By Dave Pezza
There is a lull between songs, that gasp of air and respite that both the band and the audience doesn’t need but thankfully takes. A couple in front of me—a girl whose feeling good and a boyfriend who is quickly becoming a babysitter—pause their dancing. The girl calls out,
“Play ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’!!!!!”
The guitar player finishes his shot and leans over to the microphone,
“Yea sure, but you gotta come up and sing.”
The girl moves behind her boyfriend and buries her face in his back.
“Do you know the words? If you can sing it we’ll play it.”
The guitarists’ tone teeters between disingenuous and playful, heavily influenced by the booze and the fact that their fucking killing the set. I think he must feel invincible.
“Nah, she doesn’t know the words!” The girl’s boyfriend yells.
“I’ll play one of my own instead,” he says matter-of-factly and opens “Trouble,” a groove infused powerhouse that gets everyone in the dank, dark bar dancing like Woodstock just broke out in this shitty part of Providence. They’re all fans; they’ve all heard it before; they’re all convinced that they are hearing something rare and beautiful and dangerous. We feel like the only new ones, the only ones who came not knowing what we were going to hear, and we’re now starting to feel the same way.
The Silks come from Providence, and they sound like a classic rock band, a really fucking good classic rock band. A three piece of lead, bass, and drum that sounds so tight that I refused to believe that their new drummer had learned the majority of the set list the day before, including a song that he learned 20 minutes ago in the bathroom. The Silks have been around for a few years, releasing their first, and only, album in 2013, “Last American Band.” The album title is douchey and assuming, but it’s right. The Silks might be the last American band. They can do it all: ballads, classic rock, blues, slide guitar, 10-minute bass grooves, drum solos, harmonica. I paid $10 at the door and got a show every bit as good as monster acts like Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age.
After the band finished its most radio friendly song, “Down at the Heel,” a crooning classic rock anthem, the lead guitarist takes a moment, adding a capo to his guitar, and announces a new song that’s not on their album,
“It’s good to see you all hear supporting us at Fête, but the truth is we haven’t been doing so well. So thank you all for coming out tonight and bringing all your friends. This song is called “Hold On,” and that’s what we’re trying to do."
And that was when it hit me; these guys are struggling. They’re not on iTunes, and the bar we were dancing in maybe had 30 people tops, the vast majority of which were friends and old supporters. How can a band this good be struggling?
“If those guys were putting records out in the 1970s, they’d still be on the radio today,” my friend said later.
He nailed it. If this was 1975, The Silks would be headlining arenas all over the United States. Trust me; I’m not over reaching. But what does that say about rock music today, and its place in the culture. There isn’t a gimmick with The Silks, they don’t take bullshit; they just get up there and fucking rock. No covers, no acts. Just song after song after song of damn good rock 'n' roll.
So what’s the problem? There has to be a catch, right? Something we don’t know about them. But the real answer is that the problem is us. We don’t support music like we once did, because we don’t need to. Concert tickets are expensive, so we don’t feel bad about not going too often; music is cheap and inexpensive on iTunes or, let’s be honest, free if you’re downloading it illegally. And usually we are listening to it in our own heads, shutting out the world in the process. And that’s for big acts, bands that have already “made it.” Bands like the The Silks who can’t afford to be on a large, money making digital providers like iTunes, because iTunes is seeing most of that money. They are on bandcamp and promote through Facebook. Their first album is $10 on bandcamp, or you can see them in person and grab it on vinyl (highly recommended) for $25.
But are you willing to go a show in a dive bar to see these guys play, with little to go on other than my word and maybe listening to some tracks on YouTube? You should because that's how it used to work. Covers were cheap, and the band actually saw a good chunk of that. You gathered up your friends to the bar and drank your face off, rocking to some good live music. You didn’t have to buy tickets six months in advance, rent a hotel room, get stripped searched at the venue, or pay $12 dollars for a beer. You just got up and went.
The Silks might just be the last American band, and its future depends on whether we want good bands and good music anymore. And if we do, we have to start supporting them in real, tangible ways. So please, visit the band's official website, like its Facebook page, or download the album.
Dave Pezza spends his time trying to justify printing "writer" under "Occupation" on his passport application. Pezza has never been to a concert and not screamed "Freebird" at the top of his lungs. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Pezza.
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