In the latest in a series of formulaic ramblings about local music, Music Editor Mike McGrath-Bryan takes a look both at what we have to be proud of in our city’s independent music community, and the challenges that face it in the immediate future.
Involvement in the local music scene lends one the opportunity to access local acts’ new opuses prior to release. Not that that should be one’s prime motivator to partake, but over the summer, getting listens to new releases from the likes of Lamp and Terriers gave them time to sink in, and hammer home the fact that, boy howdy, we have a hell of a local music scene. Now, to a man, that music is on your doorstep alone, people around you, in your city, getting out there and making noise, warrants at least giving it a passing lash. But with apathy beginning to set in to the local scene beyond its core audience, coinciding with an astronomical rise in talent in and around the city, an investigation into the factors behind the current local scene is more than due. Why, for all the talent we have, aren’t more people copping on?
THE MUSIC: The level, range and depth of talent we have Leeside is unparalleled, and your writer will see anyone that disagrees (after seeing the evidence) outside for a frank exchange of opinions. Across the genre spectrum, from indie-pop, to hardcore & screamo, folk to electronics, there can be no doubt of the artistic merit and innovation of the majority of bands in this town. Look at our history. The Sultans. The Franks. Rory. UCC post-punk at the Downtown Kampus. Away from music industry machinations for the most part, a thriving culture of independent bands and artists has been cultivated without the pressure of label expectations. No matter what you’re into, it’s here, and it’s likely better than what you’ve been spoonfed. Get out into it, explore it, enjoy it, go up the bands after, shake hands, talk. You’d be surprised at the friends you might make!
THE CULTURE: A major shift has occurred in the last five or six years, however. Beginning with the young bands and artists of the time, some stupidly intriguing line-ups opened a lot of people’s minds and created the atmosphere that gave rise to a fertile scene that caught on beyond the core audience and regularly packed the town’s music-head hangouts. That culture doesn’t exist anymore. Time was, people would bate on into town to catch that week’s local gig, whatever venue it was and wherever, knowing they’d get a good night’s show. The last five years have seen a change, seeing the gig and related experience become part of a bigger night out, if at all, which in turn, largely restricts it to city-central pubs, which restricts options seriously. Meanwhile, as that core audience dwindles, so too does the amount of new blood coming in and keeping things fresh and exciting, which in turn breeds further apathy, especially with recent waves of young students skipping over gigs in their nightlife routine in favour of pre-drinking…
THE CHALLENGE: The challenge facing promoters and champions of local music is to convince the casual crowd that music is worth more than a stupid dance, hands aloft, beer in hand. That this is the real deal, and in an age of ignorance and mass-produced Saturday night telly freakshows and cover crooners, the antidote to their inertia lies down the road from them, live and spilling its guts on stage. Or worse, that we’re not some horrible clique out to laugh at people for not stocking ten years of American post-hardcore on their iPods. You don’t have to like certain artists or certain genres, but there’s very definitely a need for respect for bands that bust their arses to fulfill their vision. Surely that’s a better use of time than pre-drinking, playing Metal Gear Naggins with security personnel and then shitting on about drink until last call? The challenge is creating the atmosphere and momentum, giving Cork music its due importance and attention. And no, unpaid support slots for spoiled major-label talent on “Arthur’s Day” (not buying it) in front of an audience singularly engaged in the pursuit of free beer are not going to do it.
THE QUESTION: The Crane Lane, for example, does a great job of integrating live music into nights out, and indeed, the venue attracts many casual regulars. But casual revellers, especially after a few scoops and ready to cut loose, are hardly a respectful proposition. Many a time your writer has had his enjoyment of an otherwise fine show shat on by some drunken twat in his confirmation jumper and jeans calling for “something we all know”, the Penney’s Ramones/fake-gig-poster T-shirt (double-value fashion/music tip: no music shirts unless you physically own some of their albums, no fake poster shirts, you look like you wouldn’t read a real one) brigade or cackling groups of girlies more intent on indulging in ear-meltingly personal gossip within people’s earshot than watching a gig. Even at last year’s LMS gigs, the Battle of the Bands format proved to be a massive hindrance for the same old reasons: bands bring their mates, who have no idea how to conduct themselves, hooting and shouting obnoxiously for their buddy in particular rather than his band, and wind up reflecting badly on the band in particular, and the whole exercise in general, before voting early for their mates and pissing off again before the next band plays. Striking a balance between accessibility for new heads and the integrity of Cork music is an even greater challenge than maintaining current attendances.
THE METHOD: The record industry is dying a death because it couldn’t adapt early enough to changes in listening patterns, formats, etc. The fact that EMI tried suing our government over lost CD sales in 2012 should tell you all you need to know. Likewise, perhaps the medium of presenting a live band needs to change. It’s pretty obvious that beyond the core music crowd, paying in to gigs out of curiosity is largely by the wayside, save for big names. The guarantee model is a great success when done correctly, and is something more city-central pubs and clubs should be doing, facilitating and helping making local music sustainable and therefore stronger, rather than dropping four figures on identikit cover bands and pop/Eurotrance DJs. In-store gigs are an absolute joy, witnessing bands in intimate performances, but obviously are only really effective when held in local businesses, helping foster relations between small businesses and their customers. All-dayers like the Siege of Limerick and Nancy’s Shnare provide that destination element for people, bringing groups to stay the day and enjoy the festivities. A Camden Crawl/Hard Working Class Heroes trawl through the city would, if organised correctly, showcase bands, the venues and pubs hosting them and the city in a positive light around the country, and to potential regular gig-goers.
The possibilities, like the talent, are endless.