Ah music. I write about it a lot. From blues nights to frisson to songs that characterise terrible dates, music is something I return to over and over – layering a soundtrack over reality – playlists magicking up memories that are at once bittersweet, funny, endlessly on repeat.
But here’s the thing: I spent most of the last weekend screamsinging my crooked heart out in a tent that stank of mud and Carling and cattle, and in the middle of this a whole bunch of ideas that had been percolating since Neil Hughes and I went to OneTrackMinds came together.
Music has played a defining role in my life – the friends, the ideas, the experiences. Whether it was jetsetting around Europe for tours with my school choir or blagging our way into Underworld aged 15 for my first ever date (with a bassist who I think is still in a new wave post punk band), music was that glue that bound the piece of my life together, teaching me lessons I didn’t even realise I was being taught.
So I thought I’d bash these out and see what you think. Cheesy*? Ridiculous? On point? Just me? Leave your comments below, yeah?
1. Everything is about attitude
It’s not about whether you can fit into your little sister’s jeans. It’s not about the make up on your face or your band t-shirts. Emo, screamo, metal, punk – rock in all its genres has a certain attitude. This means you can love Alexisonfire and still revel in glitter. You can listen to Taylor Swift on the same playlist as Every Time I Die. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re authentic to yourself and your values. So no matter what anyone says, hold onto a little bit of that metalhead switch-hitting assertiveness. It’ll get you through a lot worse than you realise.
2. Getting angry might just mean you care
Rock musicians often address social and cultural issues – from the protests songs of the 60s and 70s through to Live Aid up to the artists today addressing mental health, gun crime and economic strife. Part of the scene is built upon frustration or anger at the world and the desire to change it. And I feel this translates to a lot of the audience. We feel the anger. We start to care. And we learn that if you shout about your issues, some will dismiss you but others will listen. Some may even join in and scream along with you.
3. Connections can exist anywhere and everywhere
Visiting America? Travelling to Bucharest? Feel like a stranger Down Under? Well get yourself to a gig or some kind of rock bar and you’ll find people after your own heart. People who have friends you can meet. People who are as defined by the music as you are. Be reassured that you can dig out a community wherever you go. Go explore. Make new friends.
4. The sonder of you
Apparently Bertrand Russell said that “the trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” I think a lot of us doubt ourselves (or did in the past). Many of us were considered weird little outsiders when we were younger (and may still be now). Finding our sense of place can be tricky. And if you feel like an oddball, it becomes even harder not to doubt yourself. But with a little help from the ever helpful bonding experience that is music we can realise that there are people who are just as complex, flawed, anxious, and brilliant as ourselves. There are people who may not love exactly what we love or feel exactly what we feel but who still get it. Because music in a wonderful way opens us to that beautiful sense of sonder.
5. You will always have critics
From scathing reviews to blase fan noise, bands have a lot of crappy criticism thrown their way. They can listen or they can turn up the speakers and drown them out. Which is definitely a skill I’d like to hone. Plus, one of my pet hates is the criticism of a band or place as “too scene”. This may have something to do with the fact I have no idea what “too scene” really means – but mostly it comes down to people bandying the phrase around like a get-out-of-jail-free card. We like what we like, we don’t want we don’t. But “scene” is used for whatever is ‘other’ to your own preference. People with different of half-formed opinions will always exist. You may even befriend a few. That’s ok. As long as we learn to turn up the volume and drown out the non-constructive voices.
6. Give the things you love everything you have
I’ve said it before – my relationship with music is nothing special. I’m not a melodious snowflake. I had the piano teacher of doom, the no-talent rock band, the decades of choral singing, the innumerable hours spent lying in my bedroom with my speakers turned up so loud I deserve to develop tinnitus. But just because I’m not musically gifted doesn’t mean I can’t take a lesson from my on-stage idols. Have you ever seen a band with no stage presence? It sucks, right? You stand and do the I-look-like-I-need-to-pee bob out of false politeness (and because you spent £25 on this ticket) and wish you’d just gone to Crobar instead (which is a sign of ultimate bad times). But then you have the great bands. The ones that leap off pianos or smash guitars, who get the crowd roaring, whose music you feel in your chest and your soul and you think you might die but you don’t and some how – some how – you know they’ve poured themselves into that sound. It’s raw, it’s overwhelming. That is the lesson I take here: give everything, tear yourself open, commit so hard it might destroy you. Then, even if one day you pack it in, close the door on the idea, find yourself finished – you can’t say you didn’t do all you could. As Roald Dahl said: lukewarm is no good.
* Neil attempted to de-cheese this so if it reeks of roquefort, blame him 😛