Carry On Streaming
Pink Floyd released The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973 and it became an instant hit, selling 45 million copies and remaining on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks, which is a record that is still unbroken. I don’t know how many million people have tripped on Dark Side over the past 37 years. I know I did back in the mid-1970s. And although I don’t really like Pink Floyd very much (except maybe for 1967’s The Piper At The Gates of Dawn, the only album released while the band was still helmed by Syd Barrett), it was de rigueur in my high school days (yes, yes, in the 1970s) to own a copy of the album, which, incidentally, I still do—on vinyl, on cassette and on CD. It’s a different matter that I can’t recall when was the last time I took any of these out and played them.
So imagine my surprise when I heard a live re-enactment of the entire album, not by a Floyd tribute band (of which there are many) but by American experimental rockers, The Flaming Lips. On June 10, The Flaming Lips performed a two-hour rendition of The Dark Side of the Moon at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. It was also an occasion when the band’s frontman, Wayne Coyne, with his characteristic flamboyance, proclaimed that “A year from today, if we truly want it, and truly work for it, marijuana will be legalised in the United States.” But that’s just trivia. What’s not is that I heard all of The Flaming Lips’ rendition of the album (as well as a set of their own songs) in a crystal clear stream on June 12, just two days after their gig.
That was possible because USA’s National Public Radio put up the show for free streaming and it was (and still is) accessible to all for free. The Bonnaroo Music Festival, which is into its eighth year now, is a four-day affair that began as a fest for jam bands but has now grown to embrace various genres—this year, in addition to bands like The Flaming Lips and a host of newcomers from across the world, there were old-timers like Kris Kristofferson and mainstream giants like Stevie Wonder. Bonnaroo has multiple venues for the bands to perform and has grown into one of the biggest music festivals, attended by more than 100,000 people.
Going all the way to Manchester (that’s the small town in Tennessee where Bonnaroo happens each year) may not be easy for everyone. But if you are hankering to hear those gigs, there’s a web-based solution at hand. At the NPR site, you can actually hear the entire concerts by more than 40 bands, streamed over the internet. That’s where I caught The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side. Of course, I didn’t get to see Coyne’s histrionics (whether he floated across, as he is wont to do, in a giant transparent bubble over the audience) or whether the trademark giant hands, large amounts of confetti or puppets were around during the show but I, at least, heard them play. The set of their own music—drawn from their old and new albums—was nice–and the rendition of The Dark Side? Well, I thought it was novel, but patchy. You can, of course judge it for yourself.
I’m still listening to the Bonnaroo 2010 streams. My current favourite band, The National, played a daylight gig that, considering the fact that they have more of a dark, smoky, small bar kind of an introspective sound, was rather good. They sang tracks from their great new album, High Violet, but also from their older albums, including Alligator, Boxer and their eponymous debut album, The National. Not to be missed, that concert.
Dave Matthews and his band have been off my radar for a number of years. I didn’t really like anything he produced—live or otherwise—in the 2000s. That’s why his band’s performance (with guitarist and longtime collaborator, Tim Reynolds, in tow) at Bonnaroo surprised me. He did new songs as well as great new versions of his old classics. Again, that gig too is worth a listen.
But more than the artists I was familiar with, Bonnaroo 2010 introduced me to fresh new ones. Currently on my playlist: Los Angeles indie rockers, Local Natives. Australian (but domiciled in London) band, The Temper Trap and a delectable gig by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. All of this is courtesy NPR. I’d strongly urge you to check out their website.
- No-Neck Blues Band: A free-form experimental band from New York City. If you have the stomach for improvisational music, try them out.
- Summer Tours: A new nugscast featuring live music from this summer by Phish, Lotus and Yonder Mountain String Band.
- Fluxblog: Claims to be the first mp3 blog, established in 2002. You can get a variety of genres and artists here.