On Friday, my friend took me to see a band called Ozomatli. I had never heard of them, but she had an extra ticket. She described the band as a “Latin fusion rock jazz” band. That was enough to get me there, that and the word “free” associated with the ticket.
I have been to many concerts, some great, some horrible. As a music snob, I don’t go to live music for the sound. I can usually get better sound out of my computer/phone/stereo/record-able birthday card. A prime example of a horrible show would be a U2 concert I went to many years ago. The show was in a hockey arena, and the sound was so terrible that I could not recognize any song that was being played for at least 30 seconds. Many of the songs could not be recognized as “songs” because of the echoing acoustics. Now I love U2. Strike that, compared to a friend I went to the show with, I sort of like U2. I remember thinking, and I wish I were making this up, “Why on earth did Bono sample a garbage disposal to play this song live?”
Most bad concerts are not bad because of the band. The band comes to do a show and usually performs to the best of their ability. Granted, “the best of their ability” can vary in an astronomical scale. I went to go see Moby and his opener was a band called the Boo-Boom Satellites (Suck-a-lots in my head). I am sure someone enjoys the Boom-Boom Satellites. I would say that law enforcement officials should have a blanket warrant to search the property and person of anyone who does enjoy that band. Maybe I am too harsh…perhaps just mandatory hearing tests combined with tests for psychopathy.
Bad concerts all pretty much feel the same. They are hot, crowded, smelly affairs. People are crammed together and (usually)that makes someone angry. That angry person is convinced that he (usually) is the only “true fan” of the band. Suddenly “watching a band I like” is replaced with “getting shoved around in a smelly crowd” and I stop enjoying a bad concert. People are shouting “have fun” and punching people they don’t know. Wheeee!
Good concerts are always amazing. I prefer to watch bands that are more technically talented in live shows. By “technically talented” I mean they are more skilled musically, more polished because of practice, and they have a show and a set list that flows reasonably well. The problem with those shows is that they are usually not “fireworks shooting off the stage” exciting. I went to go see Joe Satriani in concert. If you do not know who he is, he is one of the most skilled guitar players in the world. His concert was amazing and had a couple ten minute solos. The band didn’t jump around a lot though, as they were trying to hit all six thousand of the notes that minute. This made for a superb sounding, but kind of boring looking, show.
Another great musician that I have seen multiple times is a man named Peter Murphy. His shows are fun and he plays between 3 and 40 instruments during the show. Again, however, the show is usually not “visually stunning”. As a side note to musicians like Peter Murphy: If your opening band members are less than half your age, you are going to have a very mixed group of fans. If you have a mixed group of fans, the creepy fat old guy in the audience may forget he has his earplugs in as he mocks the opening band loudly. Um…a friend told me that.
This brings me back to Ozomatli. I was fully expecting a crowded, smelly, loud slightly miserable time where angry Latinos were determined to make me “pay” for being a white man at “their” concert. Instead, it was an amazing concert. They played a two and a half hour set with only about 2 one minute breaks. The music was incredible and they really knew how to get the crowd’s energy up. Instead of angry Latinos, there were hundreds of dancing tiny people. Oh, I failed to mention that the concert was in New Mexico. For those unfamiliar with New Mexico, Peter Jackson made a few movies about the inhabitants trying to travel across New Zealand to return someone’s jewelry.
If you have not listened to Ozomatli, I would recommend giving them a try. While you are doing that, I will try to learn to not pre-judge all new social situations. I say that, but we all know I really mean “try to avoid most social situations”.