Monday, December 12, 2011

Hard Rock Or Hardly Rocking—Who Can Tell?

On a recent morning at my place of business, which is to say, the location where my job is at, I happened upon the lunchroom television, tuned to VH1 and broadcasting a concert/festival/happening entitled “Hard Rock Calling 2011.” You might expect that I'd have been bombarded by heavy guitar riffs and guttural, perhaps even ape-like, vocalizations as I poured my coffee, but in short order I instead found myself confused, because there on the stage of this ostensibly raucous extravaganza was the band Train. In case you’re not familiar, here’s what the band called Train sounds like (and also looks like, since it's a video):

I was more than a little unsure why Train—whose current signature song features an upbeat and ukulele-flavored arrangement (not to mention an ever so sweetly lilting melody)—would be on the bill at a hard rock festival. Generally I’m inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt, but in this case it doesn’t help that the guy in the band Train constantly name-checks the band “Mr. Mister" (in a lilting and melodious way, of course).

Just in case you’re not familiar, here’s the band Mr. Mister:

So Train's cited influences are also pretty squarely not so much on the "hard" side of things. (Unless you mean "hard to listen to.") Considering all that, I think even The Band Train may have felt uneasy about its ("their"?) inclusion in The Hard Rock Calling festival, which is likely why they ("it"?) felt compelled to insert a Led Zeppelin cover into its set. Their set. Whatever. Leave me alone, grammar.

YouTube footage from not the exact concert, but as the kids say, "same diff."

At first it seemed like a silly ploy to confer legitimacy, but I have to admit, it kinda worked; I may have thought Train was too, for lack of a better word, "girlie" to feature in the testosterone-rich lineup of a hard rock show, but when singing that song the Train guy reminded me that back in Led Zeppelin's heavily rocking heyday, despite the bulge in Robert Plant's vacuum-shrunk trousers, nothing was more girlie than Robert Plant's voice.

Robert Plant, in squeal-inducing pants and a delightful housecoat.

Still, while Train Man's uncanny channeling of Robert Plant might have a profound and mesmerizing effect on the kind of long haired dude in a Dio t-shirt that you'd expect to find at a hard rock show, it's hard to imagine the spell lasting more than a couple minutes after the band reverted to the emasculated love songs that made them VH1 favorites to begin with. ("Duuude, that was ahhhsummm! ... Hey, what the shit is this?!")

In a desperate attempt to quell my confusion about the inclusion of The Not Really Hard And Not Really Even Rock For That Matter Band Called Train, I went and found the website for Hard Rock Calling.

There I discovered that this wasn’t so much a festival of “hard rock” music as it was a music festival put on by The Hard Rock CafĂ© And/Or Corporation. Which maybe sort of explains it, considering the level of credibility attributable to chain restaurants. No surprise, then, that the corporate overlords of this event might freely interpret "Hard Rock" as "Whatever Music Is Popular This Week." Not that it really matters; these days you can't expect a youthful concert audience to notice any such discrepancy anyway, considering what the average 13 year-old girl wearing an Urban Outfitters Iron Maiden t-shirt knows about Iron Maiden.

This one's actually an Urban Outfitters Guns N' Roses t-shirt, but same diff.

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