I would like to preface this article but saying that I’m a massive fan of live music, as I’m sure the majority of music lovers are. There’s nothing like watching the electric performance of a band you hold close to your heart. Belting out songs while drunk at a festival was my form of teenage rebellion. I wanted to be the music fan, such that other fans would look at me in awe saying, “wow, that girl is a true [insert cool band] fan”.
However, with this love of good live music comes with it a powerful hatred of bad live music. Perhaps this makes me a music snob, but I’m not sure there’s anything worse than watching a band you love flop live. It’s akin to meeting someone you admire in person, only to find out that they are really just a bit of a knob. Everything you thought you loved about them suddenly becomes a bit sad, as if you fundamentally misunderstood something in their personas.
Luckily, this kind of disappointment rarely happens to me. In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to groove to 80% of the gigs I’ve been to. But alas, that 20% is still there and I feel as I start becoming more involved in music, so these average to poor gigs will become more and more part of my experience of the music world. With my blog and my show, I want to make more of a commitment to live music. And, unfortunately, that means it’s time to start taking the bad with the good.
This week I went to both King Krule and Marika Hackman, two artists that I admire on record. At both of these gigs, I was supremely disappointed. Both artists struggled to pull the audience in so that, as painful as it is to admit, I was bored throughout. And if I know anything, it’s that live music should never, ever be boring. In fact, it should be ecstatic and engaging. However, apart from the boredom I endured at both, these gigs differed slightly in their drudgery.
King Krule sounded terrible. It was as if three songs were playing at once and you couldn’t put your finger on the melody of any of them. Believing this must be a technical issue, I endured the discordance, hoping that eventually the problem would be fixed and King Krule would suddenly start sounding like the revered artists he is. But alas, he continued to sound like a school band that hadn’t figured out what a sound check was yet. Upon inspection of his new album, I discovered that in fact, it’s not for me. Gone is the drawling London lad I knew and loved, and introduced is a heap of experimental mulch that should have been left in the laboratory if you ask me.
The demographic of the concert was also absurdly homogenous. It seemed that every member of the audience was wearing those dodgy condom beanies that I thought went out of fashion years ago. They were so hipster it physically hurt and their pretention was reflected back at them by King Krule, who barely said a word to the audience as he infected us all with his painful indifference. All in all, his live presence was a far cry from what I expected. It provoked a feeling of confusion. How could this artist, who I thought I loved, fail so tremendously when confronted with the task of electrifying his audience?
The next night, I thought I perhaps I could exit my musical funk and become invigorated again by a Marika Hackman gig. Again, it wasn’t to be. For Marika, it wasn’t the sound that was an issue, it was the energy. Her two warm-up acts, inexplicably called Our Girl and Goat Girl (which one she: yours or a goat?!), were like an indie rock soup served tepid. Their sound did not inspire confidence that Ms Hackman would inject me with the musical fix I needed. She started with promise, rocking out to My Lover Cindy with genuine meaning. But what followed was one long monologue of sameness. It was yawn inducing stuff, with nothing to distinguish each song but a slight pause between each. To be fair, her engagement with the audience was alright and her band seem like people I’d wanna hang out with- as long as I didn’t have to go to their gigs.
So, what was it that went so wrong this week? For me, it was the realisation that just because someone is a talented songwriter or a good producer or even a genuinely good artist on record, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll set your world on fire with their live performances. Some people are just not born performers, with the ability to capture the zest from their whole record in an hour-long set. I think it’s a matter of deciding whether the artists you love will translate live. Is their music conducive to a live set? Can they make you laugh, make you cry, make you rock? Or are they really just people best left to the recording studio?