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The Many Expressions of St. Vincent (2018 edition)

December 31, 2018

My top 10 concerts of 2018 are: twelve St. Vincent shows.

I’ve been to thousands of concerts around the world. For more than a decade, I’d go to 350+ shows each year. I have yet to see anyone do what Annie Clark does, let alone in the span of a single year.

Some artists, including Maynard, Trent Reznor, and Jack White, create new personas or launch side projects to work with other artists or explore different dimensions of their art and music (often there are business reasons for this as well). Thus far, Annie Clark has accomplished this all within St. Vincent. 

She is multi-faceted, transcendent, embraces the complexities of life and relationships as well as the unpredictable and transforms it into art. She has built a relationship with those listening which supports and celebrates everything St. Vincent is and her dynamic creative expressions. 

When asked “why” I might go to more than one St. Vincent show: each show is vastly – and subtly – different. Let go of expectations, don’t worry about the set list, forget your pre-show selfie. Be present and St. Vincent will create the experience with you. Each show unfolds uniquely in that moment in time, in concert with the city, venue, the people in the audience, her day – as well as yours – leading up to the show.  

While, thematically, her songs tend to fall on the darker side, her shows embody possibility, spontaneity, are infused with wit and humor, take you to another world, and provide community. What’s consistent from show to show is the quality, and an experience which seems to top itself every time. Like a good relationship, the greater the foundation and understanding, the deeper you can go. 

While no substitute for having your own experience, here’s a taste of my journey with with St. Vincent this year. This is not intended to be comprehensive, just some musings on each show. So much of what happens is magic, in the moment, and cannot be described. I’m not one to discuss the moments which move me the most either, and with St. Vincent there are many. So know that what you read and see here is nothing compared to what you will experience when you see St. Vincent live. 

January 25: Fear The Future @ Hollywood Palladium

This show coincided with my self-imposed two week break from drinking to train for a marathon. The thought of leaving the house, traversing Los Angeles, battling traffic, parking in Hollywood, Hollywood, crowds, without the aid and “reward” of a few drinks was daunting. It’s possible this was the first time I’d be at a concert entirely sober. Would it be “as good”? I did consider staying home, but remembered the first time I saw St. Vincent perform a decade ago, and trusted the experience would be more powerful and rewarding than a drink, and well worth overcoming the pain points of leaving home.

To minimize contact with others, and enjoy a clear line of sight, I started off at the back of the venue, on the raised platform near the sound booth. St. Vincent took the stage, without a band, seemingly also embracing solitude among a crowd. Without utilizing an overt storytelling gimmick, the show told a story. As she took us through a retrospective of her earlier work, revealing more and more of the stage and herself with each song, I felt like I was being sucked into a vortex toward the stage. I fought it, stood with my feet firmly planted in my “safe place”, and marveled at St. Vincent’s ability to draw me in from the back of the room while simultaneously engaging everyone between us. 

Soon enough, the pull overtook me. I began moving forward, careful not to disturb others entranced in the show, and arrived stage right, 3 rows from the rail. During that moment, St. Vincent was playing directly to the audience stage left. Within one minute of my arriving, she turned, pointed, and sang the next line of the song in my direction. Whether or not it was the case, it felt as though she knew what I was feeling, and genuinely appreciated and acknowledged my being there. Her awareness and responsiveness to the time, space, energy and people in the room is part of what makes each show unique.

After taking us on a journey through her previous work, St. Vincent performed each song on her latest album (at that time), Masseduction. Rather than launch a new album and tour the “expected route”, with a full band, St. Vincent boldly chose to take the stage alone. It made sense (to me), given the show and story she was sharing. That’s among the things I respect most about Annie Clark: if she makes a decision to do (or not do) something, it’s to further the art. 

