Home > blogging for Britain, Uncategorized > Genius is its own reward, apparently

Genius is its own reward, apparently

Attending poorly attended gigs can be a trial. Several years ago I went to see a former work colleague headline the Water Rats in King’s Cross, and was delighted to find myself part of a healthy 200-strong crowd. Unfortunately 190 of that crowd had come to see the support band and left after they had played. The following hour was unbearably uncomfortable as the remaining audience (boyfriends, girlfriends and work mates of the three band members) attempted in vain to create an atmosphere for our visibly mortified colleague and her group.

Anyway, on Sunday night, I went to see Grant Hart playing the back room of a pub in Cambridge, in the company of approximately 75 other people. Grant (for those of you who may not have heard of him) was one-third of Husker Du, and one-half (Bob Mould was the other) of the songwriting duo at the centre of that group: the most influential American band of the past 30 years. Like the Beatles on speed, Husker Du were the inspiration for, among many others, the Pixies and Nirvana; two bands that have subsequently influenced a generation of musicians.

Their dynamic was simple: whoever wrote the song sang the song. As both songwriters effortlessly turned out power-punk-pop classics, I was relaxed either way. After a short but prolific lifespan, the complicated relationship between the two (Google it) led to an acrimonious split. They still don’t talk.

Bob went on to form Sugar who had a number 1 album in the UK, and has since forged a pretty successful solo career and been lauded by many of his peers. Grant has toiled in relative obscurity and been less prolific.

Both artists are responsible for some of my favourite music; Husker Du’s ‘New Day Rising’ and ‘Warehouse: Songs and Stories’ are both in my personal top 10.

Which is why seeing Grant having to play a pub in front of a crowd that didn’t really threaten triple figures could have been agonising. It wasn’t. If anything, seeing him selflessly hammer out thirty slices of psychedelic pop genius in 90 minutes armed only with an electric guitar in what might have been my living room made me value the evening more.

What prompted this blog is that far from being a tired figure trading on his back catalogue, he has released, in ‘The Argument’, my favourite album of the year so far. It was Album of the Month in a music magazine and received widespread coverage in the press. And still nobody turned up to watch him.

But it might not be too late. Thanks to Spotify and YouTube, you can now acquaint yourself with his brilliance in an afteroon. You might have missed his gig, but you can still buy The Argument and maybe see the recent film about him.

And then next time he comes over from the States, maybe there will be a few more than 75 people acknowledging his genius.

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