Local music scene needs a break from the pastWritten by Sarah Cohen | | email@example.com
Everyone has their own opinions, and as the old saying goes, everyone’s a critic — or are they?
More often than not, people seem to give no opinions at all about their surroundings, seemingly happy enough to be out of the house, drink in hand, listening to a selection of all-too-familiar cover songs. I hate to break it to you but that’s far from culture and far from raising the bar in a town where so many original artists play second fiddle.
Everyone can take some of the blame, including the bands still covering “Brown Eyed Girl,” the manager who pays them to play it and the stand-ins for an audience who expect to hear it, just like last night. I apologize for those whom enjoyed this and other songs before they had been covered to death.
If anything can and must change, it is the dynamic of the working man’s gig. Because the majority of Toledo’s venues only work with cover bands, there is never going to be a shortage of these zombie tunes being played.
Here’s the good part; instead of accepting the role of the nonchalant onlooker and socializing consumer, pay some attention to the musicians. A lot more. Realize that it isn’t just a live re-enactment of what you just heard on the radio (a true, overpowering evil to music). These are real people. Encourage them to play some of their own music or maybe even a better, lesser-known Van Morrison song — even for the next time. Try letting the manager or bartenders know that you’d appreciate more original music and that you’re not alone.
Music is not just an art but a commodity and it is bought and sold following the trends of supply and demand. While the demand for live music is up, the cry for quality has been grossly underestimated. Musicians! It isn’t the bands you’re covering, it’s the songs. In a way, you are the teachers of song, so please, do your research in the vast American songbook. Paul Simon’s “Rhythm of the Saints,” Bob Dylan’s “Time Outta Mind,” Gillian Welch’s “Revolator” and Jimi Hendrix’s “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” are albums full of lesser-known songs that could easily replace other tired selections. If an audience’s attention starts to float away, talk to them. Tell them, yes, this next tune is indeed by the Boss. Then play them a killer version of “Johnny 99” from Bruce’s “Nebraska” album.
I feel like I am requesting the equivalent of the smoking ban. There are plenty of folks reading this to whom “Play ‘Freebird’!” is not a joke — indeed, they take some weird comfort in never hearing anything new. That’s fine; it really is — for some places, sometimes. But not all the places all the time, and please, please, not for the majority. I truly believe that if everyone stopped playing and listening to “Freebird” for say, 10 years, it would be awesome again … really.
Original artists, we’re not close to perfect, either. More specific reviews to follow in this Toledo Free Press Star column, “Sound Judgment.”
Sarah Cohen is a Toledo native and an original musician of The Antivillains who manages Happy Badger Cafe in Bowling Green. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.