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.
5. The White Stripes
Two years ago, I saw The Raconteurs live at the New American Music Union festival. The also-rans at that festival were Spoon, The Roots, Bob Dylan, and The Black Keys. Surprisingly, the band known down under as The Saboteurs put on, by far, the best show of the weekend, largely on the strength of Mr. Jack White’s contribution. For me, it was reminiscent of seeing Method Man performing with Wu-Tang: on a stage populated by perfectly capable and charismatic musicians, White drew all attention to himself. During a song in which his contribution was minimal, he took great pains to climb a massive speaker tower at the side of the stage. He also requested that the audience throw joints onstage and jumped in front of other band members while they were singing to emphatically grab his crotch.
No, wait, those were all things Method Man did.
Mr. White’s enticements were far more subtle, possibly even unintentional. For the most part, he seemed like he really wanted to function as just one part of a regular old rock band. He was just as happy to step back into the shadows and play keys on one song as he was to be front-and-center singing lead on the next. (Actually, he wasn’t even set up in the center; Brendan Benson was.) Problem was, he performed with such passion and exuded such enigmatic star power that no one in the audience could help but keep one eye on Jack at all times. Am I gushing? I guess I am, but it’s only because that show reminded me what the term “rock star” originally meant. I mean, it was obvious dude was really made for this purpose.
So maybe my interest in the seeing The White Stripes can be boiled down to simply an interest in seeing Jack White. And, of course, I’ve already seen him once and I can certainly see him again. Why then, you ask, would I waste a time machine trip just for the addition of Meg’s sloppy drumming? Because I like The White Stripes music far more than that of Jack White’s other projects to date. (And maybe something about the focused energy of a duo.) I think a White Stripes show would probably be the best context in which to see him. It’s that simple.
4. The Headhunters
I fully expect that someone will include in their Hot Tub list one of the great jazz artists from the bop or post-bop eras: possibly one of the classic Miles lineups, or Coltrane, or maybe even Monk or Mingus. And those names were also tempting for me to include. However, if we’re talking about the sheer visceral entertainment value of a live show, nothing in jazz tops the groundbreaking funk-laden fusion of The Headhunters with Herbie Hancock.
Or without him. While Hancock was instrumental in bringing together the musicians and providing direction for what would become The Headhunters, any of the early lineups will do for me. It was specifically the linear interplay of bassist Paul Jackson and drummer Mike Clark (or Harvey Mason, as on the first record) that made The Headhunters sound unlike anything that came before it, and continues make me launch into unprompted monologues on the elusive concept of “pocket.” Adding to the heat that must’ve been coming off that road as they paved it were the hints of early Afro-futurism in the band’s dress and overall concept. So, while I still might be able to catch some permutation of the group doing a lukewarm impression of itself at a festival for guys with graying ponytails, I’d gladly drop one of my time machine tokens to see them like this: