Question Of The Week: What About Robb?
Sometimes ya just wanna scream: You’re at a show, surrounded by people, but nobody is present. They’re there, but their minds are elsewhere. A band plays in front of huge banners that advertise shitty soft drinks and worse liquor, one eye on the clock and on the next load-out and road-trip. You’re reminded to buy merch, you’re ordered to mosh, you’re told to enjoy yourself — as though it’s up to only you. You’re hardly welcome, barely a guest in front of a production that seems to vibe “Hey, we’ve trained ourselves to please you, so be pleased or get fucked.” Half the time the band then turns around and asks you to front money for their next record! What a drag.
Has it always been this way? This is today’s Question Of The Week!
Inspired by a old-school thrash metal guy’s rant about the death of magic in modern music, we asked our staff:
Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn unveiled this week a lengthy lament about the state of the music industry. How much of his vibe do you relate to?
Are we on the right track? Rant on below!
Robb’s got a few years on me, so I found a few of his statements had a “get off my lawn” feel to them. But I find a lot to agree with in what he wrote. The thrust of it — that the industry has sanitized music to the point where it’s impotent — is spot on. While stricter club guidelines have, you know, saved lives, they’ve done it at the expense of spontaneity. The allure of punk, metal, and so on is that it’s wild: Even a band as painstakingly constructed as Origin emits a vibe of a caged beast. Appearing in public could rile up their fanbase, and who knows what could happen next? Except now we do: The show shuts down at curfew, lights come up, we all go out to our cars to drink somewhere else. And while I usually groan at the “MORE LIKE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK!” complaints of the horrifically aged, there’s something to be said about the lack-of-a-shared-experience angle. Everyone’s far more connected than they’ve ever been, but for what? So they can show up at shows, be very closely corralled, then go home at a predetermined time? It’s no wonder half the crowd is on their phone — it’s no different an experience than going to Applebee’s. But Robb Flynn — the old-school anti-authoritarian he is — points out that the industry has ruined music. People don’t love live music anymore because most of the music being pushed on people is a product. You don’t need passion to sell records, just the right hooks and management. Even mallcore bands aren’t much more than cleverly-groomed domestic animals plugging drop-B riffs into a template. To someone who’s made music all his life, of course no one’s passionate about music anymore. The older I get, I can’t help but agree.
Robb Flynn makes a point, but airing this kind of grief does little but create an echo chamber for negativity. The past, as beautiful as it seems, is gone. Focus on today and on results, ye passionate music people: Keep a clean house and a patient heart. Practice music fandom the way you feel it should be done and cheer on those around you. Speak with your money and your habits. Bit by bit, the tide will turn as we grow comfortable with our new society — one which has not been experienced by those who came before us. That is, we are the first people to ever live this lifestyle — cameras always on hand, information in seconds, deafening communication but little connection — so let’s cut a lot of slack to each other (even those whose panic and short-sightedness is crippling our whole vibe). We’ll all get better at it. Do your best and try not to worry.
I think Robb has the right mentality — but is looking at it the wrong way. The reason these clubs have a curfew and don’t allow kids to smoke weed is because they’ve been fined, raided, and shut down for doing so. They charge a ton of money because many bands ask for more money, and because they know a lot of kids will pay it. He talks about ‘no rules, no security, no curfew’, but now that kind of shit results in Dimebags and Randy Blythes. I agree that music now feels more like a commodity and that it takes a concerted effort to live outside of that. But I also think the Internet is a good thing, and that the bands that really matter aren’t all about their Facebook page or blog. That’s an easy excuse, but at the core of it all, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. To put it another way: You want things to change? Change them. Get those you know to open a venue somewhere where noise complaints won’t get filed, so you can have no curfew. Charge whatever you want at the door. Be the band that exists without Facebook likes or YouTube channels. I agree — something needs to change. Someone needs to stir the pot. But the first place you should look for the change you want to see is the mirror.
DAVID LEE ROTHMUND
When you’re right you’re right! All our earholes are being babysat and goddammit, metal shows don’t last long enough. This is why I’m always on Facebook and Twitter posting pictures of my diet salad and also why people are blowing themselves to bits in the name of God or whoever. Music sucks today so we should just like give it up. Metal sucks.