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Worst Gigs Ever… March 25, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Here’s a thing. What are people’s worst gigs? I’ve three that I can think of – I’m not talking about unmemorable or okay, but actually difficult to endure. I’ll bet others at these gigs loved them, but for me… not so much.

First up – Elvis Costello, a solo electric gig in the late 1980s somewhere in Dublin. I went in with a number of major problems, firstly not much liking his work, not liking the solo aspect – and by solo I mean it was him and his guitar on his own, and then not finding the interpretations very good.

Secondly – UB40. This was a real disappointment. I liked UB40 quite a lot – never a huge fan of reggae but I always found their take on it very likeable. But, and I don’t know why this is – it was again the late 80s, they were simply dull. The most interesting five minutes, and at this stage I wasn’t into dance, was a sort of danced/electronica’d upped version of a song that provided the only exhilarating moments of the gig.

Thirdly – the Psychedelic Furs playing Dublin in the early 2000s. This was worse in some ways than UB40. I loved the PFs and this was the first opportunity to see them for me. Should have stayed at home – their fan base certainly did. U2 were playing Croke Park the same evening but somehow I don’t think that if they weren’t there’d have been many more in attendance. The sound was tinny, the crowd – in Vicar Street, was perhaps the thinnest I’ve ever seen at a gig. And there was a sense that all of them bar the bass player were phoning it in. I’ve got to be honest, it took me years to listen to them again.

After that even for groups I’d not be massively fond of I’ve always found the experience of being at a gig, in a way like going to the cinema, in and of itself almost enough to carry an evening. There’ve been off nights. Saw the Damned and Killing Joke do lacklustre gigs. Never much liked Pop Will Eat Itself and that opinion didn’t change hugely after seeing them in the early 90s in the Tivoli. Gigs where the music has been good even if not to my particular taste, well, too numerous to mention. Royal Trux in the Mean Fiddler or whatever it was at the time springs to mind.

Any suggestions?

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1. Aonrud ⚘ - March 25, 2017

A timely post for me considering a recent ‘folk’ gig I was at. I honestly do try not to approach groups I don’t know cynically, but there’s a particular combination of hipsters turning songs about shared experiences into moans about themselves, displaying their virtuosity on a variety of stringed instruments (that are tuned the same), interspersed with self-satisfied ‘banter’, that turns me into a horrible person.

Right… I’ll try and go back to being open minded 😉

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

Ay, that sounds grim. When next we talk IRL I’ll be interested to hear who it was 🙂

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Aonrud ⚘ - March 25, 2017

I hadn’t heard of them previously, but I think they were just doing the folk circuit, so it’d be mean to be overly critical. If they’d actually been Mumford and Sons, rather than a bunch of Mumfords (in the colloquial sense I’m hoping catches on…), I wouldn’t be holding back! 🙂

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

M&S came to my mind immediately! 🙂

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2. Phil - March 25, 2017

I saw the Meat Puppets at the end of 1987, with the friend who’d introduced me to them (he’d made me a tape of their first three albums & first EP, none of which he was willing to actually lend me). Having done hardcore punk on the first album, something a bit like Neil Young with Crazy Horse on the second & melodic acid rock on the third and fourth, the MPs at this stage had got heavily into country, to the point where they’d actually forgotten most of their earlier songs. They played some of their newer stuff – which hardly anybody knew – then asked for requests, most of which they then declined. I don’t think they were just being snotty – they agreed to play “Lake of fire” (from the second album), but it came out sounding like country, with snappy double-time bass and drum parts. I should mention that there were only about 40 people there, and a good half of them were there for the Inca Babies, a disastrously poor choice of support band (teenage plastic goths, essentially) – so the second half of the gig consisted mainly of heckling from the goths and apologies from the band. Fortunately somebody thought to request Good Golly Miss Molly, which the band did remember, so the gig ended on a high.

But at least that was fun, in an occasionally painful way, and it does mean I can say I saw the original lineup of the Meat Puppets. Probably the worst gigs are the ones that are just… OK. Which for me would be That Petrol Emotion, around the same time; I remember thinking that every song they played sounded exactly like it did on the album, no less, no more.

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

We should have a categorisation for groups who do that – the switcheroo or unwelcome change in direction. That sounds pretty grim (btw, I have not thought of the Inca Babies in twenty five odd years). I liked Meat Puppets shift in a way but I can see how infuriating it would be to be there during it!

+1 by the way re TPE. I saw them in the early 1990s and was really looking forward to it and came away thinking how flat they were as an experience.

