domenica 30 agosto 2015

Cover/tribute bands...why not? Because...

"If someone has nothing more to ask to music than what he already knows... all the worse for him!" (Philip Ball - The Music Instinct: How Music works and why we can't do without it)

Hi to all.
It's been a long long time since my latest post in this blog, but I can see there's lots of people always reading and I'm happy for this!
Please notice that the following post is only my opinion on the topic, and I face it with my usual sarcastic vein, as you can realize listening to the preceding  Youtube link!
This post is in English language because, though my struggle against the cover/tribute bands bad habit (to my opinion!) starts several years ago, the final step to write about it started from an interesting conversation with, and a Facebook thread by my japanese friend Yoshiko... and I want she can understand well what I have to say!
As you may already know (or if you want, you can take a look to my personal page on this blog, even if it's in Italian language:, I'm an amateur drummer and I often play Prog, Fusion and Jazz music for training purpose.
In the past, once in Naples and then in Lodi, I took part in some cover bands playing jazz standards, blues and progrock classics and, at the same time, in bands which created their own musical stuff.
Two and half years ago I left the last rock blues cover band I was in, feeling not satisfied anymore by the continuous imitative processing which brought to nothing more than boring myself (pretentious? I don't know! Maybe only truly passionate).
As I already was in two bands which create music for themselves, I found more interesting to challenge with something new, than the boredom of continuously reproducing classics.
Moreover, I find that the study of classics  and the technical improving (both never abandoned) help me to give better contribution to the band(s) creating process, as I'm sure listening to some good music does!

Suddenly at a later stage I discovered myself disturbed  by listening to other cover bands, mainly performing Genesis and Pink Floyd songs, but also other great names not only in progressive stream.
I realized that if I want or I need to listen some of those classics, maybe it's better to put the CD in the player and listen to the original one, instead of staring and listening a pale verisimilitude of the original band that never gives me the same incredible shivers!

I have to reassure most of the foreign readers that this (bad) fashion is mostly located in Italy, so don't feel sad, or feel sad mainly for us!
Even if it is widely diffused also in England and USA, here in the Belpaese the incredible number of cover/tribute bands is covering up almost the whole LIVE music scenery.

Starting from the certainty that everyone is free to listen to the music he prefers, let me state about the most common sentences about cover/tribute facts:

1. "Covering and tributing a good band is the best way to become a good musician"
TRUE. As I before mentioned I always play some good track from Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes, and so on during my trainings, for the same reason... BUT ALWAYS ON MY OWN or with friends, to check our improvements, not to propose it to an external audience!

2. "Today in Italy it's the easiest way to earn money with music"
ALMOST FALSE. The most of cover/tribute band musicians already have a good job and, on the other hand, they are not forced to avoid composing their own music and propose it (maybe often they don't feel able to do it?).
This obviously doesn't mean that they should play for free... even if sometimes they should deserve it!

3. "All jazz musicians are cover ones"
FALSE. Apart the most of jazz musicians ALWAYS compose music on their own, you cannot compare covers and tributes with standard jazz performances. The second ones involve a huge part of improvisation, leaving only the main theme for the recognition of the song.
If you go to a tribute (and often a cover) band concert, they play songs AS THE ORIGINAL. Sometimes there's a little part of interpretation in covers, but not so much, to avoid audience disapproval.

4. "Classical Music is always a tribute"
TRUE/FALSE. Surely you're not saying that performances don't change in intensity and interpretation among the Music Directors!
Furthermore in many cases you cannot reach the original versions played by the composer, because of the absence of recordings.
It's true that every performance is almost a tribute to great Music Composers of the past, but don't forget the musicians are Orchestra Professors and that reading the music sheets is often their only job!
I know some of them that also create music on their own... and it's not Classical Music after all... and they enjoy to play it so much!
Moreover... I've never heard of a group of classical musicians who identify themselves as "The Franz Liszt's tribute orchestra".

5. "It's what people want"
TRUE/FALSE. It depends on the audience and on the context.
If you are playing for entertainment in a Dinner Medical Congress surely it's true.
I realized that if you propose with passion your own music and it's captivating, also if you play in a pub, you can catch the audience attention... and me and my band(s) are only passionate music amateurs, not professional musicians!

Those who desire to listen ONLY to the music they learned and loved in the past, quite often are not music lovers anymore. I think they are anchored to their old feelings and maybe they are unable or unconcerned to feel new ones. And this is not because nowadays music is bad and/or derivative (this sentence, says Philip Ball, finds always place since the Age of Enlightment) but because for them music has lost its appeal, and since in the past it was an important part of their lives, they cannot admit it! 
This kind of music user is the one who often says: "Music in my times was better, now all is a copy of those days". Obviously it's not completely true.

6. "It's the only way to listen to old (I say sometimes not so old) music classics nowadays"
FALSE. Someone in the past created black vinyl discs before and transparent polycarbonate discs after (Let's pretend to forget for a moment the MP3 universe) for quite the same reason. Put it on the plate or in the player, pump up the volume and miraculously you will listen to old songs and LIVE performances in their best manner... not in a poor, pale, unfaithful and often uninspired copy.
Oh... if someone needs to listen the old fashioned vinyl clicks and pops, there's a lot of people who uploads "vinyl music" on the Youtube channel... so he will be satisfied!

Why mainly in Italy?

The cover/tribute band phenomenon has found its best growth in Italy, with the respect of the other european and not european countries.
Well... it's not easy to list the huge number of reasons I listen from musicians and fans.
Someone says we have a poor musical culture, but I'm not sure it's true.
Or better... I know that the music proposed on the air by Radio Networks is influenced by the majors and it's not easy to listen to good level music from the radio. Not as frequently as in the past.
But I always meet at the gigs (and I don't attend only prog music, but also jazz and fusion), young people  very passionate and musically cultivated, often much more than some aged (and sometimes full of themselves) friends!
Others say there is a bad promotion, poor attention on new stuff, few chances to play on stage, lazy and distracted audience, etc.

Obviously the most of these reasons is almost right.
Nobody is fault more than those who pay lots of Euro to go to a tribute band concert and never go to listen to new bands!
I always say that in a country where the most TV share is on shows like "Tale e Quale Show" (where a number of popular people acts perfectly like famous singers) or "I Migliori Anni" (In English "Best Years of our Lives") there's surely something that goes wrong!
Italy, as lots of many other countries, has some important government, social and economic problems which bring to uncertainty and fear for the future. This reflects, you can believe it or not, on everyday's life  and the most are distracted and fully immersed in their own problems, forgetting to give energy and time to their passions and arts.
So... a TV show which brings to memory the "best days of our lives" founds a large audience which prefer to put their head on a well known pillow, more than trying a new one.
If you add that Italian progressive fans, despite of their adjective "progressive", are among the most conservative ones, the circle is closed and the game is over.
At this point  the most italian promoters have found more convenient to promote cover/tribute bands instead of new ones!
This obviously cuts off the young progfans who would like to listen more new stuff.

Let me renew in English the description of the "Lazy prog listener", taken from my preceding post:

"LAZY is the one who is strongly anchored to a musical genre and, to an extreme consequence, to a restricted number of artists (GenesisPinkFloydKingCrimsonYesGentleGiant for example!) and there's no chance to take him away from them: because it is more comfortable to listen to something you already know than trying a new one.
When the LAZY listener reaches something new, he generally compares it with his myths, which have much stronger influence, because deeply rooted in their memory,  and so it's impossible for the new one to win the musical match.
They don't listen to the music with their heart, become nitpicking and trace derivations and resemblances with the Great Names Of The Past ("this sounds like....", "this rhythm pattern has similarity with...", "Here there's a clear resemblance with..." and so on), a single little flaw which puts the "poor" object of their shoots out of game.
Arrived at this point the new stuff becomes negligible, they can easily come back in the comfortable embrace of their methodical certainties and the circle is closed".

