Almost every rock fan knows that a "rave up" is a good time, a night on the town with loud music and lots of people, just like in the old Yardbirds album title, "Having a Rave Up."
But what, exactly, is a "Rave Down"?
That's a question alternative rock fans have been mulling over ever since the Swervedriver song "Rave Down" began cropping up on radio and MTV. Sure, some listeners knew that "raves" -- that is, wild, all-night dance parties -- are all the rage among British techno- and house-music fans. But somehow, that scene doesn't seem to fit the dark mood and churning guitars of the Swervedriver song.
Nor should it, says Swervedriver guitarist Jimmy Hartridge. As he explains over the phone from London, where the group is working on a new single before embarking on an American tour, Swervedriver has never had much interest in the dance music scene. "None of us are into that sort of stuff," he says. "We started off listening to the Stooges and MC5, which has got nothing to do with that."
As for the rave scene vs "Rave Down," Hartridge admits that he's glad there's some ambiguity about the title. "People take it a lot of different ways," he says, happily.
As for how the band meant it, Hartridge says that the song is about "the boredom of existing in a small town, then moving to a big town and finding out that life is pretty much the same there. Everywhere is just as dull or uninteresting."
In other words, Hartridge jokes, it's "just the opposite of what the Yardbirds used to do in the '60s. The '90s answer to the rave-up is the rave-down."
Not that Hartridge and his bandmates are bored now, of course. In fact, he credits his guitar with helping him to find a way out of his small-town boredom. "That's how we all started playing our instruments," he says. "Just sitting around home when we're not doing anything else, playing around with the guitar and stuff. It's a perfect way to start a band.
"I think a lot of bands are bored before they became bands," he adds. "Well, not bored, that's a bad word. Just dissatisfied, I suppose, with their lifestyle and situation and so on. But we're quite happy about it now, really."
It helps that the band is based in London, instead of tiny Oxford, where Swervedriver first came together. "This is where you'll see all the bands," he says of the English capital. "Most bands do live here or play here quite often."
Oxford, on the other hand, may have a good number of bands, but Hartridge says there's no rock scene to speak of in the town.
Why not? "There's nowhere to play, really, because there isn't the audience to see it," he answers. "You have to realize that Oxford's an extremely small town, and it's virtually impossible to get a scene together in a town that size."
Nor does Oxford's status as a college town help. In fact, Hartridge says, the presence of Oxford University almost works against the rock scene. "All the university people in Oxford are in a completely different class," he says. "They're not really interested in music on the whole, I don't think. They're more interested in getting their exams."
When: Jan. 22, 9 p.m.
Where: Max's On Broadway, 735 S. Broadway.
Tickets: $10 in advance, $11 day of show.
Call: (410) 675-6297 for information, (800) 551-7328 for tickets.