too many people are afraid to step on each others' toes. It's entirely unreasonable for any artist to expect everyone to love their material, and of course, any artistic endeavor is going to be intensely personal. And odds are, there's an ego involved, especially with performers. You need to think you're the shit in order to get up on stage and make a complete ass of yourself. So with a scene so small, the smallest perceived slight can be a death sentence. Cross the wrong big fish in this small pond, and your music is doomed, never to be written about or seen on stage. How can a band grow, develop, and improve, if no one is ever there to tell them why they suck?
California slamming and Shanghai jamming
I just read two articles about small underground scenes. One is about California punk in the 70's and the other is about Shanghai.
The lost history of California punk by Alex Petridis
The Pairs EP by Ivan Belcic
I like frank pieces and I like discussing stuff with the gloves off - not stuff based on opinion and taste like who sucks and who rules. I mean, issues and ideas. So, I just want to share some thoughts, not as a counter to Ivan or to treat negativity as life or death, but because Ivan's writing is about something tangible and it has caused me to think. Comments are open, let's continue Ivan's call.
Now. Ivan writes:
I have heard this a lot down the years. But it suggests that Shanghai as a scene is lacking something that could be solved by detailed critiquing of band's music. I don't agree. Well not exactly - I make an exception for the Brad Ferguson Golden Rule, which I will say after my points.
Firstly there's no industry here and no real fame or fortune to be had, so community and fun are the main points and excellence and success are much less important. There simply no need to go there. Also, taking into account the gov and the scene context what kind of shape is the Shanghai scene in?
Think of any scene in the world which is smaller or underground or undiscovered or whatever. Shit, just think of any scene. There will be X amount of bands, including high school bands, bar bands, ambitious bands, signed and unsigned ... I mean everyone. Now, I say to you all that in every scene the majority of those bands will fall into the first two of three categories.
1) shit/undeveloped/not serious/amateur/just dicking around/whatever
2) competent/interesting/technically skilled/got some good tunes/good live show/whatever
Then a small minority will break into category three:
3) Great/exciting/fresh/turning heads/got something special/signed/respected/attracting genuine fans/whatever
You can make adjustments depending on if we're talking about a developed scene with an attached industry or an underground scene I trust my reader's intelligence on this. I'd be very surprised if anyone here disagreed with this basic assessment of scenes.
I think that relative to Shanghai's scene context, we have the same split and the same averages, perhaps a little bit more in the higher ends than some in fact. Let's go category three - relative to the scene's restrictions. Across the genres we have accomplished acts like Cold Fairyland and Yuguo (mainstream/accessible with traditional flavors inside), The Mushroom's (commercial rock), Chaos Mind (modern metal), Top Floor Circus (Punk), Duck Fight Goose (math/modern rock) and Torturing Nurse (noise/avant garde). That's off the top of my head and I believe many more bands have the potential to go there. I've limited myself to long term acts of mainly local born members - and these days that's a big limitation.
Considering the odds and the obstacles I think that's not bad at all and all done without this critical scrutiny I keep hearing about.
By the way: Brad's Golden Rule (I call it that, not him, he's all humble and shit) is that a band cannot be thought of as good unless they can headline a weekend - and that requires being able to play an hour of original material without dropping the ball.
I think 45 mins in small venues but I let Brad's thoughts speak for themselves.
Finally. I linked both Ivan and Tim's writing in this recent post. I did so because I thought some readers might be more interested in detailed writing that describes and critiques music. You'll notice that I don't go there at all. Let me defend my position. In my view, as long as you are writing online and the reader can click the band's name and listen to the music themselves, then that kind of writing becomes mainly redundant. My blog is mainly to introduce and report what I've seen. I think of writers like Tim and Ivan working for big print magazines like NME or what have you.
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