Live Music Should Not Sound Like the Album

There are many benefits to seeing music live over just listening to recordings. The energy of a crowd; the added depth of live instrumentation; the thrill of seeing a person or band you admire in the flesh.

One of the best things about live music, in my opinion, is something that not everyone agrees upon, and that is the ability to hear a new twist on songs you already love. Sure, “new twist” sounds like something everyone would be excited about, until you realize just how much people get attached to a specific version of a specific song. I’m guilty of this too, sometimes. One example that comes to mind is Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.” The first hundred or so times I heard this song it was on one particular radio station that always played it as a somewhat upbeat, dancey track. It wasn’t until months later that I heard the “real” version, which is much slower and folksier. I spent far too long trying to locate the exact version that I knew and loved from the radio, but magically every other remix available on the internet is not the right one. “Take Me To Church” isn’t current enough to be on the radio all that much now, and I don’t even listen to that station anymore, so I will likely never hear it the “right” way ever again. Despite this, if I ever saw Hozier live I’d probably be pretty psyched to hear it, in whatever form it should take.

But over the course of my concert-going years I’ve heard some genuine displeasure about artists not playing songs the way people were used to hearing them. Typically this happens with top 40 tracks, the kind you hear all the time, everywhere, for maybe 6 weeks straight. The kind of track where most people at the concert are probably really only there for that one song because it’s so much unarguably bigger than any of the artist’s other songs (the kind of song that “Take Me To Church” is, to be honest). But it can happen with any artist, or any song.

I do not understand this logic. I love hearing my favorite songs live and I love hearing how the artist has expanded on their previous vision to create something new and fresh. Maybe they just changed the harmonies, maybe they added a part for a new instrument that wasn’t originally there, or maybe it’s adding a new verse or changing up some lyrics. Even if I don’t think the new version is better, I pretty much always appreciate being present for the evolution. The only exception is when the artist severely shortens a song I love. Snippets make me sad.

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot over the last few days; or rather, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reverse of this topic, because I haven’t been thinking about maintaining the purity of songs in the form that I know them, but about how excited and #blessed I have felt to get to hear a new take on songs I already love.

I’ve written about my love of Odesza many times on this blog, and yet again was #blessed (hard for me to use this word seriously) to get to see them twice last week. Out of all the artists I’ve seen, they’re probably the most prolific remixers of their own music. The live adaptations of some of their songs blow me away, and not only do I not care when the song doesn’t go in the direction I was expecting, it delights me. My favorite video that I’ve ever taken at a show (to be fair, I don’t take many and they’re all terrible, including this one) was from Odesza’s set at Panorama last year. I only captured about 20 seconds of a song I happen to love, but they surprised me by adding a new drop and you can hear my voice in the background go, “WHAAAAAAAT” and then cackle out of shock and joy. Sadly everything got deleted from my phone back in March so I don’t have the video anymore,  but I’ve heard the live version of that song many times since Panorama and that one moment still makes me scream and laugh, in that order.

They’re hardly the only artist to do this – Gramatik, who I’ve also written about many times, plays a live version of “Illusion of Choice” that has an insane new violin sample that slays me every time.

I will allow that everyone who chooses to experience live music does it for a different reason. But music isn’t just about the consumer, it’s also, of course, about the artist. If switching up a song gives me a teeny tiny bit more insight into the brain of a musician I love? Amazing. Does it hopefully also make playing the same song over and over on tour more palatable to the artist who is probably very sick of it? All the better. It gives me endless joy to go to a concert and see that the person performing loves their own music just as much as I do; it’s why it makes me so happy when producers dance around on stage as they’re working. What remixing your own music says to me is, “I made this song and I still love it so much I’m going to keep working on it and innovating and having fun with it.”

I don’t get upset if a live performance sounds like the album – after all, if I didn’t like the album, I wouldn’t have paid money to see those songs live. But getting to experience some new twists and turns makes the experience fuller and so much more gratifying.

