Reviewing gigs is a great thing to do for the moments when you see something special. And you're there to see it, hear it - and then you (often very quickly) have to get it down in some form. It's glossed over by people the next day, maybe they think I got it right, maybe they hate me for it - but I'm happy with the amount of frogs I have to kiss for that something special that does arrive once in a while. It doesn't have to be a prince/princess. Even just a non-frog will do (after a while...).
I've had a few moments where I've seen a band I know very little about; the idealism that you should send a fan only to review gigs, that the fan should also know everything about the band on stage too, is utterly absurd. Sometimes seeing bands you know little about is when it gets really interesting/exciting.
Sometimes I've found a brand new favourite band on the night - I've even had moments where the opening act has been the show-stealer. We've talked about that before here at Blog on the Tracks and we'll probably talk about that again. You might wish to draw on one of those occurrences for today's chat - but the topic-du-jour is when you are blown away by a live gig to the level that you, then and there, discover your new favourite band.
I added in the mention of opening acts because I figure someone will want to point out that it's utterly stupid going along to see a band you don't know. I'd also disagree with that anyway - a lot of my musical education has come from taking risks, exploring, always hungry to be checking music out.
Anyway, I had that eureka moment of finding a brand new favourite band at a gig very recently. It happened last week.
I was sent along to review the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez show at the San Francisco Bath House. Now, I couldn't tell you that I'm a massive Mars Volta fan but I have liked some of the band's material. I've also liked some of Omar Rodriguez Lopez's work outside of the band, collaborations, soundtracks, solo albums - he's been busy! And though I've not heard everything he's done, I've checked out a fair bit and so I was, at the very least, curious to head along to the gig.
But his new band, Bosnian Rainbows, was wonderful. It was a reminder, almost instantly, of the great power that (great) live music holds. It was captivating, spellbinding, spine-tingling. It was all of those things.
And there was a sense, as far as I was aware, that this was something of...a happening. There are some YouTube clips of Bosnian Rainbows, but there is not (yet) an album. One is on the way. And I'm sure there were a lot of people heading along to the gig with very little idea of what to expect - beyond the fact that one of the guys from the Mars Volta would be there (actually two: the Bosnian Rainbows drummer and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group drummer is also the Mars Volta drummer, Deatoni Parks). But then maybe a lot of people didn't even know that - maybe it was just about worshipping at the altar of the Omar guitar-sound.
There was plenty of great guitar to admire, but where he has also offered shapeless jams, this band, this new group, was all about songs. Weird and interesting shapes, still. But inside and around and outside of songs, actual songs.
The star of the night, for me, was the lead singer, Teresa Suarez (or Teri Gender Bender), who I knew a bit from Le Butcherettes - one of those bands people tell you to check out on the internet and you do, and it's worth it. (See here now.)
It was a show that had me hooked from start to finish; four musicians working hard with each other, for each other, for the song - and for the audience. All of that, sure. But they had cooked up a sound that could be traced - as almost any sound can, and yet it felt like a new experience. That was the key. This was an experience. It was creative and energetic and dynamic and exciting.
There wasn't a hint, at any point, that this was in any way being phoned in. You don't often get that. Almost every show works to a script. And the more the script is followed the harder it is to hide that fact.
You can read my review of the gig here. It was in the paper last week.
But I wondered if you've ever had this experience of discovering a new favourite band live rather than online or via a recommendation or album. It seems, these days, we run to the internet instantly, so hardly anything is ever a completely new, unspoilt experience. That was what was so great about Bosnian Rainbows. Because I knew that Omar Rodriguez Lopez has a lot of music to his name and works in a bunch of different contexts, I decided to leave the show open - no last-minute Googling for hints of what to expect. Now, I could have been excited to know ahead of time that the singer from Le Butcherettes was there, sure. But in this case it really worked out because I went along to a gig the way I always do - with open ears and an open mind. Sometimes the artist that is not your favourite at the time of the show soon becomes your new favourite while the show is happening or straight after.
And it's important - to me, anyway - to always be open to (and for) that possibility.
It worked last week. It worked a treat. New favourite band for now. Bosnian Rainbows. Worth checking out. At least I'm glad I did.
Has this ever happened to you? And when was the last time? And do you agree that it (always) seems less likely to happen in the age of the internet where the spoilers are lurking behind the next click?
Also keen to know if people went to the Omar/Bosnian Rainbows gigs last week, or recently (elsewhere in the world), and were disappointed. As an aside, I loved the Wellington Grizzly Bear show and it seemed that lots of people did too - in Wellington. But I've heard a steady stream of complaints from the Auckland audience.
So when was the last time you discovered your new favourite band on the night?