All day today I was under the impression that it was Saturday. A text message from a friend confirming our dinner plans tonight was my first indication that today was indeed Sunday. Another friend reminded me that next weekend is the Academy Awards. The sum total of what this means to me is that February is over already.
I feel like I’m in some parallel universe, where the relationship with time is much more dynamic, much less linear. As I play around in this sphere, the question that often arises is “what happened?” Not because I’m concerned, but because I like it here.
In the midst of this, my phone rang. “How are you?” the familiar voice on the other end asked. “I’m listening to Radiohead,” I replied.
And that’s the answer. That’s what happened.
Radiohead’s latest album The King of Limbs came out Friday, following an announcement just a few days prior that the album would be available for download on Saturday. I’m on Radiohead time.
I’m not going to write about the album because I like people to have the space to form their own opinions about music and because I don’t want to limit it with something as concrete as words. Listen to it a few times. Get lost in it. Or run away from it. Whatever it moves you to do – move and do it.
Which leads us to the video for “Lotus Flower” that was released Friday morning (US time), just prior to the album becoming available. The video racked up a substantial number of “plays” and accolades early in the day. My first thought was, “wow… look how Lotus Flower has evolved.”
I was thinking back to October 2, 2009, the first time Lotus Flower was played live for an audience. Thom debuted the song during a “secret show” to unveil his new band, “??????“. ?????? soon became known as “The Thom Yorke band,” and by “known” I mean: people didn’t have the attention span to say “question mark question mark question mark question mark question mark question mark” and needed something more tangible. On March 1, 2010, Thom Yorke declared ?????? had been named “Atoms For Peace.” As time is dynamic, so is Thom Yorke, Radiohead, and the music they compose. Even the older albums feel to me like they evolve upon each new listen.
I managed to capture quite a lot of video during that first show, in October 2009, much to the dismay of some self-declared “traditional journalists” who felt they’d been scooped “by some bloggers.” That’s the challenge isn’t it? They’re behind. We’re living in different times now, to the rhythm of instant gratification. The real, immediate, news is reported on Twitter, the “Nightly News” is simply a recap of the history of that day.
So here’s the “Nightly News” video recap of “Lotus Flower” – the first single off The King of Limbs:
“Lotus Flower” performed for the first time, at The Echoplex, October 2, 2009:
I’ve been seeing live music, almost every night, around the world, for the better part of 15 years (including many Radiohead shows), and I’ve never experienced what occurred last night at The Fox Theater in Oakland. If there’s something beyond “music,” then it happened last night and I, along with 2,799 of the most energetic and dedicated music fans, witnessed it.
Thom Yorke, Joey Waronker, Flea, Nigel Godrich, and Mauro Refosco make up Atoms For Peace (formerly known as “??????” or “The Thom Yorke Band“). Before they had a name, the band debuted and played three rehearsal shows in Los Angeles. Having been to all 3 shows, I had high expectations for last night, but I didn’t expect that the Thom Yorke Band could get much better than the phenomenal group they were in October 2009. They announced their new name, Atoms For Peace, on March 1st and along with the name, they became something else. They have transcended music.
I’m going to share something with you that nobody else who reviews the show will. If you want to understand what’s happening to you, or the people who swear by Radiohead/Thom Yorke/Atoms For Peace, when you’re at one of their shows, close your eyes. Each song transmits a different and definitive directional vibration. You can feel it moving through your body – sometimes pulsing down, through your feet, to the earth; sometimes swaying, rocking, or pounding side to side; sometimes spiraling from the core out, literally taking you outside yourself; and often times straight up from the earth, through your feet, up your body, and beyond the sky. Sound is vibration, and it’s healing. Thom Yorke has an understanding of how to articulate that vibration in an exceptionally powerful way, which is why people are so passionate about the music — you feel it, it physiologically moves you. Many musicians write songs. Thom Yorke is a composer. He’s precise and intentional. When you consciously experience it, you realize that it’s beyond music, it’s Channeled. Downloaded. Shared. When people talk about it as a “religious experience” that’s what they mean.
It’s so powerful that at one point last night, Yorke got so caught up in the sound and dancing, that he forgot to start his part. The music kicked in, Yorke felt it, and got lost in the dance. Next thing everybody knows, he’s forgotten to actually start singing. “Oh, that was me. . .” he said with a laugh as the band stopped and restarted.
Atoms For Peace
Be sure to open your eyes again and watch Mauro Refosco and the instruments he plays, from around the world, that contribute greatly to that vibration. Refosco is among the best percussionists in the world and Atoms For Peace teams him up with the also-brilliant, Joey Waronker on drums. You need to really watch them in order to constantly remind yourself that there’s no drum machine making this happen, these guys are creating those beats live. Observe how the vibration moves through Flea – sometimes it appears as if he has to reign it in in order to hit the next note on the bass. Then, there’s Nigel Godrich, who has produced Radiohead, Beck, and Travis to name a few. Seeing him on stage, watching the countless smiles that cross his face while he plays, you begin to understand how Godrich creates what he does, in collaboration, with these bands.
