Live Excess

Fourteen Twentysix is the cryptic alias of Holland’s atmospheric rock band that uses rain barrels for bass drums, embraces digital music distribution and reaches out to listeners worldwide through digital liveshows and living room concerts. Not afraid of change and experiment, the band shared the stage with both dark rockers Antimatter(UK) as well as folk legends Turin Brakes (UK).

I’ve always found the social strain of live shows fascinating. Sure, an ‘important’ gig – Booker X is coming to visit! Celebrity Y is in the crowd! – can turn the evening into a stressful undertaking by itself. But the truly weird stuff unfolds when you’re not playing, in the backstage room or in the crowd. Despite what you might think – that creative minds feel a certain connection to each other – reality is that by and large, musicians in amateur bands can’t seem to stand each other’s guts.

It depends a bit on the kind of night it is, and the relationship between the different bands (support and main act, band competition, local vs. foreign musicians). But one could argue that musicians come in two kinds of flavors. There’s the introvert, shy type, hanging out with solely his own band mates in a distinct corner of the backstage, trying to show what a good time he’s having by doing so. He’ll acknowledge you’re there in the same room with him, but that’s about it. Then there’s the total opposite: the up-front overconfident macho who’s desperately making jokes to reinforce his place as the alpha-male.

Sure, these are horrible stereotypes, but it remains true that the rat race to fame – that elusive concept everyone thinks he’s somehow cut out for – brings out the worst in us. Couple that with the confrontation with people doing the same thing as you (and sometimes, a lot better than you), and you have all the elements for a textbook inferiority complex.

Perhaps that’s what turns musicians into stuck-up idiots, loathing everything about that other guy who happens to be a musician as well. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen a musician friend of mine give the stink eye to someone walking across the street with a guitar case. Or the snobbish behavior of employees in music gear stores (come on, you’re an employee in a music gear store!). The same happens during gig evenings – you’re never really safe from hearing some kind of remark that’s half-friendly, half-asshole. ‘Wow, that sure is a lot of electronics, do you guys actually do something yourselves?’

It gets even more difficult when you’re supporting for a big artist. It’s these kind of nights in which most aspiring musicians are so decidedly focused on ‘having a good time’ with the big guys that everything that’s said really just sounds a bit stupid. Every time a silence falls, it’s an awkward one. There’d nothing wrong with silences if everyone’s ok with everyone else.

On the other hand, there’d be nothing uncomfortable about it if everyone had silently agreed to be sworn enemies. That is not the case either. And why would it be: we’re all secretly aware of being brothers in arms, doing the thing we love most.

This is the way in which we regard one another: half as friends, half as enemies.

Perhaps the latter should just be on the musician’s mind more often.

2 Comments

  1. Diego Camargo

    October 19, 2011 at 8:06 am

    A nice article! It’s a crazy crazy world which we live in don’t we? But I think that this is the kinda of thing that makes people who have something else to say, or that don’t like this whole system, really do something different, or not really different, but with real feelings in it.
    Like you said, cause we love music, not what’s behind it :)

  2. Sam Wachtmans

    October 20, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Amen, brother. I’ve experienced the things you elaborate on myself quite often.

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