Monday, August 09, 2004

Massive Attack on Bristol

Massive Attack! Basement Jaxx! Some other middle-brow artists! "There's only one city in the world I'd live in - f*** Paris, f*** New York - it's Bristol," stated Robert Del Naja to the BBC! Yeah! Except the fiasco of the Cannon’s Marsh gigs demonstrate something more fundamental that the cities influence on music – it betrays the corporate heart of the city that now tries to force us to jump to its beat.

First you get a brand (Grolsch owned by the Coors Brewing Company, who have a history of funding hard right political organizations, environmental damage and homophobia) and then some hip, groovy bands (Massive Attack, Basement Jaxx and so on) and what do you have? A summer sizzler. Now all you need to do is charge £25 and the witless punters will throng into your embrace...

Except that they don’t. The first nights gig was not sold-out, with only 3500 of the 4000 tickets gone. Touts were offering more unwanted tickets for the cut-price of £19. It seemed like Bristol was not willing to spend £25 per night to watch the summer set. The promoters, who had not anticipated the low take up, began bringing in PR people from other beer brands to boost the profile. Those who did attend were not happy to find that not only were you being asked to spend £25 to get in, but security were searching people on entry for alcohol – then sending you into the arena where the only beer was Grolsch at £3 per pint. The most obvious sign of the mess was that by the time Basement Jaxx were playing on the Wednsday, you could get tickets for £12.50.

However, not content with trying to fleece the willing, the promoters then moved to fleecing the unwilling: First they showed the corporate clout they had by closing down the far side of the harbor, oblivious to the fact that many people use this route as a through route. Next they began pressuring the harbour-master to harass the boats so as to prevent them from listening in. On hand were also the cops to hassle those on Prince Street Bridge about drinking in a pubic space (though if you paid £3 for some Grolsch on the other side on the bank you can get as pissed as you want.) The evening post joined in by moaning about the boats who had be allegedly listening in for free.

The arrogance is such that these corporate promoters think they can control the very land and air of the city; the complicity of the local authorities, police and media lends credence to their world-view. But to me, if they choose to have a concert in the middle of a city, they should live with the consequences - which include the reality that some people will be able to hear (whether they want to or not) the music outside their branded space. Grolsch is a guest in our city, and it should behave as such and not like some spoilt child trying to eat all of the pies.

PS. I'm reading Derrick Jensen's 'A Language Older than Words' the book is stunning and so on my thoughts that friends are complaining that at each opportune moment I get the book out to read a passage to them. You can get the book at Greenleaf, I urge you to do so. The book is about the culture of destruction that we find around us, each and every day I see examples of what Dezza is talking about write large. Example of the week the Guardian's total word count from the mainstream media: the genocide in Dafur: 27,660 words while Sven and the football/sex thing: 208,366 words.


Dan said...

They were only confiscating beer on the way in? Sounds better than the Queens Square gig last year where the removed the tops from all water bottles as well. But at least you got five acts for 25 quid then rather than just Massive Attack and a couple of DJs. If they put all three nights' gigs on on just one day it may have been worth it, depending on your taste.

Mark said...

Hey, it would be cool if you had an rss feed. best, mark

Prairiefyre said...

Derrick Jensen: Culture of Make Believe, equally stunning as Language Older Than Words. My friends go, "oh no, we're going to hear a reading from 'The Book of Jensen'!" Yeah, that's right, so listen up!