I have no complaints about the breadth and quality of the Indie music scene: my cup runneth over. But lately, supporting the up and coming kids has become increasingly taxing. The logo for the International Indie Music Union should be the image of a musician on one knee twirling the knobs of some mysterious box.
One of the charming features of the True/False Film Festival1 is the presence of music everywhere. “Buskers” play before each movie, concerts occur after all the showings for the day, showcases present new bands. And weaving through all this music was endless miles of cables plugged into effects pedals, looping machines, synths, MIDI controllers, and MacBooks. Teen: The Sequel would patiently explain the labyrinthine enterprise and what sounds should be emanating from the other side.
Only these sounds often don’t emanate, and the situation leads to constant futzing and adjustments, false starts and unexpected silence. “There we go,” says every musician when they finally hit the correct sequence of buttons and pre-programmed loops, after not going anywhere for quite some time.
On Thursday night I saw two marvelous groups at a showcase, Ada Lea and Lomelda, who never-the-less appeared at times to have no idea how to operate the machinery occupying every inch of the stage. Lomelda almost never got started; the sound technician had to deploy every cable and auxiliary router in his possession. At one point we informed him Teen: The Sequel was wicked good at soldering if things came to that. The tragedy of all this was that the lead singer of Lomelda, Hannah Read, writes gorgeous songs delivered in her dreamy, exquisite voice. Holding a crowd with that delicate of a delivery is hard enough without the constant interruptions and pauses from wrestling with the technology.
So there’s constant adjusting; many bands sit while they play so they can reach their various devices sprawled precariously across folding chairs and barstools and guitar cases; there’s no pace, or momentum or crescendo; sometimes when I’m watching, I can’t helping thinking the band should think about forming a band.
Perhaps I’m just nostalgic for when bands getting their chops were all energy and attitude. One train wreck from the set list careened into another. Occasionally you would hear the germ of a great song and know the kids would get there someday. Whatever mess took place, you always left entertained. Now I leave wondering which dial will turn up the music and the people creating it.
- True/False presents the greatest documentary film festival in the world each year in Columbia, Missouri. And you immediately know why when a filmmaker takes the stage with tears in her eyes as she surveys a crowd of 1,000 people to watch her film after screening it in a closet at Sundance or Telluride