I’d pay a pretty high price for a decent gig. As a teenager at Reading Festival 2006, my romanticisation of Franz Ferdinand was ample justification for a 12-hour attachment to the front row railings. Fast forward a decade or so, and it seems people just don’t value live music like they used to.
Hordes of Stokes Croftians on minimum wage will regularly cough up £20 for nights at Motion, but turnout for free gigs? Relatively low. But hey, maybe this is down to the comfort or genuine enjoyment of a herd. Gig buddies are relatively thin on the ground, whereas my favourite Motion memories centre around its bizarre tribal rituals – holding hands to stick together through crowds, huddling in the smoking area… sharing a singular piece of borrowed gum.
Still, it seems we have a new demand for consistency. In an age with free flowing access to music, but tight purse strings, our tolerance of anything but awesome is dwindling.
Perhaps this is a strive for excellence, a weeding out of the weak, but in a creative industry, how are bands supposed to get good without playing some really substandard shows along the way? I love hearing the stories of bands starting out. How, in true punk style, no-one in The Slits could actually play their instrument before taking to stage. How Muse (then Rocket Baby Dolls) accidentally won a pivotal Battle of the Bands, having smashed up their equipment in what they saw as merely a protest.
The dark rooms with random musicians hitting things are important; a place where bands cut their teeth, make mistakes, build – through highs and lows – their true diehard fans. If you want creativity to keep coming through, enjoy the mess, revel in the flaws, and, just occasionally, sink into some deep mediocrity.