Moose, Octopus and the Importance of Performance

Local bands and small-scale acts suffer from an incredible number of disadvantages. Whether an excuse or a justification, the exploitation suffered by musicians is often just a matter of fact the trade. Limitations in sound, opportunities and various other components which create a better atmosphere for the performance are a given for bands working on a low budget, but the two main components which can’t be deprived from the artists are songwriting ability and stage performance. Recent performances from local bands Moose and Octopus perfectly reflect my thoughts and criticisms with small-scale bands and, in addition to a summary of the events, I wish to emphasise how these criticisms apply to many other smaller bands and how they undermine the quality of performances in general. 

Moose

 

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(Image poached from their Facebook page)

 

First on the chopping block are Moose, a self-described Groove Metal band from Wales. A more than competent band in their own right, the band display more than enough compositional ability with their recent EP, Courage, Enlightened & Doubt. The music seems to pay large homage to Alternative Metal bands of the late nineties and noughties and blends this influence nicely with clear influence from heavier bands of the same era and some more recent. Though a varied influence does benefit the larger product as a whole, this variety does work to undermine the consistency and add unneeded contrast to tracks such as Obstinate, which seems a little torn between inspirations. Various aspects of the music show great understanding and appreciation for the flow of the songs and I’m more than satisfied with the level of the production, particularly regarding the drums. I feel the music would benefit from a more exaggerated vocal distortion to better capitalise on the clear Lamb of God influence but this isn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch of the word. The EP boast a respectable 19 minutes and five tracks of great sounding and interesting music.

 

Where Moose ultimately let me down was with their live performance. Talk to me about amazing live performance and I will always mention Robbie Williams at the Etihad last year. Obviously, you’d expect a better performance when so much money is being thrown around, but very little of this is owed to the funding behind the performance – I credit this incredible event to the absolutely masterful level of effort and commitment to the performance and visual aspects of the event. A great performance transcends the limitations of a musical performance and shapes the event into a phenomenal and heartfelt experience. I feel a gig should either serve as a conduit to a series of emotions and thoughts presented by the act or a riveting and engaging form of entertainment with the use of music. This performance had neither. To refer to my previous point, I don’t credit these aspects to funding, but to the lack of charisma and effort on behalf of the band or artist. Though aspects relating to the sound of the music were more than satisfactory for the performance and the instrumental and vocal performances were as good as I’d hope to see, there seemed little to no effort to engage the audience or even retain the support of the previous performers. The atmosphere fell flat between songs as silences emerged and a lack of on-stage movement made for a fairly dull visual show and served as an incredible hindrance to the potential of the band, with on-stage movement and atmosphere being fundamental to the flow of a loud Metal band. My almost total lack of interest in the show prevents me from recommending seeing the band live, but the music itself is a fantastic investment for any Metal fans and I would highly recommend listening to their EP.

 

Octopus

 

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(With no artwork available, this octopus will have to do)

 

Next in queue are Octopus, another local Manchester-based band currently in study at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. In contrast to the aforementioned Moose, Octopus incorporate various influences from a number of genres to form what they refer to as “Tentacle Rock” but I respectfully refer to as Indie Pop/Rock. Another perfectly serviceable band with obvious creative potential, Octopus suffer from many issues with performance and, with no online content or released music, I find it harder to find to gain a true appreciation for their efforts and music. 

 

A major advantage, and potentially one of the best aspects of the event, was with the venue itself. Hosted at Night People, the band benefited from a superior sound, atmosphere and visual display – elements enjoyed by the fantastic Thea Brooks and Hover Bored, the support acts for the night. With four pints down, I had hoped for a fantastic show from a group of great guys but was sadly left underwhelmed. Though the music handled variety with an intelligent and thoughtful mentality, the performance lacked a well-planned flow and seemed to end on something of a low point. This lack of flow can be attributed to many things, the obvious in this case being technical issues which brought the event to a standstill for what felt at least ten minutes, but I feel a larger problem was the lack of comfort between songs and on the stage in general. Like Moose, the members performed with a clear proficiency in their playing and what little movement they used made for a far more interesting visual show, but I don’t really feel confident that they worked anywhere towards their potential. Octopus find themselves in the awkward position where I can’t provide a typical “yay or nay” as their lack of an online presence makes for a totally inaccessible band and the inability to hear or even follow the band. The performance leaves me struggling too because they just didn’t let me see what they were really capable of. I find myself in the position of being unimpressed but convinced they possess more potential than was on display that night.  

 

Fucking performance, dude.

