I live in a town. It’s called London. Every once in a while I like to go out dancing with my friends and have a couple of beers. In London there are many places to choose from, and if you are a fan of a certain genre of music you can be sure to find somewhere to cater for your taste. And thus the ‘indie club’ was born – a place where fans of guitar-based music veering somewhat ‘left of the centre’ could join hands and meet the like-minded.
The format is pretty similar across the board: three or so bands for a fiver plus all the indie disco anthems you can muster until 3 am. Venues in London in particular have given rise to a whole new ‘scene’, and in most places you can almost be certain on shaking your booty to Bloc Party, The Libertines and Razorlight. Like your electro-clash or riot grrl? There will almost certainly be somewhere where you can find a bunch of people dancing to your entire cd collection. The djs may even be dancing too.
Sounds like great fun. But after a year or so of checking out the ‘scene’, I am now somewhat reluctant in accepting invites to the latest hot indie night. Whilst the idea is fine in theory, the bandwagon nature (excuse the pun) of music fads is such that you are likely to see the same bands playing in the same places to the same people with the same dj sets in between. For example, I myself became quite the fan of The Young Knives, who can now be seen at most music venues before ending their set to the tune of (you guessed it) Bloc Party, The Libertines and Razorlight. Needless to say, I probably won’t be seeing the Young Knives again any time soon. What initially appeared to be exciting, subversive and underground now appears to be a form of band PR; a necessary first step before heading into MTV2 land.
Not that I have anything against the Young Knives. Good for them. But to think that these places are the place to find something new you would be misguided. The formula is obvious and even clichéd: four skinny indie boys in need of a haircut playing jagged guitar lines in the guise of Franz Ferdinand or (if they are being daring) Gang of Four. One singer looking suspiciously like he is on heroin, or at least methadone. Sing along songs, generally forgettable, drummer is usually a bit rubbish. Conversation the next day usually goes along the lines of:
‘Who did you see last night?’
‘I saw Agent Blue/The Others/Vincent Vincent and The Villains/Insert name here.’
‘I can’t remember really, they were ok. Sound a bit like Razorlight.’
Even more interesting are the clientele. I’m no statistician, but I could quite easily hazard a guess at the indie-disco demographic: students and twenty somethings with a general interest in music, more so than the average Joe on the street but no more than the average ‘Now That’s What I Call Indie Disco’ compilation…Ok that’s me being a snob. But my point is that many of these people don’t even seem to care about the music that they are listening to: whether its a new band they are watching whilst checking out the clothes of fellow indie boppers in the room, or the last song they are kissing to at the end of the night, the bottom line is that music is simply part of the background.
So what am I proposing? That we do away with these places altogether, leaving those wanting a beer and a dance to the Ministry of Sound instead? Of course not. But my new perspective is to see these places as just that – a good place to have a laugh with your friends. If you’re looking for exciting new music without pretensions, however, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.