Radiohead, No Eyes: Live Fix Experiment #1

I’ve got the schedule right here in front of me. And I’m starting to freak out already.

In less than 3 days Lollapalooza will rock Chicago’s Grant Park. And for the third straight year I will once again be faced with the unfortunate task of making excruciatingly difficult decisions that will force me to draw the proverbial line in the gravel of Grant Park. And as a music fan who finds pleasure in several genres and who has embraced the practice of download a plethora of them simultaneously with the click of mouse; this choosing of either stay for a whole set and miss another band or go the split-set route and go insane jetting to each set across Grant Park’s massive landscape. Truth is, there’s pleasure and excitement in both options.

And you know what? There’s really no better festival to physically manifest this sadistic sensory struggle than Lollapalooza.

But where in past years I’ve wrestled with what band to see –or which ones to half-set – this year poses a different set of questions. I’m trying to decide which bands I want to test out my Live Exhaust “senses” theories on.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading books about the senses and various sensory experiments that were done long ago, before live rock n roll. And as I’m scrolling down the list of bands for this year’s Lolla, I’m toying with the idea of blindfolding myself during a the headliners like Radiohead to see how different the show is and see how the other four senses compensate for my lack of vision for a trip through Radiohead’s set.

This being the first time I would have seen Radiohead—and the first time I’m actually really excited about a Radiohead album (In Rainbows) that I instantly enjoyed after the first listen—I wasn’t so sure I wanted to blindfold myself and miss out on the visual spectacle. But then again I couldn’t think of a better band to test the “no eyes” theory on as I now that Radiohead can really bring the pleasure to the overall sonic experience.

What is my “no eyes” theory? Basically, it’s a growing curiosity to see if removing the visual does anything to the music of a band’s live set—in this case Radiohead—or improves my level of pleasure when seeing them live for the first time. I started thinking about this after having a few conversations with a friend who is hearing-impaired. We’ve been to concerts together and when I asked her what it was like she explained to me that her lack of hearing enhances other aspects of the sensory experience and she finds pleasure in the compensation of the other senses and it allows her to feel certain things that those with full hearing can’t feel.

So I began to wonder if the reverse would work with Radiohead and other Lolla bands?

The theory grew into wondering how the other senses factor in. Should I wear sound-proof headphones during the Rage Against the Machine or Kayne West set and see what happens? Or maybe I could put Saul Williams up to the test again as I’ve already seen his live show and could better compare a “sight-less” show.

But then, because I’ve seen Williams before, I wondered if my mind would just insert what I saw before or would my mind remain dark and simply “watch” in darkness with a clean slate of imagination, while the live Lollapalooza set unfolds around me?

Or should I cover both my eyes and ears and let touch lead me through while the rockin’ crowds around me—for either the Raconteurs, Gogol Bordello and Gnarls Barley sets— rub against me.

Here’s what I decided. To test my “no eyes” theory, I will blindfold myself for the beginning of the Radiohead set and take notes against what happens in the latter half with my eyes uncovered. I will then post my notes and discoveries here on Live Exhaust.

What do you think? Any suggestions for other bands I should test out the “no eyes” theory on?

And seeing that the 5 senses poll is looking a little slim in the voting, I will dangle a little reward as most experiements usually reward their participants. Who ever votes and responds with the best comment/case for why that sense is the most crucial will have the honor of choosing which and at what show that sense is to be tested. I will also let the winner suggest how the testing should be done and do so at the show of their choice.

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