Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the versus verses and other unke(mmm)pt promises

[above image and concept property of Mama Know Nothing]

Marketing is getting me again. Or - what was that lovely little word from Anonymous (sjoe, there are so many of you now, i keep confusing your faces) - the 'half-assed' interpretation of marketing.

Marketing is a promotional tool, not a promise. i should know that. You may not care. i may not care that you may not care. Et cetera. The fact remains that every time someone promises a showdown between two DJs, soloists, bands, or MCs, i get interested. X versus Y this weekend, it goes. Ooh, i go. And so i go. Or, i used to.

It works, promising violence. We like to see a bit of bravado, peeps pitting themselves against one another. Competition, after all, is an instinct, so it belongs to the best and the rest of us; it’s embedded in our egos and in our will to live (erm, ok, trainspotters aside). On a more basic level of existence, competition is also known as the fight for survival, the need to succeed (argh. how does the copywriting creep in?) and that’s why talk of it titillates even the civilized (or especially, as we’ve discovered; the developed world is not necessarily mature or responsible or compassionate). At the promise of some blood (be it a musical metaphor), some guts (be it sonic), some actual combat on the decks or the stage, i get excited. i think, 'hey, what? They’re going to pit themselves against each other? What’s the prize?' (the Audience is the prize. Remember that)... or, 'wow. Duel. They’re going to have to interact with each other's material! How friggin revolutionary.' (excuse my sarcasm, but you may or may not have heard of the non-violent form thereof, - that almost extinct instinct: co-lla-bo-ration. say it slowly, it'll come back to you like an ancient memory. And no, it's not illegal, but it is dangerous, and you should be afraid, very afraid – it can lead to spontaneous creativity). But no - no promises kept, no tête-à-tête, no one-up(wo/)manship. You go to the gig, and it's, like, “just the bands, bru; the support, the headline, hey…ja-no, like 'versus' was like a clever way of saying there'd be two bands, you know, back to back [‘they faced each other?’] Not that there normally aren’t, but like, we don't wanna fight, hey, we just wanna make music and be friends and like -bru! Check their asshole vocalist there, and his gay walk. You know he tried to sleep with my, like, girlfriend last week, hey. Doos. I’m gonna fucking killim. Ja, hi dude. Howzit man. Sweet.”

mm. Dirty skirts and Taxi Violence disappointed me that way a long time ago. (remember the classic poster? – Jess and George in duotone raising their fists at each other.

They raised the ceiling separately on the night).

Mama Know Nothing and [Them] Tornados should’ve known better than to pull that move at Albert Hall, too. (See, Anonymous? even my precious ones aren't safe from the scissorthoughts, and I use these examples because the good and the bad of these bands sticks in my head, not because of their hair or my hormones. Ahem.).

Actually, wait, no – I disagree with myself. After last night's collaboration at Zula bar and the Backyard Crew ( ), i fully forgive the five blues|rock-folksters. Inviting the first act of a trio of genre-splicing sounds on stage with them, Mama Know Nothing proved their musical buoyancy a bit beyond the norm. There's Sannie (on top form despite the crackly PA, btw, and completely captivating) sharing a mic with Galina, ad-libbing lyrics and swaying in time to Kideo’s MCing to the beat of his brothers' feet which mimic the call and response of Vannemerwe and Mashonisa’s hollers under Hagar’s lead strings letting Point 2 make a point or three hand-in-hand with Fez plucking depth from thin things while gruff Kurt keeps the beat with a flourish that jazz training alone cannot incur.

It worked. They reworked a song on the spot, splicing hip hop and blues-rock. Ok, Hagar is right – they chose a song open to interpretation and fiddling. But they did it without practicing, without thinking, with love and laughter. They did it well and something happened on stage – something started. I hope they’ll write a song together. Big up to the boys for being so keen on merging musical memes …we want more fusion intrusion. (I want copywriting to dissppaaaate.)

So. It does happen. Co-lla-bor-ation. Even if this time it was a secret surprise for the select few who risked having their nights brought alive by people with a bit of vision and a lot of talent.

However. Collaboration is as rare as real combat. So until everyone and their girlfriend slash groupie slash wannabe public relations person start writing press releases and fan page updates that actually deliver what they claim, i ignore claims about aural adversaries like i ignore bad bands (that one's for limpwrist. pity your prodding into people's personal lives had about as much impact as your music does, hey? wasteoftime).

and this might be a floating point (or it might be my main one), but i would've thought there'd be a bit more honesty and integrity in indie-pendent music marketing, considering it doesn't have to answer to anybody (except its Audience...remember that.) Unless, of course, the cynics and sages are right, and everyone's just in it for the pert perks, not the love.

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