Bad Live Performances

I used to go to shitty concerts.

In the summer of 2002 a group of my friends and I went to see Green Day and Blink 182 on their Pop Disaster tour. I didn’t go see live music very often. My consumption of mainstream music wasn’t very broad and I would often get bored at shows unless I was pretty familiar with the music. In 2002 I could probably recall on command 90% of the lyrics on “Insomniac” and “Take Off Your Pants and Jacket” (sigh). I was fucking psyched about this show.

Green Day opened for Blink 182. I remember Green Day being pretty rad. They provided me a positive music experience despite the fact that I could barely see them and was packed onto the lawn with 12,000+ other assholes. I think it takes a particular kind of talent to communicate with a critical listener in this kind of environment. Green Day had that talent. They were, to me then, a good live band.

Blink 182 was not. Their interaction with the audience (calculated, I’m sure, to work 12-14 year old middle class suburban guys into a lather) focused mainly on unfunny dick and fart jokes and encouraging us to scream “fuck.” It was really lame. But more than anything they just seemed like shitty musicians. There were major timing problems and very shitty vocals. This band had made it. Their only job was to create positive listening experiences for their audience. They were each paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to do this. The fact that they were a bad live band seemed inexcusable. They’re just three dudes. I mean, look at this:

Blink 182 should have been ashamed of themselves.

Advancement

Chuck Klosterman has really raised the level of discourse (read: semi-drunken ramblings) here at the ‘Stand. Advancement enters the discussion probably more often than it deserves. Esquire.com has a great overview on Advancement from Klosterman, and I bring this up because of a criticism of Advancement theory from Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield:

“Advancement scholars do not foster a spirit of inquiry. It’s really just a way for Advancement proponents to appreciate shitty music by people they consider to be nonshitty.”

I agree and disagree. As I think of it, Advancement allows more objective inquiry by helping consumers divorce themselves from the popular conception of what’s shitty or nonshitty content. Now, often when I think about shitty content, I also think about advancement.

What’s the opposite of “Advanced?”

Sheffield’s quote came to mind while I was thinking about that evening in 2002. I’m not sure if Green Day or Blink 182 have ever done anything Advanced, but what Blink 182 created that night was definitely “shitty music.”

Here’s the point: though Advancement theory may help us objectively digest content that most think is “shitty,” things that we think are shitty are very seldom Advanced. Blink 182 playing a shitty live set sure as hell didn’t make them Advanced. It just made them shitty. If Blink 182 had played a great live show, would it have been Advanced? Doubtful. It probably would have been overt.

Who cares?

Well, we do. Our goal at Banana Stand Media is to preserve Portland’s live sound. Live, independent music is a big part of what makes Portland great. It’s a core part of our culture, especially here, and it should be documented and saved forever. Live music inspires us, and we hope that our documentations of live music spread our passion for the medium to others.

Two thoughts on this subject for artists:

  1. Play rock & roll first, be rock & roll second. Don’t let your aesthetic compromise the core of what you’re doing – it should be a musical live experience.
  2. Whether you played a good live show should be your first success metric, audience response is a distant second. There’s no accounting for taste. Playing music that’s created for authentic, personal reasons and playing that music well — that’s advanced.

I cared a lot about that show in 2002. I cared enough that it changed the way I thought about music and the way it should be created and consumed. This put me on a path to ever greater appreciation of good live music and good live performers. That path led to Portland.

So, Blink 182: thanks for the shitty show. I wouldn’t be here without it.

Louie’s the Executive Director and Chief Recordist for Banana Stand Media. He’s on Twitter, sometimes.