While overseas recently I got the chance to watch a couple of bands at a gig in Glasgow. First up were TheSuperheroes, whose members include both disabled and non-disabled people. All band members played instruments, and these guys rocked. They are still building their songlist, so their set was frustratingly brief but very impressive.
They were followed by Mixit, an ensemble of singers who bill themselves as the world’s first inclusive pop group. Mixit has developed a more extensive set of songs, backed up by some well-choreographed dance moves.
Both acts were highly entertaining, and reflected a good measure of accomplishment for all involved.
The troubling part for me was that this gig was played to an audience largely comprising people living with disability and their supporters.
As such, it felt like another exercise in separateness and invisibility. That said, all I had was a single glimpse into the lives of these two acts - one gig in one venue.
So, mindful that I haven’t seen their performances elsewhere, here’s how I hope things are. I hope that Mixit and TheSuperheroes each have a band manager who is seeking out gigs for them at mainstream venues, in front of mainstream audiences, supporting (or being supported by) mainstream acts.
I hope that both acts build a loyal mainstream following as a result of their musicianship rather than out of any sense of charity. I hope that each band member has an authentic valued role to play in the band’s overall performance, so that each person’s participation does not come across as tokenistic or ‘pretend’.
Mixit have cut a DVD, I watched it for the first time today, and I really enjoyed it, for a number of reasons. First, the production values are good. By this I mean that the DVD looks and feels very professional, providing a documentary-style insight into the lives and songs of authentic performers. Second, the personality of the band members really comes across in the DVD, and the way the DVD has been editied accentuates the valued role of each band member. Third, there has been thoughtful attention to the band’s overall look (check out their stage gear) and to the choreography. Fourth, these guys have certainly got out and about, because part of their material was shot in France. Finally, I enjoyed the DVD becuase it is highly entertaining, which after all is the point of DVDs.
I should mention as an aside here that in the DVD, one of the band members notes how he has been able to use some of his Individualised Funding to provide him with personal support while he is on tour. How cool that is.
I encourage you to go visit Mixit’s website at http://www.mixitmusic.co.uk/ and you can hear TheSuperheroes perform the really quite impressive track Milky Way at http://www.myspace.com/thesuperheroesband