2 Shows of Note

The wife and I have taken in two concerts in the past two weeks at Terminal 5, one of the newer venues for music in Manhattan.  Both experiences were rewarding in their own ways, and both left a little something to be desired. In the first instance, we went to see Ratatat, an electronic/guitar rock fusion act consisting of three (usually two) people, a bunch of electronic equipment and some rather bizarre video displays.  The show was entertaining, but seemed awfully loud to my admittedly sensitive ears.  The gentlemen from Ratatat seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, as did the crowd which were so into the scene that actual crowdsurfing took place throughout the evening.  While it was an interesting show, it was not one that I would necessarily pay to see again.

Last night, the wife and I returned to see Hot Chip, a group of five rather awkward looking gentlemen who perform a type of music that is not easily described, but is perhaps best thought of as a successful attempt to turn electronic music into something that can be played by five rather awkward looking British gentlemen.  While the wife and I were quite impressed with the band, we were nowhere near as impressed with the venue, which did not easily offer good viewing to anyone who did not want to stand on the packed floor or who had not staked out a perch prior to the beginning of the show.

These experiences have led to the generation of the following list of concert guidelines:

1.  The selection of an appropriate opening act is crucial:  Both shows had issues with the opening acts.  In the first instance, Ratatat selected E-Pro, who turns out to be the brother of one of the band members and a band called Panther who hail from Portland.  E-Pro was interesting, performing a DJ set that didn't particularly appeal to me, but was certainly polished.  Regrettably, E-Pro's taste for noising out and the decision to hook up a wii-mote to a noise generator did not work in his favor.  Panther was simply awful.  A guy on drums and a guy screaming his head off.  What a concept.  The summation of both opening acts did not set the stage for Ratatat that I was hoping for.

Two opening acts is almost always pretentious.  Hot Chip may have had more than one, but we arrived well after the doors had opened and came in during the end of a set by Growing, an act with two guys, two guitars and a lot of electronic gizmos.  This set up could lead to some intriguing possibilities, if the two gentlemen on stage had not decided to spend all of their time blindly noodling around with no particularly discernable song structure.

Neither band's choice of opener(s) were particularly facile.

2.  Headliners must play for at least an hour before taking an encore.  Long in the habit of timing sets (thanks, Phish!), I was dissapointed to see Ratatat leave the stage after only 50 minutes.  This, combined with a hometown crowd and a ~45 minute wait before taking the stage left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth.

3.  Large crowd's of people in small spaces are not an enjoyable experience.  I know I'm getting old when I can no longer stand to be on a packed floor while people push me around, step directly in front of me to block the view, and feel that they have to tell me their entire life story because they are some sort of combination of stoned/drunk.  This commentary probably says more about me than it does the concerts, but still...shit is obnoxious!

4.  A venue that does not have enough viewing space is not a good venue.  Terminal 5 has three floors and almost no seats from which the band can be seen.  The jostle and parry necessary to get a good viewing angle is much more effort that I want to spend after having spent money on tickets, parking/train fare, and booze.  In both shows, the design of the venue was a major minus and made it difficult to actually see the bands as they performed.

5.  There's a difference between good loud and bad loud.  Good loud is the expected boost in auditory power one expects when going to a live show.  Bad loud is when the dynamics and nuance of the music are lost due to an inability on the part of the sound staff to adequately modulate the sound.  Out of the five bands that I have seen at Terminal 5 in the past eight days, only one band (Hot Chip) seems to have a grasp on how to be loud well.  Ears are precious things.  Why do I have to pay for permanent hearing damage?

Bottom Line: While Ratatat is really best on albums, Hot Chip is really quite fantastic.  Strange, funny and totally worth anyone's time even if you have to fight the venue.