“Simplicity provides a fine line between eloquence and plainness”
I “stole” the above line from the film Brown Sugar, starring Taye Diggs (Doctor Sam Bennett from Private Practice) and Sanaa Lathan (Mona Fredricks from Boss). It is the latter’s character – a newly-appointed editor of a mainstream hip-hop publication – who is said to have written this line in her very first published article in the film. This statement can easily be said of any facet of our daily lives. It is a statement that has resonance with all music – and in this case rock ‘n’ roll.
Rock ‘n roll – or rock music as it is known to its friends – prides itself in its ability to depict a reality at its simplest form. A beautiful, painful, hard or tender reality. The dramatics of rock ‘n roll have played themselves out off stage leading to many misunderstandings and controversies arising as a result. From Chuck Berry’s 1959 arrest for the honest employment offer to a woman who turned out to be somebody’s 14-year old baby girl; to the events that brought about the demise of the Beatles (thanks a lot Yoko), and everything in between and since – rock music has been mired in [simple] misunderstandings.
An irrefutable fact though is that rock ‘n roll has always showed enough respect to its patrons and admirers, with the relationship between the two being described as:
“…(the) relationship between band and audience is in that sense like the relationship between two lovers making love, where cause and effect becomes very hard to see, even impossible to call by its right name; one is literally getting down, as in particle physics, to some root stratum where one is freed from the lock stop of time itself, where time might even run backward, or sideways, and something eternal and transcendent is accessed.”
These are the words of Dr. John, the legendary Jazz, Boogie Woogie, Blues and Rock ‘n Roll virtuoso. Here he is attempting to paint a clearer picture of the interaction between a band and its audience. The excerpt forms part of an extended conversation between Dr. John and fellow musician/ music critic/ journalist/ lecturer and fellow New Orleans native Tom Piazza.
Since it is the season to write, speak and think only about all things rocking – and in light of the rapidly- approaching Oppikoppi 2013 Bewilderbeast – a closer inspection of the said line is perhaps called for.
In snaking convoys we will make our way to the normally placid hamlet of Northam. We shall take with us our love for music, and armed with Kobus Van Rooyen’s (@phoenixmuso) 33 Things You Need For Oppikoppi: A Stage Manager’s Perspective; the air will be heavy with the collective expectations for a truly awesome time. Regardless of how each and every one of us as pilgrims fare, there is one thing to remember – we’re there for the music (also to get laid). And it is about the music, and all the people who make it, that I write this mindful of.
Long before musicians became internet or YouTube sensations and going viral meant something completely different, musicians and rock music strived for the simple and rebuffed the advances of the plain. It is impossible to fathom plainness when speaking of a genre that was born of the daily tribulations told through the heartbreak and heel tap of the blues. I could never envisage plainness in a music that shared its ambitions and the pain of suffered loss – a genre that lay bare its heartbreak for us all to realize that we’re not alone. Such is the power of music.
I can only imagine that standing on that stage and looking out into the amorous sea of fans, flashing light-bulbs, the odd pair of firm young breasts that elicit wolf whistles will draw a wry smile from the lead singer, and the rest of the band members. The scores of enchanted hands that will reach deep into the dusty as if in attempts to touch the music, can only serve to spur on the performers and hopefully remind the fan inside each of them how it really felt to see their favourite artists on stage. This is the ultimate affirmation and the perfect “up yours” to all those who believed that they would account to naught. This show of affection represents the collective middle finger to all of them.
It will not matter that many of us in the crowd cannot hold a note – flying directly in the face of conventional wisdom; the bands will engage us, the tone deaf masses, in what can be best described as an act of reciprocity. Deep down we all know that music is meant to be shared, and rock music is to be shared in acts of complete madness it will seem. Normally, severe daytime belligerent debauchery is not deemed socially acceptable. But for those couple of days, those few glorious days, all that will be normal and cheered on. Grown men with serious beards (Brothers Grimm Bavarian woodsmen beards) will fight back the welling up of tears in their eyes. Of course they will claim it’s the dust, but we all know that music will tame the savage beast – or Bewilderbeast rather.
Music exists to tell stories of adversity; tales of triumph and to a degree extol the virtues of hope over experience. Music gives us reason to believe, and it is the hand that reaches into the crowd and pulls us back from the proverbial edge. Almost biblically it says, “Bring me your weary” and does not stand in judgement.
Chuck Berry once said: “Rock’s so good to me. Rock is my child and my grandfather.” How about we be good to music in return? As we go about our countdowns and making final preparations to go and watch some of our finest local talents sharing the stage with internationally renowned acts, let us pay it forward and get behind our rock music and musicians.
Let us straddle that fine line, and carefully navigate an industry that would have our artists sorely confuse plainness for simplicity.
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Music. Film. Art. Literature. Current Affairs. Culture. I document. Speak out of turn. Think. Engage. Offend. Witness.