I’ve probably said this before (I’m not looking back in the posts to see if I have)…but I’m a lifetime student of music. I’m the kind of guy who listens intently to music, who prefers it in the foreground rather than the background. I’m also the more reflective type at concerts. I don’t do the stage diving thing. I do the sit-in-the-back-and-watch-intently thing. Because I’m studying when the band is playing.
I hear a lot of stuff that shows promise, and stuff I like personally; but these days, honestly, it’s rare that I go to a gig and really like every band on the lineup. So Saturday night, when I went to the Fillmore Auditorium and saw Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, and Dusty Rhodes and the River Band, I was given a real treat. It was my first time to see any of them play, and every band knocked it out of the park for me in one way or the other.
Take the opening act, for example: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. (No, the wrestler didn’t turn musician–that’s another Dusty.) From the first few lines of the opening song, I was hooked; I literally couldn’t stop smiling. Their quirky blend of rock, folk and soul, headed up by a guy with an 70’s afro and leisure suit to match, just won me over.
I’d heard Manchester Orchestra before, but I don’t think I understood their vibe, or why they call themselves an orchestra. Not a violin among them (heck, even Dusty Rhodes had a violin). But I understand now. They play rock & roll “symphony” style. I loved it. At times they have two guys playing drums, but during one particular song, I turned my eyes away, and when I looked back, there were four drummers. (I do not need glasses, and no one conked me on the head. I think it was the percussion section from Brand New–they joined Manchester for one of the songs.) Pretty freakin’ cool.
Brand New I loved for their combination of energy and passion, even when doing their slower, softer stuff. And obviously the crowd loved them, too. At times I could hear the crowd singing louder than Jesse Lacey.
Like I said, it wasn’t just one band that stood out for me; it was all of them, for a variety of reasons. But there were a few common threads that tied the bands together that made me love the whole experience:
- Stage presence. I once heard a guy say that performers either demand attention from an audience, or they command it. There’s a fine line between the two, but when a band commands the stage instead of just doing a bunch of antics to attract attention, that’s what makes them professional. Every band, in my opinion, commanded rather than demanded–even the quirky antics of Dusty Rhodes seemed honest and believable.
- Dynamic range. So often bands think there is no other setting but “10” on their amplifiers, and they play everything loud. Don’t get me wrong–I like loud–but when loud is all you get in a performance, that’s not true musicianship. (In fact, it ties in with the point above–some bands demand attention by playing it loud all the time.) You need a dynamic range in music, to provide contrast, so things stay interesting. That’s part of what makes it music, not just noise–and that goes for every genre. All three bands used a wide dynamic range; sometimes they were loud, other times soft–often in the same song. And because they were commanding the stage, they had as much clout with the audience either way. This is why Brand New could open their set with Jesse Lacey alone on the stage, playing their entire first song alone, quietly, with a guitar–and the audience totally bought it.
- Above the other two things, though…the one common thread that completely hooked me about this concert was passion. Every band gave it their all. Every band meant what they were doing, and I believed them. That’s what hooks me about a performance more than anything else–passion. They all had heart. They didn’t let me down.
I hadn’t seen any of these bands play live before Saturday night. But every one of them left me wanting to hear more from them.
So…what bands leave you wanting more? (Don’t be shy…talk to me.)