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[whitespace] Reigning Sound

Should consumers allow the music industry to dictate taste?

By Sarah Quelland

SINCE I'LL BE in the Lone Star State sipping Shiner Bock and battling the fire ants the week this column runs, I've decided to take the opportunity to address the current state of rock music. As many of you who read this column regularly know, I go to a lot of shows to check out our local bands and other regional and touring unsigned bands--along with the national acts that come through town. It's frustrating to see so many talented musicians overlooked and underplayed because their style isn't "marketable," they're "too old" or the powers that be don't think they have the right image. More insulting is watching so many no-talent novelty-hit bands get touted as the next big thing--even worse is when people buy into the hype.

Sure, music is a commodity in our society, but who's deciding what music is going to be popular? Do these people really know what they're talking about? Should we trust them? And why does the industry have to be so regulated? If a band doesn't fit into the constructs of whatever MTV deems is hip, or sound just like some other band that just sold a million albums, odds are the general public will never even get the chance to voice its opinion with its pocketbook.

Papa Roach shot out of the gates with almost unprecedented success. Label execs are still scrambling to find "the next Papa Roach." But there won't be a next Papa Roach, nor should there be. There's only one Elvis, one Beatles, one Black Sabbath, one Nirvana. What's exciting is bands that are doing something fresh and being true to themselves, not something that's being unsuccessfully imitated by bands across America in an attempt to cash in on the latest trend. Finding a band that creates music from the heart is like falling in love. It's new and exhilarating and meaningful.

People forget that a huge percentage of the bands that make it big start out at the local club level. And I think the industry manipulates the musical tides so forcefully that it's easy to get swayed toward or away from various artists. Sometimes all it takes is a video to make or break a band. I can turn on the radio and be almost guaranteed I'll hear the same songs driving to work as I will on my commute home.

We need to throw all the bullshit music politics out the window and not be afraid to stand up for the bands we like. We should experiment and take more risks when it comes to music. We don't have to accept what we're fed by the industry. We have a rich, diverse music scene here in San Jose and audacious clubs that aren't afraid to book bands from all over the rock spectrum. Check out the local section at independent stores like Streetlight Records or find out which local bands might be doing something you're into and go see them perform at one of the South Bay's live venues. With so many bands using the Internet as a tool to get their music heard, things are changing, but it's a slow process.

I have a theory that if MTV decided to make Trixter hot again, people would be lining up to buy the new Trixter album. MTV has that much impact. Nothing against Trixter per se, but I think we're all capable of making up our own minds.

PLAN AHEAD: Krenshaw, Los Bastardos de Amor, Fan 5, Hello Gorilla, Mind Sick and D.F.A., April 7 at the Cactus; Delinquent Habits, April 7 at the Usual; Downside, April 7 at the Gaslighter Theater in Campbell; Flogging Molly, April 7 at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz and April 8 at Bottom of the Hill; Serrated, Soba and Lonely Kings, April 7 at the Aptos Club; Pat Travers and the Robert Berry Band, April 8 at the Backbeat; Henry Rollins, April 9 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco; Joe Jackson, April 9 at the Fillmore and April 10 at the Warfield in San Francisco; Dropkick Murphys, Swingin' Utters, Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards and Reach the Sky, April 10 at the Catalyst; Krenshaw Happy Hour, April 11 at the Cactus; Fenix*TX, the Benjamins and Home Grown, April 12 at the Cactus; Salmon, April 13 at the Cactus; Robbie Krieger Band, April 13 at the Catalyst; Dogstar, April 15 at the Backbeat; Oleander, April 16 at the Usual; the Januaries, April 22 at Fuel; Slow Gherkin, April 26 at the Cactus; Sick of It All, April 26 at Palookaville; J Mascis + the Fog, April 28 at Catalyst.

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From the April 5-11, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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