Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Every male keyboardist I've seen in recent months has doubled as a go-go boy for the band, engaging in handstands, percussion tossing, flamboyant hand claps and gratuitous sweeps across the faux-ivories. Women who play the same instrument tend to be cool and remote, their parts devoid of bombast. Is it because dudes trapped behind distinctly non-phallic instruments feel the need to overcompensate?

One particularly egregious example I caught recently was Thunderbirds Are Now, who were opening for Bardo Pond (Psychedelphia lives, still can't sing) and Buffy theme enthusiasts Kinski. While Justamustache was energetic and consistent for a debut record, it was depressing to watch a band that didn't have a single idea outside the realm of "Les Savy Fav meets Franz Ferdinand." Their rote stage presence was dismaying as well. Occasionally the singer/guitarist would stand on his PA and stare accusingly at the audience while playing a chord. The keyboardist would spin around and throw his tambourine against the while before pointing a finger in the air and nodding frenetically. I caught the Warped tour and almost every band there was pulling the same uninspired showmanship, except for the Dropkick Murphys (the token "punk" act at this emo revue) and a funk-metal combo wearing nothing but wireless guitars, mohawks and loincloths (I ran). "Whether six or six thousand people are watching, we're gonna rock" has become "we're going to act like six thousand people think we're great even if only six people are watching us." I'm guessing women in bands realize they don't need to try so hard to get audiences to stare at them. And they'd be right.

It turns out that the lead singer of Gratitude, easily the most absurd combo I saw at Warped, was also the man behind Onelinedrawing, an emo project I remember reading about in Rolling Stone before hearing about them anywhere else (allmusic tells me they were on Jade Tree, which is just super). Dude's an unholy combination of Guy Picciotto and Bruce Springsteen, prancing around in tight jeans and noting between each number that "this is about all of us coming together," despite the fact that 95% of the people 'watching' the band were as seated as they'll ever be in their life. The most emotional response they received was me and Keith Harris's giggles as the singer held up his band's tour-only EP and pointed out that this was the song were he and the guitarist played alone for the first verse ("it would be great if you would all sing along").

Btw, if anybody reading this is in a band: please don't suggest to the audience that they should sing along, dance, go wild, move closer to the stage, throw their hands in the air or anything else in that capacity unless we've made it clear that we'd probably do it anyway. Most acts should be grateful we paid the cover and shouldn't be asking for more. If anything, keep your exhortations to "please take two steps back! pretty pretty pretty pretty please!" if your band is as popular and invigorating as My Chemical Romance was at Warped, or, if you think we're not giving you the enthusiastic response you deserve, tell us to go fuck ourselves. Haughty bile will allow the fraction of the audience that likes you to feel special for realizing the greatness that is lost on everyone else. Just don't beg for love.

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