Guilty Pleasure From Start to Finish
posted by March 3 at 14:36 PMon
I’ve noticed this strange trend lately…
Starting May 7th, Local H will begin a 7-night stand at Chicagoís Beat Kitchen, culminating on May 13th with the release and performance of their latest studio album, 12 Angry Months (Shout!Factory). Local H will perform a different studio album, in its entirety, on each night.
Bands playing their albums from start to finish is kind of a new development in setlist advancement. Harvey Danger is doing it this week at the Triple Door, doing Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone on Thursday and King James Version and Little By Little on Friday. I saw Sonic Youth (Daydream Nation), Slint (Spiderland), and GZA (Liquid Swords) do it at Pitchfork Fest last year. Sparks are doing it with every single one of their records, for 21 days in a row in celebration for the release of their 21st record. The idea seems to originate with the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival, who set up that Pitchfork Fest occasion and solicit bands especially for this type of thing—their next event is Public Enemy performing It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Why is this catching on? At first glance, it seems masturbatory. “Oooh, look at you, playing all the songs you finely crafted on your brilliant album in exactly they way you originally smartly conceived of them! Aren’t you, the artist, one huge motherfucking genius?” Especially with smaller bands, it can seem like someone might be getting a little ahead of themselves. Sonic Youth are huge motherfucking geniuses, but I don’t think I’d say that about Local H (ahem).
This kind of formulated track list also has the potential to blow a band’s wad a little too early. If you have your single as your first track, and then you play it first, it’s possible that everyone will stop paying attention right after. I was afraid of this happening at the CD release for Kay Kay & His Weathered Underground’s record at the Triple Door when they played “Hey Momma” first, but luckily, their album worked in this fashion—they start to jam pretty hard by the end of it, and you should definitely start with melody and end with jam.
All in all, I think it’s cool, though. I’m a total record nerd, and it’s kind of a wet dream to be able to note every pause, every time change, every song-to-song idiosyncracy in real time. I am also an album-order lover—the kind of person who can hardly stand shuffle. This is the only way concept album should be played (right now, I’d pay about a zillion bucks to see the Extraordinaire’s Ribbons of War in this fashion, but more about that record later). It’s not right for every band, but when done well, playing an album from start to finish live is the most gratifying way it can be done. And the fans fucking go nuts.