Monday, October 27, 2014

Rockin' Newfies: Great Big Sea and "Fast As I Can"

Fast as I Can by Great Big Sea on Grooveshark

In the late 1990s, I was very excited one evening. I had recently been turned on to a group called Great Big Sea, from Newfoundland in Canada, and I had learned a few days prior that they were going to be playing the House of Blues in New Orleans, where I was then living. I persuaded a few friends to go with me, including a guy from Ireland, a woman from England, and an Austrian friend. I told them about the band and how good they were. I had almost worn out my CD of Rant and Roar, their US-only compilation release, and now I was in the House of Blues with wife and friends and waiting for them to start. They came out and gave a great show, in my opinion, including their light-speed version of REM's End of the World. After it was over, I asked my friends what they thought, and to a person they said the band was terrible. They not only didn't like Great Big Sea, they hated them. I was thunderstruck, literally floored. They were all annoyed that I had dragged them to this concert And for a long time after I didn't share my musical interests with my friends again.

One thing about doing this daily random tune is that I once again can share my musical interests with others, but the nice thing about the Web is that people can decide whether or not to listen to a particular song. However, I notice that a huge sea change has happened in music sharing since I was younger. Back in the 70s and 80s we often shared mix tapes - cassette tapes where the recorded songs were an expression of a person's interest or what they thought was important. Nowadays, with the advent of the iPod and personal listening devices and cell phones, music has become a much more private pursuit. People make the equivalent of mix tapes for themselves by ordering their playlists and listen on their headphones. I've found also that people are less willing to venture into the unknown. As I have become more and more immersed in global music, I am astounded by the variety and the incredible musicianship outside of the United States, and yet getting many of my friends to even give a listen to a fantastic song from another country has been like pulling teeth. I'm not sure if it's related to the fact that the music isn't of the United States, or if it isn't sung in English, but I suspect the aversion goes deeper than that. Our electronic media, rather than encouraging community around particular things, actually sets us apart in a lot of tiny ways that in aggregation becomes very big and noticeable. I think music and the sharing of music is one of those casualties of our age. I may be wrong, and feel free to argue against my point, but that's how I feel at present.

Great Big Sea was formed in 1989 under the name Newfoundland Republican Army and has become known for its rock interpretations of Newfoundland folk songs drawing from the island's Irish, Scottish and Cornish heritage. Every year between 1996 and 2000 they won East Coast Music Association's Entertainers of the Year until they stopped submitting their name to allow other bands to compete. They have also been nominated several times for the Juno Awards, Canada's top music awards. They have released nine studio albums, three compilation albums, and three live albums. Fast As I Can is from their 1995 album Up, and is also included on their 1998 compilation CD Rant and Roar which was released only in the United States.

I'm going to trust that you won't hate them.