Has Indie Rock Lost Its Edge?

Gig talkers. They’re the scum of the Earth aren’t they? Chattering away through a show you’ve paid perfectly good money for. If people wanted to blither on, why didn’t they go down the pub and do it? It’s cheaper AND you don’t bug anyone, right?

While there’s a lot of credibility with that sentiment, it also highlights a chip on the shoulder of the modern rock show. Fact is, there’s a propensity for mumbling, quiet, introverted musicians out there who demand your respect while barely opening their mouths. When was the last time someone walked out of a club or heavy metal gig, strung-out with nauseated world-weariness at someone talking at a show? Chances are, it hasn’t ever happened because, in the theatre of fun, bad behaviour – drinking, getting off with people and all that good stuff – is actively encouraged. A good artist won’t ask you to be quiet because they’ll get your attention without trying.

Yet, indie music in 2012 just stands there feeling sorry for itself, mumbling into its microphone with an audience tutting at itself about bozos who have the temerity to act like someone at a gig, all drunk and restless. Go to a Caribou gig, and you’ll find yourself amongst people so silent, the only thing you’ll hear from them is the tapping of their iPhones as they tweet about the amazing time they’re having. Go to an Admiral Fallow show and you can bet your bottom dollar that someone will shoot daggers at you if you have the cheek to say, “Well, this is a load of worthy bollocks isn’t it?” to yourself.

And that’s because rock ‘n’ roll has gotten old. It’s grown curmudgeonly and has started feeling like a classical recital. You’re not there to actually have a real cool time, you’re there to pay respects and you can buy the official merchandise to prove it. With singers sat on stools, dressed in their little waistcoats and suits, showing you how thoughtful and introverted they are, you’d think that you were at a Chopin performance with a bunch of bracelet-rattling Herberts.

Indie has lost its way, vainly grasping at respectability while hiding behind an expensive looking haircut and dressed just-so. The ambition is to be quietly understood, rather than to challenge, preen and take some numbers of those who disaffectedly stand around in hushed, pointless reverie. Even bands that have plugged their amps in like The xx or Warpaint will see you unable to chat because, for some reason, we’re supposed to treat musicians with respect. When did that happen?

These bands don’t repay you in fun or give you a chance to forget about the humdrum job that’s sapping your will to live or encouraging you to spend your last fiver at the bar. These bands pay you back by providing twee acoustic cover versions for car adverts or licensing their songs to American dramas. The relationship between a band and its audience is now one of understanding that rock ‘n’ roll is a job and you’ve got to take it all very, very seriously.

And where’s the fun in that? In austere times, we need to be surrounded by encouragable people, leading us astray and making us forget about the machinations of the dreary world outside the concert venue.

We’ve become an audience that is willing to be hushed by a band, rather than asking them to give us more. Musicians once competed with our drunken lust, our will to get wasted and our short attention spans. Those that wrestled us away from our base needs were rightly respected. However, now, there’s the slow, muttered understanding that we must all avert our eyes and pay attention to everything because we’re supposed to be lucky in the presence of someone who can play G and Am.

As such, the gig-talkers may irritate, but they have highlighted a different problem altogether. Without them, we’re faced with a simpering, cow-towed audience with musicians who feel like we don’t deserve them. It’s time to declare war on musicians. It’s time to make them earn their stinkin’ keep. Those that weakly cry off can go to hell because we need some cheer and we need it right now.