April 11: I’m A Lot Like You @ Orpheum LA 

Welcome back, band. Hello lights and video. Goodbye walls, doors, ceilings, floors. Holy fuck – watch her shred. All the elements work together, creating a spectacular, immersive, otherworldly musical playground. The production value is off the charts. The show and everyone who worked on it should win an award.  I envisioned the kids at Coachella losing their shit over this the following 2 weekends. It’s also when “Rattlesnake” became one of my favorite songs to experience live.

May 21: I’m A Lot Like You (VIP + out of state) @ The Fillmore, Charlotte, North Carolina 

At this point in the year, I had been to. . . a lot. . . of shows, and none of them moved nor engaged me the way St. Vincent did. FYF Fest (where I had intended to next see St. Vincent) had been cancelled. I knew I wanted to see the I’m A Lot Like You show again and a cancelled festival wasn’t going to stop me. 

I decided to go somewhere I’d never been, Charlotte, North Carolina, and to purchase the VIP ticket upgrade which included a pre-show performance and conversation (“Q&A”) with St. Vincent. If you’ve never been to a concert in an unfamiliar city, state, or country, I recommend it. The energy and experience is completely different, as is your perspective when you’re in a new place. I began my adventure with coffee, a walk around the city, and a pass through some parks and museums, and then made my way to the venue. 

Clark entered the room, proclaiming her outfit “Unabomber Chic” and sang a couple songs, acoustic. No lights, set, band, visuals, nor elaborate wardrobe, and still able to transport us from the physical world we know to a timeless place and dreamlike state. Her voice is spectacular and mesmerizing. She’s playful and entirely present. She is genuine and generous.

Following the songs, what was billed as a “Q&A” (for lack of a better description, I imagine) was a dynamic conversation. Clark asked us questions, and we shared stories and asked her questions. In response to any topic, Clark has a relevant and entertaining story. There are as many funny asides as there are “answers”. This is when I saw something else magnificent in Clark: she is an exceptional listener. Any time someone asked a question or shared a story, she listened well beyond the words they were speaking, absorbing the subtext, inflections, tone, and body language, and would respond to the often unspoken, but actual crux of the conversation. (In a related aside, I had the opportunity to hear Maynard speak and play at The Grammy Museum a few months later. There, he noted that the most important skill a musician can have is to be a good listener. “It’s a listening process,” he said. Exhibit A: St. Vincent).

When St. Vincent returned to the stage with the full band, wall of lights, and wardrobe, she, the venue, and audience were transformed. The show begins with the band entering and taking their places, one by one. The first step St. Vincent takes as she crosses the stage is where the journey into another dimension begins.

One benefit of seeing a show multiple times is that you can focus on and absorb additional aspects of the show each time. Watching her play guitar masterfully, feeling her connect with each of us and every member of the band, the sound, energy and lights elevating us. The exchange of energy between us fueled the show. The harder we went, the harder they went. This could not – and would not – be the last time I saw this show.

 

July 31: I’m A Lot Like You (out of country) @ Sony Centre, Toronto 

Another two months of going to concerts, some excellent, but none exceptional. I wanted to experience “I’m A Lot Like You” again. I love Canada, but hadn’t been to Toronto yet, so it seemed a sensible option. I was concerned about the venue – a seated theatre – for the rock show. I don’t like sitting still on a good day, and there’s no way I was sitting down for this show. I called the venue in advance. “If the music moves you to stand up and dance, that’s what you should do!’ Ticket purchased, flight and hotel booked. 

Cruel: I was lost in the song, visually immersed in the lights and sounds. When I turned my attention back to Annie, she seemed to be focused entirely stage right. She would step forward and left for guitar solos, and then specifically turn and sing to the right, laser focused on one location or person. When I succumbed and looked to my left, a woman standing next to me was singing the lyrics along with St. Vincent, with a comforted smile and tears streaming down her face. Without taking anything away from the audience as a whole, St. Vincent gifted the song to someone who most needed it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 10: With Florence and The Machine @ Key Arena, Seattle

Was it an excuse to go to Seattle or was Seattle an excuse to see another St. Vincent show? What I wasn’t aware of when I made this decision is that this was the kick off show of Florence and The Machine’s tour, which is the reason many other people traveled from around the country to be there. 

