This week, Noise Narcs answers the age-old question: What five bands would you travel back in time to see in their prime? To see other responses, jump in the hot tub.
What 5 acts would I waste a time machine trip on to see in their prime? It seems to me that there are two primary impulses to consider when answering this question.
Generally speaking, part of the essence of seeing live music is its unpredictability, and the first impulse is that desire to experience the unpredictable, energetic presence of the act. Nina Simone might flip out on some random person in the audience with the audacity to get up to use the bathroom. Scott Stapp might be too drunk and word-slurry to finish the show. The point is that you don’t know! Anything could happen because it’s the here and now.
The second impulse, which is not so much a function of live music as it is of time-machine fantasies, is the desire to witness and/or participate in something historic. Maybe you want to be able to say, “I was at Altamont,” or “remember when Billy Joe got hit with a clump of mud at Woodstock ’94? I threw that clump!”
My first pick (these five are ordered chronologically and not otherwise ranked) obeys this second impulse much more than the first. It also totally rips off the answer given by the members of Grubby Little Hands when Dave asked them a version of this question:
#1: The Premiere of The Rite of Spring at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1913
The riots that erupted during this concert are mostly exaggerations, I suspect. Did Camille Saint-Saens storm out within minutes over what he felt was an abuse of bassoons? Probably not. And according to Stravinsky scholar, Richard Taruskin, any punches thrown were more likely a reaction to Nijinksy’s radical choreography than to Stravinsky’s radical score. Still, how could you not want to see a bunch of fancy-pants Parisians go even mildly ape-shit over something they saw at a ballet? What a time to be alive.
Why it might not be a good show: If I’m invested in the old way of doing things. If I get hurt in the riots. If Coco Chanel finds me charmless and won’t laugh at any of my jokes.
About the clip: You can catch a reproduction modeled on Nijinsky’s original choreography here, but it doesn’t have any dinosaurs in it. This does.
Pick number two, on the contrary, is much more about presence than history:
#2: Billie Holiday
Lady Day was undoubtedly one of jazz’s greatest singers as well as one of its most tragic stories, which says quite a lot. She died at the age of 44 with 70 cents in the bank in a hospital room guarded by arresting police officers after a lifetime of withering drug abuse. Everything that she ever recorded, even the happy songs, sounds sad when I hear it.
Why it might not be a good show: I don’t know, maybe if Glenn Beck were in the audience and he was eating potato chips really loudly and talking about how much Martin Luther King, Jr. took after him.
About the clip: I don’t know what this is from, but it’s a pretty high quality video recording of her singing “My Man,” which is not one of the happy songs.