A particular brand of snobbishness washes over me when I ask someone about a recent gig they've been to. Well, actually, I don't ask, I usually see it posted in Facebook when I have nothing better to do. How often have you seen a post in a social networking site saying '_____were fucking amazing'? It's a phenomenon that's entirely responsible for how obsolete the phrase has now become. An expression that, despite containing an expletive, has become as startling as a ham sandwich. When people don't go to gigs often, or indeed only once in their lifetime, they don't really know what to expect. The fact that the sound levels varied, or the fact that the lead singer couldn't hold a note and forgot half of the lyrics count for nothing, washed away by the excitement of seeing a bunch of people you're used to seeing in pictures and digitally compressed MP3s in your music collection. Because they played a handful of songs you know, the excitement was so much that the '____ were fucking amazing! :)' garble can consider itself posted five seconds into the first song of the night.
But I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else. I know about this phenomenon simply because I've been in this position a lot. It really does happen to everyone. You can only cut through the wave of bullshit when you get over your awe and properly see it for what it is.
Which is why I feel weird about reviewing live music, or anything for that matter. If I ever hint that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to music, then I deserve a smack. Because I don't, it's all bullshit at the end of the day. I try my best, but music isn't really something that can properly expressed by using words. And so I'm always slightly nervous when I'm expected to review a live performance, I don't know if my appreciation is coming from the adrenaline rush of being in the middle of a thumping gig with songs that I know being played, or if the band is actually decent. If I start to be overly pessimistic for the sake of it, who is to say the band weren't 'fucking amazing', you know?
So, taking this all into consideration, it's a good thing I wasn't asked to do a live review for Animal Collective's performance in Glasgow. Analysis is sometimes overrated. Sometimes you just want to get caught up in the whole experience. Just before seeing the group I excitedly explained to the unfortunate friend I'd dragged along that Animal Collective for me, were what the Beatles were to a teenage girl in the year of 1966. I love their albums, their innovativeness, the sheer joy one can experience from a bouncing, throbbing, Animal Collective track. There's Geologist, like a grinning, bopping Ringo, never seen on stage without his trademark headlamp which he uses to see all his equipment that makes the bleeps and blops. There's Avey Tare, yelping, jerking and screaming behind a stack of keyboards about adobe slatz and dinosaur anatomy. He has blue hair for the set, and mumbles something about eating meatloaf every day between songs, perhaps not realising that the closest Glasgwegians have come to eating such a dish is a slithering, undercooked square sausage. Panda Bear, plonked behind a drumkit, immersing the audience in his beautiful, yet melancholic voice has a brilliant vocal range and a great knack for drumming to boot. And how can we forget Joshua Caleb Dibb, aka Deakin aka 'The Deak'? The band's latest album, Centipede Hz, saw him return to the group after his non appearance on the brilliant Merriweather Post Pavilion album. Despite his absence apparently being brought on by AnCo's rigorous touring, he seems to be the happiest there, twisting his long face into a contented smile, and twirling in the middle of the stage with his guitar like a nerdy Pete Townsend.
But when Animal Collective do come on stage, the feeling that grabs me isn't the twinkle in my gut of being a fanboy. I didn't quite know what it was, but at the expense of sounding like an arsehole, it was good. I don't know if it was the pre-gig joint kicking in, but it felt right. The sounds were jarring the air around me rather than falling at peace with the world. Songs swung into one another like a pendulum, the band barely ever taking a break. It was mostly new material, but it stood up by itself, without needing any sentimental garbage to support it as being a right jolly jape. That said, the sentimental garbage was also great. Animal Collective aren't really a band that goes far into their back catalogue, but Peacebone, Brother Sport and My Girls, all got airings, each of them performed with a refreshingly new slant on the studio versions. I don't know if it's just my impatience, but the slower, more mournful songs weren't as exciting. That said, some songs really needed Panda Bear's fruity voice, glistening over an improvised, ambient space in the set in order to properly build up the next song. And the venue, the ABC in Glasgow, couldn't really handle certain sounds the band made. The sound system sighed as it's generic indie-pop sensibilities were crushed by the wall of strange noises produced by The Deak and his backing band. Even gig security continued to greet the band's performance with unimpressed frowns and sceptical stares.
So what can you really say in conclusion when you've been to a live performance? The £25 you've spent on the hotel, the £10 you've spent on the bus, the £5 you've spent on alcohol and/or drugs, and of course the £20 on the gig ticket itself is gone in 3 hours. When you see through the glaze, bands often disappoint, and if they don't, either an arsehole at the gig, or the sound system will mar the experience. It's also a drag for the bands themselves, going to venues and performing the same songs day after day to an audience that just wants to hear their most popular track. But tours consistently attract people. It's always the highest source of income for bands, high above record sales and miles above the bronze coins they'll receive for having their songs streamed on Spotify. Seeing a band live can't be defended properly, reasoning stacks against it.
But I don't really care about the drawbacks. Momentary, spontaneous experiences are continually sought after by humans, regardless of consequences. Which is why people want museums, culture, etc. Money doesn't really come into it our experiences, or at least, we don't care when we're enjoying ourselves. It's funny that governments see art and entertainment as little more than a business that makes money, as demonstrated brilliantly by our Prime Minister. So all I'm saying is that gigs should be celebrated for what they are - an impracticality. I recommend the experience. Just don't tell me how it was.