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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Are Bands Dead?

Adam Levine from Maroon 5 says bands are dead. I watched the 2021 Grammys. The only group I recall was BTS, which is not a band. So is Adam right? Does it matter? What is a band?

A band is a collaboration. Being in one is consuming. A real band lives together, drinks together, struggles together, fights, fucks, laughs. It’s intense. And out of the crucible comes music.

Fans of bands buy into a complex storyline. Relationships, breakups, friendships. Watching a band onstage is watching a shifting, moving puzzle, all the parts coming together in rare expression.

When it works it’s life-affirming. A great show unites all parts of the band, and reaches out to forge bonds with the audience. We all become part of the band.

Some artists need collaboration to fly. Lennon needs McCartney. Mick needs Keith. Some bands are solo acts in disguise. But all bands are collaborative art. And the best bands create music that can only be created in collaboration. So are there no new bands?

As a veteran band member and life-long musician, I have ideas about it, and I agree with Adam Levine at least about this: We don’t live in a band world.

Band dreams take sacrifice. Musical ROI has been eaten by corporate machines like Spotify. Internet has drawn and quartered the music industry. Streaming is death to music.

It’s impossible to imagine taking the long hard band road. Live music venues struggle to keep their doors open. Even a hit song provides a paltry return. How do you divide that with four or five other people?

In band life, getting everybody on the same band page is war. I mean humans, right? Bands are magic. But bands are nightmares too. So who bands together, man?

Look at the world. We sit in our rooms with our laptops. Technology brings an orchestra to our fingertips. We spin digital music dreams to our heart‘s content. The ultimate embrace of every artist is solitude.

Technogy promised a deep connection. But the connection is forged in isolation. We live through our screens. This is not a world of bands. This is a world of headphones and a matcha latte sitting alone in a trendy coffee bar.

Of course, fuck all that. Bands still thrive. The music bands make still can’t be made any other way.

Now if you listen to Top 40 Pop Factory Content Output, first of all, I’m saying a prayer for you. That stuff all sounds the same. I mean exactly the same. Why? Because it is! Same samples, loops, beats, synth patches, compressors, eq, bpm, hell, even the same laptop and software. I own all that gear. I know how to work the line.

By the way, I love some of that stuff. As a producer it’s fun! But honestly, it feels more like content making than music making. I long for the slightly out of tune voice over a gently behind the beat guitar. Give me blistered finger-picking and real breath any day.

Look, coming out of this pandemic I’m expecting an explosion of creativity. What’s the antidote to isolation? Live performance. Humans gathering with humans to watch humans perform.

We need bands. We need music. It’s time to support our music. Spotify doesn’t. Concerts do.

So are bands dead? Only if we’re dead. Here’s some bands old and new working the street. Paramore. Garbage. Haim, Nasty Cherry, The Aces, Hinds, Plush, Nova Twins, Chai. Don’t know them? Look them up. Listen.

Bands are not dead. And bands are not all four cute guys either. All bands used to be men. Maybe a girl singer. Now bands are an explosive, gender-twisting, genre-blending, galactic collaboration.

My wife says her church is a concert hall. I get it. It’s time to pray. Salvation is a new album. Don’t buy the drudge. Celebrate the bands. Music is a participation sport. Get vaccinated and dance in front of a band. We need this. Live and live are the same different word. Think about it.


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