You may not have noticed, but all around Akron and Northeast Ohio there is a gaggle of teenage bands grooving their way through puberty on various stages near you.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, the auditorium stage at the Akron-Summit County Main Library will be filled with some of these young musicians at Teens Rock Akron 2013. There will be six bands performing and this isn’t a competition; it’s a free showcase of young talent. Performers will be Erica Bitting, Libby Etherton, Kofi R. Boakye, the Independent, 4 Apart and Noize Basement. Attendees will hear a variety of styles, including alt-rock, Christian pop, blues and, of course, classic rock because if you’re trying to be a working band, being able to play some of your parents’ music is a good way to get gigs that aren’t teen oriented.
Since the birth of rock ’n’ roll (and I don’t want to get into that argument, thanks), there have been pimply faced kids gathering in their parents’ garages to hammer out a few bar chords that just might change the world or at least the pop music landscape.
Back in the proverbial day, when rock was still considered a bit dangerous, many boomer and eventually older Generation X-era aspiring teen rock stars were often left to their own devices when it came to procuring rehearsal space, band equipment and gigs with little or no financial and, in some cases, moral support from their old-school parents who were still shaken by the rise of Elvis and/or completely freaked out by Alice Cooper or (later) the Sex Pistols or, in my case, the Dead Kennedys.
But in 2013, rock ’n’ roll is an institution (you can tell because it has a museum) upon which a few generations have grown. So many of today’s young rockers have boomers or older Gen-Xer parents who were in bands themselves and who are more than happy to encourage and perhaps live vicariously through their kids’ rock-star dreams.
Subsequently members of the current generation are not only being encouraged to join bands and jam, but many also are being heavily supported. I’ve seen some teen bands on their third or fourth gig with near-professional level gear for which your average struggling indie rock band would strangle their booking agent (and bookers are pretty hard to come by, folks).
One up-and-coming teen guitar star told me his ex-rocker father walked up to him one day and simply stated, “We’re going to the store to pick you out a guitar, and you’re going to learn to play it.” He did and he’s pretty good, too.
Of course there are plenty of young folks making music in other genres, but rap’s got plenty of young stuff-talking emcees lining up for attention at a Facebook/Twitter/Reverbnation/Instagram page near you, and country music is arguably the top genre in mainstream music, so they really don’t need any help.
Also, I can’t quantify this in any tangible way, but it feels to me that more and more young ladies and girls are being encouraged to grab a mike and/or instruments and express themselves musically. Of course, sex will always sell and some industry jerk will always try to persuade female artists to trade on their sexuality.
But aside from that still present bit of institutionalized misogyny, more rocking (and rapping, to be honest) girls can only be a good thing. Because if what most folks consider “traditional rock” (not the grandiose folk-rock of Mumford & Sons or fake rock guitars heard in dance rock but “Rawk!”) is to remain relevant in the current pop music world — and if you check the Billboard 100, there are no real “rock” songs in the top 50 — then it needs to be more than the testosterone-fueled power chords and dour griping and/or ham-fisted sex metaphors (yeah, I’m looking at you Nickelback) of much of the stuff that composes the “active rock” radio charts.
Random acts of live music
On Wednesday, the House of Blues Cleveland will welcome Limp Bizkit. Yeah, that’s right, Limp Bizkit is back in 2013 with a new six-minute single on Cash Money Records called Ready to Go featuring a verse from its new label boss, Lil Wayne (how 2002 is that?), and a tour, presumably testing the waters for the band's upcoming album reportedly titled Stampede of the Disco Elephants.
The song sounds a lot like past Limp Bizkit, a big, loping arena rap-rock backbeat, guitarist Wes Borland (always the best thing about the band) doing his catchy riffs and cool fills thing under band leader Fred Durst’s (or “Freddie D” as he refers to himself) boisterous rhyming about busting up clubs, drinking Russian vodka (as opposed to Moroccan or Laotian vodka) and bringing women home to dance on his stripper pole after the “ugly lights” go up at the club.
Speaking of ham-fisted metaphors, few emcees drop them with the combination of conviction, confidence and petulance like Freddy D, except maybe Weezy at his worst (did I mention he’s on this track?).
“Back it’s the [mother-loving] rock god, I’m so poker-faced, ladies going ga-ga, That’s right it’s Freddy D, the public enemy, You know, the one to have Britney drop it to her knees (OOOOOOOH!)” … Ugh, really dude? Didn’t Spears make that mistake with you over a decade ago?
Oh wait, how about this one: “ She like the way we pump it, I call her pumpkin pie, I ain’t about to lie, I came up in it high, You got a problem and I’ll bust you in your [freaking] eye, player.” Geez, I'm shakin’ in my ironic trucker hat, aren’t you?
Now, admittedly, I’ve always hated this band, and in Durst’s defense, his lyrics are of a similar quality to a significant portion of current mainstream rap. But somehow his petulant tone and words sound so much more annoying and ridiculous coming out of his 43-year-old, gray-flecked bearded face.
Anyway, perhaps this is a good time for Limp Bizkit. Perhaps the band has reached the stage in its career where the massive fan base of rap-rock heshers, frat boys, angry teens and hard-rock lovin’ chicks that bought millions of copies of their first three albums but began jumping ship in the mid-’00s, has aged enough to feel nostalgic and pack the House of Blues Cleveland to collectively party like it’s 2000 again.