That's My Jam: Stop Standing Still

One of the things that I think that largely sets hip/hop and pop music apart from other genres these days is the way label owners and producers work to build "stables" of similar artists. For years if an group showed up on Def Jam, Grand Royal, or Bad Boy you sorta knew what you were getting into with them, and that association many times was enough to launch an artist further towards success than just being tied to whoever would sign them first.

Although certainly not a new idea (the Beach Boys, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin had them), the Vanity Label craze that sort of reappeared in the late 90's helped solidify (even if it was ultimately for a short while) clique genres -- enabling artists like Fred Durst to use his Flawless imprint to surround himself with artists like Staind and Puddle of Mudd -- ultimately stretching the lifespan of that whole awful strain of crap-rock through package tours and group promotions.

More frequently though, Vanity Labels withered and died on the vine as the "artist" in charge lost interest, and passed day-to-day operations on to underlings or the very same sort of record industry bottom-feeders that they had initially created the Vanity Labels to avoid being under the thumb of. As a result, many of the artists who thought they'd gotten a golden ticket to the Wonka Factory found themselves lost in a shuffle of under-promoted, over-produced albums on labels like Madonna's Maverick, Prince's Paisley Park, or 50 Cent's G-Unit.
There are obvious exceptions out there (Jay-Z, Dr. Dre), but it's almost like the circle has turned
again and being a "stable artist" is in many ways more of a albatross than a blessing these days.
Which is why I feel exceptionally lucky to have struck gold many times over with the artists who work with independent Florida label Bieler Bros. records. It's funny, because during the late dying days of the Hair/Pop Metal movement one of the bands I always felt was a bright spot was Miami's Saigon Kick -- so when I found out that a number of bands I really liked (Skindred, Nonpoint, Ankla) were currently being produced and managed by that groups former guitarist Jason Bieler it all sort of clicked into place.
All of which led me to take a flyer on an Australian Band called Karnivool, who I
had not heard of before until I got a message on the Bieler Bros. mailing list.
Sitting somewhere between melodic rock and prog, Karnivool immediately grabbed my attention. The playing was intricate, built on twisting, constantly shifting rhythms -- and yet the tunes were catchy as hell. The disc was sorta glued to my player for a while from overplaying -- which made me even more excited to find out that they were going to be the opening act for an all-Bieler Bros. artist package tour last year called The Great American Rampage.

But somewhere between the full-on thrash of Ankla, the aggression of Nonpoint, and the sheer fun that you get anytime Skindred takes over a stage anywhere, the band from Australia that I had been the most curious about somehow got lost in the shuffle.
Probably because although they recreated their songs faithfully and brought passion to the playing, they just sorta stood there.
Look -- It sucks to be the band on a big tour that no one really came
to hear, but it's an opportunity that you have to take advantage of.
You can't just go out there and treat it like a chore.
And in a lot of ways, Karnivool (at least on the night that I saw them) just went through the paces.

I'm no lover of forced jumping around, choreographed guitar antics, or showoff stick twirling -- but you've gotta look like you want to be there. You've got to get the energy that made the song worth writing and playing from the stage into the audience. And for whatever reason, that night in Orlando -- Karnivool didn't really deliver.

I can't even begin to tell you the number shows I've been to where the opening acts stole the spotlight from the headliners, and how being able to do that helped spark my interest in checking out their albums.

That's not to say that Karnivool doesn't rock -- but that in a lot of ways they have become an album band for me. They create great songs in the studio, but they're not so much fun live. Which when I think about it is a category I could put a lot of groups into.

Performing live to me is a premium ability. It's many times what makes good bands into personal favorites, because I love being on the floor when things get intense -- even when it's not in a rock setting. Erykah Badu live is, in my opinion -- so much more fun than her albums (and I love those discs), but even with the promise of wild visuals and performance surprises -- I'm not in a real hurry to see groups like The Gorillaz or Tool -- who I tend to appreciate more on disc.

Anyways, if you're looking for something a little deeper than the normal scream and growl, you could do a lot worse than checking out what Karnivool has to offer.
But like I said, try to do it with headphones instead of general admission tickets.

[Listening to:  Bloodsimple - "Death From Above" ]


wigsf said…
Some bands just suck live. Always have, always will.
Satorical said…
Tool is expensive and not worth seeing live. I did it twice and wish I had just listened to the albums instead. This, despite fantastic sound and visuals. The band just did not give a shit about connecting with the audience. Let's establish this: I went because I love the band's music; I just don't think much of their live performances.

In a similar vein, I found Bauhaus to be really disappointing. Peter Murphy was a goddamn statue.

The Birthday Massacre wanted, wanted, wanted audience adoration, but performed such carbon copies of their albums that the show was completely uninteresting. As such, I think they could benefit from more theatrics.
Hex said…
wigsf -- indeed.

Satorical -- I'm with you about Tool. They work very hard and put a lot of passion into songwriting and recording, but there's just no effort to connect.

I've suspected it for a long time and held my tongue because I like the songs/albums, but I'm just gonna come out and say it.

The Birthday Massacre lip sync.
JerseySjov said…
since i listen to mostly hip-hop or poppy-rock im usually disappointed when i go to shows [which is why i havent been to a concert in a long time].

however, with my friends' bands i greatly prefer to listen live than listen to the recordings, since i get to be up close jumping around with my buddies as they do something they love.