Saw two concerts recently and thought I should write about them since this blog is probably 75% music commentary at this point.
My friend Matt told me about this Joyce Manor show he was going to and I thought: why not?!?*
It was at Concord Music Hall with openers AJJ and Mannequin Pussy. Before the show I didn’t really want to go. It was a Friday. I was tired. I hadn’t really listened to any of these bands music before. I’d heard of Mannequin Pussy but don’t listen to their stuff, I went to an AJJ show in 2013 (also with Matt) but hadn’t really listened to any of their stuff since then, and I tried to listen to Joyce Manor in the week leading up to the concert but didn’t really like their stuff. So on Friday afternoon I was like “why am I going to this?” WHY NOT?!?
The truth is, music is always better live. If a band is worse live, they’re not a good band. And I don’t mean if the song doesn’t sound perfect live they’re not a good band. I mean, if the music is being made right in front of you and it doesn’t move you in a way equal to or more than the recorded version, then the musician is not good**. They’re not doing their job.
I like a lot of genres of music anyway, but that wide range expands even further if the music is played live. Perhaps its the fact that you can feel the music when it’s live. Or maybe it’s the contact high from the people around you who are really digging this music.
We only caught the last bit of Mannequin Pussy but I liked what I heard and how they told the audience how at their merch table the band had postcards they’d mail to our Congressional representatives for free. AJJ did the same thing. Matt went to mosh while I stayed on the outskirts. At one point they played a song called “American Tune” which is all about straight white male privilege, which is really great, using their platform to point out that they have privilege and hopefully their audience . But as a person who is neither straight, nor white, nor male, it felt weird to be surrounded by a bunch of white males singing “I am white / And I’ve got everything I need / No one clutches their purses when they’re in a room alone with me / And I can drive through any neighborhood I please / At any hour, and the police don’t do a thing.”
During the Joyce Manor show, whether I wanted to or not, I got swept into the push and pull of the crowd. I wasn’t really in the mosh pit since no one was flinging themselves into me directly. Rather, the mosh pits were happening all throughout the crowd and thus creating this massive swelling push and pull of people around them. It was radical. I felt so weird surrounded by all these people who LOVED Joyce Manor, and here I was not knowing any of their lyrics. But it was fun. Contact high.
The next Thursday was the Priests‘ show. I’ve been excited about seeing them live since probably the first time I heard Priests in 2014 on an episode of the Chris Gethard show. So 2+ years. Blizzard Babies – a local Chicago band – and Stef Chura – a band from Detroit – opened for them. They were both rad. The crowd was still rather thin for Blizzard Babies, but filled up considerably by the time Stef Chura took the stage. I stood in the back left, right in front of the sound board, but some tall dudes were in front of me and they kept talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying because of the music, but it was just super frustrating so I moved in front of them.
The only way I want to describe Stef Chura’s sound is by the visual of her playing the guitar, which is, it looked like her hand was a spider dancing on it’s web: the guitar strings.
My friend Matt joined me near the front while Priests were setting up. I was thoroughly excited and the show did not disappoint. Well it did, but only because I really really really wanted them to play a few songs from their previous releases (like “New” or “Leave Me Alone” or “Modern Love / No Weapon”, actually their bassist Taylor started playing the bassline to “Leave Me Alone” during their setup and I got super excited and started shouting out the lyrics. Then they stopped and never played the song…). Frontwoman Katie Alice Greer (KAG) seemed to like the Chicago crowd; the whole set, in between songs, there was banter between the band and audience members. KAG claims the band is not political, but there were multiple mentions of how shitty the government is (listen to the songs “Right Wing” and “And Breeding” for more proof). But she did raise a good point when she said during one song break: “‘Fuck Donald Trump’ isn’t political, it’s being a decent human being.” And the whole crowd went WILD.
Genuinely, everyone was having fun. The dude in front of me was raging the whole time, every set. Dude next to me was singing along every word. I went ape when they played “Jj” (my favorite track on their new album) and also thought it was f**king amazing that their drummer Daniele recites the lyrics to “No Big Bang” while playing fast-tempo drums. Badass. I also learned Taylor and guitarist G.L. Jaguar switch roles on the track “Right Wing” which I did not realize before watching them live. This is why you go to live shows. To experience the unexpected. At one point, the band started playing two different songs at once and had to stop and do a huddle before proceeding. They ended with “Personal Planes” which is from a LONG LONG LONG time ago but was way more amazing live then on their record.
Post-show I bought a t-shirt. I should stop buying things, but I feel like if I like art and I like the artists making the art, I should support their art.
SUPPORT ART. That’s all. Bye. Go to live shows.
*Y’all should know by now this is my catchphrase. WHY NOT?!? is the answer to everything.
**So if a band’s recorded tracks don’t do it for you and their live sets don’t either, it’s not that the band is bad, just that it’s not good.