It's not often I look to scripture for wisdom, being an atheist. But I can suppose there might be some things worth listening to in that old book.
Those who regularly read this site might find themselves puzzled that I reference it at all, but I've been re-watching the brilliance that is Deadwood of late, and find myself contemplating the character (based on the real life man) of the Reverend Henry Weston Smith. In the first season, Smith gives a eulogy for William Hickok, drawing from Corinthians:
"Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
Of course, this is speaking of the body of Christ -- a concept I don't have much truck with. But hearing this through reexamining David Milch's series, it gets me thinking. The story of Deadwood is ultimately the encapsulation of a tale of a camp that is easily representational of a scene. And the metaphors in play there are just as applicable to the stuff we talk about here. A music scene is composed of greater and smaller parts. Of people who move in and out and contribute to more or less degrees based on ability, talent, time, and the amount of energy they have to give.
Some shows demonstrate this more than others -- mixing first-timers with hardy vets. Some shows might spotlight a band struggling more than others. Sometimes a singer has a bit too much to drink and the show suffers for it. Sometimes a band hasn't rounded the corner that practice and perseverance brings you past. As a rule, I don't tend to write about bad nights. There's no percentage to it -- it serves no cause. Not that this was a bad night -- it wasn't. Some of my favorite kinds of music got played in a supremely competent manner. Rather, it's that these thoughts have been in my head and tonight is the moment I take to write about them. And in the broad sense of Norfolk's music out of the context of a specific show review? There's so much good work being done that it makes sense to expend energy championing that, rather than shooting holes in projects that aren't necessarily meeting a standard. We're all of the same body, be it cover band or post-punk or super-sludgecore metal. If some of us are the vocal cords, others of us are the asshole. And we're all of us needed to form the body that makes the scene. And we should support the least of us as much as we support the greatest of us.
Making music is an effort in this time and place that more often than not brings no reward other than that support. There's little to no money in it, that's for sure. And standing at a show on a Saturday night in the Summer that is as poorly attended as tonight's makes me a little cranky. Are we only supporting our eyes and ears and hands and feet? Leaving the other parts of the body to wither? And what do you think will happen to the whole if these less popular parts are ignored?
Support your scene, dammit. Show up.
I've heard the despair in public postings of some of our finest musicians as to how little support they get when it comes to building an audience. In how little return they get on their efforts. In having to manage the demands of their day-to-day versus rock star evenings. And it calls to mind another piece of that dusty volume. Isaiah 44:12:
"A smith shapes iron into a cutting tool and does their work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with their strong arm. They get hungry and their strength fails; they drink no water and become feint."
You can't operate in the arts without taking time to eat and drink and replenish yourself. I've been absent of late. Busy with other aspects of my life -- I've recently taken the helm of a large arts organization, launched a book of street photography, and am completing publication of a new book of poems. Not to mention, I'd like to get back to playing an occasional gig myself. All of these things take time, and I've had less to devote to covering shows. I've felt a certain amount of guilt on that, and it's hard not to note similarities in some of the voices of prominent members of our scene when they talk about how discouraged they are.
But fuck all.. Sometimes you have to take a break.
And that's okay, None of this is a sprint to a finish. Hell, there probably is no finish. No pot of gold nor fame nor any other fortune at the end of the journey. The journey itself is very likely all the reward there is. And an artist must be able to enjoy the path if they're going to keep on it. Take time to do what you need to keep that arm strong. There's no shame there. Some of you need to hear this, and I hope you're listening.
. . .
Notes on tonight's show, wholly separate from the rest of this
Moon King: You don't really expect anyone to remind you of Michael Jackson, not in the weird way -- mind you, but in the way that MJ absolutely dominated his era musically. A sharp sense of hook mixed with and some really very complicated rhythms for music that at first glance is simple. And then you dig deeper and really examine the underlying workmanship of it to realize the complexity. We forget how much the popular music of the eighties, the music actually being played on the radio, was this stuff. Jackson and Journey. Linda Ronstadt. Etc. Moon King updates it with some Nintendo sounds and makes it playful. Think the aforementioned King of Pop meets Jude meets Yaz. Well done.
The Purge: I adore Thomas Duerig. He's a consummate craftsman making the kind of music on his own that while I might like to see more of a visual presence on the stage with him, I'm nor sure having a full band would allow him the control he needs to pull this music off. There's some Cure influence waylaid by Sisters of Mercy meets Disco here. And I love every piece of it. His performances are flawless, and this is one of my top five music projects in the the city. Hell, in the region.
Angel Metro: There's a tendency to line up all femme goth artists behind the banner of Siouxie Sioux, but that does a disservice to the genre. If Angel Metro is actually goth? More often than not whenever I think something sounds like Goth to me I read the label to find everything but that listed. Dark Synthpop. Witch house. Darkwave? Iunno, but I liked it. If you held me down and made me pick a reference, I'd probably land closest to something like the Birthday Massacre. I really can't wait for this act to return.
Dad Pop: Charming quirkiness, willing to experiment with short, sample heavy songs through the opening set. I don't know if this actually is pop for dads, but there was enough here that I'll go the next time they play just to see what they turn into.
-- end transmission --
Detroit. Synth Pop. Disco.
Norfolk. Goth Rock.
Charlottesville. Synthwave. Goth.
Norfolk / RVA. Experimental Synthpop.