Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Bagpipes

A few years ago, a local restaurateur and blues aficionado had a run-in with city hall.  His restaurant is located on a lively commercial strip, but some uptight yuppies decided that, even though they had bought condos in this neighbourhood, that they did not like the blues.

City Hall, in all their wisdom and knowledge of all things musical, decided to downgrade said entrepreneur's license to allow only two acoustic musicians. A music-friendly city councilor stepped in with a brilliant argument. He told the unrepentant bureaucrats that in keeping with these new guidelines, two bagpipe players would be acceptable.

Bagpipes being, oh so very traditional, the bureaucrats were, of course, familiar with them and the prodigious amounts of decibels that they can produce. They new by-law was eventually repealed. One point for musicians this time, but the specter of gentrification had reared it's ugly head. An ominous precursor of things to come.

The following years led to a condo tower building frenzy, as demented developers salivated at even the smallest parcel of land. Greed and lack of vision prevailed and the master plan unfolded.

Music venues began quietly shutting down one by one, not going out with a bang, but rather a slow and steady fade.

The latest casualty was an unassuming run-down bar that showcased young and energetic punk bands.
Their music license was abruptly canceled. A quick look at what is literally in the bar's backyard gives a tacitly implied reason as to the catalyst. There looms a 35 story condo tower, forcibly wedged into an impoverished neighbourhood. It's empty windows grin down upon the street like the rotten teeth of a specter of doom.

An unlikely juxtaposition and a fitting metaphor of what has become of live music venues in most North American cities.

Here are few other good ways to get rid of live music altogether.

1. Bad Music Between Sets.

Some promoters and clubs just don't seem to get it. Nothing kills the vibe of an evening more than playing crappy, unrelated  music between sets. At a recent Nick Curran show, I asked myself why the hell I was listening to goddam Supertramp between sets. A truly despicable band if there ever was one, It was pure idiocy to even think of playing this.

The even sadder part, is that most patrons didn't seem to notice. To me and my greasy buddies, it was the aural equivalent of a punch in the mouth.

2. Crazy Dancers.

Blues clubs seem to have the lion's share of spazzed out dancers absolutely devoid of any sense of rhythm. It is usually inevitable that a few of them will wind up on the floor, flat on their asses. Lacking any dignity whatsoever, these lunatics will carry on with their antics to the point of actually distracting the band. It is a deterrent to enjoying the show, and is akin to having a car crash occurring right before you on the dance floor. Sometimes, you are embarrassed for them

The only advice I have is, sit down and shut up. If it were legal, I would have these people duct taped to their chairs.

3. The Wedding Band.

Not being a fan of these dogmatic rituals, I rarely attend them. On the odd occasion where I had a social obligation to attend, I would cringe at the utter cheesiness of the band. It's not their fault, however. I have seen many really good musicians relegated to playing in a wedding band.

They are able to receive a more than adequate pay, but are destined to being nothing more than human I-pods.

There must be a special place in hell for people who make lame requests (are there no there kind ?) to bands.

4.The Bad Venue.

Although some promoters' hearts may be in the right place, their choice of venues is sometimes the wrong place. A surefire way of dooming a band to a bad night is to book them in the most inappropriate of places.

Squares on a quest to acquire nobility for  themselves cannot be bothered to hear live music as they try to order expensive bottles of wine who's name they can barely pronounce. It also distracts them from the pretentious conversations that they are attempting to engage in.

Chances are the band is getting paid a mere pittance, or worse, nothing at all. It is always amusing to see the the expression on the yuppies' faces when the band passes the hat around.

These type of humourless people are easily annoyed. I used to derive perverse pleasure from playing a really twangy Buck Owens tune just to see the expression on their faces. It's as if they had just gotten a whiff of some really stinky ass.

5. Skid Bars.

Not being one to look down my nose at skid bars, I must admit that I have spent many a good evening in the dirtiest of the skid bars. Drunks mooching quarters, stinky toilets and crazed barroom brawls notwithstanding, I have had some good times.

I used to go to a particular one that had a blind country singer. He was actually quite talented, and when he asked if anyone had a request, he would know some of the most obscure country songs from the last fifty years.

The jukebox had, many classics, probably because nobody ever bothered to change the songs. Heads would turn whenever I would plug quarters into that classic music box. Most people were probably too broke to put money into that old jukebox.

Due the untimely demise of many venues, bands have successfully convinced some skid bars to host live music. Unfortunately, many people are apprehensive about venturing into these places or the neighborhoods that they are located in.

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that stink.

6. Bad Sound Techs.

There are many good sound techs out there, but sadly, there are more inept ones. There is an over abundance of mullet sporting burnouts who's brains have been addled by years of classic rock. Having mastered the rudiments of an analog soundboard, they venture out into clubs plying their trade, and mixing everything as if it was the world's loudest heavy metal band.

Elusive as the rare Vancouver Island marmot, they are rarely found at their posts. They are easy to track, however, as one simply has to follow the stench of cheap weed as they lurk in the shadows somewhere outside the bar.

They will get very defensive when you tell them that you can't hear the vocals in the mix, as they perceive themselves as great, misunderstood artists.

The guitar player usually ends up doing the mix, as the sound-dude sits at the bar and gets hammered on cheap whiskey.

Remember cats and kittens, support live music, you will probably run into me at some local skid bar listening to some rock 'n' roll or at the next highland games where there will be 500 bagpipe players.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, my darling, I am booking Brandiz at 122 East Hastings right in the heart of the liquor license moratorium in the Downtown Eastside just down from Main and Hastings (PILL CORNER), so we are open till 1am on weekends. Bad area for some lilly-livered music connoisseurs, but WTF? It's happening - great sound system and the bands are the hottest things on this side of Vancouver, so take a freaking peak at it - will ya?