There are things that should be in pubs. Alcoholic drinks of all hues, flavours, types and strengths. Crisps, nuts, pickled eggs and pork scratchings. Basic furniture made of sturdy wood and leather, with several beaten copper top tables dotted about the place, and a lighting system straight from the set of a Batman movie, low and atmospheric. (Plus, as a bonus, this subdued illumination helps the propagation of the human race…you know why.) Possibly a large TV but only if the pub is of the variety of that inexcusable import from the west, a ‘sports bar’ (the ultimate oxymoron). Finally, an indoor smoking area with sufficient ventilation to whisk the toxins away from the pristine lungs of the immortal non-smokers. And that’s it. Pub finished, open for business.
Shouldn’t be in a pub. Food, proper food. (There’s a reason gastropub and gastroenteritis share the same prefix.) Children, after 5 pm. Unruly children at any time at all (I have no doubt purposely unseeing, unhearing and moronic parents will feature in a future rant). Excessive chrome. Mirrors that are not etched with a brewery logo/name. Floor to ceiling windows. Bright lights. Furniture made from plastic with a pool of sweat in the centre from the last bugger who sat in it. In fact my list, obviously, therefore, the definitive list, goes on almost ad infinitum.
But now I’m going to get controversial because I am going to suggest a complete, no exceptions, ban on live music in pubs. And it’s not just because I’m a miserable sod who can’t sing or play a musical instrument because in my defence I do have ‘rock god’ good looks, so I could make it big if I wanted to.
I go to the pub to talk. I don’t do much social media and even then I’m generally making stuff up or taking stances to turn that big old key most people have in their backs. In the boozer, you have to be more sincere because the person you’re trying to bullshit can look into your eyes and see the lies behind them. It’s a proper interaction that’s truthful and much more fun. It is also so much easier to speak an answer than type it and it generally arrives at the right place in the conversation, not seven posts after it should have been seen. But I digress.
If I cross the threshold of a pub and a band is playing, I turn on my heel and leave. Literally, do a Tony Hawks 180 and split. This has endeared me to my drinking buddies no end but in all fairness I do help them get some much-needed exercise as we stroll between houses of the public variety that I decline entering.
At times I do get caught out though. Say if a band/solo musician (more of those bastards in a moment) is setting up in some niche hidden from view, I’m none the wiser until the opening notes of ‘Yesterday’ rattle the glassware. At this point, usually before the third syllable of the title, I neck my pint and walk on.
Has no one told these musicians, (I shall shove them all under this wide, wide umbrella of a collective noun but in some instances the term ‘musician’ is a string stretched way beyond correct tuning) that the ‘Ferret and Lamppost’ does not require the same size/power sound system as the ‘O2 Arena’? Some of these musicians have got bigger speakers than the ones used at Waco, Texas. (Too young? Google it.) Who are they trying to reach? The Martians? I have been in conversation with mates, right on the verge of solving all the world’s ills and then sonic warfare is declared and lip-reading skills have to be employed. We will try to continue the discourse but it’s hard to concentrate when you can feel blood, and no little-liquefied brain matter, running from your ears. Who the hell wants to hear ‘Mustang Sally’ at 6,000 decibels? Come to think of it, who wants to hear ‘Mustang Sally’ ever?
And if I try to suggest they turn it down a bit by getting their attention with a well-aimed, yet friendly and non-judgemental, empty beer pot, guess who gets thrown out? Here’s a clue, it’s not the overly loud ‘The Commitments’ wannabes.
But let me put aside the matter of intrusive, downright rude to be honest, volume and concentrate on content. There are more bands in the world than The Beatles. No, there really are. I’m joking, I know you know that but it appears the pub musicians haven’t had the memo. If I walk into a pub to be greeted by yet another tone deaf rendition of a Lemnob and McTwatney ‘classic’, I will not be held responsible for my actions. Even if those actions could be the loosing of all my bodily fluids at once. Don’t be trying to bill me for new trainers, send it to ‘The Bottles’ or ‘The Heatles’ or whatever half-assed name the band has imaginatively come up with to go with their less than enveloping covers. Stop it. Pick another band’s back catalogue to crucify. It will still be bad and unwelcome but at least I could say ‘That was different,’ as I unplug your PA.
Now we come to the musicians who want to spread their own personal rhythmical version of Hell into every nook and cranny of the pub they have decided to victimise this time. I do not want to hear some droning, critically ill looking pessimist strum their acoustic guitar with the same chord for two hours as they lament their lot in life. I really do not give a shit that the girl/guy you really, really connected with on a spiritual level – who reminded you of a delicate moth while he/she incinerated herself/himself in the raging flame of the lemongrass scented candle of your love – has fecked off. In fact, you’re making me want to feck off too but I won’t be sharing six years of paradise with you first; two seconds was enough for me. Pint. Walk.
I mean, Jesus Christ, have they tried smiling? Maybe if they combed their hair and wore some clothes that actually fit them, they’d feel better and manage to find another poor moth to torture for a while? But I can tell these misery inducing bastards are Araldited to their stools, so it is down to me to seek another refuge and again to wander, condemned with a thirst, a veritable beer drought in my throat, brought on by a six stringed demon of dirge and negativity.
So there are three reasons to ban live music from the very social hubs of our society. Too loud, too done-to-death, too soul crushingly pathetic in the real sense of the word. Be you a solo act, or a band with more members than Showaddywaddy, (Google that too, ya whippersnappers) you’re not welcome in the pub, get yer arses to the concert halls that were built for the purpose of letting you caterwaul at people. People who may even want to hear you. Oh wait, you can’t because you’re booked into the pub in which I’m drinking to punish me for some unknown crime. What have I done? For the love of all that is holy, what have I done?! I reckon the Spanish Inquisition could have happily employed an off key, loud, unplugged rendition of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to great confessional effect.
I don’t want to give the impression that I hate all music in the pub (even though it clearly looks like that is the case) and that I’m some kind of Cromwellian killjoy (he was right about Christmas) when it comes to people enjoying themselves. I too get the urge to bop but I like to do it to a song that is played like it’s meant to played, from a sound engineered, pitch perfect, a pre-recorded source of some sort. It has been known for me to walk/stagger into a boozer and hear the old jukebox hammering out a masterpiece, like ‘Tiger Feet’ by ‘Mud’ or ‘Harder Faster’ by ‘WASP’ and I will sing and dance to my little heart’s content…sing and dance being a very loose description of my Banshee screeching and palsied twitching. This I will do with a big cheesy on my mug, until I’m thrown out for disturbing the harmony of the pub. ‘There’s no justice in the world,’ I think as I sail through the air, passed a group of deadly sincere looking musos setting up in the dark recess of the furthest cranny of the pub getting ready to rain audio assault down on the unsuspecting, defenceless punters.