Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Rock Music Sucks Now

"Rock music is boring right now," declared and lamented club owner Sam Lanni of Safari Sam's during their "Community Open House Meeting" on Tuesday night.

When the Militant first heard about this event, he was expecting people who lived around the corner to voice their opinions on possible parking, noise and/or littering issues from patrons of the 15-month old East Hollywood nightspot. Surely a new club inviting the community to speak out about whether they're a good neighbor or not is worth talking about.

Whether intentional or not, the event was totally different in nature and was more of a discussion on the state of the music industry, more specifically the live music scene in Los Angeles circa 2007. Either way, the Militant was interested.

Lanni complained about uninspired, homogenous "shoegazer" bands performing their droll repertoire to a thinned-out crowd who just stands there, meagerly clapping between songs, and worse, crowds only present for the 45 or so minutes the band they intended to see is onstage. When the set is over, they leave.

More than a few in the 30-or-so, almost exclusively white crowd (aside from the Militant, the only ethnic faces were those representing the local neighborhood council at their outreach table. And when the people from the "community" look more white than the people from the neighborhood council, something's not quite right...) chimed in, in accord, "That's an L.A. thing," Of course, insinuating that every person in Los Angeles, including the guy who sells oranges by the 101 offramp, is shallow, flaky and self-absorbed. Uh, okay. Though one woman, bless her soul, muttered, "That's how it is in Chicago, too..." but it's likely no one heard what she said, or wanted to recognize that such words were uttered.

But Lanni mentioned that his old-school country (not contemporary Nashville country, he stressed) shows don't exhibit those same traits as his rock shows -- the bands support each other and watch each other's sets, and the crowd has a great time. "I don't want to have to make this a country music club," he quipped.

One veteran in the crowd, however, recalled that back in the '80s, in the era of the most "L.A." of all "L.A. rock scenes" -- The '80s glam/hair metal era -- bands would support each other and watched each other's shows. He mentioned how a person going to, say, a Poison show back in the say, could easily spot members of Ratt or Motley Crue in the crowd. The camaraderie, he mentioned, is lost these days.

Of course, these days, the crowd agreed, there are a plethora of clubs in the scene, catering to an overabundance of bands.

The Militant blames it all on the indie rock thing. Maybe he's getting old, but he just doesn't get it. So a hipster can strap a battered Fender Mustang knockoff guitar around his neck and strum on a couple chords. What is driving him to do such an activity? Boredom? Conformity? Whatever it is, it's certainly not the same stuff that drove alienated young Britons in the '70s to make punk, nor is it anything close to what inspired African American youths in the West Bronx to create this music/movement/culture called hip-hop.

The Militant knows there are lots of scenes and sub-scenes, genres and sub-genres never discovered by the mainstream club scene, or even the "mainstream underground" club scene. Latino punk bands from South Los Angeles? Korean-American hip-hop events? (but oh, many of you have seen this one) many laugh because such notions are way out of their mainstream paradigms, and most of all don't fit the mainstream's ethnic-stereotyped compartments. But if one wants to look at art borne out of alienation and disenfranchisement, there's lots from our ethnic communities. They're more underground than "the underground," which is determined by tastemakers far removed (in so many ways) from the living, breathing multiculture of the ignored, the disregarded, the invisible. The Militant has seen (and may have even participated in) these beyond-underground scenes. Though the level of talent ranges from novice to the OMG, there is a definite drive and purpose to their artistry. The unfortunate thing is, they "preach to the choir" and are largely celebrated only within their own enclaves. Unfortunate, because they have incredible potential to educate others about their own cultures, yet in most cases that has not yet come to their realization.

But as clubs, promoters and the like either lament the lack of creativity or originality, or merely perpetuate it, something is going on outside their windows that they might really be long as they recognize it's there.


Ed Padgett said...


May I suggest the Airliner? Located off the 5 Freeway at Broadway, with a DJ in the bar and live bands out back. Tuesday nights is Ragsta Nite, and the crowd is a melting pot of different races and ages.

The air is filled the scent of marijuana and Jamaican food, and I always enjoy my visits after work, if just to watch the people.

This Sunday I will visit the Venice Bistro or Naja’s in Redondo Beach, for the live music, if you’re in the area Sunday contact me.

BentswoodGirl said...

Hi Militant! I found your blog! No I will not become a deranged fan determined to find out your identity.

I agree with Ed. Airliners is an awesome bar/venue. I've been there on a couple of Saturday nights when there's been Oi! bands in the back patio, and ska/northern soul playing in the upstairs room. Some folks may be turned off that the music attracts skinheads, but thankfully they're the non-aryan types who have no problem dancing with anyone of any color. I've never come across any pretentious jerks or the slightest hint of attitude. Just people who want to enjoy their Saturday night drinking beer and skanking.

If Lanni doesn't like the state of music in Los Angeles, then he shouldn't book bands that he deems boring. Granted, he's trying to run a business, but if he stepped away from his club for one night and went to other small venues, preferably in the San Gabriel Valley (okay, I'm from there so I have a bias), he could find some great bands to have play at his place.

Another thing: any band coming out of Silver Lake these days who are described or describe themselves as "shoegazer" is NOT shoegaze. Just a lame Dandy Warhols/Brian Jonestown Massacre ripoff. I was the lone shoegaze/Britpop kid at my high school and my life is defined by real shoegaze bands like Ride and Pale Saints. That stuff from bands like Silversun Pickups is just a distorted mess.

Finally, I'd like to suggest that Lanni visit the Anarchy Library in Norwalk where a healthy, supportive punk scene remains.

philpalm said...

How about the 70's where a Jazz band like Hiroshima had to play the dance ciruit among the Asian Americans?

I'm pretty sure some folks miss the days of Madam Wong's where being booked there means something. New Rock Venues will take a while and you never know if the base (of fans) comes later or if the idea of showcasing starting bands needs at least a requirement of playing ability or setting new sights in music. said...

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Don said...

I blame the bands on the fans staying only for their set. Come on guys, when you promote your show, indicate that there are other bands playing with you on your flyers and your e-mails. Start your set by complimenting whoever was on before you. End your set by plugging whoever comes on next. Your fans spent a ridiculous amount of money (which the "promoter" is going to pocket giving you a pittance for). Let them know that they're getting a whole evening for their bucks. When I was playing out in Chicago, it was the rare artist that had her fans only there for her. Here, it seems pretty much de rigeur and it's part of the culture of the bands that's to blame, I think.

Brian De Loera said...

Ever go to the smell in downtown? You should.

Safari Sams was really fun last summer, but now, it's lacking.

Anonymous said...

Well I've seen far more bad bands at Safari Sam's than good ones. If the owner has an issue with the 'quality of acts', maybe he should actually work and find them! I was at that meeting and I clearly heard Sam say he has no time to spend on finding quality acts for his venue. so what was the point of that meeting again?

Karen said...

Check it out people wicked place for music, videos and a place where unsigned artists can sign up and sell their music!!