In my experience, an audience comprised of people who have traveled, lined up early in the morning or the night before if the venue allows, dehydrate themselves so they don’t have to miss a second of the concert, makes for an even more charged, energetic show. Most people I spoke with prior to the show hadn’t seen St. Vincent live, and it was fun to experience the show alongside them. It was also the final concert at Key Arena until it re-opens after changing ownership and being remodeled. The staff and security teams were reminiscing about the venue, shared stories and history with me. The room was ready. 

The venue: perhaps not quite as prepared. Notorious for sub-par sound. Doors were held an additional 30 minutes, sometimes indicative of sound or tech issues that arise during soundcheck. I wouldn’t have given much weight to doors being held if vocals could have been heard in the mix, stage right. Whatever was happening with the sound during the first few songs, the only impact it appeared to have on St. Vincent is that she played even more furiously. The people around me who had not seen her perform previously, loved it and vowed to see her when she next plays their town. 


September 18: Solo Acoustic Guitar benefit concert @ Santa Fe Opera, New Mexico

Santa Fe Opera is potentially the most beautiful setting for a concert. An outdoor amphitheater, with wonderful sound, kind staff, and the sun setting behind the stage. This was a benefit concert for Noise for Now. Andrew Bird and St. Vincent donated their time and performances to raise money and awareness in support of women’s healthcare rights and services.

Solo, on acoustic guitar, St. Vincent shared humorous observations and stories between songs. The Fear The Future and I’m A Lot Like You shows are so big and well executed, it doesn’t feel like anything is “missing”. This show was a reminder that I did miss St. Vincent’s quick wit and stories. They exist in the produced shows as well, woven into the production, videos, and her expressions, though not verbally articulated, the way only she can. She is a brilliant storyteller. She’s entertaining and engaging throughout, yet you don’t know where the story is going until you get there. Like her music, she doesn’t take the direct path, and the payoff is much greater for it. This was also the first time I’d heard the songs from Masseduction performed acoustically. Santa Fe provided the best backdrop for St. Vincent’s vocals. Her voice seemed to be carried by the light breeze. It was simply a beautiful show. 

September 28: St. Vicious DJ set (and free gift with purchase show) @ Hollywood Bowl 

I call this the “free gift with purchase show” because I already had tickets to see Beck. So when it was later announced that St. Vincent would be opening the Beck show with a DJ set, that was a free, and much appreciated, gift. I’d heard about St. Vicious’s DJ sets at various festivals and hoped I’d have the opportunity to experience it.

While maintaining the integrity of, and honoring, the original songs, St. Vicious gave the songs new life. It was fun, provocative, inspiring, and energetic, and left me looking forward to more.

October 2: Intimate Evening with St. Vincent Thomas Bartlett @ Belasco LA (launch of Masseducation) 

I typically don’t think of myself as ranking or categorizing shows. People ask me all the time, “which was better?” Each is its own experience and I either appreciate and enjoy it or I leave. There are some artists I know I can count on to consistently deliver an exceptional experience, but in my head I thought I loved all 5 of them equally. So I was surprised at my own self when the words “you just sailed right past Nine Inch Nails” went through my mind during this show. Apparently, I had held Nine Inch Nails “at the top” and if I’d thought about it previously, would not have expected a show featuring solely piano and vocals to rival what Nine Inch Nails does on stage. That is how powerful an Intimate Evening with St. Vincent is. 

An Intimate Evening with St. Vincent and Thomas Bartlett consists of a stripped down, elegant stage, Thomas on piano and St. Vincent providing vocals. There’s no guitar, band, light show, video screens. All the songs we’ve come to know on guitar take new life on piano. It’s unrehearsed, yet masterful.

