I can't say I've ever really been much of a fan of Vampire Weekend. When I hear their music I can't help but hear how they've clearly lifted their musical influences (they're a simple mix of 80's ska band and Paul Simon). I had a spot in my MusicFest NW schedule so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Could they deliver something live that expanded beyond the affable tunes on their debut album.
As I stood there tapping my toe to the music, realizing that the 'we sound just like the album' show wasn't going to win me over an argument broke out between concert goers.
Could you PLEASE not sing along to the music!
While it wasn't quite an altercation, the 'discussion' soon heated up into a full blown argument. The behemoth of a guy standing in front of me (and blocking much of my view as he constantly leaned over to give running commentary to his date) puffed his chest and looked like he'd charge at the scrawny guy who was belting out the words to one of his favorite songs. Could there actually be a fight over the right to sign at a rock concert?
This wasn't the first time I had experienced something like this. When Arcade Fire came to town I was sitting up in the balcony. The couple next to me jumped up and started to dance to "Rebellion (Lies)", soon after the couple behind them hollered over the music for them to 'sit down'.
This whole phenomenon is astounding to me. I grew up in an era of music that measured a good show by how much you jumped around, sang and danced. A truly great concert was once which swept you up and made you a part of it, made you forget that you had shelled out some dough to watch someone stand on stage for a few hours and bang on instruments.
Music has changed, it's become much more personal. Rather than getting together and 'putting the record on', people now listed to more of their music through little white iPod earbuds. It's a pristine, unencumbered and solo musical experience which doesn't translate when that music is transformed and shared by a large room full of people.
The iPod generation has had its impact with artists as well. Vampire Weekend played an extremely clean show, rarely deviating from their recorded songs. In many ways their reproduction of their pristine sound helps make them a hit with the crowd. It's a neat and tidy relationship.
Soon after this incident I went down to Satyricon and saw the Israeli Punk Band Monotonix. It was the complete antithesis. As the entire room jumped and danced with the music, collided and collectively sweat I was reminded why I used to love to see music live. You go to a concert for the same reason you see a comedic movie with an audience, to share that experience. Something happens when people come together to share the music they love and I hope that the iPod generation can get educated about that.