*One semi-unrelated side note to close out this post – I actually did have the opportunity to see Hozier live yesterday at Boston Calling. But his set was at the exact same time as Odesza. For a teeny tiny split second during my festival planning I thought about trying to catch the last 10 minutes of Hozier because a) I was sure he’d play “Take Me To Church” toward the end, and b) I had juuuust seen Odesza live. But I never seriously considered it because…I mean there’s just no way I can miss an Odesza set. I’ll get taken to church another time.

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Blog Posts I Am Never Going to Write

In the Notes app on my phone lives a list of potential blog post ideas. The list has been going since 2014, and is almost entirely ideas that have come to me while I was at some show or another, because, unsurprisingly, music is what most inspires this blog about music.

The list grows more than it shrinks, because a lot of the time, if I can’t sit right down right away and work on an idea that I have, by the next day, I’m no longer inspired by that thought.

I told myself I would blog once a month in 2019, and since there are less than 2 hours left of February I decided to look at my list of post ideas for “inspo,” as the obnoxious social media world says.

I am wholly unimpressed with this list. But I also hate deleting things from the list if I haven’t written about them. So, instead of a “real” blog post, here’s a list of posts I will never write.

Lady Gaga and Kanye West are the same person
No, they’re not. I had this idea back when both artists had far different public personas than they do now, but this is still a dumb idea.

Bands to catch up on
I’ve referenced in some of my goals posts that I wanted to spend more time listening to bands that are well-loved yet that I feel I could dive deeper into. That list includes: Radiohead, Tool, Dave Matthews Band, Pink Floyd, LCD Soundsystem, and the Beatles. And look, blog post written! That’s all I really have to say on that topic. And also I have done very little of this, although I did put in some solid Radiohead time in 2018.

What IS house music? Brass house? TMZZ
TMZZ is Too Many Zooz, and brass house is the genre label they’ve given themselves. TMZZ is a band comprised of a trumpet, a drummer and a baritone sax. Can house music be contained within 3 instruments and no actual electronic production? The world may never know, because I’m never going to investigate this highly important question.

“Lizzi question”
This is related to a conversation I had a few years ago with, you guessed it, my friend Lizzi! I really should have written this  blog post because Lizzi actually asked me to write it. She wanted to dissect whether women felt safer, specifically with regards to men and potential sexual harassment or violence, at all-genre shows and festivals vs EDM shows and festivals. Her take was that she felt less comfortable in the more mainstream crowds at all-genre festivals because there’s a higher rate of alcohol consumption, which, let’s be honest, can sometimes turn people into shitheads. I wasn’t sure I agreed at the time, and I’m still not sure that I do. I think I did try to get some women to weigh in but couldn’t get enough of a conversation going to really get a post fleshed out.

5 weird festival tips
This post was predicated on the fact that I wanted to share some unsolicited advice about bringing mittens to music festivals. I know, mittens are never on your mind in the middle of July, but if you’re going to a camping festival that has predicted cold weather, mittens are awesome. You know you’re not going to bring a bulky coat or anything actually warm, but keeping your hands warm really does spread the warmth to the rest of your body. I learned this tip accidentally when I was freezing at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans and bought some mittens from a vendor. It was a game changer. Anyway though, I could never really think of any other tips that are “weird” so this post was kind of DOA. Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of practical festival advice, but nothing too shocking.

My music bucket list
Queen (with Adam Lambert, I guess). Sia. Big Grizmatik. Britney Spears. There, now you have my live music bucket list.

Tada! It’s like 6 mini blog posts in one! Maybe this will inspire me to actually write some of the ones I didn’t put here. Or maybe they’ll end up in a future iteration of this post. TBD!

I’m Running for Mayor of Musictown

Hello everyone, my name is Arielle and I’m running for mayor of Musictown.

Musictown is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I imagine the same is true for many of you. It’s a magical city where some of our most precious and joyful memories lie; where we forge soulful connections with others, experience powerful emotions, and, well, where we have a lot of fun.

I had always been a frequent visitor to Musictown, until about 6 years ago when I moved here for good. In that time I’ve been to nearly 500 shows, in the largest of stadiums and in venues that were basically just a small stage in an alleyway. I’ve been in an audience of 5 and an audience of 50,000. I’ve given my heart, soul, and wallet to this city, and I truly do not know what the last few years of my life would have been like without it.

Life in Musictown is one sparked with passion. But this city of dancing and singing and clapping and celebrating, while it brings so much light to so many people, that light is not without darkness. I’ve spent 5 of my 6 years in Musictown taking copious notes on my experiences here. I’ve jotted down my thoughts about what works and what doesn’t, what I hate and what I love. But over the years I’ve also spoken with many of you, my fellow music lovers, trying to understand what elements of our wonderful city help instill meaning in your lives, and where the pain points are. I’ve chatted with you not through official interviews, but through informal conversation relaxing at our campsites at music festivals or while in line for coat check at a show. I’ve spoken with you not because I knew I wanted to run for office someday – in fact, I began these conversations long before I even knew that Musictown had a mayor. I’ve spoken with you because you, like me, understand, seek, and crave that feeling of pure bliss that only comes with seeing incredible live music in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. When the stars align and your experience feels so perfect as to be transcendent. I’ve spoken with you because music is what we love, and sometimes we just don’t want to talk about anything else.

This is why I want to be the mayor of Musictown. I want to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to improve upon those pieces of the live music experience that are less than ideal. To make it easier for all of us to achieve the perfect, hassle-free concert experience.

I have many ideas about how Musictown can be improved. I won’t bore you with all of them today, but here are a few.

As some of you know, my first inclination to run for mayor of Musictown came about when I expressed that every show – no matter how large or small – should publish set times in advance. I still stand by this. Our time is valuable, and I firmly believe that we should be able to plan our evenings accordingly. Many concerts have relatively predictable timing, but others do not. Some venues open their doors at 10pm and the headliners don’t come on until 2am. Those same venues will, on rare occasion, bring the headliner on at midnight. Being forced to guess at possible set times is frustrating. People need the power to make informed concert-going decisions, and I plan to work for full set-time transparency. For all shows.

Even more important than transparency at shows, however, is safety. If elected mayor, I plan to implement a number of measures to ensure that concert-goers have a safe and comfortable experience.

First, I want to see ear plugs for sale at all music venues. Citizens, I cannot force you to wear ear plugs, though I strongly encourage them and you will never see me at a show without mine. But for those moments where the volume is just a bit louder than you’d like, you should always be able to purchase a pair of single-use, foam earplugs for a dollar. I’ve had friends leave shows because they were too loud. This should never happen to anyone.

Next, I believe that all concert venues should have free water. They may also choose to sell bottled water if they wish, but there must be a water fountain or cooler available. Water is a critical component of concert safety, particularly at outdoor summer events or very crowded indoor events. No one should be forced to pay $5 for a bottle of water just to avoid passing out from dehydration and overheating.

The final change I hope to implement to enhance concert-goer safety is to do a thorough investigation into each venue’s maximum capacity and, where necessary, lower it. I have definitely been to shows where people appear to be packed in far beyond what could possibly be legally permitted, and I’m sure you can think of a few as well. Choosing to go up to the front of a show and be in the thick of a crowd is one thing, but being unable to even lift your arms anywhere in an entire venue is another. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s not fun. Every live music event should have ample open space in the back for those who need a little more room to breathe or dance.

There are tons of other issues I hope to tackle in my time as mayor: ticket scalping, improving security screenings, and increasing the number of women’s restrooms, to name a few. But before I leave you, I want to share with you one of my more innovative ideas, to hopefully demonstrate that I’m a creative thinker willing to take risks on your behalf.

If elected mayor of Musictown, I plan to implement a pilot program to test the feasibility of having a 25+ section at select venues or shows. Those of you who, like me, are on the slightly older side of full-time Musictown residents may agree that sometimes it’s difficult to be around a group of teenagers. Allowing attendees to opt in to being around people closer to their own age has the potential to improve the concert-going experience for everyone. I plan to conduct a number of focus groups to collect ideas before the pilot goes into effect, so if you’d like to share your thoughts on this plan, please be in touch! My door is always open – not just for this issue, but any other issue that may arise. Because, as mayor, I will be your representative. And I want to know what I can do to to help.

I hope that I have your vote, and I hope to see you out on the dance floor.

