Thursday, April 14, 2011

"musical ideas about musical ideas"

Just over a week ago I saw LCD Soundsystem play what they've called their last show ever, The Long Goodbye. Maybe not as good of a name as The Last Waltz, but at least Neil Diamond wasn't involved. I'm reluctant to say that it was the best show I've ever seen, even if I believe that this might be the case, because I think I said that after I saw the Flaming Lips in 2002, Moe. in 2004, Modest Mouse in 2006, STS9 in 2007, David Byrne in 2008, STS9 again in 2008 and Phish in 2009. Maybe the actual quality of the show is secondary to the experience of being at a show, and this is why almost every show I see seems better than the last. Maybe just seeing live music is more important, more impressive, more memorable than the music itself. Maybe being drunk, being high, rolling or tripping potentiates this effect -- there are certainly shows where I can't remember specifically what songs were played or in what order, but I distinctly remember how I was having so much fun. And then after a few nights of solid sleep you forget how much fun so much fun is until the next show.

But every show isn't as much fun as the last. Some shows are just OK, and some shows suck and some shows are a fucking blast but for whatever reason they aren't a fucking blast. And if you think too hard about what makes a show so enjoyable, you're going to dilute just how enjoyable it is. After all, I think we can agree that a big part of any show that's even slightly enjoyable is dancing like an idiot, and the more you think about dancing, the less you actually dance.

What I'm trying to say is that the LCD show was the best show I've ever seen, but in a different way than any previous best-show-I've-ever-seen. I really didn't realize or didn’t think it possible that a show can be so perfect. Obviously I can't speak for anyone else, but this show really was, in every way I can think of perfect. Maybe you're not a fan of LCD's music, which is fine, but even then I think you'd be able to recognize certain aspects of this show that brought it to another level, so to speak: being that it was billed as their last show ever, the crowd was incredibly enthusiastic and gave a great energy to the venue; the crowd was also surprisingly heterogeneous, being fairly balanced (in my estimation) between hipsters, festival kidz/wookies and seemingly regular people, which are the three groups that comprise 99% of all concert audiences; the opener was awesome (check out Liquid Liquid if you at all like LCD) both in terms of their performance and their role of 'setting the mood' for the main act; LCD was LOUD, technically very tight, and performed most if not all of their electronic elements live (as opposed to using loops or pre-recorded sets) which allowed for extended jamming/improvisation; the sets flowed extremely well, gradually increasing in intensity and balancing their more popular hits with deeper album cuts (including the entirety of 45:33 which was the sickest thing ever); there was a live horn section that tore it up like you can't even imagine; they played with an incredible level of energy for 4 hours straight.

Also, Arcade Fire came out as special guests and played along with "North American Scum".

I do apologize for ranting and raving about this show, but it truly was amazing. And I Was There. But seriously, knowing how much I love Talking Heads, it's just a testament to LCD that I can honestly and confidently say that if I was given the choice to see one of the two shows, The Long Goodbye or Stop Making Sense, I would pick LCD over Talking Heads every time. And I believe a concert DVD is forthcoming, although I'm not sure when, but it's something to look out for.

The show really did inspire me beyond the usual stupor and revelry that follows particularly electric performances, though. I suppose most live music experiences are inspiring in some way or another -- at the very least I always feel inspired to see more live music. But again, this was different. This show gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, a new life. I love listening to music, I love seeing music, I love playing music, and I love imagining what kind of music I'd like to make. And this last love has always been the most ambiguous, because I've never really been sure what kind of music I'd like to make. One day I'll convince myself that the more organic and stripped-down music is, the better, and I'll come this close to asking my dad to teach me to play Old Time. But then the next day I'll put on an album by The Stooges and be seriously considering stabbing pencils into my amp so I can get the perfect distortion. But I've realized that the music LCD makes is exactly in line with what I want to make. One way I like to think of it is in terms of influences. LCD is clearly influenced by a huge range of musicians, from 70s disco and krautrock to 80s post-punk to the house and electro of the 90s and 00s. From David Bowie to Duran Duran to Daft Punk. In a way, creating music is like making a really good meal -- you add a bunch of distinct ingredients to make something that is recognizably influenced by, but still distinct from, the constitutive parts. And if you like the taste of a certain chef's meals, and you like the ingredients that the chef uses, then you're probably going to want to make food that's not so different from the chef's. Of course, a shared vision doesn't guarantee a shared outcome, but at least it's a start.

This past summer I made a few purchases that have made my unfulfilled musical ambitions somewhat more attainable, and in the near future I hope to continue this trend and build a semi-respectable home-studio. And by "semi-respectable home-studio" I mean an underpowered laptop, a cheap audio interface, an over-featured MIDI controller, software I don't understand and a microphone that I don't have a voice to make worth owning. And maybe somewhere down the line I'll be able to integrate a guitar that I've "taught" myself to play. Self-deprecation/religious-heritage aside, with all this free time on my hands (yeah, the social life in NJ has been just great, Mom) I do plan on ramping up my efforts at making some music, and I'm pretty excited about it. Where there was once a single desire in my heart to move out West and focus all my efforts on climbing, a new desire has infiltrated my atria, a desire to move a little East to NYC and focus a considerable portion of my efforts/income to making music/smoking cigarettes.

And as a gesture of good faith, I am posting a "song" I "wrote" so y'all know I'm not just posturing with all this "oh this show was so life-changing" shit. And of course, sharing something even just a little bit personal fills me with an overwhelming urge to qualify -- to say, "Well it's just a sketch, it's not a final version," or "Well, I barely even know how to work the software so of course it's not as good as it could be" -- but fuck that. It’s not perfect and it’s not going to be perfect and I’m OK with that for now. Like I said, at least it’s a start, a sort of musical attempt at chopping an onion.

I welcome any and all feedback -- positive or negative -- and I'd honestly rather hear what you think could be better than just general encouragement. Don't get me wrong, I definitely love me some general encouragement, but I also want to improve at this as much as I can and, at such an early point in the game, shutting myself off to any criticism, especially from people whose opinions I not only respect but also generally agree with, would be foolish.

And to end, a quote that I think is particularly relevant, somewhat eloquent, and hopefully a little inspiring:
“Embarrassment is not a good enough reason not to do things. You should try and do the best  you can, even if it’s a little embarrassing—or a lot embarrassing.” - James Murphy

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