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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #497
Concert Survival
David Gunn

News item: December 11, 2004, The Associated Press--A gunman charged onstage at a packed nightclub in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday night and opened fire on the band and the crowd, killing top heavy metal guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three other people before a police officer shot him to death. A witness to the shooting said the heavy metal rock band Damageplan had just begun their first song at the Alrosa Villa nightclub when the man opened fire, first targeting Abbott, shooting him multiple times at point-blank range. "It was definitely a grudge," the witness said. "It was against something."

How many times have we denizens of the world of nonpop music experienced the same thing--that feeling of persecution from persons who begrudge us just because our music is "different?" Way too many, that's how many! What happened to that guitarist is a textbook example of what could happen to any one of us. For years, Dimebag had distinguished himself as one of the world's leading authorities of Kumbaya, the unofficial anthem of Nonpopdom. He could sing the song in any key, or sometimes in no key. He could play it on nearly three different instruments, though he was loath to divulge what they were. And his scholarly translation from the original Greek of the text's first line as "Kumbaya my Ford" instead of the more familiar "Kumbaya my lord" led to a highly profitable relationship with the Eponymous Motor Car Company. But then one day he fell in with a bunch of heavy metal rowdies from Texas and thenceforth seemed to forgot all about his nonpop roots. Initially, his fans quietly and respectfully mourned the loss of their hero. But when in his first concert appearance with his new musical comrades he smashed his erstwhile beloved hammered dulcimer, his fans, his former fans, took umbrage, some even in high dudgeon. I know I did.

So what are we, as proprietors and processors of nonpop, to do to insure the safety of our music as well as our own well-being? Do we cower behind some easy-listenin' techno music façade, biding our time until our audients proceed far enough along the evolutionary tree to appreciate our music? Okay, that's one solution. But what if we want to remain stubbornly true to our integrity, thereby running the risk of provoking the disapproving audient? Then before entering the arena of the live concert performance, we should prepare for at least the possibility of an altercation. Here are five things you can do to help survive a realization of your music--your nonpopular music--in which audients of an indeterminate makeup are present.
   1. Wear body armor. Iron plating, if it is at least six inches thick, can ward off most small arms fire. As an added bonus, the body armor can double as a portable gazebo should the indoor weather turn inclement. And some nonpopsters report that acoustical events originating from within such an ironclad environment are actually sonically enhanced.
   2. Play your music extra loud. Research has shown that waves of sound exceeding 190 decibels will deflect hurled missiles. It is, of course, incumbent on the part of the composer or performer to be on the appropriate side of these sound walls.
   3. Employ a body double. There is definite safety in numbers. Not only will you confuse any potential adversary, but in many cases you can increase the percentage of attendees by twenty to thirty.
   4. Prominently display security video cameras throughout the performance space. They need not be functional--their mere presence will give pause to even the most hardened music critic.
   5. Employ metal detectors. Screen out those worrisome patrons made of mercury and gadolinium before they can make trouble. Note: not recommended for use with body armor, number 1 above.

Now, some will argue that even these precautions are not enough. At last Wednesday night's concert, for example, Dimebag was clad in an armored leisure suit with matching steel-toed clogs; his opening guitar riff pinged the decibelometer at 194; the Alrosa Villa employed both a metal detector and security cameras (alas, the cameras were real and the metal detector was ersatz)--and still neither Abbott nor his life-sized doppelgänger lived to play an encore.

Well, it happens. But we all know that music is inherently dangerous, that it is probably the most perilous discipline humanity has yet devised. Maybe that's why we, the dwellers of Nonpopdom, the bottom feeders of the musical food chain, have endeavored to maintain such low profiles.

Everyone except us, your histrionic hosts of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. Each Saturday afternoon, we boldly pooh-pooh the umbrage of our listeners by playing music that is challenging and potentially provoking. We employ no body armor, no personal doppelgängers, no security cameras or metal detectors. And we leave the volume of the music up to you, our listeners. At least for today's 497th episode. Next week, all bets are off, all armor is on. You'll know why soon enough. Until then, kumbaya, Kalvos, kumbaya.