In a week when Glasgow managed to become a UNESCO City of Music, I started to ponder on apathy. Such an unpleasant word, and you might wonder what does it have to do with reviewing music by unsigned artists. Well, that's actually the point. Apathy is everywhere. It is a point that has been made by better men than I before. People can't be bothered with making decisions. They want plenty of choice, of course, but they don't want the responsibity of making an actual decision. Have somebody, preferably famous, tell you it is good and it must be good.
Anyway, you might know that Bluesbunny is based in Glasgow and I therefore have gotten to know a good few of the local musicians. They talk, I listen. They play, I review. It's a pretty straightforward relationship. Then I started looking around whilst I was reviewing and it became obvious that, for a whole lot of the time, I was the one of the few listening. Now, Bluesbunny reviewers do reviews in well known venues like King Tuts and also in pubs that have their own acoustic nights. One that I have a fondness for is the Free Candy Sessions at the Liquid Ship. Dochan and Pat, who book the acts, have built up a pretty good reputation. You get decent sound and decent beer at the venue for a start, and I have had some excellent times there (like a recent kick ass set from Trinidad & Tobago's Jointpop for example or when Magic Box Mistress charmed a capacity crowd whilst the walls dripped with sweat) but equally there have been quite a few times when there have been but a handful of disinterested attendees.
The point is that no one seems to think why this happens. Recently, I contacted a band that I had not heard of for a while. I had seen them live shortly before I took over the editorial reins here at Bluesbunny and had been mightily impressed with what could only be called their showmanship. That band is called Sonny Marvello, by the way. Lead singer Sonny had remarked to me that he worried about how he would overcome the apathy - there's that word again - towards his new songs. The old cogs in the mind started to turn. He had made a good point. It is the summer, apparently. Bands play festivals in the summer. People go to festivals. But do people actually go to festivals for the music. Perhaps not. Perhaps they just go there so that they can say that they have "done" the festival. Festivals also provide the opportunity for a weekend of excessive drinking (and perhaps some other excesses too…). T in the Park is the well established market leader and sells out quickly but how well do the many other festivals do, especially the ones later in the season? Has the music become simply a soundtrack to another fashion statement?
No one is innocent here. If people can't really be bothered to make the effort to listen to new music until they are told that it is the new "black" and musicians and bands can't really be bothered to put on a show to attract attention then you have a stalemate situation. Bands at the bottom of the ladder - at least in Glasgow anyway - rarely get paid so they have nothing to invest in any sort of stage show. People must get bored watching grey, if earnest, musicians. At this point you might well be expecting me to say something along the lines of put your hand in your pocket and buy a CD from them but I am not going to do that. For musicians are as guilty of apathy as their audience. Many make no attempt to differentiate themselves from other musicians. Some even make no attempt to differentiate themselves from the flock wallpaper that surrounds them. It is perhaps wise to remember that Fonzie was cool because there was only one Fonzie. Maybe they lack the courage to stick their head above the parapet but there are so many good bands in Glasgow (The Viragoes, Hercules Mandarin, The Ten to Five Project, for example) and excellent solo performers like Caragh Nugent, Alexander Murray or David Bova that you have to wonder what the problem actually is. Perhaps they are drowning in a sea of undistinguished bands. Who really knows and does anyone really care? As for Glasgow being the UNESCO City of Music? Well, I'm sure that will make all the difference…