Sunday, July 28, 2019

ODESZA At L.A. Historic Park | Lefsetz Letter

Evolve or die.

I can’t go to see the oldsters anymore. I saw them when they were coming up, on the reunion tour and then the one after that…do I really want to relive the past that badly?

Of course there are exceptions, more than a few, but I just don’t understand how the boomers can go year after year to see the same acts perform the same songs over and over again. I hunger for the new.

But what is hyped is crap and the rest of the scene is incomprehensible, loaded with wannabes crying for attention, to the point you give up.

But I stumbled on to ODESZA and last night I finally saw them.

It was an experience.

This is unfathomable to boomers. To them, it was all about the music, and only the music.

To Gen-X, music was a party, more about being a member of the club than what was happening on stage.

What is the appropriate music for today’s generation, glued to its smartphones, with the world at its fingertips?

Something that cannot be replicated elsewhere, something that demands your attention, something that melds the past with the present, the analog with the digital in an amalgamation akin to a cyborg.

Now there were 18,000 people there. Sold out. And they’re going to repeat the process tonight. And would do it again if they could get the venue.

And most people had no idea it was happening.

That’s the modern world in a nutshell. Used to be you knew every act in town, there were never two stars on the same night, now you don’t even know when a superstar is playing, even if you’re a fan!

But somehow a coterie of people know, it’s important to them and they go, even if you may be clueless.

Now I didn’t see a single oldster there, I was definitely the oldest person in attendance, by years. Because the link has been broken between the musical generations. The oldsters still think it’s about what they read in the newspaper, what’s “selling,” what’s on the radio, when the truth is today radio is last, and streaming is subservient to live, that’s where it all happens, on stage.

And don’t think of it as classic acts hoovering up cash on the road, pissed they have to work so hard to earn what they used to sitting at home opening the mailbox. Today the road is an adventure, a place where you connect with your fans off the radar screen, it’s a unique experience.

Now all the people were mashed together. Having been squished at a show, I felt if someone yelled FIRE, or if they heard a gunshot…it would have not only been pandemonium, you might have lost your life.

And it was completely dark, and as the women passed me on this hot summer night I could see how they could be groped with few consequences.

But this was not Woodstock ’99, this audience was half and half, half women and half men, and totally orderly, exulting in the music…

While they were watching what was happening on screen and on stage.

The screens, they oftentimes trumped the performers. Imagine getting on the Millennium Falcon and flying through space while a light show was pulsing outside the window.

You could not take your eyes off the screens/stage, you didn’t want to miss a thing.

So the electronic music starts, and then out come two trombonists and a drum line… HUH? What is this, a combo of Beyonce with the future? How come she got so much ink, and this has not?

And this is not a physical workout. No one was sweating, they were just locked into the beat of the music, as was the audience, grooving.

And this was not the bass-heavy thump of what most people consider to be electronic music, it wasn’t that repetitive, nor was it just a pulsation. It was not about beating you into submission, but entrancing you.

And just when you start wondering how much is canned, one of the two ODESZA members sits down at a piano and a woman comes out and sings what most people would call a ballad. Complete with a string section! I mean this was totally live.

And a couple of songs later, another woman came out to sing.

And then a GUITARIST! Whose notes swirled in the ether, mesmerizing you.

And I didn’t know most of the material, but I’d get caught up in the groove, and thrust my arm in the air and move my body too, with my eyes glued to the stage all the while.

And I guess that’s about all I can tell you about it. In other words, you had to be there, when today too often you don’t have to. There’s something happening on stage, but it’s not immersive, but last night the audience was glued to the performance.

By two guys who were not lookers. This is not the MTV era, it’s not Ariana Grande, it’s the antidote, akin to FM as opposed to AM way back when.

And the performers, the duo who comprise ODESZA, had little charisma, they seemed more like members of the audience, part of the experience.

And one thing was for sure, I didn’t feel like I was living in the past, I felt like I was firmly ensconced in the present.

They’re making new people every day. And old people not only don’t want to cede territory, they think their acts, their music, will rule forever.

But that is untrue.

To a great degree the music was electronic, but there was melody. This was not hip-hop. Nor was it your basic electronica. It seemed to be pointing to the future.

Now I remember when Kraftwerk put out “Computer World.” At first it was incomprehensible, but then something clicked and you got it. I won’t go see the band again, because I remember seeing them at the Santa Monica Civic on that tour and having my jaw drop, the performance and sound were beyond cutting edge, they were out there on the edge of hyperspace.

And just like members of the Homebrew Computer Club were functioning off stage until they revolutionized our society, it took a while for electronic music to percolate off stage before it was once again ready for its public moment.

And the great thing today is it’s not only this sound.

And radio is irrelevant to this sound.

And you don’t need a label.

You just have to surf the bleeding edge of what’s going on.

ODESZA broke on Pandora and Soundcloud, with no input from management, no working of the system. But then the band decided to announce live dates on both of these services.

And now they’re both in the rearview mirror.

How do you break your band tomorrow? Where are the early adopters lurking?

It starts with the music, BUT IT’S SO MUCH MORE!


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