Seeing as much live music as I have over the past few years has really given me the amazing opportunity to watch how live musical performance has evolved during the most technological juncture in music history. Physical instruments are being exchanged for light, compact laptops. DJ and producer popularity are at an all time high. The music world is split into those that are accepting and taking advantage of these changes, and those that feel like we are losing sight of where music came from. If you look at Coachellas line ups for the past three years, the amount of bands in comparison to electronic acts (not just those inhabiting the thumping Sahara tent) has slowly evened out and people are not happy about it. Even I found myself disappointed at the scarce amount of bands I was planning on seeing this year compared to last.
I hear the phrase “bands are going out of style” often and lately I’ve agreed.
Then, last Thursday at the Fonda, I went and caught notorious sad boy electronic producer, Shlohmo. Now, I’ve seen the instrumental/beat pad/turntables/keyboard band many times before. It was a concept that has been done for years but grew exponentially over the past couple of years because of softwares and other technologies. It was a cool dynamic to see within a band but also showed that live instrumentation was still important and appreciated and not being completely tossed to the side. But now, everyones creating bands around this concept.
The reason I bring up Shlohmo’s specific live performance, is because yes, he essentially had the set up I just described. He stood behind his turntables/beat pad with a drummer and a keyboardist at his sides, the keyboardist also acting as rhythm guitar when Shlohmo occasionally picked up his own guitar and shredded as lead. BUT he honestly was the last person I expected to play with instruments. It was a full live band experience from someone who was at the forefront of the experimental electronic boom, turning the computer into a full service instrumental tool and being proud of it.
Coming out of that show, I was compelled at what I’d just witnessed and it made me think. That was fucking cool. But also, just like filmmaking, painting or any other classic form of art that follows the evolution of technology, so has music. Technology improvements result in cheaper and easier production and this doesn’t necessarily mean quality has to be sacrificed in the end. This also doesn’t mean adept musicians have forgotten where their roots lie, as clearly seen in Shlohmo’s live set. We all agree that to be a great artist you must study and master the fundamentals. Without them, you have no real foundation. Without them, these new beeps and bops could not even be created.
It is hard to let go of our historically rich past in art, I get it. It’s why some cinematographers still want to use 35mm film. Live instrumentation is something that can never really be replaced, but it can evolve within the parameters of what technology has to offer. True talented musicians will never forget or try to substitute the seed that is the basis of every song they write. But they will experiment as all of these new toys and sounds emerge from it all, and can you be mad at them?? This is an exciting time for musicians!
Bands are not going out of style. They are just simply evolving.
As music appreciators and as musicians, we shouldn’t reject it; we should admire and accept this insane thing that we’ve been given the opportunity to witness and be involved with. This is music history in the making.
PS – There are still SO MANY BANDS with strictly instruments that exist!!! Support them and go to their shows instead of deeming them endangered.
[Featured Photo taken from Shlohmo’s Facebook Page. Other photos taken from various google sources.]