Watching rock trio Crash Kings cover “War Pigs” live and then pay tribute to the history of Guitar Rock (without a guitar) got me thinking about the awe of not just hearing, but also “seeing” a band push the boundaries of live rock music.
Crash Kings will be playing Otto’s in DeKalb, IL tonight and to get you ready for the show we have a couple videos, a free mp3 and more deep thoughts about guitarless live rock music.
Editorial Note: As an added bonus we have added an interview with Tony and Mike Beliveau and Jason Morris of Crash Kings below that was included after the post was published yesterday.
Many times “watching” a band play is just as much a rush as “hearing” them play.
That said, I’m always fascinated when I see a band do something that’s strange, unexpected or unorthodox about the way they play or arrange their instruments on stage.
And by the looks of the video above and the “War Pigs” live video below, the Crash Kings have already begun to push the boundaries of what a live rock show is, or could be.
What will it be like to watch lead singer Tony Beliveau play his “whammy bar-laden” clavinet and merged it with the thump and rumble of the bass (Mike Beliveau, Tony’s brother) and drums (Jason Morris) in a live setting?
Well, at first listen, their guitarless sound reminds me of similar blues-rock groups like The Black Keys, White Stripes, Cage the Elephant and other bands who find creative ways to transform their instruments into weapons of musical mass destruction during a live show.
And watching the “Evolution of Guitar Rock Without Guitars” video above made me think back to Evil Beaver’s show and our Almighty Set-List Experiment earlier this year. I loved how they made a single bass and a pickup sound like three guitars in one!
And since Crash Kings are touring in the wake of releasing their self-titled debut album Crash Kings, we’ll also see how they’re translating their studio energy to their live show. And hopefully the band will measure up to Mannish Boy.
We asked Jason Morris, Mike Beliveau and Tony Beliveau a few questions about their live show. And here’s what they each had to say about playing their dream venue in Greece, learning how to put on a show by watching the Flaming Lips and the influence of jazz on their live performance.
Interview with Jason Morris
LF: In what ways have your live shows evolved since your first show?
JM: Our live show has grown astronomically since the first. We started with a little keyboard on an X stand and minimal bass/drum setup. We have now super-sized our gear setup, graduating to in ear monitors, a real piano with a clavinet modded with a whammy bar run through a guitar amp, a massive bass rig with separate clean and dirty amps and a thunderous drum kit with a 26″ kick and huge cymbals. Aside from gear we’ve since honed our live show to be much more fluid and high energy with the occasional cover tune thrown
Are there any memorable shows like your appearance on Jimmy Kimmel performing Mountain Man, or others that have influenced your debut album?
We just played George Lopez and had an amazing experience there. Not only did we play an amazing talk show but we were happy with our performances, hung out with George and the guys in his band AND met Bill Cosby! Game over!!!
As an artist, what “Little Things” do you look for during a show for real-time insight or inspiration?
The little things that give us inspiration at our shows are most always the crowd reaction, the venue and the sound of the room. The more into a show our crowd is the better we play just like if the venue sounds good and the people at the venue/promoter are awesome we have an awesome experience as well.
As a fan, what “Little Things” have you noticed during some of your favorite concerts?
As a fan I’ve noticed that I always have a better time when the band is getting into their own music on stage. If they don’t want to be up there performing I don’t care to watch them. And I much prefer watching bands that can pull of their “thing” live, whatever their thing is.
Interview with Mike Beliveau
LF:What was your first live concert like as an artist and what did you learn from it?
MB:The first Crash Kings show was around Halloween time in 2006. We got offered a show at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles. Our drummer at the time didn’t want to play it cause he didn’t think we were ready yet but Tony and I were anxious to play a show. We decided to find a drummer who was more hungry like us. Tony called Jason to play the show. He learned all 10 of our songs in only a few practices and pretty much nailed the whole show. About 30 people came to see us and it turned out to be a great show. After we played we asked Jason if he would join the band and he obliged.
