Sometime last week I showed up at the Tin Star Saloon and encountered a guy sitting on a stool by the front door. I tried to offer him my ID, but he said he didn’t work there. This caused a bunch of chumps by the door to laugh at me like I was some kind of idiot for assuming this bouncer-looking-ass guy was the bouncer. Whatever.
Once inside, yet another by-the-numbers local band began its set. I was fighting my preconceived notions about blues-rock with all of my soul, but alack, alas—it was no use. I’m just sick of the genre. Walk by almost any bar downtown at night and try to decipher a difference between any of these bands and you’ll find yourself faced with a monumental task indeed. I mean, how many blues-rock bands can one small town have?
A friend of mine recently said, “A musician dedicating his or her life to 12-bar blues is like an artist dedicated to paint-by-numbers.” I’m inclined to agree. My feelings on the blues are mixed. I love the old-timey one-guy-and-a-guitar style, but when it comes to the new school of blues, I’m not sure I can get behind it. It’s so—for lack of a better word—easy. It becomes more an exercise in motor skills than a display of musicianship. Occasionally a worthwhile guitar solo may rear its head or maybe the lead singer can do a little jig to pass the time, but the same boozy baseline lying under the same basic drum rhythm can only serve as a foundation for the same tired music.
Why is it that bands like D Numbers or Venus Bogardus—that is to say, interesting, original and unique bands—are so few and far between? High Mayhem Emerging Arts produces original and interesting shows—I don’t care for all of its bands, but at least the nonprofit brings something unusual to the table. The Process also books incredible acts (take, for example, the Reverend Beat-Man at Corazón in July or the upcoming September gig with My Name Is Nobody) and does good work for our scene by showcasing experimental music.
But in a perfect world, every band in Santa Fe would strive to set its music apart from the pack. I totally understand that sometimes you just want to get out and dance and have fun, but I’ve reached the point in my music appreciation at which I don’t only want to dance and feel good. I want something interesting. I fully acknowledge that many of these bands feature talented musicians, but that doesn’t much matter to me; it’s getting boring.
I’m wondering where the kids are. When I first started playing in bands 10 years ago, there were at least a dozen bands helmed by teens. There were metal bands and indie bands and emo bands and post-punk bands and post-hardcore bands and on and on.
As for now, in an ideal world, every night of the week would hold something different for us to enjoy. Places like Corazón are attempting this by bringing in acts like the Fruit Bats and the Handsome Furs, but attendance has been inconsistent. Why? Have we just grown accustomed to unremarkable music?
It is up to us, the music-appreciating public, to stand up and say, “No more. We demand bands start playing more than the same tired songs.” Let’s put our money where our mouth is, Santa Fe. Let’s live up to the culture and variety we’re always talking about having.