Got more live if you want it.
There came a point this past holiday weekend where I found myself standing ankle deep in a field of mud, waiting in the middle of a blob of humanity for my fleeting chance for one drink from the single keg being "shared" by a few hundred people. I had been in this blob for at least 30 minutes when the lead singer of some local cock rock band admonished the crowd for not letting in the people with VIP passes right up to the keg when they needed a beer. "Come on people, this is about unity," this tattooed fuckweed grunted before yowling his way through -- I'm not kidding -- a Silverchair song. And then a Seven Mary Three song. And then... oh, just kill me.
This incident made me remember again how rare and beautiful a good live music experience can be. Don't get me wrong, I knew I wasn't going to find transcendence in that muddy field. I never actually even found a beer. My friends and I left before the second band plugged in, and we retreated to the back yard stereo. It just kind of sucks that we couldn't have seen a decent band that night... even some collection of middle aged jackasses doing Journey covers. We would have stayed. We would have braved that ridiculous beer line. Anything to be able to watch someone who enjoys what they're doing on stage, whether or not they're cool.
Anyway, I'm going to try and get a little streak of live music going over the next few posts. Summer is a great time to catch a good concert, but if your options are running thin and you're finding yourself spending a lot of time in muddy fields full of shitty music, maybe you can lose yourself in a few of these performances.
(UPDATE #78: The TELEVISION link should be working now, in both .mp3 AND .m4a format.)
"Kangaroo" by JEFF BUCKLEY: This BIG STAR cover was performed by Buckley and Co. at the Roskilde festival over 10 years ago, on June 29, 1995. If you're not a fan of Buckley's banshee wail and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan-isms, you should probably just step away. If you want to hear a band lose itself in a trance, communicating in grunts, thuds and howls in front of tens of thousands of people, dig right in. I love the effect of the German radio host rudely cutting in near the end of the song before being buried in explosions of noise. Buckley has said in interviews that he performed this song with his band as a sort of treat for them. After backing him and indulging his whims for 90 minutes, he'd let them cut loose here, sometimes resulting in versions that lasted over 20 minutes. Don't worry, this one comes in around 8.
"Dirty Boots" by SONIC YOUTH: Recorded live in Irvine, California, in 1990, about a year "before punk broke" and Nirvana hit the big time. If you've never had the opportunity to see Sonic Youth live, you should really take the chance the next time you see them coming around. I've seen them in some pretty bizarre places and some fairly odd bills, and they always chew scenery and steal the show. And you can't really appreciate Thurston Moore until you've seen just how fucking huge the guy is in real life. He could eat you whole, and that's if his guitar playing doesn't consume you first. This track can be found on the "DIRTY BOOTS" EP CD, along with 4 other live tracks from the same show.
"Ain't That Nothin'" by TELEVISION (for the .mp3 version of this file, click here): These guys were like no other band coming out of the whole late '70s NYC/CBGB punk scene. First and foremost, Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell could play their fucking guitars like nobody's bidness. This song, which comes from the rare "LIVE AT THE OLD WALDORF" CD, shares the same date as the aforementioned Jeff Buckley track: June 29th. This track was performed in 1978, making it 27 years old. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday.
"The Weight" by THE BAND: This version of the classic Band song comes from the 4 CD "LAST WALTZ" box set. While the actual movie performance of this song is a rehearsal duet with the Staple Singers, the band recorded the song live during its final performance together. Both are pretty mindblowing for their own reasons. I highly recommend you rent the DVD if you're interested in more from The Band. It was directed by Martin Scorcese in a coke-fueled haze, and the result is one of the best rock documentaries ever filmed. The action is filmed so close to the stage that you feel like you're right there with guests like Muddy Waters, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. The coolest part of the whole movie is watching The Band react to Bob Dylan on stage as he completely takes over and makes all of them his collective bitch for a few songs.
The Band actually got its biggest break as Bob Dylan's backing band during the controversial period when Dylan started to play electric shows. If you've never heard Dylan's "BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 4: Live 1966," get thee to a record store IMMEDIATELY. It will make you a Dylan fan if you aren't already, and it contains what must be the most angry, intense live performance of the man's career in "Like a Rolling Stone". If my hearing serves me correctly, it's The Band's Robbie Robertson who responds to the crowd's animosity (they were angered by Dylan's new "rock" direction) by telling everyone, "Play it fucking LOUD."
For more on tonight's artists:
- A Jeff Buckley Wiki entry.
- Learn more about BIG STAR here.
- The Official Sonic Youth site, with tons of streaming mp3s.
- TELEVISION at Wikipedia