“The Foo Fighters” by Andrew Markowitz
Time once again to calculate and list the ten best musical performances I saw in the past year in and around Washington DC.* This ‘best of’ article is one of my favorite activities as a music writer because it embodies the very essence of why I take the time out of my increasingly busy schedule to attend so many concerts and write about them. Simply put, I am a fan of great live music and when someone or a group of someones delivers a really special performance I want to tell as many people as I can about it. There is real magic happening during a great musical performance that is unlike anything else I have ever experienced; if I manage to share just a fraction of that magic with my readers by exposing them to a band they might not otherwise have heard then my job as a music writer is done.
In the last six months, positive events in my personal life have greatly affected my ability to cover as many concerts as I’d like too with the quality of writing that I feel they deserve. Because of this I have been writing much less than usual and I predict that this trend will continue for most of 2012. I know from reader feedback and from conversations with some of the great people I’ve met at shows over the years that my writing about music has had an impact on their musical world. Knowing this enables me to walk away from music writing fulfilled.
2011 was kind of a weird year for live music. The entire year felt like an odd hang-over from 2010 (one of the greatest years of live music ever). In recent conversations I think I have been undervaluing 2011’s shows, because now as I revisit all of the sets I saw, I realize that there were plenty of great performances, they were just obscured by a lot more mediocre ones than I have seen in recent years. Once I dusted away the humdrum and the disappointing, I was left with about 35 really great sets to choose from for my top ten list this year.
all photos by author.
There is nothing quite like the experience of discovering a new band that is obviously destined for great things. For one, it is pretty rare to get in on the ground floor with a band that is this good before their secret is already out. So when you are one of the 10 or 15 people in a room who witness this new band rip open the sky with their musical brilliance for the first time, you should count yourself blessed by the gods of music. Second, while you are filled with the exhilaration of discovery and passion for the new band’s music, it can be very hard to convince people who were not there to take the time to seek the band out to give them a listen.
The reason for this is that there is no “buzz”. You’ve witnessed a band no one’s ever heard of, before they were big; no one cares. More than ever before, “buzz” is a critical element that anyone who wasn’t in that room with you requires before they’ll listen. Only then when the internet is ablaze with tales of the band’s amazing feats in far off cities will people start to take notice of the band that you have been shouting about for weeks, months, sometimes even years. So discovering a band like this; a fully formed, ass-kicking unit in their pre-buzz phase is both amazing and sometimes frustrating. I think out of that frustration is where music snobbery and “I saw them before they…” posing is born. I can see how it can make some people feel bitter and others feel elitist about their discoveries.
I’m not like that. I just want people, as many people as possible, to learn about the new music, embrace it, and support the folks making it. I don’t really care that I saw them first, but when I occasionally do, I am going to shout as loud as I can for as long as I can about this amazing discovery until the “buzz” bullshit catches up with them and people start to listen. Maybe a few of you will hear me and give Meek Is Murder a spin before waiting for them to gain the stamp of “buzz” approval.