Being as it is that I live in a small resort mountain town–in which the greatest variety of culture and arts on any given night is to go down to the casinos and listen to a black guy on a synthesizer crooning to washed up old white gamblers drinking at the bar and talking to each other out of their throat holes, or to go clubbin’ (in the same casinos) and rub up against imported South Americans/Aussies/Kiwis/Eastern Europeans who come to drink excessively and snowboard and provide cheap labor–I guess it really isn’t all that surprising that there is a general dearth of good live music. And then I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised either that whenever a somewhat decent band does happen to come rolling through, they don’t seem to feel compelled to play a good show–they come on late and leave early and just kind of half-ass it. I guess I further shouldn’t be surprised that even when maybe they do kind of play a decent set, then of course the sound guy fucked it up and you can’t hear the mics or the guitar is too loud or something is fucked up enough so that you can’t enjoy the music at all.
But it had been a while since I’d seen a live show, and I used to be someone who would go into major depression if I didn’t see live music at least once every two weeks when I lived in a city, so when I heard a couple of good underground MCs (Zion-I and The Grouch) were coming through, I decided to shell out the $20 and see the show. And true to form, it was a waste of money and time. Let me run through the problems, which exemplify any given concert in this shitty tourist town: 1) flyer says the show starts at 9; I show up at 9, and they won’t even let anyone into the bar until 9:30, which means standing in the freezing cold; 2) opening act doesn’t even come on until 10-10:30. And they suck. I generally feel that if you are white and are attempting to MC, then you had better come up with some good flows if you don’t want to sound like just some white dude attempting to MC–but these guys just sounded like dorks trying to MC–maybe it might get them laid at house parties in Reno, but it didn’t do much for my ears; 3) these opening act guys thought that the crowd loved them, because some other dorks in the front row were bobbing their heads, so they have to keep doing just 2 more songs; 4) after one more act, the headliners finally take the stage, and they were good–but they only did several songs, and left with almost an hour more before the bar closed–and by that point, I was too drunk to even really enjoy them anyway.
That’s some bullshit. I paid and came out to see the headlining act, not have my ears abused by idiots. I just don’t understand why concerts these days has to be like going to the doctor’s office: you make an appointment at a set time, but then you just sit in the little room for hours, until the doctor finally deigns to come through, and then they just check you out and send you out the door as if you weren’t paying any money for it. Same thing with concerts: you show up and the thing always starts too late, and then when it finally does start, you’ve got to sit through a string of shitty amateurs–so that by the time you finally get to the whole point of being there in the first place and the headlining act comes on, you’ve drunk one too many Jameson on the rocks and there isn’t even much time for them to play anyway. That’s bullshit.
And I know that the crowd in this little town isn’t exactly cream of the crop, especially when it comes to hip hop. There’s maybe one or two black people in the crowd, if you’re lucky. It’s mostly skinny stoned snowboard bum wannabes with black baseball caps and pants too big for their methed out bones. Not too much is going to register on these guys beyond a steady bass beat and some hands waving in the air. Keep the hands waving and they’ll think its a great show.
But despite all of that, I still think that if you have any kind of self-respect as a musician, and truly consider yourself an artist, then it is your responsibility to always rock the house, no matter the crowd. Even if you might only be getting through to one person out of that whole audience, that’s still one person more who is going to come away with some light and energy. Otherwise, you’re just a whore playing a show for money.