With a complete and highly successful wedding now behind us, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming but with a twist:

From here on out, I aim to have much more frequent posting. However, most of these posts will be more bite-size in nature, while larger, in-depth posts (i.e. Ear Training Revisions) will be interwoven as seen fit.

On with the show:

Today I share my newest iteration of the classic list of Top Bands. Usually one would expect a nice, even top 10 list, but with so many great groups/artists out there, I can’t bring myself to whittle it down to less than 15. Bear with me – the additional five deserve to be on here and then some.

To go along with the bands (and to provide a bit of visual interest), I’ll be posting album covers of my favorite album(s) from each group.

Here we go:

#15 Bob Marley – Albums: Too many to cho0se from, so here’s my favorite, four-disc set that sums his massive catalog of work up nicely: Songs of Freedom

#14 Jimi Hendrix – Album: Axis: Bold as Love

#13 Creedence Clearwater Revival – Albums: Cosmo’s Factory and Willie and the Poor Boys

#12 The Kinks – Album: The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society

#11 Bob Dylan – Album: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Not a bad 11-15, no? Now onto to the heavy hitters:

#10 The Clash – Albums: The Clash and London Calling

#9 The White Stripes – Albums: Elephant and Icky Thump

#8 Led Zeppelin – Albums: Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin IV

#7 Pink Floyd – Albums: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Dark Side of the Moon

#6 Radiohead – Albums: Kid A and In Rainbows

#5 The Rolling Stones – Albums: Beggar’s Banquet and Exile On Main Street

#4 The Velvet Underground – Albums: The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground, and Loaded

#3 The Flaming Lips – Albums: Clouds Taste Metallic, The Soft Bulletin, and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

#2 Eels – Albums: Daisies of the Galaxy and Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

#1 The Beatles – Albums: The White Album and Abbey Road

So there you have it: 15 bands and 28 albums. If you haven’t had the good fortune to partake in any of these, all I can say is drop whatever activity you currently find yourself participating in, flips on your speakers, and prepare your ears for sheer brilliance.

-Spurrier

Live music: the venue, the crowd, the energy, the ridiculous volumes, the performance, the vast difference in emotion when compared to a recording… In other words, the vitality and soul of music.

There’s nothing quite like going to see a live musical performance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a symphony or a blaring rock concert. When you find yourself in the same room, be it a massive arena or a smokey bar, with flesh and blood musicians, unique energies manifest that can never be achieved with a set of speakers and a recording.

Before delving into the Panda Bear concert, check the following link (and accompanying video) out if you don’t believe me. The world is taking more and more notice and working towards a day where we may always get to experience music in a “live” setting.

Dr. Walker: Making Dead Pianists Come Alive

Now back to the concert:

I have been quite lucky in my concert experiences: Paul McCartney, The Who, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, Jack White, The Polyphonic Spree, etc.

However, you may notice a pattern: rock ‘n’ roll all the way. If you don’t count the symphonies and other classical events, every concert I have ever attended would land in the world of rock ‘n’ roll (if you zoomed out far enough and ignored sub-genres of course).

So when I saw that Panda Bear would be performing at the Granada Theater in Dallas, I jumped at the opportunity to branch out in my live music experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with Panda Bear, he is one of the founders of the experimental band Animal Collective. If that doesn’t ring a bell either, do yourself a favor and try out Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion – their newest, most accessible, and best album (in my opinion).

Panda Bear, AKA Noah Lennox, specializes in using all sorts of beats, samples, and other effects to create a whirlwind of hypnotic sounds that would seem to go on and on and on if it were not for his gift with melody.

Take “Comfy in Nautica,” one of his biggest hits, for example: the entire song is one chord played over and over again, but the sincerity and evolution of the melody keeps the listener ensnared from beginning to end.

Now we arrive at the concert itself. Normally, when entering a venue, one of my first actions is to analyze and take in all of the gear onstage: the amps, the guitars, the keyboards, the effects, the setup, etc.

Panda Bear has a slightly different setup than your standard guitar, bass, drums, and mics.

From where I was standing, I saw a bunch of effects pedals, a single guitar, a bizarre mixer of sorts, and a number of other unidentifiable items strewn out on a table all held together by dozens of different cables flowing to and fro all over the stage.

Last but not least, I’m proud to say that I own the exact same synthesizer as Panda Bear: the Moog Minimoog Electric Blue Voyager:

The iconic blue lights caught my eye, and there’s no doubt that it was up on stage rocking hard and true.

As far the show itself, I have two main words: hypnotic and loud.

Let’s start with the former: for all I know, the show could have been a few minutes or a few hours. Once it got going, you found yourself along for the ride. You might have no idea as to what words were being said or where you were at in a song, but it didn’t matter since the melody, as mentioned before, would carry you along up and above the beats and the madness as though you could look down upon it from high above.

And the latter: those beats I just mentioned? So incredibly loud – as in making your whole body shake and resulting a difficulty breathing. I will never go to an electronic show again without ear plugs. Why would one guy on stage be louder than an entire band you ask? I have three theories:

1) No acoustic instruments: with the exception of the guitar, everything was some form of synthesis or samples, therefore everything could just be turned up and up and up in volume and intensity.

2) Harmonics: the timbre, or tone, of every acoustic instrument (including our voices) comes from something called the harmonic series of overtones. By activating different groups of these harmonics, we get different types of instrumental sounds. It’s the reason a trumpet sounds like a trumpet and not an oboe. However, in the world of electronics and synthesis, you have control over these harmonics, and, if you feel so inclined, you can turn them all on, thus creating walls of huge, deafening sound. Effective but so loud.

3) Making up for not having a band: part of the joy of seeing a full group is their stage presence. Seeing a group of people rock out and totally lose themselves in the experience is incredibly powerful. When you’re one guy, alone on a stage with some gear, you need some extra oomph and power to convey the same feelings and message.

All in all, a swell show to be sure. In general, I’ll happily take my rock ‘n’ roll bands, but variety is always welcome.

And, last but not even close to least, who was at the Granada that same night? The Flaming Lips frontman: Wayne Coyne. If you don’t know him, this picture will give you a good idea of his awesome personality.

People would see him in the crowd and run after him in a frenzy. They would return moments later and scream in utter joy (to whoever would listen) that Wayne had hugged them and told them that he loved them. You don’t find many people who command such a wonderful effect on those around them.

That said, Panda Bear and The Flaming Lips: now there’s a concert waiting to happen.

-Spurrier