This post inspired by this tweet:

7 Shows in 7 Days (CAN SHE DO IT?)

October 2018 is a huge month for live music, at least in my little corner of the music world. As the concert announcement notifications have been filling up in my inbox  over the last few months, the October section of my concert tracking spreadsheet has been getting longer and more intimidating. Even though the month is nearly halfway over and I’ve only been to one show so far (Opiuo at Brooklyn Bowl, which was incredible, naturally), the end of the month looks promising.

It hasn’t exactly been a jam-packed music year for me. Work has gotten busier and I’ve gotten older – which means I’m more tired and less tolerant of young, pushy crowds – and as a result, my concert attendance is at its lowest since I started tracking it 4 years ago. For reference, the number of shows I’ve attended by this point in the year for the last few years is as follows:

2018 – 45
2017 – 53
2016 – 60
2015 – 94
2014 – 85

45 is still a respectable number, but my concert attendance could stand to have a little life breathed into it, for sure. This, combined with the sheer number of exciting upcoming shows AND my birthday coming up later this month, has given me a little idea for a 7 shows in 7 days challenge (dun dun DUNNNN).

I’m not totally committed to this because it could end up being expensive and/or exhausting,  but I’ve at least done a little plotting out of what it could look like:

Friday, October 19, 2018

Turkuaz at the Capitol Theatre OR Dimond Saints at House of YES
I’ve only seen Turkuaz once, and it was one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I’ve tried and failed to see them again over the last year+, which is shameful because they’re based in Brooklyn and perform here semi-frequently. The Capitol Theatre is a super cool, old-school style ornate venue, made slightly less cool by the fact that it’s a MetroNorth ride outside of the city. House of YES is a trippy, Instagram-worthy venue with shows that usually include aerialists and live painters. I discovered Dimond Saints at this venue so it would be cool to see them there again, but unless I can find someone to go with me it’s unlikely that I’ll want to leave my cozy house as late as necessary to make it to this show, which probably starts at 1am.
Odds I will go to this show: Turkuaz – 15%, Dimond Saints – 5%

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Glitch Mob at Brooklyn Steel
Ohhhh do I love The Glitch Mob. I saw them do a DJ set earlier this year which was surprisingly good considering my less-than-enthusiastic stance on DJ sets in general, but it wasn’t enough. I need to be at this show.
Odds I will go to this show: 80%

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Black Tiger Sex Machine at Brooklyn Bowl
This is the only show on this list that actually wouldn’t be on my radar at all, normally. I’ve fallen off the dubstep wagon at this point in my life, but I’ve already snagged a free ticket to this show so the option is there if I’m trying to do a long run of consecutive shows. If I do stop by, it would probably only be for 30 minutes or so.
Odds I will go to this show: 10%. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Sleigh Bells, Neon Indian, Tom Morello, etc. at Brooklyn Steel
This crazy variety show has artists that span multiple genres PLUS Tom Morello has an incredible new album out including a Pretty Lights collab that I can’t get enough of. So it would be a fun and random evening.
Odds I will go to this show: 20%

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

It is only upon reaching this point in my blog post that I realize I have nothing going for October 23rd. Oops. Okay, well. If a 7 day challenge depends on me going to a show this day, I will find something available on Jukely, snag it for free, and check out an artist I’ve never heard of.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Big Data at Gramercy Theatre
YAAAAAAS. I discovered Big Data because Gramatik used to drop the song “Dangerous” in his sets all throughout 2015. The 3 years I’ve been waiting to see Big Data live feels SO LONG and the fact that this show is taking place on my actual birthday is too exciting. In the Notes section of my phone I have a list of potential blog post topics, and my Live Music Bucket List blog post defffinnitely includes Big Data (since I’ll probably never get around to writing it, here’s what else appears on that list so far: Sia, Queen (with Adam Lambert or whoever is filling in for Freddie Mercury at the time, I guess?), Big Grizmatik, and Britney Spears).
Odds I will go to this show: 100%

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Geotheory at Mercury Lounge
This one is potentially exciting because I’ve somehow still never been to a show at Mercury Lounge. Otherwise, it’s been a few years since I’ve heard Geotheory and I honestly don’t even remember what type of music it is – but I obviously liked it once upon a time because I’m tracking it on BandsInTown.
Odds I will go to this show: 10%

