According to some, we’re looking at more than a year before concert halls and music venues will return to any normalcy. It is in that vein that we present to you When The Lights Go Down, a monthly curated “concert” of sorts that sequences live clips of great songs or great bands, with the hopes to give you a dynamic concert experience you can broadcast on your TV. This month, Ted Davis has curated everything, and we’ve bundled the whole thing into a playlist, which you can find here, but otherwise give a look to some of our favorite live clips with a brief amount of commentary on each and give yourself a concert night in.
I booked a few unconventional on-campus shows during my time as General Manager of a college radio station, and I’d be lying if I said this video didn’t help me convince myself that a rock show in a classroom can actually be kind of cool. The vocals in this video sound like flaming hot shit and the space they’re playing in looks like a rural Pennsylvania Elks Lodge, but this video is a testament to the ingenuity of student-booked shows from one of the best indie bands to ever do it.
A music tech class classic, “Forever” by Pete Drake is not only one of the most prolific steel guitar performances of all time, it is also one of the creepiest and most inexplicable videos on the internet. This recording raises a number of questions and provides pretty much no answers. The farm-themed set looks like something out of THE WIZARD OF OZ (if Oz and Kansas had gotten mashed together in some kind of dimension warping blender with a choir of macabre farmers singing backing vocals) and the Wrangler-clad backing band look like they stepped out of a Westworld-esque Arizona theme park. I have no idea where you had to go back in the day to attend a performance like this, but if I had access to a time machine I’d like to find out.
Another creepy ‘60s TV performance from the bossa nova archives, this live version of “The Girl From Ipanema” looks like it broadcasted straight out of the afterlife. Equal parts grandma chic and goth, the stage design captures retro kitsch at its finest.
We already broke out the vibraphone for “The Girl From Ipanema,” so let’s not put that thing away just yet. This Jan Jelinek performance in Berlin with avant percussionist Masayoshi Fujita makes me yearn for a time in the hopefully not-too-distant future when I can enjoy high brow European performance art on the weekend instead of spending my nights sitting around on my couch rewatching BIG MOUTH and pounding Montucky Cold Snacks.
DIIV was the first cool band I ever saw live, so this mix wouldn’t be complete without a cut from their heyday. While it’s been exciting to see the group transition from drug-addled Bushwick bad boys to polished Los Angeles shoegaze stalwarts, watching Zachary Cole Smith jump around in a baggy shirt is a welcome reminder that his days as a Kurt Cobain cosplayer were actually pretty cool.
In regards to obsession with live bootlegs, Animal Collective are my Grateful Dead. Therefore, I can’t make a “When The Lights Go Down” playlist without a pre-MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION live cut. There is an awesome recording of the group’s full set at Starlight Ballroom floating around on YouTube somewhere, but for the sake of not wasting your precious locked down time I’m going to sum up this show with “Banshee Beat.” The track is a banger in any capacity but the recording of this set captures the group’s luxuriant energy when they perform as a four-piece.
I remember stumbling upon this video in the eighth grade and being moderately scared but also fairly inspired. I can’t even imagine what catching Black Dice live at a Chinese Buffet would be like, but something tells me it would result in a week of not being able to hear correctly or think straight. I discovered this performance a couple years before the D.C. DIY scene led me to shows in church basements and pizza parlors, and without seeing this relic of early 2010s makeshift culture I’m not sure I would have had as intrepid a spirit as a showgoer as I did pre-COVID.
While we’re all stuck in our houses and for the most part unable to leave the country, music as a means of transcendence has become more crucial than ever. This Eli Keszler performance live from Shenzhen, China provides about as much escapism as is possible with only a laptop and AirPods. Eli Keszler may be popping off because of his UNCUT GEMS soundtrack credit and controversial “Red Scare” adjacence, but this video is a testament to his one-of-a-kind prowess as a percussionist.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra went from psych revival darlings to Urban Outfitters-core hitmakers in the course of just three albums, and this video provides ample evidence as to why. Ripping through a cover of CAN’s “Vitamin C,” Ruban Neilson and company melt brains with their full gain performance of the kraut classic. Seven years after this video put me onto German experimental music, I may associate UMO with kaleidoscopic easy listening, but this video is a welcome reminder that the band is where it is today because of its unabashed tendency to rock the fuck out.
Not exactly a deep cut, but if any film captures the magic of a live show it’s SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS. “Dance Yourself Clean” at Madison Square Garden perfectly captures the simultaneous headbanging and dancing that only the best live acts can pull off. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard one too many LCD Soundsystem songs in your day to get super excited about James Murphy’s awkward musings, but this video is a true testament to the vigorous passion of the early 2000s New York indie scene.