November 30, 2012

finally... a city with (musical) importance...

It’s been a while since I lived in a city that loves music as much as I do… haha… who am I kidding, I have never lived in such a city. I lived fantasizing about such places (in Canada those cities would be Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver). Growing up I woud drool whenever Much Music would play their concert listing ads (MuchMusic = MTV = same same). These were really flashy adverts telling you which awesome bands were coming to ‘a city near you’. Yes, I highlighted something in that statement, they would also say coming to ‘a city NEAR you’, after this a list of days/places said concert would scroll onscreen. To bring an end to the suspense I can tell you that Calgary rarely had a day set aside, and only if you considered 1000km close could you believe their ‘near’ tagline. Instead my body’s liquid reserves would switch from the drool of eager anticipation, to melancholic tears.

As you can probably imagine I grew up rather stinted in my concert development. Luckily, recording devices were invented long before my birth, and the recorded sound had an easy to collect medium, and collect I did, why? I did it because I was raised in a house by parents who had a love for music. I was raised with dates,  names, and genres that allowed me to explore all that music had to offer. My parents also had an organized love for music, it had a role to play in our lives. There was music to relax to (Stevie Ray Vaughn – The Sky is Crying), to drive to (Pink Floyd – Pulse or Momentary Lapse of Reason) and, even music set aside to clean to (Billy Idol- Vidol Idol). I can even tell you my musical firsts with genuine enthousiasm; My first tape: Weird Al Yankovic’s Bad Hair Day (the one with Amish Paradise on it!). My first CD(s): (given) Chumbawamba’s Tubthumper (still awesome, I listened to it yesterday…seriously), (bought) Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe. My first concert was Colin James at the Calgary Stampede, but it was so horrible that my Dad and I credit my first experience to our next concert together, AC/DC.

My love for music spread into all facets of my life in fact I even wrote about my narcissistic obsession for music in a uni paper, aptly entited ‘music is my consumerism’. I got an A (or 1.3/4.0/93% depending on your grading scheme) justifying my obscure view of music, fucking eh! I would later go on in Uni to achieve a 95% overall average in a year long (two semester) History of Rock & Roll course (side-note, I would work at Blockbuster during the scheduled lecture periods). Before you switch off, and stop reading, I don’t include these facts and figures to brag comrades! I include them to demonstrate and numerically prove my love/fascination/obsession for the art of sound.

To bring cities and live music back into play, I consider them vital in terms of gauging a love for music. The recorded sound can undergo numerous changes after the fact; live audio can rarely pull of this deception. I gauge how good bands are based on live performances: Example a positive case; At the first (and only) White Stripes concert I attended, onlookers described me as a retarded 5 year old flailing around in my seat, my gf at the time was a tad embarrassed, but mostly laughed (I have little recognition what I did, it was the closest I have ever come an out of body experience) It can also have a negative effect; When I first saw Metallica perform (the dreadful St. Anger Tour) I didn’t pick up, or turn on another song of theirs for over a year! (lucky for them they came back to Calgary and they totally redeemed themselves)

The only way that I would ever be able to make up for the lack of live music in my life was to see basically everything that came to Calgary. With such an approach I had a lot of repeats, Finger Eleven 8 times, Matthew Good (including MGB) 8 times, Thornley 5 times and Our Lady Peace 6 times. Most would not recognize these bands, because for the most part they are small Canadian bands, the exception would be Our Lady Peace who was a big Canadian band. Calgary either got smaller-medium sized Canadian bands or relatively larger International acts, which would come on the 3rd or 4th leg of tours (rarely at the beginning). Calgary was not a great market for emerging acts.

There are two reasons this happened in my opinion, firstly while I was growing up Calgary didn’t have a great population base or enough wealth to draw acts there in the first place. Calgary often had to be combine it’s market with Edmonton’s (300km away) to attract bands. This actually created sub-scenes that thrived based on acts, example! Edmonton had the hardcore punk scene, Calgary had the metal scene, and this was reflected in bands choosing cities to perform in (AFI (pre emo)- went to Edmonton, Avenged Sevenfold – came to Calgary). This fact leads to the second reason: Alberta was geographically isolated, often emerging acts travel by shitty van, and with only one city to choose from, and little else there to justify the travel costs, they would say fuck it.

Unfortunately for me Seoul was an even more desolate musical marketplace. K-pop reigned supreme, and even if I did like K-Pop the music was so overly produced the acts rarely toured. In my two years in Seoul I only saw one act of any notoriety whatsoever (That act happened to be Eric Clapton, stadium picture above). I always felt that major cities in the world got better musical acts; Seoul proved me wrong. It is one of the largest cities in the world (#3 by population) and boasts few acts. It wasn’t the population draw that was the issue, it was the fact that Seoul is not near shit (geographic isolation), and bands would incur massive logistic costs to play there. Most bands play the summer music festivals because they can also play the Japanese music festivals either before or after.

 During my hiatus from Canada, Calgary proved to become more relevant to bands. The reason has to do with the population base. Alberta is a growing province; it has an increasing population but more importantly increasing wealth (because of Oil). The factor that bands really care about is the wealth increase, and the geographic isolation factor become overruled because the two markets split their dependence on each other. Back to my prior example, the dominance of the Edmonton hardcore scene, and Calgary Metal scene became irrelevant because both markets had created enough wealth to attract bands to both cities. In the short time I was home this summer I saw Coldplay and the Black Keys. Also demonstrating the shift, Coldplay (pictured at the top) started their North American Tour in Edmonton, and the Black Keys (pictured above left) came to Calgary on the second leg of their North American tour (before they went to Europe).

Finally reaching my conclusion, I’ve moved to Europe, a historical mecca for music. Hamburg in particular has an amazing history in terms of live music. The Beatles made a name for themselves here playing countless hours between 1960-1962. These years are viewed as crucial in their development due to the fact that they would often play 3-4 sets a day for weeks on end. There are several outstanding live venues around the city where you can catch musical acts in all stages of development; I checked out the Alabama Shakes (who I believe deserve to break into the big time) in a venue of 400 people. Hamburg also has the Large acts covered; Muse will be here in December on the first leg of their tour (also going to Calgary on the first leg of their N/A tour).

Hamburg is in an opium den of music, a place where ear-gasms should be a regular occurance, but I currently live under the fiscal constraints of student life. The city is alive with the sound of music, but I’m held to a tight budget that creates the question, dinner or concert? Do I eat? Or do I see so and so? It’s a question that would enrage many starving people in the world, and perhaps my mother (I swear I eat green vegetables everyday mom!). I should be brought to tears, and film a panning ‘NO’ sequence in the pouring rain (which would be easy cause it rains a lot here!). Finally I live in a city of musical relevance, but I lack the funds to actually partake. It’s like salt on a wound, kicking a man while he’s down, or any other cliché attempting to convey meaning of a shitty fucking situation. However! There is a catch my friends; I’ve been lucky enough to meet, rent the couch of and, befriend a concert promoter. Everyone can say they are on a concert guest list, but the difference is that I can add to my addiction by actually knowing someone who is, VICTORY!!!!

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