Technically this is the end of the 7 days, but I have 2 more consecutive days worth of live music possibilities so, just in case…

Friday/Saturday, October 26/27, 2018

BangOnNYC Warehouse of Horrors
This is a 2-day Halloween warehouse party featuring Gramatik, Goldfish, and other artists I’m super pumped about. The problem is that they’re spread pretty evenly over the 2 days, and tickets cost more than I particularly want to pay for either given day (or both days). It pains me to miss a New York Gramatik show, so we’ll have to see what happens with this one.
Odds I will go to this show: 30%

Will I decide to officially take on this 7 SHOWS IN 7 DAYS challenge? I have no idea. Will I decide to go to none of these shows except for Big Data on the 24th? Honestly, it’s pretty likely. Stay tuned on Twitter! (Because I’m clearly on a semi-annual blog posting schedule at this point).

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re at Electric Forest Anymore

Alternatively titled, “The Differences Between Electronic Festivals and All-Genre Festivals.”

This past weekend I made a sort of last minute decision to go to the final day of Panorama Festival (yes, despite declaring that festival season was over), an all-genres festival here in New York. While I’m no stranger to the all-genre festivals (in fact, just last month I went to one day of Governors Ball), the events that skew more electronic are the ones where I spend most of my festival time and money.

I wasn’t deliberately trying to notice differences as I went through my day at Panorama, but having just come from Camp Bisco two weeks earlier it was hard to not notice disparities in the experiences. Here’s what I found.

Water Consumption
This is not a new revelation for me but it is absolutely worth mentioning. People who go to electronic festivals are unequivocally more conscientious about making sure to drink water throughout the day. There are way more Camelbaks and longer lines at water stations. But guess what, everyone? All festival attendees should drink tons of water! Being out in the sun is hard, and water is life.

Festival Fashion
Now that I’m in my mid-30s I just cannot even be bothered to deal with FESTIVAL OUTFITS. But I will at least note that while people still clearly spend an absurd amount of effort on their festival getup at both types of events, the multi-genre style is more Coachella Chic – the kind of outfit you could easily wear out in the “real world” if you wanted to – and EDM festival attire is very much just various takes on underwear. Meanwhile, I’ve given up on even wearing makeup at festivals. It’s just going to melt down my face, you guys. But whatever, as long as what you’re wearing is comfortable to you, that’s all that matters.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond
GLOW STUFF. I met up with some people at Panorama on Sunday, and my friend had brought a giant pack of glow sticks. Before heading over to Odesza‘s set, we took some time to adorn ourselves and pass some glow sticks out to a few pleasantly surprised people nearby. This blog post was born in that moment because I realized how we were the only people with glow things and how, at EDM-heavy festivals, it’s weird if you DON’T have something on you that lights up. During the set (which, by the way, was incredible), every time there was a bass drop I kept waiting for the air to fill with flying glow sticks, because throwing fistfuls of them at pivotal moments is really common at electronic shows. But I was reminded, again and again, that no one else was glowing except the group I was in. By contrast, look at the sheer volume of light up fun in the crowd during this clip I took of Odesza’s set at Electric Forest last year.

Everybody Dance Now
This one may be more specific to all-genre festivals in New York, I’m not totally sure. But EDM people dance waaaaay more at shows. The reason I think the lack of dancing could be a New York-only thing is because everyone knows that New Yorkers always feel the need to look cool, though when I interviewed Big Wild at Meadows Festival last year, he did mention that this is a major difference between these types of festivals. Everyone in my group was going nuts at Odesza (again, the set was INCREDIBLE, how could you not?!) and most of the people around us were just kind of politely bopping their heads. This seems totally ungratifying to me but, again, this is a no judgment zone.

What did I miss? Any other obvious differences between EDM and all-genre festivals? Let me know!

Music Genres Are Getting Out of Control

When I was looking at my Spotify Year in Review I noticed one particularly hilarious segment: the list of the most popular genres of 2017.

