Music Features

When the Lights Go Down: May 2020


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. 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. — Music Editor, CJ Simonson

1. A Flock of Seagulls – “Space Age Love Song” (The Ace In Brixton, 1983)

A 1983 SIGHT AND SOUND broadcast of A Flock Of Seagulls kinda runs in a different universe. The program, simulcast on both TV and FM Radio, introduces A Flock of Seagulls, ostensibly a one-hit-wonder for most people, as one of the biggest bands coming. That famous hair style is, of course, intact, and further, dazzling technicolor proof that “Space Age Love Song” deserved to be a smash as big as “I Ran.”

2. The Rapture – “How Deep Is Your Love” (CMJ, 2011)

Let’s keep the momentum going with NYC dance-punk veterans The Rapture. The rumors of CMJ’s return have likely been quelled by the current COVID-19 situation, as have The Rapture’s comeback tour, unfortunately, but this 2011 clap-along to “How Deep Is Your Love” is a dance party complete with magnetic sax solo and NYC club sweat and a good argument for the festival returning.

3. Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen” (Glastonbury, 2019)

This series will likely be dominated by Glastonbury shows (rightfully so), but as a dramatic, cathartic early set emotional peak, here’s Sharon Van Etten offering one of 2019’s best in “Seventeen.” Grab the tissues for when her voice breaks before the final chorus and stare in disbelief at the rushing visuals on the massive screen behind her in that tent.

4. CupcakKe and Charli XCX – “Lipgloss” / “CPR” (Lollapalooza, 2017)

Let’s bring out a guest. Sure, Charli XCX could hold court with 10-12 different live videos here and command a set herself, but when MGRM favorite CupcakKe is available, you go with it. Charli brings out the sexual Chicago spitter for “Lipgloss” and then lets her stay on stage for her 2017 banger “CPR” (the way she commands that crowd!!). That Lollapalooza stage is probably one of the bigger stages CupcakKe has graced in the last several years, and hopefully when this all ends, she can return.

5. Wilco – “A Shot In The Arm” (Ryman Amphitheater, 2006)

I’ve been to the Ryman. It’s amazing. Videos of it are almost deceptive in how big it appears—it’s basically a church, wooden pews, and all, that happens to be a historic venue. Early versions of “A Shot In The Arm,” among Wilco’s best, are fast, but I’ll take this 2006 version, which has just an insane amount of intensity, those lights going off as Jeff Tweedy, in his stunning white suit, yells “Bloodier Than Blood.” Chill-worthy.

6. Steve Earl – “Feel Alright” (Cold Creek Correctional Facility, 1996)

The best part of Steve Earl playing Cold Creek Correctional Facility in Tennessee is that he was doing it as part of a parole agreement after he was jailed for drug offenses the previous year. If you got busted for drugs and could go Johnny Cash a jail somewhere, you’d probably take that deal. That mullet is a bad look for Earl, but then again he was never much of a looker, and the combination of harmonica + glasses + mullet is iconic in a different universe, I’m sure. “Feel Alright” rips as a mid-set burner.

7. Low Cut Connie – “Shake It Little Tina” (XPoNential Music Festival, 2019)

Low Cut Connie is an absolute motherfucking show. Adam’s hips are unhinged to say the least, a flamboyant performer that makes insane blues bar rock at a pretty impressively commercial level—that Low Cut Connie isn’t a name more people recognize is a shame. But this daytime performance of “Shake It Little Tina” should tell you everything you need to know, hip-shaking, piano climbing, and all.

8. Danny Brown – “Monopoly” (Pitchfork Fest, 2012)

Danny Brown could give less than 100% at his live shows and probably be fine. It’s refreshing, though, that he keeps this level of energy up at his shows even today. The crowd getting the cues (“Shit all on your mixtape!”) in 2012 tells you everything you’d need to know about what the next eight years would have in store for the Detroit rap phenom. Long live XXX.

9. Built to Spill – “The Plan” (Irving Plaza, 1999)

Any video of Built to Spill live is good-bordering-on-great, but this one shot in New York’s Irving Plaza in 1999 of KEEP IT LIKE A SECRET opener “The Plan” for HBO’s REVERB is just stunning. Guitar-solo-palooza as I like to call it, but they really push this thing to 10, Doug Martsch giving a spine-tingling two-and-a-half-minute solo in the middle of this thing that is a testament to the power of live music.

10. Joni Mitchell – “Coyote” (Winterland Ballroom, 1976)

I mean, in reality I could just be writing about THE LAST WALTZ, but in lieu of doing that, here’s Joni Mitchell with The Band doing “Coyote” off her masterpiece HEJIRA. If you turn the rest of it off and just go listen to that album or watch THE LAST WALTZ, I wouldn’t blame ya, but the way Scorsese keeps the camera straight on Mitchell unbreaking for a long middle stretch of this is just masterful and mesmerizing.

