It is often argued that the wave of technology that has allowed musicians to cheaply create, distribute and market music from the comfort of their own laptops has empowered them to more easily move into the professional world. Independents now have websites, global download distribution and access to the information required to tour just like the pros.
But the other side of that empowerment is that many bands now think of themselves as potential pros. A belief in the simple joy of making noise for the hell of it has waned. And that is a tremendous loss, a loss I was reminded of while watching Oakland, Calif.'s Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits April 9 at The Shredder.
The band, comprised of over-the-hill, unattractive dorks actually broke up many years ago. But a few former members asked some friends to tag along with them on a tour for fun, and the show was more engaging and sincere than 10 bands taking themselves seriously.
"All our songs are true stories," singer Corbett Redford said before launching into a song about two metalheads the band knows finding a deer corpse in the woods while tripping on acid.
"This one is about one of our favorite flavors," Redford said, introducing another song.
The songs were simple, three-chord rock affairs that slipped toward anthemic, with pop melodies and big sing-a-long choruses. When Redford sang, "I've got a job, but I don't want that job," in an irony-laden cut called "Life is Excellent," a sly look of solidarity rippled across the faces in the meager audience. They knew exactly what he meant.
The band closed with a song called "Buy Our Merchandise."
Considering the wide variety of merch the band vended, it might seem strange to think of Bobby Joe Ebola as a noncommercial group. But it's not about the product so much as the attitude that lies beneath its production. Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits are never going to make it, a fact I'd wager the band would probably be the first to point out. But when there is no risk of success, the music can be so much more genuine—something which ironically makes the band all the more likely to succeed.