EASY ED’S BROADSIDE: My Music Predictions: Hindsight Is 2020
If I could read tarot cards or had a crystal ball that could assist me in foreseeing future trends in music, with emerging artists that’ll be introduced and new albums that will stand out above others, this might make for a very interesting column. But I don’t, so at best I can only look back at history and use my own experience and observations as a guide.
The best news I can offer is that there’ll be some fabulous music you’ll discover no matter whether you stream, download, or buy vinyl at your local record shop. The cream always rises to the top, although admittedly it’s sometimes harder to find these days. While big-name concert entertainment will remain costly, festivals will continue to refine and thrive, with smaller local venue opportunities offering a more economical path.
The not-so-great news is that I don’t see any major shift in the aging of the Americana or roots music audience. The boomer generation will continue to provide the financial fuel for filling seats and standing in line at the merch tables. But with so many more dominant genres competing for that attention and those dollars, there’s not a lot go around. Against that backdrop there is another force at work: nostalgia.
One of the biggest stories making the rounds in the last week of 2019 was that Gene Simmons of KISS puts ice cubes on his breakfast cereal. One celebrity news website said “people are losing their minds over it” and on the second day of 2020, Fox News reported that “ice cubes in cereal is apparently the latest food trend.” Although I’ve never tried it myself, the concept of lowering the temperature of cold milk in cereal actually sounds not that bad of an idea, frankly. But what makes no sense is how or why anyone could possibly care about what a faded glory long-tongued rock star from the ’70s eats.
As the world turns on the internet, the ice cube story quickly melted away to be replaced with news that in honor of the Allman Brothers Band’s 50th anniversary, the surviving members of the final or most recent lineup will host a tribute concert in New York. Of the original six founders, only Jaimoe Johanson and Dickie Betts are still alive, and while the former will be in attendance, the latter has chosen to play the “prior commitments” card. The rest of the band, now simply called The Brothers since there’s no miraculous Allman resurrection in sight, have been in the organization for decades. So while it will be a night of nostalgia, this isn’t simply a tribute band, either. A pair of tickets in the nosebleed section of Madison Square Garden will cost you over $300.
Phil Lesh, founding bass player for the band previously known as The Grateful Dead, will turn 80 years old in March and will celebrate his birthday with a three-night run at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York. While in the past he has pre-announced the ever-changing lineup of Phil and Friends, this time the band members will remain a surprise until they hit the stage and the curtain goes up. Tickets from his postponed Halloween shows will be honored, making this event already a complete sellout. StubHub is reselling tickets starting at $200 each.
The big buzz in the weird world of concerts that aren’t really concerts, but rather pre-recorded music and light gimmickry, will be the February kickoff of An Evening with Whitney: The Whitney Houston Hologram Tour. According to Pat Houston, the president and CEO of Houston’s estate, “This will be a ‘wow factor’ that extends to an incredible experience to enjoy for years to come. Her fans deserve nothing less because she gave nothing less than her best.” If you thought that the Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and Frank Zappa hologram tours were a bit eerie, perhaps you’re in the minority, as this concept appears to be gaining momentum. Many of Houston’s “shows” are already sold out, although I found a pair for a March date in London in the last row of the venue for only $350.
I’m surprised that nobody has thought about putting Duane and Gregg’s images onstage for their 50th anniversary event, or bringing out Jerry Garcia to share birthday cake with Phil. Attention promoters: You’re leaving money on the table.
Another continuing musical trend for the coming year will be a mix of bands from decades ago doing never-ending farewell tours, productions of Broadway plays such as the recently closed Carole King show and the current Temptations-themed Ain’t Too Proud, and more films like Bohemian Rhapsody. And in nooks and crannies throughout Middle America, and on the stages of casinos, bingo parlors, rib fests, cruise ships, and at the local VFW halls, a huge swell of geriatric baby boomers will be lured by the “blast from the past” thrill of 20-something tribute bands wearing hair extensions and spandex pretending to be Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, or David Lee Roth. How dull.
One word: Resist.
2020 might be a good year to commit to visiting local music venues and supporting the musicians who are playing on the road to barely eke out a living. Whether you’re into blues, jazz, folk, non-mainstream country, bluegrass, singer-songwriters, Tejano, classical, or experimental, stay away from the fancy theaters and arenas if you can and patronize small venues and house concerts. Roots music will always ride out the flavor of the month as long as we provide grassroots support.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed here and at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana and Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.