I’m not the only one who felt that way after last night’s show. Following the 2nd encore (or “third bit” as Yorke likes to call it), the lights came on, the house music came on, the mics came off, equipment was removed. The stage was well on its way to being broken down (as much as it would be considering they’re playing there again tonight). The crowd cheered for at least 20 minutes. The roar, clapping, and chanting was intense. At times, some people would feel defeat (as more and more equipment was removed from stage, and the house music seemed to get louder). But as that happened and you looked around, you felt the collective consciousness of the people in the room reminding you not to give up. “Do not stop until we bring them back,” was the overwhelming sentiment. Then, another surge of applause, stomping, and cheers would erupt. As this happened, you couldn’t help but feel life at its most perfect manifestation – a community of people, making things happen, not allowing others to give up or admit defeat, supportive, encouraging, enduring, with passion and fervor, to achieve a shared vision. This was communicated first through the music, embodied by the audience, and then reflected back to the band. That’s how you say, “thank you!”
Then, the mics were replaced, the equipment was moved back to position, and Thom returned to the stage, signaling, with deep gratitude, that we were crazy. And he’s right. Until the majority realize and embody the power of collective positive intention, we will be the “crazy” ones. That’s okay because we were also the exceptionally happy ones and the first audience to experience a third encore on this tour. Shrieks of “We did it!!”, thunderous applause, and high fives circulated among the audience and then Atoms For Peace played a few more “bits.”
If at any point in life you encounter somebody who was at *that* show, you will know it. You will feel something different emanating from them.
I only captured “3 bits” of this, but it’ll give you a better idea of what that moment felt like:
In the spirit of the event, Web In Front has also listed several places you can donate money to provide further relief to Haiti. Radiohead’s benefit concert in Los Angeles on January 24th raised $572,754 for Oxfam’s Haiti Relief Fund.
January 24, 2010
Henry Fonda Theater, Los Angeles
Radiohead for Haiti
Yes, you read that correctly – Radiohead played the Henry Fonda Theater (capacity 1,300) last night. The band announced on their website Thursday afternoon that they’d be playing this intimate show to raise funds for Oxfam, to provide additional relief to the people of Haiti. Tickets were available by auction only, with the minimum bid being $475/each when the auction closed Saturday morning. $572,754 was raised as a result of this one night event.
As you will see by the set list and videos below – you had to be there. The guys played a dream set and performed one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen (and that includes the numerous other phenomenal Radiohead concerts I’ve attended).
They had a stripped down stage. No big light show. Just arguably one of the best bands in the world, playing their songs at full throttle, while raising a significant sum of money for a country in dire need.
While I have tremendous appreciation for the elaborate lighting and stage set up experienced at most Radiohead shows, being able to see and hear the band without the lights was spectacular. Typically at a Radiohead concert, you’re immersed in a sea of light and sound, which hits you in waves and layers. Last night, it was simply an aural symphony. Without the lights, I became even more tuned in to how the band builds each song, layer by layer, sound by sound. The people standing around me mentioned multiple times that they never realized how many of the sounds are created by Ed. If you had any doubts previously, this show enabled you to see the crucial role each individual member plays in creating the music. It’s one impressive thing that a band can compose and record this music; it’s another thing entirely that they can play it live, with perfection.
Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood
Radiohead literally ROCKED last night and they seemed to have fun doing it. At one point Thom commented, “You guys are getting all my jokes tonight. . . I’ve died. . .” Well, the way you played, so did we.
Here’s the set list. Some videos are posted below the set list, and judging by the number of cameras in the audience, many more can be found on YouTube.
January 20, 2010
Haitian Relief Benefit
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Thom Yorke after a solid DJ set
There are many things I love about LA. One of them the weather (although a traffic nightmare this week), the ability to surf and then ski all in the same day, and last-minute benefit concerts featuring Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Gaz Coombes & Danny Goffey (Supergrass and The Hot Rats). Yes, Maroon 5 was there too, as were a slew of celebrities.
The reason for this impromptu gathering of creative sound purveyors was to raise money to provide additional relief to Haiti. The night offered the utmost gratifying experience as we simultaneously danced and generated funds for the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.
Maroon 5 played in the front room (aka the hotel lobby converted into a private space), while Yorke, Godrich, Coombes, and Goffey spun tunes in the bar. The DJ sets were a diverse blend of soulful classics, dubstep, hip hop, and hard hitting dance tracks. I spent the entire evening in the back room (aka Teddy’s) dancing, while overhearing occasional reports from the front room.
Two tips for next time, and then off to bed:
1. Thom Yorke is not a wedding DJ. Don’t go up and request songs – he knows music (dare I say) better than you
2. If you can’t find the bar, it’s time to stop drinking. Yes, toward the end of the night a woman actually walked up to the DJ booth, cash in hand, to order a drink. She was very disappointed to see her “bartender” replaced by Thom Yorke.
Only in Hollywood…
Many thanks to everybody who made the night what it was and for your contributions to providing relief in Haiti.