 

With so much competition already, I can’t stress enough how important it is to perform both to the best of your ability and in a way that engages or entertains an audience. The stage in no place for discomfort, silences and awkwardness – it’s the setting for an incredible experience to emerge for bands and audiences alike. When you take to the stage you become something different and something far greater. When you take to the stage you become responsible for how every person in the room feels by controlling the energy and setting an example of how everybody should interpret the event. Pray tell me, dear readers, what energy is a performer going to create if they don’t give it their every effort? Obviously there is only so much you can do, but it’s the job of the performer to commit to perfecting everything they can and carrying through a true display of effort and conviction.

 

Bands may piss and moan, but there is only so much they can blame a lack of support from an audience and there is only so far people are responsible for failing to attend concerts. We live in a more isolated state than ever and people will prefer the warm comfort of home to that of a band that doesn’t truly work to engage them, and you can’t blame them! Consider your image, contemplate your movement and, above all, be interesting! Above all else, a band is providing a service and a product when they enter the stage and there should be no feeling of entitlement from any performer – especially from a small scale, local band.

 

There are two things I expect from any band I go to see; an incredible on-stage performance and well-written songs. Nailing this will win all the love I can offer and believe me, it makes my job a LOT more pleasant. We all just want to be impressed and if a band manages that they will succeed hugely.

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Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain – Tony Conrad (album review + angry rant)

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(official cover art for the album, infinitely superior to any part of the piece)

I throw the term “Shit-muncher” around a lot, and it doesn’t necessarily act as indication of a terrible band. In spite of my love of the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac (one of my favourite albums of all time), I consider them as pretentious hippy bullshit and it falls into the realms of shit-muncher material. This one-track album by Tony Conrad is the perfect antithesis of acceptable shit-munch, being a ridiculous eighty-eight minutes of repetitive drone.  An enormous letdown for me, given as it received a gleaming five stars from Mojo Magazine in their most recent publication. With a description painting the release as a gloriously artistic and other-worldly spectacle, I went in with eager anticipation, expecting a true display of musical ingenuity. Oh how fucking wrong I was…

Firstly, as a disclaimer, I will admit that I have no other knowledge of Tony Conrad and have had no exposure to any of his previous work and, as far as I know, he could be entitled to the phenomenal reputation he has. I also want to clarify that I have no personal grievance with the man and, as he passed in April of last year, I will say nothing to insult his name – I serve only to bring an outsider perspective on the travesty that is this “musical” release.

When I say this is an eighty-eight minute drone fest I am being totally honest with you. Seriously, find it on Spotify and just skip through to random intervals of the track – or better yet, suffer the bullshit I faced by listening through the entire piece! I understand the purpose and creation of a soundscape, I have made many in my time as a musician. I also understand the nature of art and how it primarily serves to invoke a feeling or a story in the mind of the listener and, though I completely respect the artistic message to this, I feel any soundscape should possess something accessible or some form of genuine musicianship for it to be considered music. This piece is music in the loosest possible definition of the word as, technically, it is orchestrated sound – but the most pathetic, pretentious form of it imaginable.

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(don’t let the image fool you, professional and cool as he looks, the “music” is terrible)

With no exaggeration, I claim this as the worst “musical” endeavour I have ever experienced in my life. With bands I detest such as All Time Low being dreadful in their own right, there can be no dispute that they create music with the intention of appealing to somebody or some particular niche, this abomination does nothing but serve the pretentious ego of the creator. A word I heard it described as was “hypnotic” and I guess I can agree, in the same way I consider being repeatedly beaten over the head to be hypnotic, with the only means of enjoying it being means of Stockholm Syndrome, being generally sick in the head or so desperate to be respected as an individual that you will blindly ignore what is a dreadful and insulting piece of shit.

This approach to music genuinely revolts me and the lack of respect for the subject angers me to my very core. Music is a craft that opens one to the the world, reflects the beauty and wonder in all things, gives purpose to people and gives inspiration and identity and when a person releases a turd like this under the title of music it brutally undermines the integrity of musicians and art everywhere. This piece is the perfect example of a description I used to define some of my previous work – “the musical equivalent of throwing shit at a wall and calling it art” and, though I never claim to be exceptional in any respect, I can compare this to my body of work and consider myself a fucking genius.

This approach to orchestrating sound is an absolute disgrace to the musical arts and should be shunned by all. It shows blatant disrespect and almost mockery to what is probably the most incredible and pure thing ever devised by humans and pisses over everything musicians have spent thousands of years making and experimenting with. With a creation which invokes nothing but disgust and indignation, I will proudly announce to the world that this is the worst thing I have ever listened to in my life and maybe even the rest of my days to come.