Trashmouth: Part 2 – Bat-Bike

1377425_787712834632820_6524945325330584748_n  10696390_722870937783677_64135480786139522_n Bat-Bike’s night, ‘Chubby’ can be seen as a movement culture. The night is steeped in ideas that try to tackle and resist a form of cultural hegemony that serves to support the position of the power holder in society. Bat-Bike consider the power holders to be mainstream major record labels that have cornered the market and squeezed the excitement and authenticity out of music. They are particularly concerned with how this process is manifesting itself in London. In fact, every band in this movement is London based, and is directly concerned with the cultural and economic hegemony at play in London. As J Bat, (member of Bat-Bike) explains himself: ‘HAAAAY!!! the 1st ina series of nites we are gona try host in deptford of good music..none of that knock off koolness, we are lookin for the realdealmccoylivinitforlife type thing…if u bring ur shit to the night or an east london attitude its time to repent and see there is another way full of love and beautiful music thats got some death in it but its mainly love and some death…’ What is meant by this ‘knock off koolness’ and ‘east london attitude?’ There are massive hints of anti-gentrification here. This is a serious attack on a predominant attitude that is absolutely everywhere in London at the moment: ‘tha lights in london getting 2 big and no-one gives a penguin about guitars anymore…they all wana play MACBOOK jeyboards and speak really quiet in small clothes they pretend are their nans but I knw the truth that u bought them off a dying rich boi who just moved into the avant garde tower in shore ditch…’ Shoreditch is specifically mentioned here. Shoreditch was one of the first gentrified areas invaded by middle class hipsters who, as Alex Proud says in his article in the Telegraph, ‘in their quest to be different, have wound up virtually identical. Go into any hipster venue and you’ll see. From the microbrewery ales and ironically-drunk mass-market lagers to upcycled furniture and jumble-sale ’70s suburban art, they’re all cool by numbers. The people dress the same, they eat the same and the conversations sound the same.’ (Alex Proud) This then, is a formula, a brand and a process of commodification determined by the forces of the market place. ‘It’s as much a part of mainstream consumer culture as iPhones and Sky TV and as global as Starbucks.’ (Alex Proud) J Bat very astutely observes: ‘they all wana play MACBOOK jeyboards and speak really quiet in small clothes they pretend are their nans but I knw the truth that u bought them off a dying rich boi who just moved into the avant garde tower in shore ditch…’ This is spot on. There is a fashion to wear retro clothes that look as if they might have been bought for £2 in a charity shop, but the truth is, these clothes are expensive.  When relating this idea to the music industry things look much more worrying. This same ‘hipster’ scene creates the perfect malleable and gullible target audience that the music industry preys on. As Billy Corgon from the Smashing Pumpkins explained in an interview to NME: ‘My caveat is that now we have a system of middle-of-the-road non-risk-takers that seem to be risk-takers but aren’t really,’ he added. ‘It’s systemically rewarding the wrong end of the art world.’ (http://www.nme.com/news/smashing-pumpkins/54401). ‘Hipsters’ appear cutting edge, but in reality they are middle of the road non-risk takers, more than happy to adhere to the dominant culture which serves the dominant ideology. This inevitably squeezes anything that’s different, or contrary into the fringes. This is a very basic explanation of the cultural hegemony in London. I am fully aware that many of these scenes enjoyed authentic beginnings, however, what is of interest in this study is how cultural and social movements are responding to this process of cultural hegemony. Bat-Bike do not charge an entry fee for ‘Chubby:’ The night is FREE obviously…we cant jump on the money train that is quickly destroying london and leaving lots of young and old people confused as to where to put their energy and time…please come down, we would all really love it if u came a shared the night with us.’ This is one way that a social movement can prevent their cultural messages from being too diluted or appropriated by the dominant culture. They have clearly recognized the way in which culture is being commodified and in an attempt to reaffirm the ‘value’ of their art, they refuse to put a financial ‘price’ on it. The same can be said for the nine albums that Bat-Bike have released and made available for download. Pretty much all of them are free: http://bat-bike.bandcamp.com/ Movement cultures can influence change in a number of ways. Bat-Bike here, are diffusing their message into society, not just via the content of their material, but by the form of what they are doing. They are communicating their message by giving it away for free. Their repertoire then, matches their message which is always a goal for social movements so as to earn credibility. The content of what they do is also by its very nature