That shocking Neil Young concert belongs to history so it’s time for liveon35mm to focus on the here and now.
New York City, together with Montreal, is at present the most prolific music factory in the world.
From the groovy “indie-etno” rhythms of Vampire Weekend to the glam-garage, dynamite-rock’n’roll of Semi Precious Weapons loads of new bands are storming the Big Apple with an impressive variety of different music.
No more than five years ago, Scissor Sisters, Interpol and the National led respectively the techno-pop, indie-guitar, literate-songwriting scene.
The Strokes, despite still part of this decade, are already the NYC bands’ grandparents. Such a prolific activity made them three generations old and their brilliant “Is this it?” today sounds a classic-rock album shelving comfortably next to Television’s Marquee Moon.
It is pretty amazing to see how fast rock music is progressing, is it due to the speed of modern broadbands?
MGMT, formerly known as The Management, add to the bands who are finding their way among New York skyscrapers.
They are the hype of the week both sides of the pond and out of the blue managed to debut their album Oracular Spectacular at place 12 of the UK chart.
I can understand the shortage of free “.com” domains but, although I am getting used to bizarre names, such a nick is not the best visit card I can think of.
There must be substance elsewhere.
I chanced upon MGMT live in London few weeks ago. Part of a 3 acts bill, they were first before the mediocre and out of place Sons & Daughters and the magnificent Band of Horses.
On stage they looked attempting the most ambitious goal a band of young college rockers could desire: make classic rock (a.k.a. daddy rock) cool.
While visualizing teenagers arguing with their dads about MGMT songs versus Mark Knopfler solos I wish I could ask them “why guys?”. Such a monumental effort must be praised and encouraged.
The singer, to complete the evocative recalling, wears a pair of 70s slim-fit flower-patterned trousers, that would suit perfectly with Zeppelin tour wardrobe, and a headband of Springsteen-esque look that I must have spotted last time in some Dire Strait footage in the outbreak of 80s hedonism.
Trapped in the photographers’ pit waiting for the other bands to follow, I stayed to listen to the whole set. As most of American bands, MGMT can play guitars quite well and saturate the venue with their sound. A keyboard gives the song an edgy modern pitch as if modern psychedelia travels back in time to meet seventies rock. The set ends and, despite an imperfect sound mix, the result is balanced. I’m pleased enough to want to know more.
Surfing the net I learnt that MGMT, though they tour as a quintet, are originally a duo formed by singer-guitarist Andrew Vanwyngarden and keyboardist Ben Goldwasser.
Signed to Columbia by the like of Steve Lillywhite and produced by Flaming Lips/Mercury Rev guru Dave Friedmann everything starts getting clear, including the source of the hype.
Listening to the album, the music balance inverts. The synth-pop keyboard of Goldwasser takes more space than Vanwyngarden guitar. This leads their sound into electro-psychedelic stuff which almost touches on Klaxons’ nu-rave. It is clearly Friedmann’s production touch but I am not convinced it is needed.
The opening riff of the single Time to Pretend will definitely give them radio airtime and NME coverage but after few listening it becomes irritating especially when space rock effects, resurrected from a forgotten Ozric Tentacles tape, appear to stay persistently in the background.
If I have to choose a track I like Weekend Wars better, even if I don’t see how innovative can be a song that sounds so much a Bowie’s forgotten track from Hunky Dory’s sessions that even the voice effect is kept similar.
Dads you finally have your chance to dust that vinyl and explain your kid that Kooks was originally a song and Life on Mars is not a sci-fi aspiration but one of the best tunes ever written. Go with it!
When you shoot the first of many supports the main problem you face is a stage full of bands stuff, including many drum kits.
If you are lucky they will be covered with a black fabric, if you are not you have to find a way to exclude a lot of objects from your frame.
Pictures of bands with a messy background of unused instruments are not pleasing to see.
The short dept of field is a natural help so, to start, wide open your lens and focus carefully.
Wait for the moments with strong backlights or dark backgrounds, these are the best to isolate your subject from the surroundings, especially if he is lit by a spot light.
A lateral position can aid, you can include the rest of the band members as blurred background.
A longer lens will facilitate you framing the subject minimizing the nuisance and if you kneel down, the lower perspective allows you to shoot your artist against the high part of the stage rear which is usually not loaded with amplifiers and cymbals.
I cannot really think at anything else, apart from being patient and wait that your favourite group becomes big enough to headline their gigs!