As the world knows, Lou Reed has passed on. Although I disagree with many music critics, which is one of the reasons Zadge and I started subnormal magazine, The New York Times got it right, and did an exceptionally great piece on Lou Reed covering three pages, so I will spare the details. What Lou Reed meant to me was big. He was a cultural and sub-cultural icon of cool.
I bought my first Velvet Underground tape with Lou Reed when I was 15. Out of all of the thousands of other choices in that store, having never yet heard the band, I was attracted to the name, I knew they were cool, and I loved that wild banana painting on the cover by Andy Warhol, who was then, and still is now, my favorite artist. I knew that Andy Warhol had managed the band for a few years, wanting to do something unique at that time in the 60’s, and create more than just a rock concert, but a “scene.” He called the gigs he produced with the Velvet Underground “happenings,” brought in a legendary singer named “Niko,” made some strange and unique film loops along with found footage, and projected them on a film screen behind the band on stage, and splashed some lights on top of all of that. He then threw in some go-go dancers and invited other artists doing weird and beautiful stuff at the first location of “The Factory,” including the legendary personalities of Candy Darling, Edie Sedgewick, Paul America, Basquiat, and many more, and thus, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” and the legendary status of “The Velvet Underground” was born.
Lou Reed took the style of the beat poets like Ginsburg and Burroughs, mixed it with some lyrical poetry like Dylan, and infused it with some of the spirit of punk like Morrison and the MC5 – confrontational, indifferent to his audience, and rejecting all form or tonal nuance unless he felt like it. Brilliant, daring, and forever the non-conformist, he shocked ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ sensation Susan Doyle when he refused to let her sing a song of his that she wanted to perform on national T.V. She was stunned, yet Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground fans were ‘not.’ He was punk rock, shunning convention and spitting on fame for fame’s sake.
Lana Del Rey
How Not to Promote A Singer
Get a singer with over 100 million fans on You Tube, who has gone number one on the charts around the world, and then book them for three nights at one of the smallest venues in the second largest city in America, where a total of about 2,250 people across three nights can see them, and you have done what I call – ‘working against yourself.’ It doesn’t take a math genius to realize, this is not the logical way to promote such an artist. Yet such was the recent tour of Lana Del Rey that passed through Los Angeles one month this year on an ordinary Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday – like a shooting star on a hazy night – seen for a few moments by some, yet missed by most, talked about by a few, and then seen no more.
Lana Del Rey at The El Rey – Duh
Playing at The El Rey Theatre, with a capacity of a reported 750, the Lana Del Rey gig here seemed more like an affinity for a similar sounding assumed name of the former Lizzy Grant – than an exercise in logic. ‘Oh how cute – Lana Del Rey at the El Rey,’ some fans remarked, ‘Where is The El Rey?’ others stated, ‘I heard it’s sold out!’ Exactly. The El Rey is in fact, a former movie theatre turned music venue, cluttered in between rows of retails shops and down the street from a Ralph’s Grocery store, a small building that one easily misses if blinking while cruising down Wilshire Boulevard. The Wiltern, nearby down the street – which holds a reported number of fans of over 2,300, is a more logical choice for a star the size of Lana Del Rey. Or for example, The Nokia which is a superior venue downtown that holds roughly the same amount. Even The Fonda- with its equally expert sound system and a capacity of a reported 1,300 would have been better, or the legendary House of Blues on Sunset – with a capacity of around the same. But a 750 standing room only spot for one of the hottest rising music stars on the planet? Forget it.
Music Industry = The Devil
And yet, the music industry is not really known for its logic. It is the industry for example, that Michael Jackson called ‘The Devil.’ OK, to be fair, he only called one guy that in the record industry, and we doubt that he is either- but you get the idea. It’s a business dirtier – if you can imagine this- than the movie business, and a business where punch bowls filled with ‘sugar’ at certain events aren’t for tea sweetening, but rather, for blistered noses ready for another blow. And, where many bands have wailed – they got royally – – – – ed, and not in a good way. But then again, no one said rock and roll would be an easy ride – which brings me to my next point.
Be Quiet During Acoustic Sets
When fans are loud, and screaming, yelling, or carrying on at a rock concert, it’s really not a big deal. The music is loud enough to drown them out, and it fits the mood. Lana Del Rey however, is not loud rock and roll. She is a stage singer – comparable in ambiance to Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, or Sinead O’Conner, or PJ Harvey singing acoustic. In other words, you need to shut up when Lana Del Rey is singing. I don’t want to hear hundreds of idiots trying to do a sing a long with her to her music on stage. We’re not paying to hear some idiot try to sing like Lana Del Rey with Lana Del Rey while Lana Del Rey sings. We are paying to hear Lana Del Rey. So, shut up!
And yet, what happens at The El Rey? You guessed it, hundreds of annoying idiots trying (trying being the key word) to sing – ‘while’ Lana Del Rey is singing, and we can hear them as loud as Lana Del Rey. Stupid! Professional venues used to stars like Lana Del Rey will actually announce before an artists’ gig – ‘Be quiet when the artist is singing,’ or, they might even tell you, STFU during the gig itself, like Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Victoria Williams wisely do. This is one thing at least that the stuffy, pretentious classical music world gets right- usually.
Hold Your Applause
The premise is called – ‘Hold your applause’ until the song is over. Got it loudmouths?! If I want to hear crappy singing, I’ll turn on some top 40. Some artists, like Tori Amos or Fiona Apple as mentioned, may actually stop singing or walk off stage until the audience quiets down enough so they can sing and be heard properly. That’s how it should be handled.
Keep Your Phones In Your Pocket
Another ridiculous thing is trying to get a good view of the artist on stage, yet seeing hundreds of arms up in the air holding up cell phones, beaming light all around the room, and obstructing the view and the mood of the gig. Look, if I want to see a hundred freaking i-phones in front of my face, I’ll go to the freaken Apple store – OK? Keep your stupid phone in your pocket, and shut up – I’m here to enjoy a show, not hear you try to sing and look at your freaking arm in the air beaming light in my eyes. And if you’re worried about not seeing the gig again that you are seeing now, don’t worry, some idiot on the other side of the world will be holding his arm in the air recording the similar show next week, so you can watch his crappy video instead of your crappy video on You Tube soon enough.
Stop the Burners – and No We Don’t Mean You Burning Man Druggies
Before you were all dehumanized technology addicts with finger cramps from texting like mad, all we had to deal with then were those idiots that waved their cigarette lighters in the air for the ‘ballads.’ Gag. At least then we knew, they’d eventually stop that because the song would end, their lighter may run out, or better yet, they may burn themselves.
Keep Your Clap to Yourself
These annoying lighter burners are now the same cell phone holders with their crappy little cameras waving in my face. And these are all the same types who do that other annoying thing at concerts – clap with their arms waving up in the air during the song to try and go along with the rhythm section. Ugh! How cheesy can it get? People that do this need smacked, and if the artist told you to do it – then I better not be there in the first place, because they’ve probably been on Glee or American Idol or some other similar nauseating crap.
So, now that you all know how to behave at a concert, and you – devil music industry know how to book a band, do us a favor and follow the advice – otherwise, we just may be tempted to send Justin Bieber over to teach you a thing or two. And you know you don’t wanna’ mess with the Biebs.
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