There are only 3 times in my life when I’ve needed to consciously remind myself to breathe: Scuba diving, another time, and this show. I don’t think I moved (and it’s been well established I’m not a good sitter downer) the entire time. 

Without the guitar, the emphasis is on St. Vincent’s voice and the way she and Thomas work together to communicate the songs. Without the layered sounds and slick production, stripped bare, the songs emerge in their own power. 

A glass of tequila and the mic became the centerpiece “props” at times. The way St. Vincent holds the mic and impressions of other musicians holding the mic made for entertaining onstage banter. She whips the mic cable seductively, adding emphasis at key moments before or during a song. 

The subtleties of her voice and body language become more pronounced. Each note adds meaning and she physically expresses the songs throughout her body and beyond the tips of her fingers. Between songs, St. Vincent entertains us with stories, observations, and gives us insight into a language only she and Thomas share. 

The moment she “sailed past Nine Inch Nails”? She hit a note during “Smoking Section” I think she invented. It was breathtaking. Not just that note, but where and how it punctuated the way she performed the song that night. Fuck. 

 

 

 

October 5: Outdoor show @ Stubb’s Austin 

With FYF Fest cancelled, I hadn’t seen “I’m A Lot Like You” outside, nor full-festival scale production. I had been to Austin City Limits Festival once before and loved it. In my opinion, it had the best line-up of US festivals this year and I’d have the opportunity to see St. Vincent’s festival show. Of course, when this additional ACL Late Show was announced, it was a must-do. 

The vibe of this show was joyous, playful, and fun. Anyone who was within the first 15-20 rows from the rail made the decision to skip Paul McCartney to be here instead. Like traveling from around the country, that collective crowd passion and energy help amplify the experience. There were no video screens and the compact nature of the stage made it easy to absorb the whole show, without switching focal points or attention. It felt like a private party. Music, connection, artist, audience, all celebrated. To be among a crowd of thousands, be seen and feel understood, is a gift St. Vincent gives time and time again. The chaos of the world outside replaced by the chaos we chose to create inside.

October 6: Festival production @ ACLFest, Austin

10 months into the year, I’m treated to the full-scale festival production of I’m A Lot Like You. The videos add dimension to the songs and the positioning of the screens allows them to interplay with the band. You can watch the videos, you can watch the band, or you can “zoom out” and see how the images onscreen interact with the band. Sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing. During the intimate shows, St. Vincent offers insight into what she’s thinking. At this show, the videos provide a glimpse into how she sees. 

Again, it was the first time many people I spoke to had seen St. Vincent perform live. Hearing and seeing their reactions to the show was a blast. “She looks like a superhero,” a woman remarked to her friend. “She IS a superhero!’ her friend replied. “Best show of ACL!” someone else shouted.

One of my favorite moments was watching Annie and Toko having so much fun playing “Masseduction” (video below the video below). Another highlight was “New York”.

For all the times I’ve seen St. Vincent, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her play or sing a song precisely the same way twice. This makes the guitar solos particularly fun to watch and hear. And if you pay close attention, you’ll appreciate vocal changes, nods and references unique to that performance. Sometimes I think even she’s surprised by the direction the song takes. 


October 29: I’m A Lot Like You tour wrap up @ Hollywood Palladium

After each show, the tour dates section of St. Vincent’s website shrunk. The year winding down, I was filled with gratitude for all the mind-blowing shows to date and felt greedy longing for more… yet, I continued holding onto hope. Dream-come-true. A late addition and the final show of the I’m A Lot Like You tour in 2018. This show was recorded in a multi-camera shoot (as was the Intimate Evening at The Belasco) for a mysterious future release. 

This was everything I love about live music, expressed through St. Vincent. Some highlights:

“Hysterical Strength” – Matt Johnson’s next-level what-the-fuck drumming.

Everything St. Vincent did on guitar.

Non-verbal communication.

”Fear The Future” – gets me every time. Especially this time.

“Marrow”, “Cruel”, “New York”…. Everything. The whole fucking thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 20: An Intimate Evening with St. Vincent and Thomas Bartlett @ BAM Brooklyn 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back on the thousands of concerts I’ve been to, including those “once in a lifetime” secret shows, without fully ranking them, I can say An Intimate Evening with St. Vincent and Thomas Bartlett at Brooklyn Academy of Music is easily in the top 5.

If I had to sum it up in three words I haven’t used yet, they would be: “Cheerleader” and “The Bed”.

 

 

 

 

Have I had enough? No. I’d like to experience as many expressions of St. Vincent as she’s willing to share.

In between scheduled tour dates, interviews, TV, and radio appearances, she was speaking and participating in a “concert experiment” at Cannes Lion, live scoring a film during Natalie Portman’s series at Boston Calling, producing and collaborating with other artists, inspiring other musicians by participating in clinics, appearing on panels and speaking at events supporting women, playing art museum fundraisers and donating her time to shows in support of charities, performing a tribute to Philip Glass during the Kennedy Center Honors, inviting students to the venue before the show, playing a few songs for them and offering guidance and encouragement for them to pursue their passions. This is merely what I’m aware of. I imagine her dedication to art and humanity extends well beyond what is noted here. All of this, coupled with the person I’ve come to know through the journey this year, equates to perhaps the purest – and my favorite – expression of St. Vincent: Annie Clark.

Dear Music Business: Among The Reasons You’re Struggling

Dear record label execs, promoters, and managers:

While you’re busy trying to figure out how to save your business, doing things like launching apps and having rooftop concerts, you’re losing sight of the basics. You are often your (and your artists’) own worst enemy.

Many examples of this have been documented over the years. I’m not here to give you shit or tell you that you suck. I love music. I love musicians. I want to help you.

Within 5 minutes of trying to get more familiar with an artist – including purchasing tickets to an upcoming show – I ran into several obstacles.  Here’s what happened:

I’ve been hearing about The Weeknd for a while, so:

1. I went to Facebook

It’s important for you to understand how music fans are looking for music and information about artists. They are not going to your artist’s website as a first stop, and they’re probably not going to Google first either. They are going to sites like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Soundtracking. That means you need to make sure your artist’s presence on those sites is easy to find and comprehensive.

Facebook recently launched Graph Search. For the record, I hate it, but unfortunately 1.1 billion people on Facebook are stuck with it, including your artists.

When looking at search, you need to think about how people will search. Account for user error. The conversation goes:

“Have you heard of The Weekend?” or “I love The Weekend!” or “Are you going to see The Weekend at The Greek Theatre?”

Or, a radio DJ or blogger on Sirius XM’s Blog Radio will say something like, “That was the latest from The Weekend.”

What are people going to search for? Will they know it’s spelled “The Weeknd”? This is about artist discovery and during the discovery phase, fans will be less likely to know the unusual spelling of your band’s name. If you have an artist with a name like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, then you need to look at how people will actually search for them. Do search optimization for the incorrect spelling as well, so people can easily find your artist. Have a way to direct people from the incorrect spelling to the correct spelling.

Here’s what happens now when you search for “The Weekend” (as someone just discovering the artist would search) on Facebook:

This is a new development. Before Graph Search launched, a first-time search for “The Weekend” on Facebook went like this: the artist’s official page is the FIRST result, after typing in only the first few letters (before the potential spelling error would ever take place).

You may say this is a Facebook problem – a flaw with their search. I agree. There are numerous flaws with Facebook – here’s one more we can add to the list. Unfortunately, as evidenced above, this is your problem as well.

Solution: Facebook and numerous media outlets issue alerts about new product developments and features well in advance of their launch. When this happens, your “digital person” should get on the phone with Facebook or fly to one of their offices and explore how this will impact your business.