If you could play one “dream” venue in the world where would it be and why?
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Tony and I are part Greek. Playing the Acropolis would pay homage to our ancestors who built the first acoustically sound amphitheaters providing the public with a place to
share their art and music. I don’t think they let bands play there anymore though since Sting put on a show and some of the ruins fell due to the sound system.
If you could take one element of your favorite concert you experienced as a fan and use it to inspire your own live show, what concert and band would it be and why?
We recently played a festival in Maine called the Nativa Festival and the Flaming Lips headlined the day that we played. If you haven’t seen their show, its a must see. I really liked how much of an experience the show was. They had balloons, confetti, and crazy lights during the entire show. Wayne Coyne even came out inside a giant balloon that rolled over the crowd at the start of the show. The musicians were incredible but the production took the show to the next level. I would love to add some of those elements to our show – in our own way of course.
What do you love the most about performing live?
I love performing live because I am connecting with people in a very raw and human way. Every performance is a release of energy and also chance to share my craft with people and I am very grateful that people get
enjoyment out of it.
Interview with Tony Beliveau
LF: What elements of modern live performance would you change if you could?
TB: I would like to change the way people listen to live performances. Somehow make it so you could go to a loud rock show, and listen to the whole show without wearing earplugs, and not have that ringing in your ear afterward. I am actually working on a project with a friend which will allow us to do this in the future. Not only will you not lose your hearing, but you’ll hear all the subtleties that can be missed at a live show. You would also be able to hear the performance in stereo no matter where you were standing.
What is something unique about your live performance that fans might not realize or be aware of?
Well, the biggest thing that I believe makes our band unique, is that we don’t have any guitar in our band and we can rock out pretty hard and loud. I also play a clavinet with a whammy bar (which is a rare modification) through pedals and a tube guitar amp, which allows me to get a guitar-like sound without actually having any electric guitar in the band. It’s also a blast to play.
I really enjoyed the “Evolution of Guitar Rock with Guitar” video! You must have watched a lot of live rock guitarists during concerts and closely studied how they played their solos and riffs. Can you explain how those live experiences and studying the nuances of the performances helped you recreate them with the custom clavinet during your live show?
I didn’t really do much except for listening to the solos from the records. I grew up playing by ear from the age of six, so I comes pretty easy for me. I used to learn jazz piano solos by artists like Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Keith Garrett, John Medeski, Keith Emerson, ect… THOSE were difficult to learn. Guitar riffs and solos are a bit easier, but definitely more fun to perform!!
As brothers growing up, what sort of shared live concert experiences did you and Mike have? Did one introduce live music to the other? What’s the chemistry like and what goes through your minds while you’re playing on stage
Mike and I went to see various artists growing up, mostly jazz artists though. Being a few years older, we never went to many rock concerts together. My first show was in 1994, when I saw LIVE play during their throwing copper tour. That was sweet. Mike and I were and still are always introducing new music to each other. We have such a great bond on stage, and with Jason, I feel like I’m playing with two brothers on stage. We’ve developed such great chemistry with each other and it makes every show feel unique and special. We pride ourselves on the fact that we never use backing tracks and that all of the sound is coming from us on stage.
We thank Mike and Jason for taking the time to share their insights and concert stories.
If you’ve seen them live already or see them tonight at Otto’s let us know how the show goes and what you saw and felt during their set and share your comments below.
Check out Otto’s site for more info on tonight’s show.
MP3: “Mountain Man”
July 28 Otto Bar DeKalb, IL
July 29 Newport Music Hall Columbus, OH
July 31 K-Rockathon Syracuse, NY
Aug 1 Bonzai 2010 Rochester, NY
Aug 3 Middle East Downstairs Cambridge, MA
Aug 4 Club Hell Providence, RI
Aug 5 Higher Ground Lounge Burlington, VT
Video: War Pigs Cover – Live