We’ll Do It Live

Live performances and their increasingly important role in a band’s existence.

By Phil Robibero

An explosion of hazy red and blue colors widened up my drowsy pupils as I woke from unconsciousness.  As my eyes reactivated, I found myself laid out on the beer soaked floor of the Bowery in New York City.  Waves of hard riffs and growling belches ripped through the air space.  Sweaty skinned bodies were pounding their hands together in tempo with the brown note base.

With the environment familiar to me again, I attempted to get up off the ground.  An arm wrapped itself around me and propped me up like a rag doll.  It was my friend Pete (not his real name).  He started asking if I was alright.  His concerned questioning of my present state was laced with some guilt.  It made sense for him to feel the way he did.  The guy did just hurl me into a non-participatory gang of concert ragers in a shitty attempt to have me crowd surf.  Apparently I flew up like a breaching whale, only to come down just as hard.

I gave Pete a half-answer so I could quickly get back to the music.  The words ,“Gay bar, gay bar,”  was roaring from the stage.  I did a double take when I realized I was looking at the band, Electric Six, performing above me.  It took me a second to recollect why I was even there.  Electrics Six wasn’t a band I liked.  Actually I didn’t like them at all.  But my disposition towards them was all but irrelevant.  Not even my broken back or jadedness could mire the fantastic fucking time I was having with these energetic dudes.

I’m sure we’ve all gone through similar disappointments when meeting our idols “in real life”.  I’ve heard countless accounts of my friends saying that actor A or singer B is an “asshole in real life.”  That’s not to say that these affluent personalities are necessarily dicks, rather it’s our expectations of them that set us up for disappointment.  Nonetheless, this feeling can be disheartening and make you feel differently of your idols.  I get this familiar feeling when seeing my favorite bands put on shitty live shows.  The Killers performance on SNL was one memorable instance where my expectations of a band were shattered.  Their performance was so dull, when it broke to commercial I had forgotten what had even transpired in the past four minutes.  They were, essentially, chloroform.

If I come off as a bit of a snide asshole, well you’re right, but it’s only because I care (I really do like the Killers).  In this age of digital downloads, musician’s have increasingly leaned on live performances to make their money.  The returns on albums dwarf in comparison to what artists rake in on tours.  Album releases have essentially become promotional material for their shows.  As the monetary potential moves from album sales to ticket sales, concerts are more important than ever and the musician’s stage presence has become even more critical.

Certain bands can make do with passable tours.  Vampire Weekend is notorious for putting on boring shows, but their broad appeal will assure them a perpetual stream of first-time concert goers.  For other less-recognizable bands, putting on a memorable show is incredibly important because they can’t rely on one-time ticket buyers.  They have to put on such a persuasive show that they have to get their audience to come back, again and again.

Electric Six is a band that works hard to persuade the audience to return to their shows.  Their stage presence is thrilling and most importantly, contagious.  You can’t help but take part in their enthusiasm.  I was never a big fan of theirs, but their fiery performance convinced me that they were worth witnessing again.  Even though they’re a band whose fame reached its peak years ago, their incredible concert shows all but assures them a continued presence in the music world and from their perspective, a job.

Back at the Bowery, my legs were getting tired from all the jumping and my hands were starting to feel the sharp sting from clapping to hard.  This pain and exhaustion was the antithesis to the usual numbness I feel when seeing a dull musical act.  To be over dramatic, I was glad that a show could make me feel again.  I literally enjoyed the Electric Six concert so much it hurt.  It goes to show that nothing beats the real thing (as long as it is awesome).


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