I probably don’t even need to say much more on this because you can see my comments above. But…guys. I think we’re getting a little out of hand with our genre labeling. I totally get that it isn’t enough to have pop, rock, rap, and maybe a handful of others. It’s not just “house” it’s “deep house” or “tropical house” or “electro-house” or a bajillionty other types of house. But is there no end to the madness?!? WHAT DOES “SERIALISM” EVEN MEAN? “Vintage Swoon”???????????? Come on. Come ON.

I’ve written about the insanity of genre labels before, specifically when it comes to the dance music world. You can check out my handy-dandy very official “Which EDM Sub-Genre Are You?” infographic that tells you in absolutely definitive terms which genre you are as a person!

If anyone would like to recommend to me their favorite jumpstyle artists, I’m all ears.

Nobody Listen to Techno (At Least Not Me)

A few days ago I was watching the incredible FKJ, or French Kiwi Juice, at work. FKJ is an electronic music producer who creates beautiful, mostly mellow tunes and who sings and plays a ton of different instruments during his live performances. He is an undeniably creative and skilled musician and even if you don’t like his style of downtempo music you absolutely cannot deny his talent.

As I stood there watching this show in awe I had the same thought that I often do, which is, “Why do people think I listen to bad music?”

Except I already know the answer. And that answer is “techno.”

“Techno,” I’ve come to realize, is the blanket term that people who don’t listen to electronic music use to describe electronic music. And I don’t mean that they use it to describe ALL of electronic music; just the type of electronic music that goes untz untz untz untz. Which, unfortunately, is what a lot of people think all of electronic music is.

What people don’t realize is that music produced electronically can, and does, sound like anything. Certainly there is untz untz as far as the eye can see but there is also electro-pop and electro-hip-hop and electro-rock which for whatever reason seems to always be called its full name, “electronic rock.” Electronic music is the chicken of the music world; you can flavor it however you like.

Which brings me back to techno. Though I do listen to a little bit of untz untz music I actually don’t listen to techno at all. Because you see, all techno is untz untz music but not all untz untz music is techno (we’re getting into some very official music theory terminology now so I hope I don’t lose anyone). So it is very true that techno, however broadly or not-broadly you want to define it, is not the crux of my taste in music. Yet this is what some people think of in reference to music that was created largely on computers. Occasionally someone might reference that I listen to techno, and, cool as the cucumber I am most definitely not I just let it slide even though what I would really love to do is guide people down the path of electro-soul or livetronica.

So people think I listen to techno but really they probably mean house music and even that is not even totally accurate because now I’m going to make it all official with a fancy Venn diagram that I made using very elite design software.

Here is the in-depth analysis of the diagram:

  • Not all electronic music is dance/untz untz music.
  • Not all dance music is techno.
  • Within the realm of electronica, not all of what I listen to is untz untz.
  • None of what I listen to is actual techno.

Acknowledging all of this, I’m still going to continue using “techno” the way the masses do, which is, to describe dancey electronica. Moving on.

I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with people thinking I listen to techno except for the fact that no one likes or respects techno except the people who listen to it. Whenever I read internet comments about electronic music events from non-attendees it’s never with a tone of excitement, curiosity, or anything remotely positive. No one ever says, “Man it was so great having that event right in my back yard, I got to listen to such cool music for free!” People who don’t listen to techno think it’s just beats or noise with no musicality and is listened to solely by shitty people, to boot (they are at least occasionally right with regard to any of the above points).

On the one hand, I totally get it – dance music in general is something of an acquired taste. Even after several years of listening to it I haven’t fully acquired it, which is why most of the electronic music I listen to actually just sounds like regular music and not like thumping bass and random screeching sounds. If I were able to indoctrinate more people into the land of the music I actually listen to instead of the music that they think I listen to, they wouldn’t call it techno anymore. They would say, “Wow, this is a pop song that happens to have been created on a computer and it is sooo great. You have excellent taste in music, Arielle!” (This is verbatim what they would say.)

So really what it all boils down to is that Eminem was kind of right in that NOBODY ACTUALLY LISTEN TO TECHNO because techno is not what you think. I’m kidding. Some people actually listen to techno. Just not me.