I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately amongst the newest and, as we’re told, brightest new bands to emerge from the pages of glossy magazines to the bright stages of corporate concert venues across this country. They all claim to love their fans. Not only do they claim it, but they shout it from the pages, as if it were the last merit badge keeping them from the eternal bragging rights of Eagle Scout-hood. They all love their fans, to hear it from them, but the fans never see them. Never. Ever. When’s the last time Hayley Williams was seen at a merch stand, signing autographs and talking to the kids that idolize her? If you want to take that timeline back even further, include the lack of a publicist into the equation.
I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend lately amongst the newest and, as we’re told, brightest new bands to emerge from the pages of glossy magazines to the bright stages of corporate concert venues across this country. They all claim to love their fans. Not only do they claim it, but they shout it from the pages, as if it were the last merit badge keeping them from the eternal bragging rights of Eagle Scout-hood. They all love their fans, to hear it from them, but the fans never see them. Never. Ever. When’s the last time Hayley Williams was seen at a merch stand, signing autographs and talking to the kids that idolize her? If you want to take that timeline back even further, include the lack of a publicist into the equation. The point of this isn’t to rag on Hayley, who I think is an amazing talent, even if she does have a bitchy reputation, but for once I want these receptacles of my money to be honest with me. If you don’t want to hang out with us then say so. I think we can all understand the awkward smile and shoulder shrug when you get invited by some weird frat guy to pound beers at the house, but is there really anything so wrong with taking a cell phone picture with the freshmen president of your fan club?
I guess my biggest beef isn’t with these bands at all, more accurately it’s with the music industry that these bands are thrown into, and forced to play by rules far removed from their own. Hayley isn’t just a girl. She’s not even just a girl singer. She’s a product. She’s the Paramore product. I’m sorry if this is news to the rest of the band, but then again, delusion and musicians have always gone together nicely. In this strange world of instant fulfillment and people who consider Myspace Platinum to be an actual thing, bands and even solo artists are launched into the big world of national tours and major labels far too quickly. Rock n’ Roll doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment, and it certainly doesn’t deserve the disrespect that these kids are heaping upon it.
I recently saw two concerts, two concerts which could not have been more different as far as content, but each was an amazing experience in its own way. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and Tim Barry each held court less than a month apart at The Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach, and my hope is that some young kid saw these performances and learned the proper way to do it.
Black Joe Lewis is a blues outfit from Austin, Texas, and they play a style of funky blues that can only be described as dirty. Filthy even. He has a big band, 2 guitars, bass, drums, 3-piece horns, and they are tight, so tight in fact that they were often finding themselves playing breakneck rhythms and approaching the verge of chaos. It was amazing. Watch a musicians face when he can’t play any faster, but he’s also not going to be the first link to break. There is an ecstasy there, an ethereal boner, emanating from his fingers and eyes. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears is filthy roadhouse blues played the way it should be, in a shitty restaurant/club with low ceilings and bathrooms without stall doors. I beg you to see them if ever you get the chance, because they will not be playing places like the JewMa for long, they’re too good, and the world isn’t fair.
Tim Barry. The man. The Legend. Say the name Avail in a Richmond Fan bar and sit back. Faces will light up, metal horns will go up, and story after story will be told. It’s beautiful.
Tim Barry was, once upon a time, the lead singer of legendary hardcore band Avail, traveling the world rocking faces and inspiring the generation we hear now. The Tim Barry we are blessed with hearing now is a far shot removed from that man, if only in volume levels. He plays acoustic guitar driven folk/punk songs now, traveling the country in his van, but still dropping jaws wherever he goes. My best friend Matt and I had our first date at a Tim Barry show years ago when he was on his first tour as a solo artist. We saw him at The Jewish Mother, Matt got tanked, and I found a voice I could believe in. So now, several years later, Matt and I were seeing him again, three album cycles later, and he hasn’t lost a step. I have an unending respect for a man who takes the stage with only his guitar, knowing that he is idolized by every person in the room, and says, “Thanks for coming out on this shitty Tuesday. What the fuck do ya’ll wanna hear? What? No, I’m not playing that fucking song. Alright, yeah, here were go.” I sat transfixed for an hour and change while he played his beautiful, gruff songs, took a shot of whiskey, walked through the audience while we sang for him, and finally thanked us all for coming and asked if anyone had a joint he could hit while walking his dog. Tim Barry’s a man. He’s a man singing songs that only a man would risk singing. During his second song he delivered the greatest line I’ve ever heard a musician utter, “I’m out of tune and I don’t give a fuck!”
I guess, in the end, I’m asking, begging really, that all you small bands out there slow down. Don’t be in such a rush to hit the big stages, but enjoy those small ones where we can sing with you and share it all. Enjoy the smiling faces, crowd-sung choruses, and most of all enjoy the dirty low ceilings before it all becomes a business for you.
by Scott Harris
I thought this made a good point but is strictly the opinion of the author. – RVA