30 Day Song Challenge, Days 18 & 19

I’m going to tackle days 18 and 19 in one post because they both involve something that I have very little experience on which to draw: “bar bands.” I haven’t spent much time in bars with live house bands (as opposed to bars that double as concert venues, which of course is a different question), and any time I have spent there is definitely lessening as time goes on. That said, I’ll give both of these a shot, in different ways.

Day 18, A Song Every Bar Band Should Know, “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues”

For this one, since it asks what a bar band should know, I’m thinking about the history of rock & roll (assuming that a “bar band’s” will fall somewhere within the broad and ill-defined genre of rock) and what might be considered its canon to find a song that in principle it seems a hypothetical bar band ought to know. While Robert Johnson’s original version of “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” pre-dates rock & roll, you really can’t overestimate the influence of Johnson’s small recorded corpus on the development of rock & roll and especially what we now call Classic Rock (the version of the song by the Rolling Stones serving as a prime example). Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the blatant misogyny that this and many other of Johnson’s (and other influential blues musician’s) songs, but maybe there’s some redemption in this one to the extent that the woman, in the third verse, matches the singer’s fists with her pistol. Anyway, whatever you make of the lyrical content of the song, its musical backbone is a paradigm of the combination of toughness and dexterity that you find from rock & roll’s inception and throughout its classic era. You also see it in the sort of revitalization of the heavy blues in “indie” rock in the 2000s that came about thanks to groups like the Black Keys and the White Stripes (who also took on this song), or the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Before them. All of which is to say that an old classic like this should still be a surefire hit for any band. And at the very least, from personal experience I can say that it sure is fun to perform.

Day 19, A Song Bar Bands DJs Should Stop Playing, “Chrome”

For this one, I’m appealing more directly to my experience by exchanging “bar band” for “DJ”—and a particular type of DJ, since most of my (albeit, still limited) experience will be with them. It was already the late ’90s before I even had the opportunity to go to a bar or club that would play the goth/industrial/EBM music of which I had become a fan. For me at that time, this meant the music that had had a chance to filter out to where I was (both geographically and culturally)—i.e., music from the ’80s and early ’90s: the likes of Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Ministry, and of course Nine Inch Nails. But by the late ’90s softer, smoother, more trance influenced version of this music had been gaining ground, the type represented by the track I’ve chosen. And as far as I can tell, this has not gone away in the years since. I don’t have anything against “Chrome” in particular, but I do wish that the clubs weren’t dominated by music in this subgenre. Of course, this could be a peculiarity of my own experience; maybe it’s not like this everywhere. But there’s a lot of good new stuff in this area (e.g., White Car, //Tense//, Youth Code, Container), some it reminiscent of the older music I’m still a big fan of and some of it more novel. I’m sure DJs somewhere are playing it, I just hope more of them start doing so and giving VNV Nation, Apoptygma Berserk, and Covenant a rest.

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