Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Go! Team Live at the Apollo

Nice review over at Music For Robots (scroll down a bit) of the first of three nights of The Go! Team shows in NYC. I can't remember the last time a spankin-new band took hold so instantly as a fave. Here's obviously why: "...the sheer joyous energy the band put out onstage really effected the crowd in a way I've only seen a few times in a New York City club ..."

I'm re-reading Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music right now. It always slightly turned me off by its extremely white-60s-hippie view of soul music: Otis and Rufus and such as musical descendents of the blues tradition; Motown as a purely commercial affair (whatever the hell that means - as one jazz player said, "that's why they call it the 'music business', not the 'music friends'"). But I s'pose I've grown up or somesuch shit, because this thing's really meshing with my music thoughts these days. And this passage, where Guralnick relates his own come-to-Jesus moment re: soul music, stuck out - I've got the page dog-eared, but reading that Go Team thing seemed to spark it all on its own. He's discussing a revue he went to in Boston as a young man, which featured (get this!) Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Garnet Mimms, Rufus Thomas, Joe Tex, The Tams, Sugar Pie DeSanto, and more:

I don't think Rufus Thomas or Joe Tex even showed up for that evening's performance, but that, I soon came to realize, was par for the course, and , so far as I can recall, their absence was never even announced from the stage or remarked upon by the cheerful, well-dressed, and enthusiastic audience which seemed to saunter in and out of the theater in waves, with many missing the opening act, some leaving before the closing act was done. It was the occasion, I came to understand, that was of consequence as much as the show itself. There was a spirit of community in that packed theater, encouraged, certainly, by the performers but springing from a common experience, an openly shared perception of reality, that was both palpable and infectious. New York Times reporter Clayton Riley has described his childhood memories of the Apollo in a somewhat earlier, more decorous era, how "folks just showed out, as the saying went, came gliding through the Apollo lobby with with proud, confident grace, wearing the best clothes and finest manners ..."

What I think Guralnick, and through him Riley, is describing, is exactly what rock music lost at some point to the tyranny of genius. 'Rockism' often gets tied into this idea of genius - the idea that someone like Bob Dylan or Radiohead is this incomparably brilliant creator of music who must be listened to and appreciated and studied. The idea that the body of work is more important than any single aspect, single moment, single performance (live or on record) - and therefore a band that has one truly great song is considered disposable.

That's, I suppose, what puts my thought in line with the anti-rockists, the pop-ists, whatever the fuck people on blogs call 'em. Because it seems to me that if you can create that experience that Guralnick is describing - the communal sharing of a set of ideas, or at least a set of drinks, for a little while, then you've succeeded in ways that a thousand people sitting still and quiet in a theater listening to whatever can never succeed in, right?

Hell, I dunno quite what I'm getting at - just, perhaps, that the tyranny of the tortured genius has been temporarily suspended by the likes of The Go! Team, who'd rather have you buy into the team for a moment than spend ten years figuring out what it means to place that comma there.

That's all a little ridiculous for a Wednesday morning, eh? Shut up. It's spring.


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