The Birth of Artisan Rock
Words By Kylie Olsson
As the beer can skimmed the top of my head (thrown by the guitarist) and its dregs dripped down my face I think that’s when the penny dropped to the point of an epiphany. It was real, alive and intimate. And I loved every minute of it. I don’t think I’d ever felt so close to being in the band as at that moment, and as I stood there I knew that rock music wasn’t dead as we’d all been worrying about – it had just taken on a different form and maybe even gone back to where it all began. Back to its roots and underground.
The long discussion about the future of rock music has been a hot topic for a few years now. It’s clear the genre is in dire straits, but that’s if we are looking for that next stadium act – the mega band, the ones that played to packed out stadiums in the 70s, 80s and early 90s such as Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Metallica and Iron Maiden. However, just maybe that’s where we are going wrong with our thinking.
Rock music has always been about longevity so It’s true, if we are looking for the next aforementioned artists then its slim pickings with bands like Bring Me The Horizon, Biffy Clyro and Avenged Sevenfold - Bon Jovi got into arenas on their third album, Biffy were on their fifth, but it’s still too early to say whether they will actually enjoy a 50 odd year career like the Stones did recently.
And this is when I take you back to the beer can incident; is it really that important that we see a band play along with 20,000 people? Where, let’s face it, most of the time you end up watching them on the screen as the stage is miles away, so you could just be at home watching them on the TV. Ultimately it’s the audience’s choice, and its clear we are leaning more on the intimate than the clinical and impersonal atmosphere that a bigger gig brings. We also have a faster appetite for music, so that’s why we see the here today and gone tomorrow bands – it’s a chew, swallow and spit culture because it’s definitely not due to a shortage of great music out there as to why the mega band is a dying breed – Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, Greta Van Fleet and The Cadillac Three are just a few new bands that spring to mind, who are imbued with an overflow of brilliance that are capturing the ears and hearts of their fast growing loyal army of fans.
Watching a band in an intimate environment is much more appealing; we want to feel the sweat dripping from the guitarist and the spilled beer from the cans the band are swigging from, and possibly catch a drum stick or pick. Just like everything else we do, the zeitgeist in music feels like its all about being in the now, and being closer to our heroes - like we were in the 60s when you could easily get backstage to meet Keith and Mick. Now we only get to meet them through social media but this is a lot closer than we have been for a few decades and has helped close that gap between star and fan. And in a way I think It’s this that has removed the commercialism from the genre and has helped take it back to its genesis and ultimately to where it belongs. This doesn’t mean a band can’t have a long career either. They can still enjoy a varied and long one, but maybe a more personal one with their fans. Which brings a certain sense of ownership with this retro approach that rock has taken, where we want our bands to be successful because they deserve it, but at the same time we don’t want them to be too big or we've accused them of selling out. Metallica’s Black Album springs to mind. I’m also guilty of this.
However, if your palette does prefer the big arenas then you haven’t lost out as the recent trend where you see co-headlining tours which team up the likes of Foreigner and Def Leppard, or the recent interesting teaming of Alter Bridge, Volbeat and Gjoria for a UK tour; they put on a fantastic night with about a 45-minute set each is becoming a popular trend. These are all great value for money, and gives the band involved the opportunity to play to a bigger audience, hence widening their fan base.
So is rock’n’roll old and on the verge of extinction, or do we just prefer it the way we like our bread? Made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality or distinctive ingredients in small qualities. I Say the latter. All hail the birth of artisan rock.