Thursday, July 9, 2009


Sometimes things start bothering me that have nothing really to do with the current world of music. There are no bands that have pissed me off, no trends I feel particularly like trouncing on but still a thorn exists in my side. This time it’s an oddball thorn I’ll admit it but it still sticks in my side quite nicely.
What is it I’m going on and on about? I’m talking about the never-ending supply of “All Access” DVDs that seem to pour out of the industry. I realize that most try and sell these things as cool treats for the fan but to me they are largely just rip offs stacked with “extras” that never seem to change.

As live shows go I’m not a huge fan of live DVDs because to me it’s just not a show. Sure there are specific historical concerts that are great to have because there’s no way to have actually been there but to own a random show shot at some random place feels like a waste of money.

The whole point of a show is being at the venue, experiencing it first hand with your buddies. The stories, the drugs you took, who got more fucked up and started a fight or danced too hard and ended up with a broken nose. To watch a DVD of a live show loses like half or more of what makes going to shows so much a part of our world.
As people get hipper to that idea the industry tries to lure them in with this whole idea of “All Access” backstage. Seriously, is anybody impressed with this function anymore? Is there anybody out there that isn’t bored with the repetitive way they try to bring the “reality” of touring to you?

I don’t think I’ve ever watched one of these all access sections where I learned anything about a band other than they can pass out drunk, like video games and get chicks. Perhaps I’m just too happy with my own life that I don’t need to live vicariously through rock stars but I get bored about five minutes into these things.
They usually follow a pretty simple step-by-step program from start to finish. It starts out with some kind of quick edit run down of the band on stage, walking through various cities, posing with fans, rehearsing on stage and maybe being nutty in the tour bus.

Then it stops on usually the front man or somebody recognizable in the group who talks about the importance of touring, how they live for life on the road and the fans and so forth. I’m not saying that isn’t true but I’m tired of these things starting out the same way each time.

From there we usually move to the band walking through some city in some country. We have wacky hi-jinks of the band eating, shopping, and talking to fans. This is all usually quick cut with fans expressing their worship of the bands. Then we move on to the tour bus section, which usually has three parts. The first part is usually the guys sleeping, relaxing, and playing an acoustic guitar to try and write new material. Then it’s them bitching about how hard life on the road is, the price you pay for doing this and how they have no home life. Finally we end it off with them being involved with groupies or famous people “just hanging” on the bus with them.

Somewhere during all of this we get interviews with the roadies, maybe a practical joke or funny incident and of course the guys on stage doing sound check. That’s usually about it and no matter how they’re edited they all seem to contain the same basic ingredients. The worst of this is when a band the size of Metallica release one of these and it’s the same boring bullshit but on a huge scale. The shows themselves aren’t very impressive and never will capture the electricity of being at the venue.

I’ve done a fair amount of touring and the reality of the situation is that it gets incredibly repetitive and incredibly boring. The time you’re on stage kicks ass, the people are usually awesome but the rest tends to make you want to claw your own eyes out. There is a thought that maybe I’m too close to how touring really goes to appreciate these DVDs but I still fell like they are a rip off.

Usually these DVDs come between records as something to tied a fan over until the album gets released (at like $15 or $20 a pop) or they come along with the CD, which to me is a sure sign of a bad record. Too many bells and whistles usually mean lackluster product, at least in my experience or at the very least a ho-hum album.
As I said buying a live DVD of a huge show you couldn’t be at is one thing. I own the CBGB 1983 Bad Brains show, the Stop Making Sense DVD, Killing Joke’s 25th anniversary and things like that. My beef comes with bands that tour constantly releasing a DVD that goes through the same motions so many other bands go through. I might be paranoid but it reeks of a rip off, even if it’s a well intentioned one.

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