Thursday, September 18, 2008

If a Gallagher Falls in the Forest, and No One is There to Film It...

By now the entire world has likely seen this clip of Noel Gallagher being pushed into his own monitors at the Virgin Festival in Toronto (I myself have viewed it at least six times - usually just the bit where Noel goes down like a tree and then Liam postures like a hard man once his adversary is fully restrained). Besides being a lovely little piece of schadenfreude, especially for all of us who despise the Gallaghers and their brand of working class stereotype confirmation, this clip demonstrates several different things about music and media.

Firstly, isn't this exactly what Oasis ostensibly thrives on? They paint themselves as hardened working class Mancunians, who fight each other just to prove their testosterone is in good working order and who, as rock stars, live dangerously on the edge. It appears Noel doesn't like falling off the edge, though. And it appears that Liam's first reaction when confronted with danger is running away and shielding himself. Oasis has continued to have some preposterous mythical status, especially in the UK (where they are currently all over NME and its Web site and where, almost without fail, they would grace the cover of Q magazine every spring - I know because I was in the UK for several different springs and every time I looked at the newsstand the Gallaghers were on the cover). Even Oasis fans admit that they haven't had anything worth listening to since What's the Story Morning Glory, so why the constant attention when so many of their peers never get press anymore? Because they never stop slagging off everyone else, especially those with higher intelligence? Because they constantly give grandiose promises without ever fulfilling them? Because they wrote a few feel-good anthems for the yob? Because the music press has turned into strictly tabloid press? In which case, the more outrageous the Gallaghers' behaviour or performance venue is, the more press they get.

To me, Oasis represent bloated stadium rock taken to its logical conclusion - they are U2 without the social conscience. That "legendary" performance at Knebworth (that gets rehashed and reminisced over every so many years) blew out any notion of quality over quantity or connection with your audience. I suppose that in many ways Oasis appeals to so many people because they are supposed to be the quintessential rockers - living an extravagant lifestyle with sex, drugs, and violence, posturing like the Stones, but without the history of solid music to back it up. They do and have things as big as they can to compensate for a back catalogue that isn't so impressive. If you separate yourself so far from the audience, you can maintain some sort of charade that you, as the artist, are special by virtue of spatial relations. Had someone attacked Noel in a pub setting, it would have been taken as par for the course; the fan-artist divide wouldn't have been accentuated by tons of security and a massive canyon between the front row of punters and the stage. Fame and physical distance changes the situation into a media circus and a viral video.

Thus far, it seems the only source that claims that the attacker was a "blog commenter" is Stereogum, which implies that the attack was provoked because Noel Gallagher had previously insulted Radiohead. There's no back-up for this assertion as far as I can tell, but I would assume a lot of people wouldn't need a specific reason to attack the Gallaghers. While the idea of an angry blogger taking Gallagher down in the name of Thom Yorke is hugely funny, the fact anyone would posit that it could be an irate blogger implies a certain opinionated and subversive milieu for bloggers, which I suppose is correct to an extent. The attacker's subversive involvement on stage points to not only a breach in security, but also a breach in the established artist/fan division. It also points out that fans or anti-fans are becoming just as visible as the artists themselves.

The fact someone was there filming the concert, so that there could be a viral clip circulating, is of interest in this capacity. It's become increasingly easier to film live concerts, whether with a crappy function on a mobile phone or with an actual digital video camera, and this has become both useful and frustrating. It can be useful if something rather unexpected or momentous happens (as shown with Noel Gallagher) and if you were at that concert and just wanted a souvenir; however, at the same time, having that souvenir can almost cheapen the experience by altering the bits you actually remember and the way you remember experiencing them firsthand (I've had this happen to me a couple of times). I wonder about what kind of experience the people filming are having of the show - isn't it a bit of a secondhand one? In which case, are they there for the actual music and the experience of the show, or for some bizarre mediated version through which they can prove that they were there? To get a bit Baudrillard, the simulacrum is more important than the reality.

I also think filming concerts in a venue that doesn't allow for decent acoustics or a remotely clear picture is an exercise in futility - YouTube is cluttered with these types of videos. Why would I want to watch ten seconds of a gig tipped horizontally? I suppose this type of video clip just reasserts the increasingly solipsistic online society that assumes that others will want to experience another's life, including which shows he/she attended, in all its grainy, distorted glory. Or these videos become proof of your own activities and your own attempt at popularity and fame. The person who posts a video bootleg can become just as popular as the artist featured on the bootleg. So the recorder/poster of the Noel Gallagher clip has their week of fame while gifting the Gallaghers with some free publicity in some skewed universe of media symbiosis.

And I'm really no better than the attacker or the video clip poster by writing this piece, drawing more unneccessary attention to the Gallaghers. However, I will say the attacker's strategy was all wrong. He should have gone for Liam first.

Falling and Laughing - Orange Juice

All Fall Down - The Sound

The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand