Among the “others” was a Miike Snow show. My experience of that show was the epitome of everything that is resulting in things such as promoters and ticket retailers posting large revenue losses, quarter after quarter. I don’t recall specifically the exact mark-up, but it was something like 42% of the total per ticket cost was service charges (possibly even more than that). Then, what do you get inside? You find yourself experiencing a show, surrounded by people who are there almost as some kind of status symbol or fashion statement. They could afford tickets, they were able to get tickets to “the hottest show” that night – they exuded superiority. It didn’t feel like it was about the music; it felt like it was about ego. Not everyone embodied this attitude, of course, but plenty did.
In my opinion, music should be accessible, democratic, accepting, and connecting. What I found disheartening about that show is that, for the most part, it was the opposite of all those things. The live music business (artists included) let their egos take the wheel because, for a moment, live music was the cash-positive side of the music business. In an attempt to exploit that momentum, they lost sight of the most important thing — the experience.
At the point you lose my friends and me – people who have been seeing live music (sometimes multiple shows per night), every night of the week, for more than a decade, you should consider examining your business. We are the “super fans,” the ones who will travel around the world to see a great show, and if you’re not engaging us, how do you expect to engage the “casual fan”?
At about the same time I became disillusioned with the experience of live music, my camera (which previously allowed me to capture exceptional quality videos) broke. So, for the past several months, I’ve been experiencing live music without concern about capturing the experience for those who couldn’t be there. Instead, I was more grounded in the experience, with the people who could be there. Ironically, my inability to document the experience greatly supported my resurfacing to document the experience. Which is where I am now, after they tore down The Wall.
When Roger Waters announced he’d be touring The Wall, it made the top of my list of “shows to see”. Then, there was that incident of defacing the Elliott Smith memorial tribute wall in Silverlake to promote Roger Waters: The Wall. Once I heard that, I decided not to attend the show. I do not believe you need to compromise the art or memorial of another in order to promote your own. Nor do I believe you should record a shitty cover song, for the same reasons (but that’s a topic for another day). Waters later apologized, by the way.
Monday came around and my Twitter stream was full of accolades about The Wall. I had plans Monday night and would not have been able to attend the show anyway. Tuesday rolled around – same thing. Wednesday morning I was kicking myself for missing this show. Based on what everybody was saying, this was a fully immersive live music experience like the ones I’d been missing (especially since Nine Inch Nails stopped touring and Radiohead had been quiet).
Wednesday night I had dinner with a friend of mine who is also a manager at Redlight Management. He’s been seeing live music for decades and, like me, has traveled around the world for music. “Roger Waters The Wall is the best show I’ve ever seen! Not just a music show – a real SHOW!” he exclaimed. . . Shit.
“I can’t believe I missed it!!” I replied, defeated.
“He’s playing again Sunday and tickets are available,” my friend informed me. That’s all it took. I resolved to go to the show Sunday, no matter what.
Saturday I saw my friend, Deborah. If there is a handful of people who have been to more live shows than I, Deborah is one of them. “You have to go see The Wall! It’s the best show I’ve seen. . . ”
Ok, ok, I get it, I’m going.
Sunday, following an amazing day of philosophizing, relaxing, and spending time with friends, I headed to Staples Center to experience this highly-anticipated show. Now, my expectations were set very high, so it would be easy to fall short, but that didn’t happen.
Experiencing The Wall
Everything – the inefficient system of getting people through metal detectors and into the show, the pre-show music, long lines for the men’s bathroom and no lines for the women’s room, amazing pastrami sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies, generations of families in attendance – was part of the experience. It felt less like a concert and more like a pilgrimage to a festival or any shared experience with a heightened level of consciousness among everyone in attendance. People knew they were in for something special.
The show began, and as the band played “The Wall” front to back (because that’s how it was with vinyl), a wall was literally built in front of the audience. Bricks were added with intention, one by one, and then images were projected on The Wall. At one point, you could almost feel the dirty breeze of the train rushing by. There was a plane crash. There were larger-than-life puppets that danced and hovered over the crowd. An intricate story was told and no matter where you were sitting, you were enveloped in the experience.
The experience was expansive, the vibe unifying and community-building. There was a set break between “side A” and “side B,” during which we were invited into the ABC corporate box seats. The “walls” of exclusivity were truly torn down and we watched a good portion of the second set from this upgraded vantage point.
Was Roger Waters: The Wall an expensive ticket? Yes. Was the experience worth it? Yes.
Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend is back (with a new camera).
Ordinarily I’d be inclined to hate a venue like Largo – it’s full of rules and “no”s. But Largo has been good to me for the past 13 years. I’ve experienced some amazing shows at Largo including: Elliott Smith, Neil Finn, Fiona Apple, Ben Folds, Glen Phillips (Toad The Wet Sprocket), Aimee Mann, E (The Eels), Robyn Hitchcock, Joseph Arthur, John Doe, Jon Brion, Grant Lee Phillips, Rufus Wainwright, Jack Black, and Tenacious D. I’ve laughed my ass off at comedy shows featuring Greg Behrendt, Sarah Silverman, Doug Benson, The Naked Trucker, Jack Black, and Tenacious D.