The product is Search. That’s pretty important to your business and how people will find your artists on Facebook. You should have these conversations early and do everything you can to help avoid what’s happened in the case of The Weeknd.

As a larger business lesson: make sure you have strong relationships at every key social media site. Maintain these relationships. Have dinners and regular meetings. Don’t just call when you need something. Look to these businesses as partners and work with them consistently.

Since I couldn’t find The Weeknd on Facebook by doing a simple Facebook search, I went to a company that actually knows how to do search, Google. As expected, Google (even with an incorrect spelling) directed me to The Weeknd’s Facebook page. Once I got there, I saw they had a “Video” tab, so:

2. I tried to watch The Weeknd’s videos posted on Facebook

Here’s what happened:

 

Solution #1: If you aren’t actually going to make the videos available for viewing on Facebook, then don’t include a YouTube tab on your Facebook page.

Solution #2: Pull your head out of your ass.

Ok, as it turns out now – I am giving you shit. Few things piss me off as much as this. This is your artist, right? And these have been deemed as official videos/streams? I’m assuming so because they’re on your artist’s Facebook page (even though that’s fucking useless) and YouTube channel.

Why on earth would you make it so difficult for people who actually want to hear your artist’s music to listen to it through the official, LEGAL, channels? Stop bitching about file sharing sites until you stop doing shit like this.

3. I went to YouTube:

No problems here. A Google company, YouTube has efficient, easy, and effective search.

Why am I showing you a good example? So that you can maximize it. Understanding that you want people to be able to find your artists, put your money where search is most effective. Run ads on Google and YouTube, as Atlantic Records is doing for Portugal. The Man in the example above.

In the case of artists who have unique names, like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, you should probably run ads on Facebook as well. This will help get your artists in front of fans who couldn’t find  them through a simple search.

4. After YouTube, I went to Ticketmaster:

After all this, I was considering going to the show.

Ticketmaster has similar search issues to Facebook:

As it turns out, Ticketmaster’s search is better than Facebook’s though. If a user types in “The Week”, the appropriate artist will come up.  Nonetheless, there is an even better solution.

Solution: On Ticketmaster, whether I search for “NIN” or “Nine Inch Nails”, I get the correct results for that artist. This leads me to believe it’s possible to optimize search for artists like The Weeknd and CHVRCHES on Ticketmaster as well. 

Call Ticketmaster. Explore the option of having the correct results show up, whether somebody types “The Weeknd” or “The Weekend”; “CHVRCHES” or “Churches”.

In closing: Please pay attention – you CAN fix things like this, which will ultimately help you reach your objectives:

  • Increase an artist’s fan base
  • Sell tickets
  • Generate advertising revenue (your YouTube video views will increase if you allow video embedding)
  • Perhaps even, sell music

I apologize for coming across angry, but this is important to me too. I’m tired of hearing about how the music business is failing. I want musicians to succeed and if you’re doing a good job supporting them, I want you to succeed as well.

Don’t lose sight of the basics:

  • Make sure people can quickly and easily find your artists on the sites that matter most.
  • Make your artist’s official content (videos, music) accessible. It’s a bit unfair to be going after fans on file sharing sites when you’re not allowing them to access the music legally, through your artist’s official channels.

Furthermore, be happy people are interested in your artists at all. We’re not on opposite sides of this. The people listening to your artist’s music – whether they’re paying for it or not – are the people you want on your team. Stop punishing people for caring about your bands. If you make music accessible, you will win.

Thank you,

Colette

 

[Video] Fiona Apple Stands Up To Perez Hilton, TMZ, Tabloids

September 29, 2012

Fiona Apple kicked off her show in Clearwater, Florida, Saturday night by addressing Perez Hilton, TMZ, and the tabloids at large.

