As some of you may know Christian has recently been playing in a tribute band called Led Zepagain.
When he first got this opportunity I have to admit the thought was not so pleasing, see my blog McTribute Paradox.
But recently talking with Swan Montgomery, who plays the part of Robert Plant in Led Zepagain, I got a different perspective.
The perspective is one that tribute bands can potentially turn on new audiences to great music (I know, duh), especially if the band is a good one, like Led Zepagain.
And that tribute bands are inspiring new generations of musicians left cold by the homogenized stuffing on the airwaves today. In my sour grapedeness over the demise of audiences pursuing new original music, I missed this very interesting and important aspect of our culture. And although I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the Wigstock of it all I can see some of the value tribute bands have to offer.
Looking back in my mind over the last few years I recall having seen an increase of mostly adolescent boys, skulking around the city streets in Rush, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin T-shirts. These aspiring almost long hairs who have graduated from pretending to perform on RockBand to really wanting to be musicians are naturally looking for more, and seeing tribute bands are the next logical step in their education.
Interestingly enough, many of the songs licensed for RockBand, which is a video game where the players kinda play along on game controllers, are classic rock songs, from back when songs had actual parts to play. Songs where a guitar solo for instance is so essential to the make up of the song and it’s memorability that it just would not be the same without out it, such as The Eagles Hotel California, Steely Dan‘s Reelin’ in The Years, or Pink Floyd‘s Comfortably Numb to name a few.
A study I read recently called Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music took a sampling of thousands of songs from 1960-2000 comparing many of the common characteristics and discovered that music really has started to all sound the same. Simplistic and repetitive chord progressions, lack of varied melodic structure, vocal timbre, and the overall increase of sheer volume etc suggests … “Much of the gathered evidence points towards an important degree of conventionalism, in the sense of blockage or no-evolution, in the creation and production of contemporary western popular music.” Ouch. Perhaps these are some of the elements in the perfect storm making way for the rise of the tribute band.
Obviously not all new music sucks, but you have to admit that study rings a bell of truth.
Some things I think may have contributed to this ascent into the Plateau of Poop are: the decimation of arts funding in both support and education, bean counters running the music business, and the overall societal valuing of facade over content. (As in look pretty sound shitty, get a record deal.)
I’m told if you watch The Voice for instance you’ll notice that all the singers under the guidance of BIG NAME CELEBRITY SINGER sound just like that BIG NAME CELEBRITY SINGER, so why do we need another one? And the same kind of self cloning happens with bands too.
Today you might have four guys in Green Day T-shirts all saying “Hey I see you like Green Day, so do I, let’s start a band and write Green Day type songs.”
(Note: While I don’t own any Green Day I can appreciate them as artists, not afraid to occasionally piss off their fans by growing, which is always a good sign no?)
To paraphrase my brilliant friend Robbie Rist “What made The Beatles great was that you had a Country guy, a Rhythm & Blues guy, a Pop guy and a Whatever guy all coming together to form a band, and that diversity made them better musicians and writers.”
So while the little shredders are at home running scales, practicing paradiddles or getting in line to buy tickets to see Led Zepagain I anxiously wait. I wait as these potential explorers grow under the noses of a calcified minority experiencing the last gasp of their vapid culture while tribute bands are doing a better job at reseeding the ground than I had ever guessed.