That ain’t rock & roll

One Saturday night I got a message from Splendour in the Grass stating: “Birds of Tokyo: worst band ever.”

“A bit strong”, I thought, they’re just another second rate, Muse inspired, overwrought band whose painfully earnest lyrics imply some urgency and greater meaning without ever actually outlining what that is.

The pitch rises in the second half of each line of the choruses so the songs sound suitably anthemic. Being dull and formulaic isn’t a serious enough crime against Rock & Roll to be deemed the worst band ever though.

The follow-up text sold me though: “they are recording a live album, so before they started the management came out and got the crowd to rehearse a chorus with words up on the big screen. RocknRoll.”

Australian music festivals used to be generally attended by those who considered themselves “alternative”, and who came with commitment to music and the bands they were going to see. They expected this commitment to go two ways; they never would have put up with shit like that.

The boom in big festivals in the 2000s has meant crowds who have little allegiance to music or even the scene; the plan is hedonism and validation from strangers of the “high five me man, I’m outrageous – I’m tackling a wheelie bin and rolling in the mud,” type.

What a perfect gimmick for a generation desperate for a slice of fame, no matter how small or sordid, “if you learn these words and sing them extra loud, you might be on our live album!”

The band can’t be confident to assume their audience will know the words to their songs because there are precious few actual fans; there are posers and chemical yobbos for whom the festival is about them, not the bands who just provide a soundtrack for the “festival experience” and need to be engaged about as much as a nightclub DJ.

More offensive is the “I wish we were big enough to sell out” behaviour of the band. How about get up and rock so fucking hard that you beat the audience into submission. Rock so hard that the sound on your live album is of an audience being turned on by your greatness.

No fucking shortcuts. You want a great live album? Be a band so loved by its fans that they know all your songs or convert the crowd there and then.

One Response to “That ain’t rock & roll”

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