Peak live music, or no more surprises
What do you do when you stop caring about something you used to love?
I moved to Salem, MA and basically stopped actively seeking live music. I still see live music - say, when my girlfriend and I go out to brunch and a jazz band happens to be performing there, or when a once-in-a-lifetime performance in the city happens - but for years I would spend hundreds of dollars almost every month trying to see as many bands as possible. There were so many possibilities, even in “our music scene is dying” Boston - I would frequent Great Scott and Harper’s Ferry/Brighton Music Hall and The Middle East and (begrudgingly) TT the Bear’s (just kidding, RIP).
I don’t think it’s because I’m getting older. I don’t think it’s even because bands aren’t impressing me anymore. I still listen to recorded music constantly and find new bands via blogs and Apple Music and friends’ posts.
I do think saturation has something to do with it. Software is eating the world and the Internet is eating media, and both of these things are eating our ability to be surprised. The barrier to entry for anyone to become a musician is virtually gone, and it’s really easy for anyone with a slight ego to fight for your attention. The barrier to entry to start a blog or generate commentary on said music is also gone, so with every million bands that form, there are 100 million people ready to comment on said bands.
So you have tons of musicians out there, striving to outdo each other with better performances and more inventive production in order to satisfy the even more so-called critics. The caliber of the average musician is so much higher as a result - and every musician is looking to surprise you, the listener-critic, constantly. Every night holds hundreds of amazing shows competing for your time & attention - secret exclusive shows, bizarre live rigs, intense theatrics, warm acoustic sets - all of which are constantly trying to compete for your interest. It’s all amazing…until it’s all the same to you.
And so I’ve become desensitized to the ability to be surprised by live music.
I’ve been meaning to write about being a musician on the North Shore of MA and how live performance here is different than, say, Brooklyn or Cambridge or other major cities with credible music scenes. I wanted to write about the fact that there is a small but lively group of musicians hopping up and down the shore, playing long & extremely entertaining sets in front of small, passionate North Shore crowds at quaint restaurants and bars. I wanted to write about the scene being smaller, thus allowing me to have a shot of regularly performing with a tight-knit group of collaborators.
None of that has actually happened, and that’s on me. But when you struggle to be surprised by anyone else performing, how can you expect to be inspired to surprise others with your own performance?
Goal: by April, have a live acoustic/looper set prepared and book a show. Try it out.