alt J Wows On The Big Screen
  • FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2015

  • Posted by: Don Saas

I love a good concert movie. I know what the complaints about concert films are: why watch them on a movie when you can just see them live? Well, unfortunately, I wasn't born til twenty years later so the only way I'll ever get to experience the 1969 Woodstock is if I watch the 1970 film (edited by a young, pre-fame Martin Scorsese). Half of The Band is dead so my only chance to see them live is The Last Waltz. When I was young, there was no way I could have afforded Fleetwood Mac tickets so The Dance had to suffice. If you're poor or too young or live in an area where bands don't come your way often, concert films are the great gateway drug in your life for live music. I saw Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense long before I started going to concerts regularly for Baeble, and it helped remind me how powerful live music can be. And that access has always been provided by PBS's Live From the Artists Den series.

PBS teamed with the Hollywood American Legion and Mercury Prize winning British rock stars alt-J to release a new entry in their Artists Den series with a twist. This episode premiered in theatres across the country. And I made my way to Mid-Town (and endured the Hell known as "getting back to Park Slope from 32nd street) to catch the show, and while alt-J's rise as one of the most popular rock bands working today continues to grow, they haven't taken these opportunities to rest on their laurels.



alt-J aren't your typical rock band. Their live shows aren't an experience where they let loose with wild improvisations or machismo posturing and showmanship. They let their music speak for themselves. And when your music is as clinically and surgically precise as alt-J's, it has plenty to say. Fusing the building blocks of EDM -- bass and heavy percussion and synths -- to rock guitars and pop hooks, alt-J are one of the many bands working today finding massive success rearranging the genre building blocks of contemporary music, and they're still able to connect with their live performance.

Whether it was tracks from their debut record, the Mercury Prize winning An Awesome Wave or last year's This Is All Yours, alt-J showcased themselves as a band with a tight control over their corner of the rock market. And the Artists Den captured the evening to gorgeous effect with rhythmic editing matching the polyrhythmic percussion insanity of alt-J's best tunes. Even if you aren't an alt-J fan, it's hard to deny the raw talent of their drummer.

I'm hoping that Artists Den does more of these cinema events. I would have killed to have been able to see their session with The National from NYC's very own The Armory on a big screen. And I bet the intensity of Rodrigo y Gabriela hits even harder when paired with the type of speakers you can't set up in your own home. So, it's too late to catch the alt-J set in theaters now, but I suspect all of their fans will be very pleased when this makes its way to PBS.

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