The Wiltern, Los Angeles
The only time I miss being married are the hours between 10 AM and 6 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Those are the times when couple activities predominate, whether it be eating brunch, running errands or hanging out with mutual friends. So thank god for LA. Some place to go on the weekends where I'm not constantly reminded of my failed relationship.
I went up to see Foals on Friday night not because I'm a fan but because I'm interested in any quasi-indie rock band that can sell 1800 tickets to a concert. It's like "How does one get from 250 tickets sold to 1800 tickets sold." I find actually going to such concerts and seeing the actual people who attend gives me some sort of concrete of idea of who those people are- that are buying tickets. And of course I get to see the band itself, and the venue, and how the band, the audience and the venue interact.
It's kind of like being an executive for a double A minor leagues baseball team and going up the major league ball park and watching a game in the big stadium. I was told as a young lawyer that when you are helping a more experienced lawyer and watching them do their thing in Court, pretend like you are doing it.yourself. I try to bring that approach to music stuff.
Foals was sold out or close to it. The Wiltern is a class venue- a really great place to see the show because of the excellent sound and the art deco-y style of the lobby and building. The crowd was impossible to pin down other then having a lot of music supervisor types and a whole bunch of guys and gals wearing striped sailor style shirts.
I have no idea how Foals managed to get to 40 million last fm plays- let's say 100 million is enduring Top 40/legend status- so 40 million is almost half way there- without obtaining hardly any attention from the mass media. At the same time, they've gone from a band that Pitchfork didn't like (first record 5.9) to one that Pitchfork respects (last record was a 7.) So Foals are popular, critically respected and sell both tickets and records. That is a pretty neat trick.
It was clear from the live show that they do it by playing an accesible, likeable form of rock and roll that appeals to a wide range of potential audience members without alienating any of them. There is no part of Foals that is alienating or off putting. They are hugely likeable and people do in fact like them. The conclusion I drew that any kind of lasting, significant popular success inevitably comes at the expense of abandoning "edgy" and alienating aspects of a look or sound that might alienate potential audience members.
It sucks to write this, but I'm convinced that the future means releasing music that I personally find boring, because that is what people want. They want boring, easy to digest music. They do not want to be challenged- maybe you can find 250 people who want to be challenged, but if you want to sell out the Wiltern on a Friday night you had best sand off the rough edges and get with the program. Sad but true.