11. Jay Z – “Anything” / “Big Pimpin’” (Cancun, 2000)

I mean, FASHIONABLY LOUD is such a relic of the late-‘90s/early 2000s it kinda feels like the sort of thing that you dreamt up, models walking the runway while musicians play. “Big Pimpin’” itself is kind of the perfect encapsulation of that time, that Timbaland beat as fresh now as it was then, and watching such a produced Cancun special playout with Hova is a cold glass of water in the hot sun.

12. Deerhunter – “Hazel St.” (The Annandale Hotel, 2009)

Shot a year before HALCYON DIGEST would go on to push Deerhunter into the furthest left-of-the-dial areas of mainstream culture (remember how Bradford Cox was in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB), this is a delightfully impassioned video of the Atlanta psych-pop’s perfect song “Hazel St.” A deeper cut in the bands discography, it deserves to be front and center in summer-bummer playlists everywhere and this video should cement that.

13. Fela Kuti and Afrika ‘70 – “Pansa Pansa” (Berlin Jazz Festival, 1978)

“Repeat what I play on my horn and we will have a groovy time together.” There aren’t a TON of videos of Fela Kuti performing, but those that exist of him and Afrika ‘70 rule, their own infectious dance party as colorful, textured Afrobeat rhythms create whatever room they’re playing into a dancehall. This one from the 1978 Berlin Jazz Festival has the outfits and charisma to be an all-time performance and, by most accounts, it was. The most fun fact about this video? Right after it was shot, Tony Allen, who passed away at the end of April, quit the Afrika ‘70.

14. Yola – “Ride Out In The Country” (Farm Aid, 2019)

Yola has a helluva voice, and “Ride Out In The Country” is one of the most underrated slowburn anthems from the last several years. This midday performance at last year’s Farm Aid has all the soulful vocal harmonies you could want, a nice wind-down near the end of this set, and lets Yola cut lose a bit near the end of the track. Shout out to the one white woman the camera keeps cutting to who is day drunk and VERY into this performance.

15. David Johansen – “Oh Sweet Nuthin’” [Velvet Underground Cover] (Damrosch Park, 2016)

New York Dolls frontman David Johansen has almost as distinctive a voice as Lou Reed, which makes the bluesy swagger of this vocal performance a real treat. A New York City tribute to Reed after he passed away, this 10-minute version of the Underground’s best song (in this writer’s opinion, anyway) is crushingly beautiful and a captivating (if loose) send off to an icon, and a song fitting of ending any set.


16. Oasis – “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” (Yoyogi Taiikukan, 2002)

Oasis were good live performers not just because their music was pure stadium rock ‘n roll basically developed to be played in huge stadiums, but because at any point Liam might try and fist-fight Noel, and that’s kinda neat. Noel still plays the beautiful ballad “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” at his shows as a solo performer, but of course the interplay between the two brothers in this video is fantastic. Also Liam looks like such a fucking asshole and that’s more than worth a click.

17. The Strokes – “Modern Age” (The Horseshoe Tavern, 2001)

This T in the Park performance has a snippet of Noel Gallagher saying that he believes The Strokes to be the most important band of that moment in 2001. But there is a lot of video of this show at The Horseshoe Tavern on October 2nd, 2001, less than a full month after 9/11. You can imagine the catharsis and release any show likely had around this time, and the audio quality is surprisingly excellent on the videos from these shows (maybe a soundboard overlay). It’s really just a tremendous relic of that moment in indie rock. All of them are worth watching, but for the middle-song of a three-song encore, let’s run with “Modern Age.”

18. The Cure – “Pictures of You” (The Palace of Auburn Hills, 1992)

Selfishly this is probably my favorite live video of all time. Recorded mere months after I was born at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan, and recorded for their equally tremendous live album SHOW, The Cure are just on one in this. Robert Smith and Porl Thompson are just really in lock-step with that guitar intro, an overlaying vibe that I could listen to forever. When Robert Smith sings “Crying for the death of your heart / You were stone white / So delicate / Lost in the cold / You were always so lost in the dark” and the lights cut, I get chills as I have every day since I stumbled upon the video years and years ago. It’s a perfect set closer. Stay safe out there.

CJ Simonson
CJ Simonson is Merry-Go-Round's Editor-in-Chief and representative for all things Arizona. The only thing he knows for certain is that "I Can Feel The Fire" by Ronnie Wood is the greatest closing credits song never used in a Wes Anderson movie. Get on that, Wes.

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