Mark my words, the future will come from punk music.
In this era, no artist that matters can survive on album sales alone. Live music will be the only the lifeblood. If you want to have a career in music, you will have no choice but to know your instrument, write songs your fan base will want to hear, and be entertaining. It’s unbelievable that these “need to” items haven’t been mandatory over the last twenty years. Going to more and more smaller shows over the course of the last eighteen months, something hit me, every single band I have seen has been excellent live. The amount of sub-par live acts I saw in high school, in the late 90’s and early 00’s, was astounding. Bands were pushed into spotlights that they never earned or deserved…and the result was mediocrity at best.
Music is at a turning point because the idea of making money from music seems like a fairy tale from a long, long time ago. The “punk” scene is made up of the impassioned youth that aren’t driven to be rich. These kids understand that they have no hope of getting played on the radio or selling millions of albums. They play because they have to. Listen to the drumming in Psychic Trauma by Cloud Nothings – those drums are being beaten by a person that will explode if the music doesn’t find a way to escape. It’s from that passion the next step forward will come. Punk will not be the revolution rather the breeding ground for the future.
With the evolution of pristine recording, “punk,” is one of the few safe havens for the flawed masses that still have a heart. People that actually enjoy music don’t give care how good your voice is. My favourite singers in the world all make choir teachers cringe. So who’s right? Choir teachers are “right,” in the same way JK Simmons character in Whiplash is right – technical perfection at the expense of innovation and feeling. John Mayer is a stunningly good musician but he panders for sales and as a result has never made one bit of music that will be remembered – the heroes he emulates will always be legends because they took chances and changed something.
A major issue in the stagnation of modern music is that the 90’s rock stars who changed the landscape never disappeared because no one ever kicked them out. As much as I love Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters, who are still pumping out great albums, there is no reason they should still be here. The 80’s came along and absolutely murdered The Rolling Stones. That murder forces the future to arrive. It is vital and necessary for the prince to kill the king. Because no one rose up and killed our kings we didn’t move forward. Instead, the youth, the punks, who simply had to play, found the underground and haven’t come back up for air. The innovation is on the horizon. While we may not have killed our rock stars, we have spent the last decade burning down their castles. The record industry is shell of its former glory. Bands no longer need their money or support. Technology is the great equalizer. We’ll never have another Velvet Underground because now we have dozens of them in each city in each corner of the internet.
You see, “Punk,” isn’t safety pins in leather vests. It isn’t colored mohawks and septum piercings. It isn’t tattooed wrists or crying teenagers. “Punk,” is the music that is unafraid to be itself. “Punk,” is the music that has the guts to be loud and ugly and is proud to be vulnerable when the time is right. “Punk,” bands will play because they have to. They will only ever be regionally famous. They will play in clubs and every fan will feel like they’re part of the family. Someday, a band may write a song that “starts a craze…the kind of song that ignites the airwaves,” and then everything will change. I don’t know what that will sound like but I’m looking forward to it and I hope I like it. Until then, I will listen to punk, the now and forever underground, and wait on our kingslayer.