I don't feel ashamed when I say that in the past I've been an arrogant prog listener, and I was sure that after the fabulous '70 there was nothing more much interesting.
When I joined the italian Marillion Fans Club, I met a lot of good people who convinced me I was wrong, letting me know about Porcupine Tree, Echolyn, Spock's Beard, IQ and many new other italian and foreign artists that I discovered by myself or with a little help from my friends and my brother.
What I couldn't imagine is that some of the same people who in the recent past opened my mind, now seem to be anchored to those years and those bands, alive or not, while I still feel curiosity and will to go on to discover other kinds of music, hoping to find something extremely new, never heard before, which will bring me with fulfilment to the end of my life.

I don't believe the musicians when they say they are in a tribute or cover band because of their great admiration for the original one.
Or better... maybe it's true they have a great admiration, but the pure reason is mainly that they fear otherwise to be forgotten on their own chairs without anyone asking them to dance (the metaphor is quite great, don't you think?)!
I think some of them believe more in their mocking attitude, than in the creating one.
Once I met a bass player who said to me he never tried to create a single bass pattern, always played patterns created by others. Can you really call him an artist? Maybe a good music performer!

"The artist often loses his control, while the craftsman always knows what to do" (Bill Bruford - The Autobiography, Discussing about Robin Miller's difficulty to improvise only other 8 measures with his oboe in King Crimson's 'Starless' song. They weren't written on the music sheet and he didn't know how to go on)

It's easier to go on stage with a song that the audience already knows and loves, than proposing a new one, isn't it?
In this way the audience will clap their hands and uncertainty and fear of confrontation will be masked!

I think they should stop to be so possessive and conservative.
I mean... when you compose music, every kind of music, from a complex symphony to a (good) easy listening song, once completed, you don't own it anymore, you share it, and the feelings it brings, with the audience. This is the universality concept of music I truly believe in!
If you want to be called an artist, it's your moral obligation to transmit and communicate YOUR OWN emotions and not mocking the other ones only to tear off an applause, while feeling inside you're not expressing yourself.

I always smile when they say "Prog is about to death".
We said the same in '80, then in '90 and after again and again.
Instead Prog is alive and well, many nowadays band are creating high level prog albums (but there's also a lot of negligible stuff, as ever) and music and things are changing.
There is more young people to prog rock events (Like Veruno Progfest, FIM, Crescendo, Gouveia, and so on. All these organizations don't accept tribute bands), really interested to good new music.
This maybe is because nowadays there's more young people who approach a musical instrument and while in the very first time they only need to know 4 chords to sing near the fire on the beach, the more they become clever, the more they want to listen to some music more stratified, complex and satisfying. They already know the prog classics and don't need a cover/tribute band to listen to... they're young and hungry for good new stuff... and ANYONE should catch the opportunity to let them listen to something beautiful and new, and teach those who will be the tomorrow musicians.
What are their hidden fears? 
They think their stuff could be not so interesting? Just try!
To be substituted by new ages? Maybe...

Let the (new) music play!
... and GO to listen to!
Maybe a lot of things will be negligible, but you will find also some good stuff.

Prog ON!

2 commenti:

Paolo Lambiase ha detto...

Sei sempre appassionato, accorato, entusiasta...incrollabile nella ricerca della bellezza e nell'eventualità che questa si manifesti in una nuova, inedita e meravigliosa inaudita forma musicale. Ammiro la tua capacità di emozionarti e di meravigliarti, ancor più quella di disporsi sempre a sognare. Ti abbraccio forte, Grazie!!

Il Progpromoter ha detto...

Grazie per le belle parole, my friend...
In fondo, se sono così, in parte lo devo anche ad amici come te!
Ricambio l'abbraccio forte!
A presto, spero!