Honesty and authenticity. Watch:

Note: the recording begins as the fan Fiona invited to record the video is walking to the stage. Fiona’s words to the tabloids kick in at approx 1 minute, 25 seconds

Puscifer in Escondido: Bring Your Sense of Humor

Escondido, CA

Welcome to Escondido

Do you know what day it is? I’ve been waiting for this day all year. It’s March 18, 2012 – one quarter of the way through the year – and the night I experienced the first show I’d write about in 2o12.

It’s not that I haven’t experienced a lot of wonderful shows this year; I have. I see live music nearly every night, and I don’t go out with the intention of seeing a shitty show. So, I have experienced some truly amazing concerts in 2012.  I wish I had written about some of them.  But I haven’t.

Why Puscifer? Because there’s nothing “standard” about it.  I’ve seen this show previously, during an earlier leg of the tour.  Yet, it feels different every time. I think about that often – musicians who tour around the world on the same, 10-song, “hit” album for 2. . .  or 20 years –  wondering if they get bored; experiencing, via their shows, that many of them do. Maynard James Keenan and the brilliant musicians who make up Puscifer have no time for boredom.  They’re busy setting the stage – literally, metaphorically, physically, and intellectually – for the show to come. The show-to-come follows the hysterical, thought-provoking (sometimes thought-revoking) pre-show, which comes after Carina Round’s opening show, before she joins Puscifer.

Escondido? It makes sense.  Maynard James Keenan invites you to go places you’ve never been. Bring your sense of humor or you’ll miss some of the best parts.

It’s not about politics. Puscifer carries with it conversations about ideas. That’s where the fun and creative solutions originate: conversations about ideas, rather than arguments about politics. Puscifer is not about pushing an agenda.  It’s not the “I’m a musician and you’re going to pay me a lot of money to use this time as my platform to push something on you” approach.  Instead, Puscifer offers you the platform to create new ideas. Puscifer doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience. You made it to the show – you know what’s up.  Or, you don’t know what’s up, but you’re open to exploring ideas.

Puscifer provides a premium sound experience.  I don’t know whether there’s any scientific evidence of this, but I’m of the belief that you should never have to wear earplugs at a concert. If the sound is properly mixed and amplified, it consumes you, not your eardrums. I’ve never needed earplugs during any Maynard James Keenan incarnation: TOOL, A Perfect Circle, nor Puscifer.  The sound envelops you, rather than hurt your ears.  So, as opposed to hearing muffled music through a set of silicon ear plugs or cringing with every drum beat, you feel elevated. You’re able to have a full experience of the show, as intended by its creator.  The sound is so consistently exceptional, regardless of venue, that you’re aware of, and grateful for, the intention and effort put forth to make it so.

Yeah. . . I bought a Puscifer hoodie.  I’m considering adding an English sub-title on the back of it: “Yes, I paid $65 for this hoodie and it feels like a steal.” We’ve got to support art.  We don’t have to agree on which art we appreciate, but it is our responsibility to support the art we do appreciate.

Maynard James Keenan weeds out the cattle. Tonight’s show took place in Escondido. If you’re of the belief – or holding onto hope – that aliens may some day come for you, Escondido is the type of place they may touch-down first.  Only those people with a great deal of faith in the process, the adventure, and the outcome, would actually commute to Escondido. It’s just far enough outside the comfort zone of the people who go to a Miike Snow show – not the people who actually like Miike Snow – the far larger population: people who go to a show just because it’s “the place to be” and they have to look cool on Facebook.  Puscifer is not for them.

It’s Sunday  night. A rock concert and a 2-hr drive, on a ‘school night’?! Puscifer reminds everyone: music doesn’t stop because you have somewhere to be in the future. Your presence is rewarded.

I’m not going to tell you how the show goes, what Maynard wears, nor regurgitate the set list. Puscifer is an experience one should have for themselves. I will tell you this though: he fucks you with his music. Take that any way you like. It’s Puscifer.

