Saturday, July 18, 2009

Personalities and Musicians

We all have music heroes. Some fall from grace because of perceived "artistic differences." For example, I used to be a huge fan of early Genesis, even sticking with them for an album or two after Peter Gabriel's departure (in fact I would still list A Trick of the Tail among my top twenty favorite albums of all time). And I still think that Phil Collins was a great drummer and solid singer. But they lost me in the 80's. Mind you, that's when both the band and Mr. Collins enjoyed even greater successes, so clearly there are many millions of people out there who do not share my opinion. And that's fine.

The harder thing is when your musical heroes show real signs of having unattractive or difficult personality issues. An obvious example would be Keith Jarrett, one of my former heroes, and undeniably one of the most brilliant pianists of our time who pioneered the art of solo improvisational piano concerts. But he is almost equally famous for his intolerance, and, well, dickish-ness (mostly for audience noise and recording devices of all kinds during his performances). It would be hard even for a hardcore fan to enjoy any concert when the headline musician comes on stage and opens the evening with something like this:

(Yes, ironic that this was captured on video, probably a cell phone, and lives forever on YouTube).

Over the past few weeks some of my concert experiences have been effected in both directions by personalities. The first was not positive: the vaunted, sold out Fountains of Wayne show here at The Cedar. Now, I'm well aware that we're a bit spoiled here... being a relatively small venue means we don't book many artists that have had to deal with the trappings of fame and success. So in the grand scheme of things, FOW's attitude and actions were by no means over the top.

But by Cedar standards, there was way too much of that prima donna Rock Stars thing going on with them, and it made the entire staff's experiences with the band less than pleasant, pretty much killing the enjoyable aspects of the music and their set. (Also I must say that it did not help that their sound tech was obviously more accustomed to big arena rock shows, and gave us what I call a "tinnitus mix:" much too loud with way too much high-end, a mix that only someone with tinnitus would like... which pretty much took away the real opportunity of an intimate "acoustic" show).

How many times have you seen a band that you only knew through recordings, only to be put off by personality or attitude? Maybe the lead singer was too much the poser, for example?

On the other hand, it can also go the other way. Last weekend I attended the fabulous Winnipeg Folk Festival, and one of the bands I looked forward to seeing there the most was Iron and Wine. Initially I was a bit disappointed when it became evident that it was not going to be a full-band performance, but rather just a solo acoustic set by Samuel Beam. But he seemed to be sincerely amazed that over 10,000 people would come to an outdoor festival to hear "folk music," and managed to charm me with his basic modesty. It only drew me in more, and I ended up with an even greater appreciation for his singing and his songs.

Speaking of Winnipeg, one of the highlights came during the set by Cedar regulars, Punch Brothers. A rain and wind storm had rolled in during their set, but we were rewarded for enduring when the sun came back out and a brilliant rainbow appeared framing the arch of the stage...

Love those magical moments...

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Previously on this blog I announced the opening night of the Global Roots Festival, September 24-27, 2009 at The Cedar with the South African group BLK JKS. Now it's on to Friday night the 25th... which will open with the hot "Tango Electronico" ensemble from Argentina and Uruguay, Bajofondo:

...followed by another great Tuareg electric guitar quartet, Terakaft:

Should be a great evening! This show will also be an open-floor affair.

Global Roots Festival tickets will go on sale July 31.

1 comment:

Mama E Dub said...

We are lucky something about the Cedar seems to bring out the best in most of our artists. Even "big-stage" artists usually appreciate the homey comforts we provide. The non-cinder-block green room complete with afghans knit by Mark's mom? The plate of cookies or cup of good coffee?

When the jerks DO show up we really notice it, but I won't name any names...