On concerts and context, indie music style

by Josh Kimball

Many years ago (maybe 2005) for the day job, we wrote about the Burn to Shine DVDs, a series of concerts held in homes that had been abandoned and designated for demolition. A few things felt interesting about the story at the time – 1) The fact that bands were being taken out of their typical music venues and put on display in a wholly different context. 2) The idea of scarcity (currently a hot topic once again, as seen by the Gladwell vs. Chris Anderson debates) – in this case, a fact heightened rhetorically; these concerts were not only one-shot deals in offbeat locales, but they were being recorded in buildings that would soon be destroyed.

Since then, a number of music and pop-culture sites have sprung up around the idea. They invite indie bands-of-the-moment to perform a song or two in a strange setting, then put the mini-concert resultant videos online. (Daytrotter was an early example of a channel that amped up the rarity factor, but did little to change traditional context.)

The most prominent example of sites peddling unique live performances – of taking bands out of context – and putting them online might still be a Take Away Show with the Arcade Fire from 2007. (Another notable example is Brian Wilson’s Black Cab Session. Here’s Bon Iver’s Black Cab Session.)

Here are some additional channels who have, over the past few years, recorded video of live performances in unique venues – in parks, on elevators, in graveyards, in cabs careering across town – thus creating an event that is unique in its context and also wholly one-of-a-kind – then posted them online:

Take Away Shows
Off the Beaten Tracks
Black Cab Sessions
Handheld Shows
They Shoot Music, Don’t They?
Laundromatinee
Pitchfork’s performance series– I’m still not sure what the overall series is called (if anything); Pitchfork has done one called Cemetery Gates and one called Daytripping (and they’re shunting me to the main page right now for some reason)
-(I’m sure I missed a few?)

Everyone already knows that the internet is a copy machine. But what channels like the ones above try to take advantage of the fact that we also live in an era of broader access along the – hold your nose for this – entire entertainment supply chain. It’s important that MP3s can be infinitely copied. But increased access to musicians through multiple media is a shift, as well – and it’s one that creates all kinds of opportunity.

Like inviting indie bands over to play their most pop-friendly songs in your apartment’s elevator, and then publishing the results for an audience of hundreds of thousands.

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