Oblivians played the Lido last night to a half full venue. The Memphis, Tennessee outfit made a strong impression, giving up on the usually rigid guitar/bass/drums setup and playing an hour of punky garage rock. With the drummer and one of the guitarists trading spots a couple times.
I am always sceptical when hearing a band of old farts goes on tour. It usually ends up deceiving one way or another. Hear me out. Most bands come up with their best material within three years of their formation, before losing momentum and releasing albums just for the sake of it.
After some time, bands realise they’ve reached a cul-de-sac, break up and you then have two major tendencies: some musicians keep on making music – as themselves or under a new moniker – whilst others give up entirely.
If at one point in your career the band you were in was in some way successful, you might get the opportunity of going on a reunion tour. And who knows, you might also end up making an album on the way and, why not, a bit of dough. It seems to be the main reason behind so many reunions. Pick up a phone, get together, play a few shows, milk the cash cow, and see you next time!
Small audiences are usually enough to keep going if you love what you do
But there’s something about these bands from the nineties. For the most part, they were signed on small, independent labels. As such, they were overlooked by the big business “get out of the way or die” flashing neons of MTV and other commercial outlets. Small audiences are usually enough to keep going if you love what you do.
I’ll bet you that in ten-fifteen years, Editors and Bloc Party will reunite and people will go bonkers*. Standing on boards, hovering above the crowds, with fireworks firing out of their nostrils. They’ll have a giant stage revolving at 20 rpm, people will barf but they’ll be happy in doing so. And these indie bands from the 2000s will be happy they made such an impression and made money through regurgitations.
Oblivians are DIY at its best
But bands from the 90s aren’t only small, they’re sincere. They may have made good music over twenty years ago, they’ll get on stage and play their hearts out any day. Now, I’m not saying Oblivians sound as good as they did when they were in their twenties. Go ahead and try playing punk at forty five or fifty and tell me you feel as youthful and loud as when you started out. “It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down” sung a great man in 1972, around the time all three members of Oblivians were born.
The three members of Oblivians are honest and their concert proved it. A stripped down drum set, two fuzzed out Gibson SGs combining well and everybody contributing to singing. No matter how many the sound man came on stage to fix the drum microphone’s position, no matter how many strings were broken, this is DIY at its best. No superficial extension of the band in the performance, no backup singers, nothing. And they have fun doing what they’re doing.
*I am hopeful they will break up soon, so my premonitions can turn out to be true. Also because they’ve been static for the passed ten years.
Review by Patrick Bird