When I was a tween I went to my first R&B show (I believe it was EnVogue). I had been to oodles of shows so I knew the uniform: comfy jeans, comfy shoes, clever T, and discernible lack of hat. But there was a secret I didn't know about EnVogue fans: they dress up for a show like they are going to the prom. They get their hair styled, they wear suits and not dresses, but actual gowns. Gowns I tell you. They complete the look with the perfect prom accessory, a limousine. Not just one couple or ten, but droves of them. Three R&B shows later I discovered maybe it wasn't just EnVogue after all. Some people get dressed up for shows.
I'm not saying you need to follow a dress code by genre system. I may wear a tutu at any time, and I support your right to do the same. But some people do like to fit in, and might like knowing this stuff. I'm just saying if you are going to a kind of show you've never been to before, it might help to ask a knowledgeable type what people are likely to wear. Because if you show up dressed for the Prince show at the Gwar show you are going to stand out, and ruin your fancy shoes.
The first strings have been strummed and the singer has claimed the mic. The shovers are staking their claim in the pit. There is a rush to the stage, a general movement: the show is starting. The young and foolish punk will rush forward so they can be closer to the sweat and angst flying off the stage. It seems rational. But if you’ve taken the time to push to the front-and-center position, standing in front of the fresh mosh pit is the worst way to claim that sweet spot. Not so much because the pit is unmanageable but because the task of managing it is in the opposite direction of the band. So you can turn your back on the show and push the pit kids. Or you can watch the show and get elbowed in the face. Thus what seems initially like the center of the action turns out to be a major distraction. Just when you think you can maybe take some time to actually watch the show you paid to see, you remember the crowd surfers. They like to remind you by kicking you in the head.
If this all still seems like a great plan, then you probably have a fierce abundance of ass-kicking energy. In that case, dive into the actual pit instead of turning your back to it. Now that’s a nice view.
Say you're in a thick messy crowd with little room for movement. You are trying to get closer to the stage and some other asshole is trying to get to the bar and there isn't room for both of you to advance at the same time. Who should go first? The person who is leaving the crowd should be allowed to exit first. They are creating more room, you will be taking up more room. Moreover, you don't really know why this person is trying to get out. Maybe they are agorophobic. Maybe they are about to vomit. Maybe there is an injury. Maybe there is someone swinging an ax in the mosh pit. If you are trying to leave the crowd and someone is trying to get closer to the stage, you have every right to be a dick about it. I'm not generally an advocate of being a dick, but I have seen people at shows who wanted to leave and the people behind them were all, “Gosh, it's too crowded” so they simply gave up and stayed put. That is a fucked situation that makes no one happy. Don't ever be the cause of this. When it is so crowded that people don't want to move a foot to let someone by is exactly when they should be thrilled to let someone give up their space on the floor. It is wrong to trap people in a crowd. Ingress and egress, my friend. When you block someone exiting a crowd, you are a fire hazard. And no one wants to be a fire hazard. You want to be the reason the roof is on fire, not the reason screaming patrons with their hair on fire can't find the exit. If people want to move away from the crowd, step aside. If you can't step aside, tell the person behind you to step aside. Take responsibility for making sure you are able to move aside enough at least to let them past you.
I know you thought that three foot tall velvet top hat was going to look good with your “I'M WITH STUPID” shirt, for some reason. What you didn't think about when you assessed your outfit were the three thousand people standing behind you. I bet they're all thinking “Wow, that's a fine hat! I'd much rather see that hat than Lady Gaga! The money I paid for these tickets sure was worth it to see a fine hat like that.” Oh, wait, I meant none of them are thinking that. It doesn't matter how many flowers or joker cards or taxidermied birds adorn its brim. By the forth or fifth time your hat gets in the way the of the guitarist's signature move, it's not so pretty any more.
As a Floridian, most bands arouse the crowd by saying how surprised they are to see a lively crowd in the netherworld of suburban hell. All day at Treasure Island the bands were raving about how much they loved our city. While every band wants to sweet talk their audience, it’s easy to believe. Treasure Island has one of the best views of the skyline and I can only imagine, as a performer, what it must have been like to be standing on that stage with water all around you and San Francisco leaping up across the bay bridge. The weather was perfect when the sunset greeted the Brazilian Girls on Saturday night. They raved quite a bit about what a joy it was to come and perform at this festival. With the clouds turning yellow and gold and a warm breeze blowing through the autumn eve, I think most of us were happy to be there.
Even though they’re not actually Brazilian, I kept comparing the Brazilian Girls to the Brazilian act Cansei de ser Sexy. Both rely on a wordly, outrageous front woman that wears ridiculous outfits. Both have fantastic keyboardists. Both have a sense of humor and a touch of sexy. Where they differ is in their experience as musicians. Brazilian Girls have that been-around-the-block quality while CSS is still drunk on their own fame. For this reason CSS puts on a better show—there’s a ton of energy and excitement that it’s a thrill to be a part of. But Brazilian Girls were satisfying, even if their audience was mostly drawing blanks when it came to their multi-lingual songs. I’d like to see them again when they are the main act and have an audience that truly appreciates them.
Once Treasure Island was fully cloaked by the dark of night, MSTRKRFT took the stage. Seeing a live DJ-set is always like ordering the mystery meat, and MSTRKRFT was no exception. Simply because someone is a good producer doesn’t mean they are any good at throwing down tracks on the fly or anticipating what the audience is feeling. I had hoped that since half of MSTRKRFT was once in a rock band (Death From Above 1979) that they would be more committed to playing entire melodies unlike some other DJs I won’t mention *here. And they were slightly better. But I won’t say they picked the freshest dance tracks. More importantly, they did a lot of egotistical showing off of skillful song transitions that completely abandoned playing the best part of the song. A *lot of DJ’s do this and it drives me crazy. It wasn’t terrible but I would say the DJ that wasn’t even listed on the schedule was playing more songs that made me want to wiggle and jiggle than this all-star DJ.
MGMT was the headliner for Saturday night. MGMT started their set by announcing that this would be the last time they would be able to play these songs for a long time so they were going to play the entire album from start to finish. Holy smokes, right?! This implied that they are ready to hop into the studio to start working on new material, which is great news because we’ve all overplayed their first album and all it’s subsequent remixes till the phrase “Shock me like electric eel” leads me to **violent twitching.
It also meant that we of the mp3 generation were going to hear how the album was intended to be listened to. Hearing the whole thing played through really did give it more of a narrative quality that was more cohesive than, say, the entire ***Green Day’s American Idiot musical. I have often described MGMT to the uninitiated as a disco-folk band. But now that I’ve seen them I’d have to say they’re a psychedelic-disco-folk band. I caught some happy folks gazing at their shoes from time to time, including members of the band. They’re not a roof-raising show but they were skilled musicians and a good time was had by all.