They are easy to spot. They are the ones with hands over ears and a face screwed up in a pained expression. They shake their head in disbelief, often in time to the music. They are the unwitting souls coerced, by friends or family, into attending a rock show.
Between songs, they will always ask the same question:
"Does it have to be so loud?"
The answer is no -- and yes.
In truth, most songs -- the good ones anyway -- don't need the power, bombast and healthy helping of dBs in order to function. I once read an interview with the famously loud Jesus and Mary Chain where it was admitted that before applying the layers of feedback and distortion the band became famous for, every song was written and tested on a simple acoustic guitar.
Structurally, a rock song doesn't require excessive volume. But spiritually it does.
Rock was built on the ethos that more, quite often, is more. Great rock songs really aren't about structure, or about finding the perfect hook or bridge. They are about catharsis, or at least perceived catharsis. It's about presenting the idea that no matter how earnest the delivery and no matter how passionate a performance, there could always be more.
A great rock song should always sound like it's operating at the edge of a band's musical and sonic capabilities.
It should be noted that the sound of a rock band depends on volume. Rock music is not about clean tones.
It's about distortion and feedback. It's about putting amps and instruments under tremendous strain and then milking those sounds of distress for all they are musically worth.
Turn the volume down on a rock band and they cease to rock. They become something else.
And for my money, there's nothing more distressing than hearing a talented rock act that has neglected to rock.
A DRUMMER DEFECTS: Last week's Sky City show marks the last time drummer Jason Scarboro will play with the Augusta-bred and Athens-based band Dead Confederate. Scarboro, who moved back to Augusta last year, recently became a father and clearly decided that parenthood and the rigors of being in a band that tours as extensively as DC could not coexist. His thundering presence behind the kit will be missed.
Rumor has it that J.J. Bower, another Augusta product, will one of a handful of drummers filling in. The possibility is certainly interesting.
JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS OUT: When my status at the newspaper shifted from staff to contract player, I thought we might be done with the annual Augusta Chronicle Singer-Songwriter contest.
I'll have more details on this year's contest in the near future, but I wanted to give local musicians an opportunity to start gathering tracks for submission. Watch this space for more in the coming weeks.