When someone goes on a blind date he or she has no idea what to expect. What does this person look like? What are we going to talk about? Blind dates are full of surprises: some good, some bad.
The same can be said with blind music performances.
The first time I saw the Front Bottoms was the first time the band had ever come to Huntington. There were probably only twenty people at the show, and the FB’s weren’t even headlining — they were billed under a local (now out of commission) pop-punk band.
I had heard of the group, but had never gotten around to listening, so when I saw the show posted I decided to just wait.
Going in with no expectations, I was blown away by the energy the band had as a whole. The sound was fun and quirky, and the performance was engaging. I couldn’t help but bounce around a little. After this performance, I fell in love with the group’s music and still listen to it often.
I had similar experiences with All Get Out and Man Man. Both were billed as openers for bigger bands I was seeing. All Get Out’s intense emotion and Man Man’s circus-like whimsy left me wanting to hear more — so after each respective show I immediately consumed as much as I could.
The FB’s, All Get Out and Man Man have a traditional garage-band style structure: guitar, drums, vocalist, whatever. The live aspect is a big part of the experience, especially because this type of band normally plays shows before recording any material. Electronic artists, however, are a different animal.
The first time I heard Purity Ring was at a festival after a camp neighbor’s recommendation. The performance was phenomenal, and I couldn’t help but dance. The electronic duo had to craft a live performance around its music, unlike the previously mentioned groups with instruments. Electronic artists don’t really have instruments on which to display their showmanship, so they have to use lights and props to make up for it, while also being energetic. This becomes an essential part of the musical experience that can’t be achieved on a recording.
Of course, like some blind dates, the performances can not go so well. When an artist has a mediocre performance, I am less likely to give them a second listen. I probably should, but something engrained in my moral compass won’t allow me to support mediocre performers. Many a band have I seen and since forgotten because they didn’t leave a lasting impression, much like how a bad first date won’t get you a second.
Going in completely blind to a performance can really give a good first impression to a group, no matter what kind of music it is. I like to do this because it gives me an organic first listen, and I can analyze the performer’s emotion before critically listening to the songs.
Opening acts for artists always make great blind listens, because you already bought the tickets for a band you like, and that band likes the act enough to allow tour with them. My personal favorite way is to check out the day one acts on multi-day festivals. These are up-and-coming artists of all kinds. I like to read the description on the festival’s website, and if it sounds interesting, I check it out. Or, like in the case of Purity Ring, I like to ask other festival-goers what they’re seeing.
After seeing a band put on a great show the first time I hear them, I take the performance into listening to the recording and it changes the way I hear it. Every artist I’ve experienced like this has become one of my favorites.
Megan Osborne can be contacted at [email protected]