Jesus. It’s been so long since I’ve been to a show I had to look up my own header format. Not cool.
For those of you who missed it, I experimented with Twitter at this show. Not a resounding success, because the show kept distracting me from sending updates, but I was pretty diligent through the first half of The Birthday Massacre’s set. This was my first trip to the Wiltern in a while, so there will be a new venue review over on the Venues page.
Yes, so, uh…show. This was almost the geekiest crowd I’ve ever been in, which I found a bit surprising (the geekiest was for a Jonathan Coulton show). The crowd was adorned in WoW shirts and making LOLcat jokes. The geeks were outnumbered, but only just, by the highly theatrical, costumed fans.
I have to admit, this isn’t something I’ve ever understood. I actually danced ballet for seven years as a kid, and I have to tell you – tutus and leotards are not comfortable. In fact, they could double as torture devices. Why you would wear one voluntarily, even ironically, is beyond me. Likewise platforms, stilettos, or shoes that do other odd things to your feet. You’re going to be standing for eight hours, darlings, wear flats.
As advertised, the show started with London After Midnight, and wow are these guys goth. I mean, wow. I haven’t seen that level of goth since I was in high school. Admittedly, it’s not my scene so I might have lost touch a bit, but wow. Long dyed hair, s/M gear, super-anorexic – seriously guys, eat something.
This set caught the crowd off-guard. For all their vampire-chic style London After Midnight is old-school-punk political. The sound may be high-goth, but the lyrics are anti-establishment. The set started with “Your Best Nightmare,” which was when I noticed the screen behind them. At first I thought it was running the music video, which wouldn’t have been a bad strategy, because for a seasoned band, London After Midnight is a bit dull on stage. No movement, not a lot of audience interaction, a ton of sampled music (I hate it when bands do that). The screen flashed lyrics (a bit odd – if the audience doesn’t already know the song, you’re not going to con them into singing with this trick), and your standard goth-horror music video images.
And then we moved into more political songs, and that screen became an amazing prop. The band played a song off their new album, “America’s A Fucking Disease,” and while they played the screen flashed statistics and images of American overseas interventions. For the most part, the information running served to mitigate the song’s lyrics – which were a bit over the top even for me, and they don’t make them more cynically liberal.
The statistics proved that the band had put a bit more thought into the song than taking the measure of American youth and writing a song to pander to their sense of disillusionment. They may have misjudged their audience a bit, though, because at one point the screen flashed, in quick succession, an image of Nazi soldiers goose-stepping, an image of the United States Marine Corps performing full-dress drills, and a series of images of the National Guard breaking up protests. (I have hunted in vain for a video of this – if someone has one please email me a link. You really need to see it understand.) The general reaction wasn’t at all positive, and if that didn’t play well in Los Angeles, I’d hate to see the rest of the country’s reaction. The analogy was a bit of a misstep, because I think the audience was generally with them up to that point.
Next we had The Birthday Massacre. I discovered this band when I saw they were on tour with Mindless Self Indulgence, and they quickly became a bigger favorite for me than MSI. I was a bit worried, though, that they wouldn’t be particularly effective live. Their sound is very constructed – and my favorite live acts tend toward simple music that can easily be reproduced on stage.
I shouldn’t have worried. First, The Birthday Massacre has six members, which gives them a bit of flexibility, and second, their show is so dynamic that you don’t notice the sampling quite as much. Chibi, the lead singer, is wonderfully engaged with the audience. She plays with the audience – calling for heart signs and sing-alongs, playing with the things fans throw up on stage, even putting on one of the gloves someone tossed up there. The band stuck to their faster songs and tracks off Walking With Strangers and was generally awesome.
Finally, Mindless Self Indulgence took the stage. If you haven’t seen this band live, you’re missing out. The energy they put into their albums is only a fraction of the live performances. MSI is easily the most playful band I’ve ever seen on stage. Jimmy, the lead, sings and talks and insults the audience in equal measures. The band stuck to fan favorites and songs off If, the new album.
I had thought that MSI wouldn’t be a sing-along band. The songs are fairly frantic and they frequently refer to the fact that their lyrics aren’t meant to be taken seriously, but the pit was word-perfect on even the most complex songs (even I know the lyrics to “Stupid Motherfucker”).
I could catalog Jimmy’s antics on stage, but retellings wouldn’t do the set justice. Where it’s fun and noteworthy when a lead singer steals a magic wand from a fan and runs around bashing his band members and the audience with it in any other band, that’s standard-issue MSI. It would be shocking for any other lead singer to allow the audience to strip and redress him (and that was a bit of shock even for MSI), it wasn’t really a surprise.
Even if this isn’t your favorite style of music, you need to see MSI live. For serious. I’m not even a real fan of the style, but I will definitely be back in the audience next time they’re in town. You’ll never get a better show.