Sunday, 12 August 2007

'Jam' man

Jam Man.
I went to a pub recently that has a ‘jam’ night, half thinking that I might have a go on the drums, but when getting there I realised that it wasn’t as ‘open’ as I supposed an ‘open’ night to be. It is a particular culture that in a way has amused me, and others I am sure, because of there being a predominant style amongst many who attend such things to identify with Americana yet clutch onto things that they believe to be ‘very English.’ I have found them quick to compromise in their acceptance of the spoon fed diet of ‘rebel’ ‘rack n’ roll’ fantasy world and quick to condemn the voice from the margins that actually does ‘rebel’ and often holds a mirror up to the values that are commonly accepted.
The provincial mind has come of age; cover band cretins abound. The ‘X Factor’ and all the other karaoke type of television programmes have prepared a dumb culture where many have a wish to aspire to the mediocre. It’s safe, of course, it’s predictable and it’s bloody boring, and the pony tailed ‘rocker’ extols ‘the blues’ in pubs that are empty until ‘the jam’ starts. The event is often advertised on boards outside the pub doorway, an admission to the dreary depths that the barren establishment has fallen to. The ‘bar’ fills to it’s normal congregation of being quarter full, and in walks those who watch others with a resentment and competitive eye. The lined faces of the ‘hardened’ blues men show years of dissatisfaction, a guitar case propped between their knees, a cola drink on a table in front of them, ready to play and sing a wail on mourning and songs that depict a life of sour mash whiskey and wanton women.
Being a drummer in a punk group many years back to a time when the face of the ‘blues rocker’ would crease in repugnance at the word ‘punk,’ I remember very clearly how adventurous and accepting to new ideas the ‘blues rocker’ was. I found them to be more narrow minded and fearful of difference than the people that they declared their venom against, these being the people who were seen by them to be ‘pop’ fans and musicians in ‘commercial’ groups, and those liking ‘black’ dance and pop music from the reggae to funk and the other styles that were deemed ‘straight’ by people who I have found to be among the most conservative that I have come across. The ‘weekend rebel’ acting at being ‘radical’ wearing the name of the ‘band’ on the tee shirt that gets washed and ironed and put in the drawer, has in my experience always held that patronising, snobby and condescending view of others with their musical taste; and that snobbery is all to do with fear that is borne on ignorance, and it is a common condition in the provincial mind.
The new ‘punk’ fashion pushed aside and ridiculed middle class English people speaking in an American slur and took themselves too seriously as they bathed in a provincial comfort zone being idolised by a girlfriend and a bunch of incestuous types.
As I was standing in the pub that night I thought of a play that I wrote called Leachfield that deals with a lot of this stuff. I mean good luck to people who want to come out and have a play; but I have all too often found it a humourless affair with many of the participants having had an irony bypass when their personality was being engineered.
Resistant to ‘outside’ involvement the main ‘players’ congregate by the side of the stage spending an inordinate amount of time tuning up before stuttering into a lifeless rendition of an overplayed song, wearing expressions on their faces that I am sure they imagine would fit into a ‘bar’ somewhere in the ‘southern states’ where they play the Delta blues.
Nowadays there is a greater eclecticism thrown into the music mix, but the unimaginative personality continues to exist. I looked across at the chalkboard, half hoping to see names like Big Bum Griffis, Slow Hand Sam, Blind Balls Baker – or something like that. I turned and caught sight of my reflection in the mirror behind the bar, ‘what are you sneering at?’ I said to myself; music accommodates all types, but this type of thing isn’t for me. So I took a quick look at the overweight bloke who was looking at me from the mirror and I went somewhere else for a drink – with a rendering of a REM hit having just finished that reminded me of a country and western song, and as I walked across the car park I was sure that I heard strains of that bloody Mustang Sally behind me.