Mudcat Café message #2552637 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #116964   Message #2552637
Posted By: Jim Carroll
30-Jan-09 - 04:08 AM
Thread Name: Why folk clubs are dying
Subject: RE: Why folk clubs are dying
"but some die-hard blow-hards would like it to, so that they can crow"
At the time of writing there are 657 hits on this thread.
From the number and the contents of those postings I would have thought it obvious that some people, me included, are not particularly impressed with the direction that the clubs have taken. Can't speak for anybody else, but personally I find the suggestion that any questioning of that direction comes from people who would like to see the clubs die to be deeply insulting and more than a little - what's the word I'm looking for - oh yes, that's it - stupid!
The 'evolving' that has taken place in the clubs is rather like watching a warm comfortable coat turn into an extremely shabby string vest.
I've seen the standard of singing plummet and I've followed arguments (with increasing incredulity) that this isn't just a fact of life, but is necessary, even desirable so as not to frighten away potential club audiences and performers. Admittedly, it has also been suggested that rescue is at hand by the 7th Cavalry in the form of guest nights (as long as you don't embarrass yourselves by rolling out the poor performers on these nights).
I've seen the material presented at clubs change from something that was folk music or identifiably based on folk music, into an indefinable mush that defies all definition.
I've seen it argued that folk music has been re-defined by countless millions who have decided somehow that the old definition is no longer relevant (though this new definition and the countless millions who have arrived at it remain an undisclosed mystery). On the strength of this re-(or non) definition I, and others working in the field of research, have been served with a notice-to-quit the term 'folk' and have had it proposed that we should look for another.
I have read arguments by folkies suggesting that an evening of folk music is 'boring' and that folk song is irrelevant. I constantly read whingeing postings claiming that the songs are 'too long' - this notably from a 'respected club organiser' who proposed a limitation on the length of songs to three minutes, thus wiping out the jewel in the crown of the folk repertoire, the ballads.
As I see it, the situation appears to be this:
The number of clubs and the size of audiences have been literally decimated over the last twenty odd years.
You can no longer go to a club and be guaranteed that you will hear and enjoy an evening of folk songs.
Whatever you get to hear, you can no longer rely on it being of a standard that you can enjoy (deliberately so, to some arguments).
The loss of direction and the lowering of standards has led to folk music losing (what little) public respect it once had outside the clubs and the present situation more-or-less guarantees that it will never regain that respect.
This isn't evolution - rather it is deterioration to the point of disappearance.
This is not to claim that there are no good clubs or no skilful and dedicated performers and organisers - of course there are; it wouldn't be worth putting finger to keyboard if there weren't. But IMO, there are far too few to make a difference at present.
I responded to this thread because the original posting rang bells and coincided with my own experience. I partook of the clips I was directed to and found music that was more akin to poorly executed pop music than folk; confirming my original impression rather than contradicting it.
So why do people find it worthwhile to question the state of things in the clubs; not for any sneaking romanticism or nostalgia for 'halcyon days' as somebody snidely suggested, nor for the smug satisfaction of being 'right'; rather because we believe the music to be worth it and would like to see people continue to get the enjoyment out of it that we did.
Jim Carroll