anti-establishment. The song ‘THUMBS UP’ is a good example: ‘I eat chocolate eggs at Easter, cos he’s dead, that’s why he died for our sins. I watch X-Factor cos my life doesn’t matter, that’s why he died for our sins. I care who shot Phil Mitchell, it matters, thats why he died for our sins.’ http://youtu.be/xokLoEfYIrk This song is the definition of irony. It is funny and playful, but also full of anger. It is sheer disillusionment with commodification, music being sold as a form of consumerism and competition (X-Factor) and meaningless soaps that feed back into culture an apathetic way of life that people consciously or unconsciously emulate because it is being shown to them on TV. The Sitar guitar solo is surely confirmation of the irony. On Tuesday night, this song was played live in it’s electric punk form. It was much more angry and full of vitriol. At times Bat-Bike are more specific in their political goals: 10850243_1568391096739053_4281255846054348153_n J Bat has ‘NHS’ on his chest. He is making a stand against the privatisation of the NHS. Being on stage gives a performer a platform in which they will be seen. Stripping down into your boxers is a reaction against convention in itself, but scribbling NHS on your chest is a more direct act of protest. Small gestures and symbols such as this are part of the movements ‘repertoire.’ A movements repertoire is, according to Charles Tilly’s methodology for studying social movements, a number of activities available to a movement that allows them to express ‘claims’ within a ‘campaign.’  This is an act of contentious politics. Contentious politics is always the result of ‘individuals, groups or organisations that have no direct control or access to the power or decision-making apparatus.’ In this particular case, the ‘activists’ have no way of staking their ‘claim’ through the usual channels of political protocol and so make a ‘claim’ to the ‘power holders’ contentiously through the means of either indirect persuasion or coercion. Michael Lipsky succinctly states that: ‘Protest is a political resource of the powerless.’ The Chubby event posters are also full of contentious symbolism. Much like the poor spelling and grammar and generally scribbled nature of the Chubby bio, these posters seem very ramshackle and thrown together. They could have run their writing though a spell check, or written a more refined version, but, they want to present something honest and authentic. This in itself could be seen as part of Bat-Bike’s repertoire. In a world of slick, inoffensive advertisements, air brushed by graphic designers to conform to what is considered fashionable, these posters seem quite radical. They show a disregard for slickness. Slickness, does not, and should not matter. They are showing that the substance, not the style, is what is important. In todays market, style is definitely favoured over substance and so these posters are a breath of fresh air. They look like they were just bashed out on Microsoft Paintbrush in a few minutes but have more humour and intent than much of the promotion you see in mainstream music: 10917325_774202459317191_1252640379772365191_n    1470178_751422261595211_5627788554465433967_n There are pound signs crossed out with the childish crayola font, Sauron’s all-seeing eye looking down from the Shard onto an Islamic terrorist with Boris Johnson breathing crayola flames whilst David Cameron looks on in double vision looking rather pleased with himself. Cameron and Johnson have been cut out from magazines badly. The top of Johnson’s head is gone and red background can be detected behind Cameron’s head. To some, this would look like a shoddy design, but Bat-Bike are talented art-school graduates who could design a slick, hip poster if they wanted. But what would be the point? They are putting across an attitude that effects how the content and form of their political message are being received by the audience. There is a ramshackle, DIY attitude that sets the tone of what the night is about. It is about resisting the conventions that are imposed on you by a dominant ideology and finding a way of asserting the value of culture as opposed to the price. Even just going along to this night and soaking it up is a form of protest because it shows that people don’t need popular culture in order to be entertained or feel a sense of belonging. ‘Chubby’ shows that you can bypass the popular culture that is imposed on us. Perhaps this is a post-post punk idea, but this is a very specific scene based in a very specific place, Deptford. Therefore, it is very much in a grass roots stage. Grass roots is a key word here because it feels that this particular night, ‘Chubby’ is about staying grass roots. It is about refusing to compromise authenticity and never conforming to the pressures of the market place in a way where there is still humour, playfulness and innocence so as to not simply become reactionary, but angry and aware of the hostile economic forces that control and squeeze the life out of culture. 1377425_787712834632820_6524945325330584748_n   10712700_730603397010431_2413782409867965578_n

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