The Music Scene vs music scenes

The power and importance of music in everyday life is hard to deny. It inspires, it unites, it creates, it expresses; and most importantly it’s always evolving. One genre grows out of another one consistently, or the barriers between them blur so much that you have no idea where one ends and the other begins, even though you’re completely sure that they do. Blues gave us rock and roll, which gave us heavy metal, which gave us death metal, and I’m sure death metal will at some point give us something even more extreme (although the prospect of that scares me somewhat…). Now blues and death metal are so far removed from each other in sound and style that to compare them seems ludicrous, but without people like Robert Johnson and later Chuck Berry you wouldn’t have bands like Obituary and Cannibal Corpse. That’s the beauty of the Music Scene: you can never tell what will spring from what, who will draw inspiration from who and exactly where the next new thing is going to come from. The potential for cross-pollination between genres is immense and that allows the growth that we see as bands continue to push music forwards. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you think of the results of this growth (personally listening to Obituary reminds me of listening to a grinding machinery) but it matters that this growth is taking place.

The problem is that the creation of all these genre’s doesn’t take place just within this theoretical realm of the music scene; it also creates smaller scenes within itself, and here is where I think the problems associated with musical growth and creativity develop. There is a certain mindset amongst people that says one thing is better simply because those people view it to be so. Now people are clearly welcome, and should be encouraged, to like and support whatever music they want to, but when they start to become sectarian in the granting of the support it starts to form the kind of elitism that can only ever damage music, both as an industry and as a creative process. Case in point, I recently went to see the band A Day to Remember at Brixton Academy. I think they’re a great band, and evidently so do many others as the venue sold out well on advance, and you could tell the love people felt for them by hearing what people were saying (it doesn’t count as eavesdropping if they’re a foot away from you and you can’t help it!) and also in how they acted during the gig. This is great, exactly what we want from music fans, but my problem came before when the support band, Bayside, came on to play. Now Bayside are nowhere near as heavy as A Day to Remember, but they are certainly not so removed in style as to be considered an insane choice of support. The problem for me was that people booed them. Now if they were a terrible band, or illogical choice of support fair enough, but this wasn’t the case here. Bayside are a very talented band, and people recognised that by the end as the booing had died down. My logical assumption then is that they were just booing them on principal: I don’t know them and they’re not exactly like the band I want so they deserve abuse. This is elitism of the worst kind, a my-way-or-the-high-way approach which has no place in artistic creativity. A friend of mine said to me, with sarcasm so dry a camel would find itself dehydrated, “If I can’t windmill to it I’m not interested,” and someone nearby turned around and, without any hint of irony, laughed and said “hell-yeah.” That’s a complete disregard for absolutely every kind of music beyond one ridiculously small niche, and that’s an attitude that should not be encouraged by anyone.

It’s not the case just in that particular scene either. Punk music fans have derided bands for selling out because they didn’t keep playing the exact same style of music throughout every album; some pretentious indie fans condemn anything with pop elements in it as being without deeper meaning
and artistic merit; even something as mainstream as pop creates an attitude where the only acceptable music is one that you love straight away and forget instantly. This is not a good approach to have. There is no inherently bad music. There are inherently bad performers; those who can’t sing or play, or who just create something that just destroys what they seek to venerate. This is not the music’s fault, it is the people using it. Anyone who can’t at least attempt to understand why someone else likes something rather than just condemn it as being without merit for being different commits a form of musical snobbery, and music is supposed to be one of the great equalisers in the world.

You can argue about why; decline of the music industry, rise of digital sharing, over-commercialisation of bands etc; I won’t go into it here because I’ve ranted enough. However, we need to remember that if we only venerate particular scenes within music we’re hurting ourselves. Music needs to evolve continually or it becomes stale; that’s why particular bands come in and out of fashion so quickly. It’s fine to like a particular genre but people need to be open. If we love the Music Scene as a whole, rather than just individual parts of it then who knows where it might take us in 10 years time.

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