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Friday, April 28th, 2017

Project: Abandon…Popular Bands

12

I’m a total hypocrite and I’m calling myself out. The age-old musician question: When a band makes it big, does that automatically mean that they are sell outs?

I remember seeing John Mayer before he was JOHN MAYER and knowing there was a very short time span before the whole world would catch on.  Picture this: 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA. The year, 2001 on a hot August night. I was in LLLLLOOOOOOVVVVEEE with him as he had just recently outgrown his career launchpad of the 150-seat legendary Atlanta venue, Eddie’s Attic.  This particular night in Athens, I had to elbow my way through throngs of Gap-wearing college girls to get up front, but I did it.

John Mayer 40 Watt

BOO-YA!  This was back when you had to get your pictures DEVELOPED!  Look how young he looked!  Incidentally, Howie Day opened for him as a solo act with just a guitar and a cool delay pedal.

So, as John Mayer got bigger and bigger, my interest in seeing him live became less and less.  I know, I know! I’m a music snob and have gotten used to the $10 cozy intimate shows where you can actually HAVE DRINKS with the artists. Granted, I still couldn’t resist getting tickets to John’s show at Phillips arena in March…but I did it  begrudgingly. And my seats sucked.

So I started to notice how many bands I absolutely adore, but once the world catches on, I’m out the door like a deadbeat dad.  For me, the less fans the better….but they have to be GOOD!  Radio ready.  So, the hypocrisy kicks in. As I find these incredible artists that are foaming at the mouth for people to come see them, all I want to do is promote them!   I want them to be huge!  But not that huge that I can’t be close anymore.

A perfect example of a perfect amount of notoriety would be Toad the Wet Sprocket.  This American alternative band achieved moderate success on the billboard chart in the 1990’s.  Their album, Fear (1992) was critically acclaimed and is considered a masterpiece (according to me and my friends :)).  Never selling out huge arenas, they never achieved astronomical popularity on the mass scale.  They broke up before they could wear out their welcome. According to Wikipedia:

The band officially broke up in 1998 to pursue other projects and have not released a new studio album since 1997, but continue to tour the United States as a band in small-venue, short-run tours.

toadthewetsprocket

My question is did this band not get huge because they weren’t good enough?  Could Toad the Wet Sprocket have had more die-hard fans if they had a better marketing team or a less weird name?  Trust me, there are plenty of garbage bands getting head-spinning airplay on radio stations worldwide and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Who knows? Maybe my taste is a little different than the rest of the planet’s homogenized ears.

As happy as I am for artists to really hit it big and sell out the big arenas, I will always cherish the talented artist who is desperate to find more fans. In fact, RadioPotato is dedicated to them. But after that, I’m gone.

Here are some artists that I USED to like until the buzz got too loud:

  • Green Day – they’ve always been accused of being super sell-outs, especially from the true punk community
  • Dave Matthews Band – if I never hear another Dave song again, I’ll be fine.  MAD respect, however for Remember Two Things and Under the Table and Dreaming
  • U2 – over it!
  • Taylor Swift – you KNOW she’ll be posing for Playboy in 5 years to try and “break out” of her cookie cutter image
  • Justin Timberlake – who am I kidding?  Was he ever small?
  • Black Eyed Peas – they always start out in the good category, but I tend to love every single song released…and then burn out quickly
  • Owl City – “Fireflies” -I love that one dude built an entire album in his basement, but everytime I turn on the radio, it’s always playing! Stop!

Here are some bands that despite the over-air play, I’m still down! Definitely worth the hype:

  • Kings of Leon
  • The Fray (amazing live show!)
  • Jason Mraz
  • Kanye West (what a giant A-HOLE, but his music is solid!)
  • Carrie Underwood (that girl is the real deal)
  • Lady Gaga
  • Michael Buble (True Love Always!)
  • Frank Sinatra (he will never, ever go out of style)
  • Led Zeppelin (they seem to get better with time)
  • Rush (my absolute favorite band of all time and my first concert ever – Ahhh, love!)

IMG_0197

I’m fully aware that I’m contradicting my own beliefs to champion the obscure artist into a mass audience. I just wonder if the saturation of available music today will help us drown out the repetitive beatdown of the same music. Maybe it will keep our ears and the artists’ shelf life fresh for longer.  Here’s to pipe dreams!

About the author

Allison Hare wrote 138 articles on this blog.

A modern-day dame with a bionic ear for discovering emerging artists and a penchant for live shows. Admitted radio junkie

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Comments

12 Responses to “Project: Abandon…Popular Bands”
  1. CarisaTurner says:

    @allisonrebecca1 Was just reading your post about abandoning popular bands. Think you’ve gotten me hooked on small shows, too. 🙂

  2. @MadKeet says:

    Try out Kasabian song Underdog, agree on green Day. I like bands that no matter how RAW the music you can hear and understand the lyrics, after all someone wrote them to be heard, not garbled. MK

  3. Reg says:

    If a band stays true to their creative roots, or at least still possesses those qualities that made me like them to begin with, I have no problem supporting them if they become popular. I cannot blame a band just because they become popular. I may not like the fact that the intimacy I had with that band is gone, but I can be happy that in this world of music where bling matters more to the masses than substance, my band stayed true and did it right.

  4. Pete Hopkins says:

    Fascinating… hmmm…. so by that rationale, to some bands, you could be simultaneously regarded as both friend and foe I would imagine… That is interesting. You’re not alone by any stretch. I have experienced this mentality in many walks of life. Our seemingly selfless gestures of a hand up, whilst holding on to ones proverbial suspenders, so as to feed our own subconscious desire to not encourage them to soar too quickly and thusly out of our reach.
    Summation:
    It is no easy feat being altruistic when the outcome is not favorable to the benefactor.
    I am still not fully convinced that altruism is even a concept that really exists.
    Kudos to you for your honesty.

    I enjoyed your posting.

  5. Kristy says:

    I agree, to a degree 😉 Usually if I like a group enough to purchase an album and follow them on a regular basis, I’m not going to stop liking them no matter what happens. I absolutely LOVE the small venue atmosphere & the feeling that I know about a group or artist before everyone else, no matter how rarely it happens… but if they continue to pump out good music, I’m going to continue to listen. There’s a bit of a rush when you pay top dollar to sit among thousands to listen to a group you’ve been following since day 1. Love it!

  6. Allison Rizk says:

    Kristy, I love your loyalty. You are a true music lover. Thanks for the comment-

  7. Shiek Yerbouti says:

    Reg pretty much posted my feelings on the matter. If they generally stay true to their creative roots, then for me, yeah, I’m with them. But sometimes, where they’re going is where I’m not going and they eventually fade. That’s just life.

    But if they just become popular, then so be it, I’m happy for them. They no longer have to struggle to eat and stuff like that, they earned their way. But creatively, if they’re different from what they used to be, then, yeah, I tend to fade away myself.

    Green Day is one I feel has done that. They definitely cater to their popular audience moreso than they did back in the days before Dookie became popular.

  8. Mark Nass says:

    At my age (hehe), small venues R the norm anymore. For me, gone R the days of big arena/outdoor theaters despite who’s playing. Most of my best-seen shows have come from ‘word-of-mouth’ bands that have small followings (for now), or ones I’ve held in my back pocket, so to speak. Once U start pushing $50+ for a ticket, U’d better B well worth it. I’ll pay $15 to see someone on the rise or musically talented anytime. Extremely high $$$ smell of sellout…

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