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Fan Landers

What to Do When Your Shocking Band Has Lost Its Shock Value

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Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 3:30 AM

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Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Dear Fan, 

I'm in a well established "noise" band. We've built a reputation over the years of being quite terrifying, getting ourselves banned from "art" spaces and underground venues alike coast-to-coast, with even fringe interests finding us appalling and reprehensible. As more people "get it" we have had to raise the bar with increasingly "offensive" material and unpredictable antics...this has involved more self-harm, equipment destruction and hostile, violent audience engagement, to the point where we don't know where the "parody" begins and ends. We are running out of ways to push people away! Please help us get our "street cred" back before we literally kill ourselves (or others) on stage.

-"Lost" in irony

Dear Lost,

Oh the irony! The shocking band has lost its ability to shock (Miley is in the same boat, you're not alone). Ah, that tremendous predicament. If you go The Locust route (take off the costumes to not play the schtick to death) or the GG Allin route (play the schtick to literal death) it's a real lose-lose situation for everyone. How to up the ante when you have already upped it to its utmost?

Given that we are tapering out of the post-9/11 Irony Age, the cultural read on irony these days is indifference -- blitheness which aligns you more with late stage capitalism than the artistic vanguard. It might be a good time to switch things up.

It also reminds me of the story of Dave Konopka's pre-Battles band Lynx's final show. They were an early irony-wave Chicago math rock band of minor repute, and had choreographed a stunt-of-sorts where they were all going to piss their pants in unison during the last song. Except it turned out that the color pants they'd all bought for the occasion were too dark to show the soiling and so hey were all just standing there, piss puddling in their shoes and no audience giggles to show for it.

In the noise scene, what could be weirder right now than getting really normal to fuck with people? What's the noise terror world equivalent of Kanye going on Ellen and debuting "Bound 2"? How can you get inside people's cliche/safety zone and undo from there? Think about what would offend all your power-electronics heads, with their goth/fascist-throwback aesthetics.

How about turning into a full tilt God-fearing, That's-the-American-Way, flag-waving, lite-beer-slurping, jean-vested, your-blonde-hair-in-the-moonlight Top 40 country band? Or a noise band with those mannerisms. Say "Thank you for coming out tonight" really sincerely between each song and explain why it means so much to you, how having friends and family gives you a real sense of connection. Point at people in the audience, throw a thumbs up, toast them mid-song with a toothy smile. Have a good time and really mean it. That'll get some real shock n' awe "happening".

Best,

Fan

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