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What Does it Mean to Be Authentic?

New Birth Brass Band in Preservation Hall

I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity in music. In particular, what does it mean to be perceived as an authentic band

I used to think this meant sounding ‘old school’. That you needed to sound the way the style used to sound. This is the thinking I see in the majority of blues and some soul & funk fans, and it isn’t without merit. If you can’t play the style the way it used to sound, then can you really play the style at all?

But this raises the debate of what is the roots of a style. In the blues context, some would say Robert Johnson, others Freddie King or Albert King – but the reality is there was a point where these artists would not have been considered ‘old school’. Sure, they were influenced by those before them, but they added something.

So whilst you need to be able to play and understand the background of a genre, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something new with it – make it modern. This is the adding of a piece of yourself and a piece of the time in which you live. You can’t talk to a modern audience if you don’t have modern values and ideas.

With this in mind, this also eliminates the way you dress and present yourself on stage as a sign of authenticity. A 60’s cover band, dressed in 60’s clothing, is more likely to be perceived as a tribute band than anything else. Whilst fashion, like music, is influenced by the past, it always has modern elements to it.

I’ve watched bands of all genres and styles and instantly thought, they are either authentic or they are not. So perhaps how a band holistically, as opposed to superficially, presents itself, has something to it. This seems to be the ability of a band to take themselves seriously enough that they don’t look like amateurs, but not so seriously they look contrived and fake.  Relaxed, effortless and comfortable, but also professional.

Overall, authenticity is that ‘something’ that an audience collectively perceives from a band. It is most prevalent when it is seen live, although it can be captured in a recording. It is a combination of old school and modern, of seriousness and tomfoolery, and of studio and street. It does not come from having the best equipment, or being the best dressed on stage. But it is something that authentic bands do not aspire to have, they just have it.

What do you think it means for a band to be authentic?



A Tribute to Fingerless Gloves

Musician Wearing Fingerless Gloves

Fingerless Gloves when playing your instrument can be a necessity. (Image Source: Chris John Beckett)

Once cold weather hits Melbourne I become part of a secret society. It’s not the kind which requires membership cards or has secret handshakes, and it wields no political power. But whenever I cross paths with another person wearing fingerless gloves, a knowing smile is passed, because we know the brilliance of these well known but little utilised items of clothing.

Also known as glovelettes or hobo gloves, for me the fingerless glove has proven to be a useful item of clothing for many years. Like most musicians, my places of residence have lacked sufficient heating for the winter months, so rugging up at home has been a necessity. It was this necessity for warmth, combined with a want to practice my instrument which gave rise to fingerless gloves in my world.

However, their usefulness does not stop there. No longer did I have to take my gloves off to get keys out of my pocket or use my phone. I could also type on a keyboard or read a book with ease; all without having to sacrifice the warmth of my hands. Since migrating to fingerless gloves, there is no way that I will be returning to the full fingered variety.

Some have disrespected or looked upon my fingerless gloves with contempt. They have regularly been paralleled with the attire of a homeless person or scoffed at them as some sort of fashion foul. But they are ignoring the fact fingerless gloves are in fact a fashion statement. Wearing fingerless gloves says that I am a person who regularly and spontaneously requires the use of my hands for detailed work. If I was going to into surgery on a cold Melbourne morning, and I noticed the surgeon was donning a pair of fingerless gloves, my mind would be at ease.

So to those who wear fingerless gloves; Respect! Be assured that if we are to cross paths, a knowing smile will be shared. To those who don’t; I implore you to try these often misunderstood items of clothing. It will change your life for the better. Of course, if you’d rather continue having cold hands in the morning because you’re wearing no gloves at all, or if you wish to continue struggling to get change out of your pocket when you pay for your coffee, then go head. But just remember the ease and warmth at which I am performing the same task.

Love/Hate fingerless gloves? Let me know with a comment below.