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photos by Lara Shipley

Indie Rock as Opera

September 23rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

Fleeting thought spurred by anticipation of Built to Spill doing Perfect from Now On at 9:30 Club tomorrow: This apparent trend of long-running indie bands performing classic albums in their entirety (Mission of Burma doing Vs. at Black Cat a while back was stellar) is presumably partly a function of a new generation discovering seminal acts through recordings, and partly of aging hipsters who, having grown both financially secure and less inclined to schlep out to shows, are now disposed to be lured back out for a favorite familiar record at higher prices than they’d have paid a few years ago.

But what really strikes me, as a part-time opera buff, is that this phenomenon makes gearing up for a rock show feel  a good deal more like prepping for an opera.  That is: You can sit down and review the known playlist, go over the libretto (or lyric sheet, if you prefer), listen to the score a few times through, perhaps even audition a few different recordings of your favorite bits, and go in ready to judge the performance as a coherent whole, evaluating each part in the context of a history of performances of the same song. (How much my reaction here is determined by the experience of prepping for lots of operas I can’t say–maybe other people don’t behave in this crazy, obsessive way.)  This seems destined to be rougher on bands, but if it trades off some of the pleasures of surprise, also dangles the lure of a more immersive appreciation of the rock show, for the artists who are up to it.

Tags: Art & Culture · Washington, DC



2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Will // Sep 24, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I enjoyed the BTS set, but I was most impressed by the Meat Puppets’ opener. The “Waltzing Matilda” cover was particularly awesome.

  • 2 The Pop View // Oct 1, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    In addition, how does this play into the new singles-focused, iTunes-driven music world? In a world of iPods, we’re going to make you listen to the whole damn album, and in the right order, if we have to be here all night!