Skinny Puppy - 11/24/2009

17 Years After My First Skinny Puppy Show

17 Years After My First Skinny Puppy Show

A Skinny Puppy show in 2009 was my Bachelor Party. Let that sink in for a minute. No drinking. No trip to Vegas. No strippers. Not even a bunch of friends sitting around talking about the good old days. Instead, my friend Bryan got me a ticket to see Skinny Puppy because that's what I told him I wanted to do.

My interest in the show was born more from curiosity than nostalgia. I absolutely loved Skinny Puppy for about five years between high school and college and then I sorta moved on. Dwayne died. Only about half of Last Rights stuck with me. My tastes changed.

Some big music magazine (it might have been Rolling Stone) did an article about Skinny Puppy and some of the reasons that they never enjoyed the mainstream success of bands like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. It was a curious situation. Korn would name drop Skinny Puppy in interviews but somehow the MTV/local mall metalheads never got into them in large numbers. And that was fine with me, because I always appreciated Skinny Puppy's idiosyncracies. Their theatrical approach to live performance inspired me. Their ability to eschew pop song and dance song rules and somehow still create catchy, danceable tracks was second to none.

By 2009, the industrial dance and goth scene was catching its second (or third) wind. Bands who were so heavily influenced by Skinny Puppy that they named themselves after Ogre's song lyrics were drawing crowds. Skinny Puppy, an indisputable original, had spawned a legion of derivatives and it bothered me that the 'scene' didn't seem to care.

The show in Atlanta was pretty fun. The stage design looked like a chaotic junk landscape that must have taken hours to construct each night. The costumes were amazing. In fact, a woman I had met on tour in Detroit made some of them! I was so proud of her. The old songs sounded great--slightly updated but still weirdly simple. The new songs--well, I wasn't a fan but I could see that most people in the crowd enjoyed them. 

It was a pretty unconventional Bachelor Party, but I was glad to see the band so many years later and to observe that they were still driven to do a lot of the same things that had made them pioneers. Even if it didn't all work for me at that point, I admired their vision. A year and a half after that show and I was no longer married and no longer living in Atlanta, but damn it, Too Dark Park was still in rotation in my world.

Sigur Ros 09/06/2005

Sigur Ros 2005

I bought Aegis Byrjun at a small, local record store while on a business trip to Nashville in 1999 or early 2000. I had seen an ad for it in The Wire and that was good enough for me. It felt like a real discovery. When I got back to Atlanta, none of my friends had heard the record yet. It wasn't in rotation at WRAS. The album was mysterious and otherworldly and I loved it.

But part of what made it so special was that sense of discovery. In high school, I discovered bands all the time, even if they were pretty much confined to making one style of music. In college, I went on weekly bargain bin CD runs and over my four years in Tallahassee I picked up hundreds of CDs, many of them for bands I'd never heard before. WRAS was a great source of new music in Atlanta, but this was before the age of music blogs and online radio, so I knew that my tastes would be heavily curated by the programmers at 88.5 if I didn't try to find things on my own. 

In 2000, I sat in the basement of a house where I had built up my recording studio and I scrolled through pages of Napster search results for Sigur Ros. I downloaded live tracks and remixes and their first record, none of which were available at local stores in Atlanta. 

In 2003, I saw the band for the first time, an event that I've written about before.

So, it was strange to me that in 2005, this weird little band from Iceland had grown to the point that they were playing at the Woodruff Arts Center at an event for which tickets were completely sold out. I eventually scored an orchestra seat from a ticket scalping agency and crammed into the show with beautiful, normal people who were talking about articles they had read on Pitchfork.

And I know this is my problem, but the whole thing just seemed a little duller by 2005. Yes, it's a good thing when a band making tremendous music gets bigger and expands its audience. Yes, it's great when they can play a fantastic venue with great sound. Yes, everyone who bought one of those tickets had an equal right to fall in love with that band and that music. And still, that feeling of discovery was gone.

I don't like to think of myself as one of those people who gets possessive about their favorite bands, but if I'm honest, that's exactly what happened. I didn't want to share Sigur Ros with people who had carpooled in from the suburbs. I wanted that show to be special--just for the artists and weirdos and music obsessives who usually filled up smaller rooms for my favorite bands. 

The truth is that the way that people were consuming music had changed by 2005. Everyone loved Radiohead, and it was only a short hop and a jump from Radiohead to Sigur Ros. Hell, I think there's probably a good overlap in the Sigur Ros and Coldplay venn diagram. This is one of the things that has been hard for an old school weirdo to get used to. The lack of scene identity and the rise of "everyone loves everything" has been hard to understand. But I'm trying.