We’ve been working all week on Generation Anger! – a show that explores the idea that the we (young people under 30) are so scared of upsetting anyone that we don’t engage with our current reality. Even though we face huge problems of basic survival –terrifyingly high rents, extortionate travel fares, internships and imminent environmental meltdown – we bite our tongues and try to get on with it. The awful ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is our motto. It’s embarrassing. We want to explore the feeling of anger and how it might be a great thing, but also imagine what it would happen if we could get a pub really angry. And how fun that might be for an audience.
We started by considering how a show about anger in a pub might take shape. We thought about live music in pubs and how we might follow – and defy – the convention of a live gig. So we looked at the links between rebellion and live music in youth culture from the 50s onwards, when previous generations seemed to be expressing anger. Brace yourself for a generalisation but it does seem that in the 70s, British youth had anti-establishment movements like punk; in the 80s artists like The Cure and The Smiths challenged Thatcher, and Hip Hop gave voice to the unheard and disenfranchised; in the 90s Britpop drew light on class divisions in a fun and optimistic way, and in the 00s we had UK grime – a rowdy, audacious movement that celebrated the inner city experience. But now, when the irresponsibility of older generations has landed us in a difficult reality, youth culture is full of public school educated bands and artists. Folk has become twee and aristocratic, and pop has become vintage (we’re thinking of Mark Ronson et al). It has a Tory vibe in its romanticism of a past that never existed. A bad nostalgia, filled with aristocratic references un-relatable for most of us.
We wondered if reality is so hard to grapple with that we can’t help but take comfort in the retro references of Ronson and the friendly banjos and babbling brooks of Nu-folk. But we were angry – angry that today’s UK frontmen are more like Marcus Mumford than the hilarious, rebellious, witty Jarvis cocker and American artists with huge things to say like Kanye. So we spent some time comparing the poses of Nu-folk bands with eighteenth century portraiture of the aristocracy, and had some fun recreating them to alienating music. As with all shit ideas we scrapped this but found it was useful to do.
We met Alex Niven who wrote ‘Folk Nostalgia’ – he reckons culture has flatlined since the 90s. So we played around with the conventions of a music gig, and how this might help us explore the emotion of anger and getting a pub hyped. We were interested in whether to get an audience feeling anti-establishment and rowdy, we ourselves might have to recycle culture. We found ourselves looking back too when we realised we were playing The Prodigy to get us warmed up and ready to get angry (Maxim Reality is Tess’ new hero). Our sound designer Jon McLeod came in and explored mixing the epic film scores we had been working with until Tess felt she could go to war.
We finished the week feeling like we’d run a marathon – our dreams are now fully infected with ideas of protest and recycled culture. And as with all good research and development time we felt we had only just begun.