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Give me music and give me noise....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

What you looking at?

I've mentioned before being surprised that so few bands use interesting visuals when playing live.

Hardly any of them do - at least not at the gigs I go to.

At most performances it's either nothing at all, a rubbishy corporate-style bit of branding from the venue (or the same from the band, which may or may not involve some half-decent artwork).

Bor-i-ing. OK we're there for the music not to watch films, but why don't they do more to capture our attention when we're ... er, ready to have it captured? Watching a band is all well and good. And I do. Watch. Not like some people, indifferently hanging back, seemingly preferring to talk to their mates than watch the band (why not just go to the pub?)

But watch what?

In about 1986 I saw Cabaret Voltaire and was, for the first time I think, struck by the power and potential of films at a gig. The years have gone by and it's still a rarity. Some multi-media age ...

A few honourable exceptions. Crass, with their grisly agit-veg abbatoir film in 1981 (more innovation from this amazing band). The stuff they used to put on the walls at the Hacienda in the pre-House days, c1987-8 - cartoons from the thirties and scenes from silent films. Skateboarding films I recall seeing at the Blue Note club in Hoxton during one of their drum and bass nights. Last year Parliament Of Bats had some pretty groovy visuals at their gig in Leicester, accentuating the gothic gloom and grandeur of their music. Nice.

And ... last night! The London band Gertrude were complemented by a sound man pretty much doubling as a full-on VJ. Each song had a separate treatment.  The looped films were all interesting: dole queues and job centres, soldiers from decades ago at some colonial dancing event, jiving 60s Pop Art-style space-suited characters, a Buddha-style figure out of whose mouth appear a variety of objects. And with each mini-film the guy on the laptop was doing some stop-start stuff and introducing colour washes and other tricksy bits and pieces.

This writer thoroughly approves.

C'mon, give us something to look at! Otherwise we're stuck with the ugly lead-singer and his horrible sweaty face.

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