Editorial: The best show I ever saw
This was a stupid idea.
To quantify the greatness of a live show is impossible — trust me, I've tried. I've went to countless concerts, shows, festivals: you name it, I was there. Instead of planning in advance, I've often just ended up going. From abstract art gallery performances to decked out rock shows, I've seen so many performances it's hard to stay on track.
Even though I've often found myself confused over a performance, I've never left empty handed. Often, I find myself dissecting various parts of any given performance. Sometimes this is good: I later realize where I picked up certain influences, but sometimes thinking about the small things too much makes me lose sight of the bigger picture: how I felt at the show and how I felt after the show.
My favorite moment at any show is the moment just before the band or performer comes on stage. The moment when they dim the lights and you get ready for whatever's coming. If I've ever come close to measuring the greatness of a live show, this is it: the anticipation, excitement and sheer ecstasy in the room is either there or not. And if it's not there, from what I've found, whoever is playing is going to have a hard time.
For a period of time I thought going to the show is somehow more important than the show itself. I was wrong. Thinking back, this was around the same time I found undiscovered bands to be more worthy than mainstream music. The irony in that is that for something to be undiscovered in Finland, it had to have been discovered by someone — otherwise it would've never reached me. Before Axwell, Ingrosso and Angello were Swedish House Mafia, a promoter in Finland booked all three members to perform together in Helsinki. Steve Angello was taking some time to be with his family, so instead of seeing SHM bang out their two songs for an hour, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso played whatever the fuck they wanted for three hours. Seeing the two of them do what they love changed the dynamic of the show considerably: they were not SHM, and I did not attend an SHM show. The set was great, but going to that show was not more important than the show.
Of course, the same thing happened before, but I didn't see the grand scheme of it. NERD, which I consider to be one of the most interesting projects I've ever stumbled on, played a sold-out show at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki. The venue is not ideal for this kind of performance, but thankfully the room was cleared of seating. For long I've been reluctant to see rappers live, because I don't find much appeal in watching two guys and a DJ on a big stage. The live aspect of music is important to me, and I think seeing NERD perform live probably boosted my expectations for years to come. The band came through with two drummers, a percussionist, bass and guitar players and a DJ. If you ask me, that by design trumps A$AP Rocky and a hypeman. (But if hypemen are considered: I'd pay a lot of money to see Tinie Tempah live with his DJ, who always seems to go harded than the artist himself.)
Hyperactive pop rock and Swedish house aside, some of the greatest performances I've seen are from groups and artists I was not familiar with. Having been an avid festival-goer from an early age, I've seen obscure ska-bands and moody guys with sick beards play full tents at festivals like Ruisrock and Provinssi. Some of these performances have left marks in me for life. I wonder if not knowing what to expect has an effect on the experience as a whole. Some of the groups were huge overseas, but unknown in little Finland. On the other hand, sometimes the underdogs go harder than anyone else because they themselves feel the need to exceed expectations and raise the bar with every single performance. When I spent time helping artists produce music at a youth center in Helsinki, I was happy because I was working with a lot of talent I never knew existed. Having never heard of these performers, I never knew what to expect. At least then, that made everything more exciting.
At the same time, all of the shows I've been to were great experiences, while most of them probably weren't that good musically. Now, being a performer of some sort myself, I find myself looking at things differently. It's not only about what you hear, or see. It's about how it makes you feel.
Did it sound like shit? Yes — but it changed how you feel. Isn't that the point?