Skip to main content

my life as an audience


one of the things that you notice about most people who are really dedicated music fans is that most of them either start out as or eventually become musicians. i know lots of people who are into music and almost all of them are involved somehow in making music (and that's an incredibly incomplete selection).

although i won't claim that i've never dabbled my toe in the music-making waters, with the exception of a couple of noise-based experiments and a touch of insanity during my techno-dj years, i've steered clear of actually attempting any proper musicianship myself.

that means that, as energetic and passionate as i feel about music, my role tends to be one of passive receiver rather than creator. that's an odd position to be in with something you really love. i'm constantly evaluating the skills and performances of people whose talents i admire, knowing that, as "informed" as i like to think my opinion is, i could never put my money where my proverbial mouth is.

in recent months, i seem to have gone to a lot of shows, either of my own volition, or because i knew people who were going and felt like being social. i even helped organise one in toronto before decamping for montreal. these shows have ranged from straight-ahead indie rock to some pretty harsh noise/ power electronics. the venues have ranged in size from tiny boites barely able t accommodate a couple of dozen to places capable of holding an audience of a couple of thousand. (for various reasons, you're unlikely to ever see me in anything larger than that.)

determining what makes a good show is tricky. great sound helps (my bloody valentine in toronto on my birthday was one of the best shows i've ever seen and the experience was undoubtedly enhanced by the power of the sound.), but it isn't always necessary. some artists can overcome substandard sound with energy. (noise artists, almost invariably relegated to playing shows through sound systems less powerful than my home stereo, can pull this off.) human-scale interaction (i.e., not just shouting randomly into the crowd, but actually trying to connect with them) can add to the feeling of being somewhere special (wire, who played here in october, were charming on this level, despite seeming a little off their game technically). however, there are some shows (taint comes to mind) where the lack of interaction helps build the overall atmosphere of a performance. so it's largely dependent on context.

since there is undoubtedly a visual element to a live show, putting some effort into making some type of visual statement (particularly for artists where there is little action on stage) can help build a unique live "experience" (my bloody valentine, pram, nebris and visions all did this). the need for exuberance on stage is completely determined by the type of music being played. going to see the bug in july, it was necessary (and they delivered). at the visions/ nebris/ sighup/ ourobouros show a few weeks earlier, it would have been inappropriate.

but ultimately, what defines a great live show experience is a sort of energy, something i'll describe as a symbiosis between artist and audience. if you don't believe me, think back to shows where the audience has been uninspired by what they saw (not antagonised, but simply left cold). i guarantee that it was a bad show for all involved. without actually giving them creative control over the sounds, a great live show bridges the gap between artist and audience, making the audience more than just passive listeners and transforming their role into a key part of what happens on stage.

i may never be a musician (really, i'd rather stick to writing anyway), but the best experiences i have at live shows still make me feel like a participant-observer, rather than simply a receiver. and the possibility of that happening is why i'm keen to continue as an audience member, until i'm too deaf to know what's going on.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

wrong turn

as some of you are aware, i have a long-term project building a family tree. this has led me to some really interesting discoveries, like the fact that i am partly descended from crazy cat people, including the patron saint of crazy cat ladies, that a progenitor of mine once defeated a french naval assault with an army of scarecrows, that my well-established scottish roots are just as much norwegian as scottish, and that a relative of mine from the early middle ages let one rip with such ferocity that that's basically all he's remembered for. but this week, while i was in the midst of adding some newly obtained information, i found that some of my previous research had gone in an unexpected direction: the wrong one.

where possible, i try to track down stories of my better-known relatives and in doing so this week, i realised that i couldn't connect one of my greatĖ£ grandfathers to his son through any outside sources. what's worse that i found numerous sources that con…

dj kali & mr. dna @ casa del popolo post-punk night

last night was a blast! a big thank you to dj tyg for letting us guest star on her monthly night, because we had a great time. my set was a little more reminiscent of the sets that i used to do at katacombes [i.e., less prone to strange meanderings than what you normally hear at the caustic lounge]. i actually invited someone to the night with the promise "don't worry, it'll be normal". which also gives you an idea of what to expect at the caustic lounge. behold my marketing genius.

mr. dna started off putting the "punk" into the night [which i think technically means i was responsible for the post, which doesn't sound quite so exciting]. i'd say that he definitely had the edge in the bouncy energy department.

many thanks to those who stopped in throughout the night to share in the tunes, the booze and the remarkably tasty nachos and a special thank you to the ska boss who stuck it out until the end of the night and gave our weary bones a ride home…

eat the cup 2018, part seven :: oh, lionheart

it all seemed so magical: england's fresh-faced youngsters marching all the way through to a semi-final for the first time since 1990. everywhere, the delirious chants of "it's coming home". and then, deep into added time, the sad realization: it's not coming home. oh england, my lionheart.

now, if we're being really strict about things, my scottish ancestors would probably disown me for supporting England, because those are the bastards who drove them off their land and sent them packing to this country that's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. and indeed, shops in scotland have sold through their entire stock of croatian jerseys, as the natives rallied behind england's opponents in the semi-final. however, a few generations before they were starved and hounded from the lands they'd occupied for centuries, my particular brand of scottish ancestors would have encouraged me to support england [assuming that national football had even…