Whenever I go to a small show and see an up and coming band, a few questions always circle my head. No greater question has circled my head more lately than the authenticity of any sort of new music that I hear. For some of you, right now, you know EXACTLY what I mean, and for the others, I'm going to explain myself. Trends generally start as an authentic thing. A couple of people get together, tell society to fuck off and then do their thing. Gradually, a sea of assholes say, "Hey! I can do that!" They pat themselves on the back, steer their lifestyle in that general direction and eventually latch onto something new as time moves on. It's why "waves" of bands exist. By the fourth and fifth wave, we've heard it, seen it and are pretty sick and tired of it. Not only does the product not sound original, it's just taking direct cues from ones that came before - instead of mixing in new ideas.
This has been the up and down with music for years - and in the punk scene in particular. Thanks to the oh so wonderful Internet, it's easier than ever to grasp an idea and make it your own fruition - simply coloring between the lines. When one thing is beginning to get big, you have to wonder where that line will eventually get drawn as to who's in it to do their own thing, and who's in it to ride the wave of others' success.
Thursday night I drove down to San Antonio to see Xerxes and Code Orange Kids on their winter tour. Xerxes' upcoming album is one my most anticipated of 2012. I've yet to receive an advance (ahem) but the tracks I've heard thus far and the feedback from a few other bands which have heard it is pretty overwhelming. Then there's Code Orange Kids, a band that could be one of the biggest in the hardcore and thrash scene by the end of the year. They're young, and talking with them on Thursday night, they're also very ambitious - and ambitious to take the right steps. Their live show, like Xerxes, is no bullshit game. They're both emotional trainwrecks. Code Orange Kids blows out your eardrums in intense fury while Xerxes violently grabs at your heartstrings. It just feels real. Match that to seeing Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) and Dowsing at a club in the worst part of Austin or The Reptilian and my friends in Innards play a shed (yes, a shed) a couple of nights later - and it just feels like all these things are happening for the right reasons.
This is one of the most exciting times for punk music, but it's also the scariest. There's a lot of "worship" happening - and I'm not saying that it's bad to take an old tune and spin it into something that's your own (not everyone has to reinvent the wheel), I'm just saying that it's statistically impossible for everyone to standout. For every local band that gets moderately big, there are ten local bands that want to do that exact same thing. Not everyone can make it - and most of you will fail in the process.
The cycle is coming back around, and there are going to be a lot of cookie-cutter bands in the next few years that follow - this I promise you. It's already happening with the music just on a local level. Then someone will buy in, and it'll turn into a complete clusterfuck of no one giving a shit. Then there will be bands trying to do something that's not that, until we come full circle to a couple of years like the last two we just had. So head this warning: It is certainly an exciting time to be in a band. I feel like the rock star thing is dead (Thanks Dangerous Summer!) and kids want to be genuine about the music they make. For the most part, they want to do it right. That's a great start. There's no telling how long you will last in this business. The best thing you can do is leave even the smallest legacy on a 7" split or have your only proper full length be something that slightly changes the tide and is held as something special by people who may matter more down the line.
Someone told me something so simple, but verbally slapped some knowledge across my face leaving a mark that is a partial reason I wrote this blog. It's easy to be a follower. There's no thought, and anyone can follow anything. It's harder to be a leader. It's harder to get someone to listen to what you have to say and follow accordingly. Love'em or hate'em, those people are doing more with a week's worth of work than you may do in a year. Be a leader, have integrity and ask yourself if you're setting a precedent or notch in the bigger picture. That's what punk rock is about - the following part is why many people say it's dead. Let's fucking prove them wrong.