The Streets On Fire: Playing Live With Tigers

Do bands really have no idea what they’re doing when they create energy during a live show?  Does onstage chemistry just happen by chance or is there a formula to follow?

I always listen a little closer to a band’s music when a video of their live show grabs my attention — especially when I haven’t even seen them live yet.

And when I watched Chicago-based The Streets on Fire’s live video of them performing “We Play With Tigers” from their debut album Hot Weekend I was instantly pulled in.

“We Play With Tigers” (mp3 below) has a slow-building grind and subtle fury that lures you in. If I was going to actually play with tigers I would listen to this song to prepare me for the battle. And the song really comes alive during the video when you see the bass, drums, guitar and vocals all converge among the energetic flailing, twisting and grooving of the band’s on the stage performance.  I could feel how much the band was in sync with each other during the show and how their chemistry was electrifying the crowd, too.

And that energy continued to build as the video unfolds.

Like I said, watching the video was the first time I had heard the The Streets on Fire‘s music. So naturally after watching it I then dove deeper into Hot Weekend. It’s an ambitious debut album that puts a lo-fi modern rock spin on post-punk, recalling melodies and rhythms of band likes Fugazi and Joy Division, while tossing in some soul and fuzz to explore new sonic territory.

Going back and forth from the video to the album I thought about our Mannish Boy exploration because I know how hard it is to translate studio energy to the live show, or vice versa.

So I continued to wonder how The Streets on Fire did it — and made a video that drew me in when I hadn’t even see their live show yet?

How  exactly did they take their music that was created in “a rundown Chicago Currency Exchange—a borrowed space”  and translate the feeling and emotions to the their live show?

To get the back story on the “We Play With Tigers” video and the band’s live show approach, I spoke with them about how the video was made, what goes through their mind during a live show and why they don’t consider themselves a band.

Q & A with The Streets on Fire

LF: The video “We Play with Tigers” shows the band interacting and getting ready for the show together, can you describe the band’s mental approach and give us an idea of what your pre-show and onstage chemistry is like?

TSOF: We just like to play… every show is an opportunity for us to explore our limits and we treat it as fun. No real plan in order, just us as artists interacting with one another. It’s a reaction.

The video for “We Play With Tigers” captures the energy of your live show. As a band, what have you learned so far when it comes to connecting with a crowd or leading them in a specific emotional, physical or psychological direction with your live performance?

The more honest we are with the crowd the better.  If we feel something good or bad inside ourselves, we express it exactly the way we see fit. Crowds see through something fake or forced. They respect and embrace honesty a lot more.

What inspired Conor Simpson’s production, editing and filming of the video “We Play With Tigers?”

Conor wanted to capture our live aesthetic and energy. There was no money, so we worked with what we had. And we were able to pull it off.

You guys have made another video version for “Tigers.” Do you guys plan to make another live show video?

Yeah, we plan to make as many as possible. We live in the times of accessibility to video and the more content you have the better.

What do you love the most about performing live?

Each of our shows takes on a life of its own. We love interacting with one another and the crowd and seeing where the show takes us all… the booze is also a plus.

As an artist, what “Little Things” do you look for during a show for real-time insight or inspiration?

Well, it helps if there are more people in the crowd then members in the band. But to be honest, we are not a band. We are four very different artists that just so happen get together once a week and experiment with sounds (toys)… Any time we get a chance to “play” is an inspiration. We don’t go in any specific direction. We just see what happens when you put a industrial techno DJ, a performance painter, a graphic designer (film maker), and a photographer (from 1974) in the same bowl. We are just as curious as the crowd. We are opportunists.

As a fan, what “Little Things” have you noticed during some of your favorite concerts?

Good energy from a group is always a green light. If you show the crowd you are too cool to move to your own groove, how are they supposed to act? A show that has visuals of some kind is also a plus, let it be projectors, tv’s, or a guy in a gorilla suit.

What was your first live concert like?

Our first Streets on Fire show was on Halloween. It was a foggy bloody good time. oh and we had a green strobe light, too!

What live concert DVDs of your favorite bands have inspired you the most?

Depeche Mode 101 was cool when they played the Pasadena Bowl.

What live performances by your favorite artists have inspired your live performance?

We saw Rage Against the Machine at the Rosemont Horizon ten years ago. The whole place was shaking. I’ll always remember how that felt.

How have you guys used mobile technology  or social media during your live show? How do you feel about fans using mobile devices, cell phones or taking videos during your shows?

We text our friends about the show, but not at the show. Mass texting is like spam… no one gives a shit what the drink specials are. As far as people taking videos on mobile devices, who cares… more the merrier.

Tell us something unique about your live performance that fans might not realize or be aware of?

We really have no idea what we’re doing or what’s going on.

Go See Them Live

Now that you know how they do it, go experience The Streets On Fire live tonight and next Friday in Chicago.

Update:
As Jim Derogatis reported on Tuesday, the 3/26 show at Metro will also include a tribute to Columbia student Jay Polhill, a talented photographer who loved to shoot local bands and was found dead in the Calumet river on March 2. Some of his many friends and other bands on the bill are paying tribute with a presentation of some of his photographs and artwork.

Friday 3/26  at Metro

Friday 4/2 at Cobra Lounge

We Play With Tigers mp3:

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