” Life is too short NOT to create something with every breath we draw” – Puscifer

Broken Bells Record Release Laser Light Show Drive-In

March 4, 2010
Rooftop parking lot
Downtown Los Angeles

Broken Bells Record Release Laser Light Show

Broken Bells Record Release Laser Light Show

If, when Broken Bells created this, they imagined how happy and grateful they could possibly make somebody feel, I feel even better than that. And by “created this” I mean:  not only the Record Release Laser Light Show Drive-In, but the music, the art, and the experience of it all.

This is what music is
It’s an experience
That’s why people are going back to vinyl
They want to touch something
They miss the experience
It’s a community
They want to be part of something

At 8:00pm tonight Broken Bells took over a roof-top parking lot in downtown Los Angeles for a drive-in style laser light show, synchronized to their debut album.  And it wasn’t just fancy shapes and pretty colors – it was an actual choreographed, scripted, 3D, laser light music video for each song, weaving several stories together into an album.  It took time.  It was thoughtful.  It added meaning.   It moved me.  It gave me renewed hope for music. . .

Y’know, U2 has this whole “360”  spaceship show.  And it’s visually spectacular.  But it feels like they did it just to be big, to do something nobody’s done before, to be larger than life.  And that’s respectable, on its own.  But it didn’t feel all that relevant to the music.  It was just an awesome visual show. . . oh, and also. . .  there was music.  It’s costing $750,000/day to keep that tour going and the carbon impact can’t be good.

Don’t get upset –  I’m not giving U2 shit (and this will come full-circle back to Broken Bells).  I love U2.   I like to get lost in Larry Mullen Jr.’s drumming.  The drums in U2 songs are some of the best there are.  I love that The Edge created a sound that is unmistakably his, and therefore, unmistakably the band’s.  I love watching  Adam Clayton swinging that bass around like it’s his dance partner.  And Bono, your voice is great. . .  So, you don’t need to go flying through the air on an illuminated neon megaphone.  It doesn’t add anything to the music.  In fact, if you re-read my review of that show (which I think is very complimentary), it doesn’t speak all that much about the music.  It’s mostly about the visual aspect as a stand-alone experience. I already got my ticket for U2’s next spaceship 360 show in the LA area, but I’d rather see the show I just described.

House abducted by spaceship

House abducted by spaceship

What Danger Mouse and The Shins‘ James Mercer (aka  Broken Bells) created tonight added something to the music.  What Nine Inch Nails creates adds something to the music.  What Portugal.  The Man creates adds something to the music.  What Radiohead creates adds something to the music.  What The Soundtrack of Our Lives creates adds something to the music. There are Artists doing it every day (including U2 – I just don’t think the current tour is the best example of it). And it’s great.  I only mention these other Artists within a Broken Bells review to illustrate that there are many paths to creating an exceptional experience.  Not right or wrong.  Some more about the music than others.  From one of the biggest bands in the world, to a brand new concept, to a band you may not have heard of but you will know them when you see them. . .

It's too late to change your mind

It's too late to change your mind

Danger Mouse gets it.  He does it every time.  He knows what’s happening. He knows where we’re headed.  He’s a little ahead of the game, so not everyone is going to get it at first.

Tonight’s event left me feeling like Broken Bells created this as part of the music;  that they originally set out to do exactly this.  It wasn’t just an afterthought; it’s more than simply a cool way to promote something.  They didn’t want to just make a record – they wanted to create a mutil-sensory experience.  I’d love to know more.  Perhaps an interview at SXSW?

Broken Bells

Broken Bells 03-09-10

On March 9, 2010 (that’s Tuesday),  we really should buy the Broken Bells album.  Some of us can buy extras for those who can’t afford to buy one, but everybody should have one.

PS – The Broken Bells Laserium glasses are the gift that keep on giving.  And they didn’t even exploit the opportunity to paste some marketing message on them — they knew I’d remember where I got them.

And tell me you saw this:

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