a few days ago, I used the word, “doldrums” in a conversation with one of my friends in Europe who asked about the definition. I mentioned it was a term we learned in school to describe the area off the coast of Africa where the winds might not blow for days, have sudden storms, and highly unpredictable winds - leaving sailors stranded in the heat, moving nowhere, or perhaps terrified with the realities of storms at sea?
you also can have periods like this in your normal life…some people call it depression, others might be inactive…there is also a seeming period of this when you are building up new ideas. you can put a ton of effort into something that simply doesn’t seem to be moving very much as the amount of energy to get something moving with momentum is a tremendous amount at the start. what is that joke about the distance to stop an F1 Ferrari vs an oil supertanker?
there is also another interesting thing happening with these things we are working on. it is that inside a world, the idea of building out is more about scale and market cap than the reality of creating new things. for example, I watched the tape of Beyoncé’s “epic” show at Coachella because I have never seen her perform, and with all the press, there was something about, “I think the press d’ost protest too much.” with the hype.
while I applaud the creative vision of the idea, I sat in wonderment thinking, “so just throw more up on a stage and people will think it is good? what about great quality?” I am a sucker for articulated stage pieces, and when the show opened I was thinking, “this is a big lighting truss that will move – and yet – it was a big light truss that moved…bummer. perhaps it was simply a one show gig? but after the first song, I went, “pretty sure I know where this is going…click.”
there is nothing wrong with taking an audience on a magical escape from the reality of life for a few hours. I think that is the purpose of entertainment. what I wonder about is that even with all the amazing technology one has that is pretty bulletproof with reliability (ask me about the George Lucas show in Japan years ago that was simply a few years ahead of its time) what I am seeing is more of the same in the industry. the life and soul of the performer and the music seems to get lost on the attempt to push production value to a high level, yet, the human performance factor and the cue lists and matching it to technology still have that lag to it.
my friends that got to work with Cirque du Solei and new shows explain to me all the various safeguards, gobs of equipment, and budgets that allow for it – and while the o, ka, Mystere shows are great – the thing I see the many new live shows is simply, “grab a license from someone and we will put a show around it...creating a new experience is too risky and not as profitable as serving leftovers with a new frying pan."
maybe we simply have created a place where the beauty of CGI in computer graphics, articulated lighting, and some decent EFX would make shows better. mind you, I still think if you can’t perform and play live and reproduce what you did in the studio without racks of equipment, autotune, and automation – why call it a live performance. you see this trend more and more with television production where I guess viewers think what they see on the tube is what is really happening on stage.
here is the reality. if you give me a great photographer, lighting tech, makeup person, and a team of CGI folks- even I can look great for a moment. but the reality is if you meet most of the models, actors, and folks off the screen or stage – they tend to look incredibly normal – yet for some reason, the illusion of entertainment has folks believing this is reality – and the tools of social media and the ability to push a few buttons and enhance whatever image with some schlocky special efx attempts will somehow make them feel and think they are in the same world as what they see.
I think it is the same technique that sports marketers have used for years, but with scarier results on the social level. just because an old sports hero is on a box of cereal today doesn’t mean they actually use the product to get that performance level. if someone came up with a cereal called PEDbites and it was filled with the various drugs that people stick in their body for an edge – I could actually live with that…sort of…ok..maybe….not really, but at least it would be honest.
with stages and shows and the entourage effect today, I can hear Lemmy with motorhead lamenting how modern festival shows are more like a luxury military operation backstage, the myriad of credentials and armbands. when I read of the “epic hype” of Beyoncé…if I made a list of all the reality of the cue’s, equipment, stylists, performers, dancers, makeup…(had to be a small army of folks with the image team) I think the woman could have really put on an epic show with a whole lot less.
what I remember of the show opening was more like, “here is a lot of folks on a big stage with giant video monitors – of which Beyoncé was one of them.”
then again, while it must be a hoot to perform in front of giant crowds…I wonder what is really In it for the spectators. intimacy is an illusion anymore, not the reality.
sort of like walking into a coffee shop and seeing everyone staring into a mobile device and no one talking to each other. odd.
what was this all about? doldrums? I guess it is also a stage where you are working on the ideas for the future, that isn’t in the mainstream yet, and there is no guarantees it will work. truth is while you can minimize your risk, you can’t predict 100% what will happen in life. so while this post might show some frustration with the current state of live entertainment – I guess the reality is we are taking technologies anymore for helping plants and people in a very different way than entertaining them. we are trying to bring more intimacy and reality back to the landscape because we are living in a world where image and quality have been and appears to continue to be diluted with myriads of layers of special efx on everything.
maybe that is why I like the reality of nature. it just is, has been for a few billion years on this planet and will be fine for a few billion more. I am not sure what the story of humanity will be – but I will continue trying till I breath no more.
· these 10 minute are not meant to be critical of live shows anymore. but with scale and the reality of debt loads on large companies – I think they cornered themselves into a frantic rush for a hit show and instant gratification ROI, than taking some time to really come up with something great. sounds odd coming from me. maybe I got old? or maybe I am appreciating quality and people who actually can play versus acts that are stuck on stage based on a demographic niche need?