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Aonrud ⚘ - March 25, 2017

That touches on the problem that even a great performance can make for a bad gig. A badly paired support band can mean an audience that was never going to be interested (though, generally I’ve found that works the other way and it’s the poor support band that get the brunt of an audience that don’t want to hear them and are getting impatient).

Or even just a band being booked for the wrong kind of gig. There’s only so much can be done if you have an uninterested audience, no matter how good a set is played.

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

A few times – I recall seeing the Breeders and Grant Lee Buffalo did an unannounced support and it was brilliant – it can really make a night. That’s true though I’ve got to be honest, I’ve rarely felt the loss not seeing the support.

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Aonrud ⚘ - March 25, 2017

True, though on the other hand, I think some relatively unknown group that’s well chosen doing support will be approached with good will. I’ve seen some I wouldn’t be wildly interested in on their own, but they’ve suited the mood and been very enjoyable.

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

Last year saw SlowPlaceLikeHome supporting Ulrich Schnauss and they were fantastic. As good as US who was pretty great. It was like a real bonus on the night.

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3. Gearóid - March 25, 2017

The Melvins, c.2008

Was a very big fan of theirs and saw them in Dublin (Button Factory?). Buzz was quite cool and they had dual drummers, Dale and a younger fella. It made for an intensely noisy, impactful gig, even if it seemed mostly made up of grindy jamming for tens of minutes, I still rated it well.

They played a few months later in Galway and it seemed to be the exact same thing. Lots of noise but mostly jamming and none of the “hits”. Very very boring and disappointing.

A bit like Neil Young’s ~20min solo at Malahide in 2008; and I say that as a huge fan of his.

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WorldbyStorm - March 25, 2017

I wondered about that NY gig, wasn’t there. In a way it sounded admirably cantankerous – but I wasn’t there. Melvins always struck me as possibly a bit of an unknown quantity live so I never went to see them – but while I like noisy, that would be a pain.

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4. sonofstan - March 26, 2017

Do youse want the hits though? You know those….

Being a bit flippant but having, in my time, worked at a lot of shows by bands i don’t care for one way or the other it always amused me how the ‘they didn’t play song X’ or ‘i don’t like the new stuff’ was common across all pop/rock genres. Whereas no one expects jazz or folk musicians to remain frozen at their supposed defining moment of greatness.

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Gearóid - March 26, 2017

It’s a fair question, but for the Melvins style, to do long stretches of very fuzzed-up jamming, it gets very jarring after a while; too off-beat to nod along to and not manic enough for moshing.

The NY gig was overall very good, I found. Good mix of old and new material and a very positive crowd. As well as that, it was the first time he’d played Ireland with Crazy Horse in years.

Swell Season did support and were alright, but Hansard did a bit too much audience-interaction and talking for a non-headliner, I thought. We’d travelled from Clare and paid about 80e per ticket so were very impatient to get old Neil and the band out.

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Aonrud ⚘ - March 26, 2017

It’s a fair point, but a lot of musicians manage that reasonably well over a long career – interspersing enough familiar stuff to satisfy demand. New arrangements of old hits is a good way around it too. Though it is a bit painful to see someone practically apologising every time they play a newer song.

At the extreme end, though, I’ve never seen the point in gigs that are just an attempt to replicate exactly the CD that everyone in the room has heard. Defeats the purpose of live music.

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Aonrud ⚘ - March 26, 2017

Also, regarding folk musicians, I think a lot of them had to get the old songs out when they started to come back into favour in the 90s with CD reissues and so on. I heard a Bert Jansch interview at one point where he said he had to get his early albums out and learn the songs off them.

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sonofstan - March 26, 2017

True. I guess he never got away with not doing Angie/Anji

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2017

It’s a bit like cover versions. Too close and what’s the point. Too far away and what’s the point?

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5. sonofstan - March 26, 2017

I’ve been trying to think of a ‘worst gig’ that i actually paid to see and i’m not coming up with anything outstandingly harrowing. Lou Reed at the stadium in ’79 springs to mind for bad attitude and misplaced muso-ness. I saw every member of the VU live at some point, and Lou was definitely the least interesting.

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WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2017

Heard he was always a bit hit or miss. It’s odd, I really liked the VU when he took over…

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6. soubresauts - March 27, 2017

Ha! I remember that gig, Lou Reed in the Stadium. It was indeed rather uninteresting until the point when people at the front shouted “Turn down the lights!” Lou suddenly turned angry, and said “I want the lights like that.” After that there was an edge to everything that made it much more interesting. The music seemed to improve too.

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WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2017

Well, it’s classic curmudgeonly Reed. But I can understand how it could cheer some people and make others really irritated.

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7. 6to5against - March 27, 2017

I saw him in Radio City. A home crowd. He was very polite, and utterly boring.

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