announce that we would be hearing “three exciting songs” from the band about to play. After a few more minutes of setup accompanied by dead air space, a B-list celebrity took the stage and introduced the band, followed by the sound of forced excitement from the crowd.
The band took the stage. There was no count off, this should have been the first red flag. A track started to play (a track, not the band). The group of posers started to move about a bit while force-feeding plastic smiles to the hired audience. Less than 15 seconds into their showcase it was blatantly clear that no one was playing their instruments. The bassist held his left hand at the 19th fret while lazily almost following the beat with his right hand, exclusively on the low “E” string. This was complemented by the guitarist, whose lack of desire to strum on the music was only outmatched by their not even faux-chord hand positions throughout the song. The literal centerpiece of the day was the pillow-filled drum kit, featuring the featherweight taps (no pun intended) graced upon them by the collective’s drummer.
The “three exciting songs” turned out to be one track, played three times for the sake of camera angle options in post-production. At this point, we were far past “three strikes,” so I stopped trying to keep score.
This was a major label “band” that plays arenas. Arenas, meaning tens of thousands of participants willingly spend their hard-earned money to attend their concerts.
When did this slow decline down to unacceptable mediocrity start? Do people actually think following this safe, nondescript vanilla white bread makes them part of a “movement?”
I have always said that a concert is where I feel the most at home. But yesterday, I have never felt like more of an outsider.
We need a hard rock renaissance.
Where’s the next “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” Where’s the next “Good Times, Bad Times?” The lack of humanity in today’s music has made feel like I’ve been left in a purple haze.
Hard rock has always been the voice of the disenfranchised. As long as there are those who speak, but are not heard, there will always be a need for this medium.
It’s our time.
If you are a musician or a writer, don’t let these frustrating times get you down. For every yin, there is a yang. For every up, there is a down.
Practice. Write. Record. Play. Whatever your thing is, get to work. This slow decline took years to develop, but a hard rock resurgence could happen overnight. Why not have it be you?