As I sat in the audience having a thoroughly enjoyable night of music, I realized this was made possible precisely because of those fucking rules. Largo puts music first. It’s one of the few places where you can completely escape – even planes have WiFi now. You have no choice but to become entirely immersed in music at Largo. Well, your other choice would be to leave. Largo puts the music before the customer. It’s great for the Artists too because they get to focus on playing their shows. The musicians aren’t stuck being “the assholes,” asking people to be quiet from stage, enduring the annoying ringing or feedback from cell phones in the monitors, nor averting their eyes from flashing bulbs. The musicians play. The audience listens. Largo takes care of the rest. When it comes down to it, Largo is doing everybody a favor. So if you think Flannagan’s an asshole, he’s not – he just likes music more than he likes you.
Fact: I’ve only received two criticisms since I started Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend. The first was for not writing enough about M. Ward in my Monsters of Folk review. The second was for not mentioning The Chapin Sisters in my review of Butch Walker’s most recent show in LA (the comment was posted on Facebook). Well, guess what “MB” and Jeff – I wanted to give The Chapin Sisters and M. Ward their own review all along, and here it is:
First off, Largo is the perfect venue for a show like this. The room invokes a classy, theatrical vibe. The sound is great, nobody is talking or clicking away on their cell phones, you don’t hear the noise of the bar or the spilling of drinks. You can close your eyes and get lost in sound for a couple hours. That said, you won’t find yourself closing your eyes at this show because there’s an element of artistry and performance conveyed visually, that you don’t want to miss.
The Chapin Sisters, accompanied at times by the Brothers Brothers, were great. I actually felt like an adult at this show, like I was doing something civilized and sophisticated. I don’t often like that feeling, but tonight it worked. However, because The Chapin Sisters made me feel something I’m not used to feeling, I’m finding it difficult to articulate. Go see them for yourself. Close your eyes and let the harmonies drown out the voices in your head. The Chapin Sisters are a perfect complement to She & Him. Their music and performance evoke a different time and a foreign land. Vinyl seems the appropriate format for listening to this music.
She & Him, headed up by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, blew me away. At times, I was listening to a seemingly even-paced, “mellow” song, and then M. Ward kicked in with some absolutely insane guitar parts that bordered on psychedelic. And who wears a fluffy, fuchsia dress on stage?! Zooey Deschanel does. That, marks my first-ever remark about what an Artist wears on stage. I despise those portions of reviews that talk about what the singer is wearing or the drummer’s new haircut. Typically, that has nothing to do with the music! Yet, in the case of She & Him, Deschanel’s dress, and certainly her high heels, were important to the show. The tone of the show was reinforced by the dress and the heels that, at times, were too high for Deschanel to effectively play the Wurlitzer.
Speaking of the Wurlitzer – She & Him, well actually, “She,” knew exactly how and when to insert humor into the set. It’s a good thing Deschanel broke things up with light-hearted and quirky banter. Otherwise, we may all still be sitting there in a hypnotic state. To pass the time while the band tuned their instruments, Deschanel remarked, “The Wurlitzer is smooth. Some say it’s smoother than a piano. . . It’s like a piano, but with fewer options. . . Less lows. . . and highs.” The description felt a bit like an analogy for life. You can live a “piano life,” with all its highs and lows. Or, you can live a “Wurlitzer life” which may be smoother, but has less options.
Among many highlights of the show was She & Him’s unplugged performance of “You Really Got A Hold On Me.” You could forget to breathe during moments like those. “Change Is Hard,” “Sentimental Heart,” and “Take It Back,” were also favorites. The Chapin Sisters lent their vocals, shakers, and sleigh bells to the music as well. At one point Deschanel asked The Chapins what they were discussing. The Chapins then asked Deschanel her opinion about including sleigh bells in the next song. “You can play whatever you want. Cuz that’s the kind of friend I am!” Deschanel said, exuding confidence and sarcasm. After pausing for a moment, she added, “I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore!” That statement scored her hundreds of points in my book.
Approximately two-thirds of the way through the show, Deschenal informed the audience she was done singing new material. “No more new songs,” Deschenal said, probably expecting a sigh of relief. Instead, the audience booed. Deschenal responded, infusing her response with humor, “BUT. . . old songs!!” she said with a smile. “Yay!” the crowd responded in unison.
“You’re all so quiet,” M. Ward acknowledged between songs. “Are you OK?” Yes, everyone was OK – they were just afraid to make a sound. Tonight marked the 1st show of She & Him’s 2010 world tour. “It’s the first show of our world tour and we wanted to have it at Largo since it’s one of the best venues in the world!” Deschanel explained. Even though it was too dark for the band to see the set list, and that as a fan, you’ll not find any of this on YouTube, it seemed both the Artist and Audience wouldn’t have done it any other way. Largo wins again.
Abiding by the rules, these are the only photos I took:
The irony of the “Totally Nude Strippers” sign reflected in Largo’s mirrored sign. There’s a lot that can be inferred…
The mirror of Largo
The rabbit hole is accessible via the woman’s bathroom: