Rock music is not dead. I know, I know. “…there’s nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.” I could hear Dr. Evil’s famous words echo mockingly in my head as I wrote that first sentence. But, sincerely, this is not declaration about reviving the good ol’ days. Rather I want to express a revived sense of understanding I gained after my most recent show with Adam Pitts & the Pseudo Cowboys. I believe there’s still a place for the rock n roll sound in our modernized culture because it’s the spirit of rock that will always resonate with people. At least I believe that’s what I was witnessing on 6/15/13…
…or was it just because me, Michael and GQ are just so ridiculously good-looking on stage?… kidding.
Times certainly have changed. And consequently, music has had to change with them, simultaneously reflecting and shaping the zeitgeist of each era. In recent years it seems music has become increasingly mechanized-sounding, losing a lot of the human touch that I find distinguishes records by my favorite artists from days of yore. Is this because everyday human existence is becoming more and more technology-infused? Maybe the sounds that comprise the basic building blocks of rock music - drums, bass, and distorted guitars - aren’t as relatable to the day-to-day life of the modern person.
Rock n’ roll used to be this highly-stimulating, almost taboo outlet shared in our culture. But now there are so many options to entertain oneself that rock’s shock-value has been diluted. It doesn’t help either that rock so easily slips into a caricature of itself when done poorly. Heck, it got to the point in the past decade where you can almost smell the faux-rebellion.
But that’s not the genre’s fault. That’s just the course of things as they are chewed up and processed in consumer markets. Knock-offs of a decent original idea end up populating distribution channels until it grows out of control… like when you feed a Mogwai after midnight or spill water on it.
This oversaturation/imminent death cycle is exactly what we’ve seen happen to rock music, particularly in the past two decades. Eddie Vedder begets Scott Stapp; Scott Stapp begets Chad Kroger; Chad Kroger and Avril Lavigne beget some sort of demon seed I’m certain will be the antichrist.
At any rate, I don’t blame people for feeling burned out on the rock sound and image. But it might just be that the scorched earth left behind by the prior Nickleback/Canadian-rock invasion decade has supplied fertile ground from which new sprouts can grow.
With all this in mind, I was a little surprised by the reaction we got on June 15th. It felt like we were working with a blank slate that night – like the smoke has cleared and people were allowing the raw elements of the rock n roll sound affect them. There was no pretense or us trying to live up to a certain expected image of a rock band. We were just working with the basic colors of our palette and that was enough. People were dancing, clapping along, bobbing their heads to music they’ve never heard before. My music! I was pure.
I can’t say for sure, but I think there may still be a window for me to slip through with kind of the music that I like create and perform. Why? Because no matter how advanced our existence becomes, there’s always going to be a part of people that rock music uniquely allows to be expressed. I believe it’s the physicality of the sound which speaks to the component of our being that pushes us to thrive, to command our time and space, to copulate, etc. Let’s just call it the will. Rock n roll and the will are inseparable. It’s that Elvis Presley snarl. It’s Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire. It’s the attitude that causes us to guffaw when we see it because it stirs the fight inside us all.
I’m not saying our performance was like Queen at Wembley Stadium or something transcendent like that. I’m just saying it was thrilling to see what I’ve been trying to communicate all this time finally connecting with people. Moving people. Maybe it’s the timing of things. While I don’t think rock n roll will ever drive our culture again, I believe it’s not entirely irrelevant in the modern landscape.
In a way, I’m kind of glad it’s no longer a part of the mainland. Now it’s more like an island for you and I exclusively to go and play on.
See you there on the next holiday.