How do I enjoy rock music? Polyamorously, in a wholesome way. As in, loving the one you’re with. Err, let me explain.
Most rock fans will have several, even many, favourite bands. This isn’t like sports teams where if you are wearing the wrong scarf in the wrong neighbourhood you could get into trouble. It’s ok to wear a Metallica shirt to another band’s show. Sometimes the band does. Sporting a Ramones’s t. is very common. Shows appreciation for the legends of rock.
If you’re devoted to a single band, awesome if that’s fulfilling for you. I had a Gowan phase in the ’80s when I listened to the same albums over and over again, and saw the band relentlessly for a couple of years. Other band devotions I’ve had were as part of the family, or as an official groupie. In those circumstances, if the band is playing, you’re going.
Most of us rock fans love many bands with equal enthusiasm. Momentary infatuations depend on who dropped the latest single, or played in town recently, or has lyrics that resonate with whatever life is dishing out 🤘. This isn’t flakey or fickle, is genuine appreciation that being enamoured with multiple artists at the same time is possible. There’s a special place in a rocker’s heart for every band that ever touched their heart or soul.
There’s plenty of time in most days to stream the songs of many bands, respecting the talent of each. And time in most years to attend shows from a wide selection of performers with a genuine appetite for them all. With live music, enjoying whoever is coming through town works. Your fav band will understand if you need a live music fix, and go to another band’s concert when they aren’t on tour in your country. After all, they are playing to other fans while you watch other bands.
How does a fan even decide who their favourite band is? I can think of many ways, and have a different answer for each:
- longest listened to (and incidentally, first show I saw): Rush. This is slanted towards a band that’s been around a while.
- newest awesome band: a tie – Crownlands and Greta Van Fleet. Both with impressive track records [pun intended] for a few years.
- favourite, in a historical genre – Genesis. The ’70s were a special kind of mind-fusing music. Still listen to Genesis for hours at a time. But like stiff old 100% cotton jeans, life has moved on. There’s other experiences that are enjoyable too.
- modern masters. This doesn’t mean the band formed yesterday. More like its been pounding out great music for a decade or two or three in an on-going way. For me: Seether, Nickleback.
- master of entire genre: Metallica. This seems like a fucked up criteria because it’s ‘what does everyone else like’, but it’s how I’ve come to love Metallica – many bands honour Metallica and when I listen to their music, I understand why.🤘 and bought all their back catalogue.
- favourites in isolated phases: The Ramones (punk rock), REM (whatever music was doing in the ’80s), grunge (Pearl Jam), local heroes (Three Days Grace, Lowest of the Low), women rockers (Avril Lavigne, Evanescence)
- newish to me, because my appreciation of the band is coming together: Godsmack.
Ha-ha -15 favourite bands! Seems wrong, in the best kind of way. I can’t have 15 boyfriends or best friends. Can I have 15 favourite bands?
14 of them could be ‘bands I really like alot’ but there are many more that I feel that way about1. If I had to pick one, it would … no, I can’t.
If loving many is wrong, I don’t wanna be right2.
Many music enthusiasts have a favourite genre, which appeals to their sensibilities, style and values.
Seeing a variety of bands increases the enjoyment of seeing any one of them, because: comparisons. Comparisons lead to a better understanding and appreciation for the art. Either the next act is equally delightful, or adds certain aspects or avoids pitfalls which makes appreciation easier.
Can’t say that about relationships. If you did, it would get you in trouble. Imagine saying to a date: “I like what you’ve did there because that’s what my last date did really well.” On the other hand, dates might be ok with “my last date didn’t do that so I’m really glad you are”, or “you’re so much more fun in person”.
This leads to appreciating the act you’re watching for:
- playing the longest (best catalogue)
- having the greatest audience engagement (interactive)
- the best drum solo (individual performance)
- full-out full-power jamming (yeah, that)
- introducing you to the most interesting opening band (knows new things)
- comfort band, that you can sing along to all their songs (does all the right things)
- most technically proficient -lights, theatrics, weird contraptions (that the drumset rides on)
- best stage show
- most surprises
- most satisfying (as in doing all the expected delightful things)
With live music, appreciating an act for the creativity based on comparisons is perfectly legit. When the show falls a bit short of expectation, that’s glory for the previous entertainers, not a reason for marriage counselling.
Not saying that live rock music is anything like a long term, stable, loving relationship (there’s a reason many bands write songs about such, because it’s good). What I am saying: go out and love as many bands as is right for you. The music will love you back, in that rockin’ way.
1like: Billy Talent, Theory of a Dead Man, Finger 11, FooFighters, Nirvana, Sinead O’Connor, The Pogues, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, FeeFee Dobson, Linkin Park, Bush, The Ramones, Disturbed, Elton John, The HU …
2With respect to Luther Ingram, who was the first artist to record the song I’m borrowing from.