Saturday, 16 January 2010

This note's for you.

The Garage in Highbury used to be one of my favourite London venues. I've seen some amazing gigs there: 60ft Dolls whipping it up for Christmas, British Sea Power ringing handbells and singing 'In The Bleak Midwinter' for New Year's Eve, Rocket From The Crypt absolutely decimating my expectations of rock'n'roll, and Jesus Lizard - complete with David Yow walking on the ceiling. Yes. That's walking on the ceiling.

So when the place closed down with a leaky roof I was gutted. And when it reopened I was pleased. Until, that is, I saw its new name.

The Relentless Garage is not the same animal that it was, because - and only because - it has a new forename. It shouldn't make a difference. What's in a name, eh? But it does. It makes a hell of a difference because product sponsorship and endorsements do not belong in music. That should be rule one. The Hammersmith Odeon is a magical place but its sheen was tarnished by the addition of first Carling and then HMV to its monicker. And who was the bright spark who changed Odeon to Apollo? Bring me his head. Same goes for the O2 Islington Academy. OK, so it was pushing things a bit to call it The Marquee Club. But now it is a rough venue made rougher through sponsorship.

I have no colossal objection to product endorsement per se. I realise it's a necessary animal. But I am very uneasy about the motives of these corporations. Why would they want to buy into a place where people have a drink, have a dance and watch a band? What business is it of theirs? Is it true that Carling kicked Guinness out of the public bars at Reading and Leeds festivals? On what level do these characterless companies expect their sponsorship to work? I do not - and will not - drink Relentless. I will drink other energy drinks. I do not - and will not - use an O2 mobile 'phone. I will use another mobile provider. I do not - and will not - drink Carling. I will drink other lagers. I do not - and will not - shop in HMV. I will use other record shops.

Music is best when it's spontaneous, dangerous and irreverent. When you allow outside forces in, it goes wrong - it opens a door that should remain shut. The bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar.

You know that TV ad where the kid uses 'unlimited texts' on his large corporate mobile 'phone provider to get his band together? Have you seen the follow-up ad where he smarmily hooks up with acoustic guitar-toting strangers with NUS cards sticking out of their back pockets - on Myspace? That's what you get when you allow business into music. You get people who shouldn't make music, making music. Aided by people who should leave music well alone. Because they don't understand it. It dilutes the pool.

Relentless. Indeed.

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