Opinion: The Death And Resurrection Of Live Music

September 1, 2014



Those who have been infatuated with their tunes for extended periods of time will let you know that there are fewer live music venues than there were in the good old days. And they would be correct. Names of once great venues such as The Bohemian in Johannesburg and Durban’s Live and Slingshot Sessions all now serve as roadkill on the proverbial street of live music venues.

Those same people will also tell you that the eventual collapse of these venues came about because their owners thought they were bigger than the artists that they hosted, and that that was just the beginning. This mindset was soon followed by bands that simply refused to be seen as performers who were being done a favour.

Of course, there are a whole lot of other reasons why we now find ourselves in a situation where there are limited places to soak in live beats, but the story does not end there.

The resurgence of live music has not taken place in the traditional sense, where musicians are crammed onto a stage and asked to blow away the audience or risk losing their reputation. As with other innovations within the industry such as digital downloads and easy access production software, musicians are thinking out of the box.

You will be hard-pressed to find a radio station that does not have at least one show that showcases live acts on air. Highveld Stereo sees their breakfast anchor Darren Simpson hosting regular Friday performances; 5FM has Catherine Grenfell’s stellar Live To The Power Of 5; Metro FM chips in with the Castle Stout Experience and Paul Mtirara and Yfm has been in the business of live radio performances since their inception.

Someone must have asked: “Why be limited only to the gathered audience when you can be exposed to so many more people?”

The rebirth of live music has also not been executed in the manner that has been expected. Check the line-up at any traditional live music venue and you will see a distinct order and pattern in terms of genre and themes. It is virtually impossible to enjoy a show that offers rock, hip hop and kwaito all in one night.

Again, some genius thought about this and the solution was festivals. Whether that’s OppiKoppi or Joburg Day, these gatherings always have a dynamic array of performers. Jack Parow fans are enticed by the Blk Jks, while The Parlotones’ followers often end up buying a Locnville album that features HHP.

Is live music dead? It’s ailing… But if you are willing to expand your horizons, you will see that there is heartbeat where others simply see a corpse.