... and if it is I don't like it.
Thanks to Londonist (my favourite source for all things London) I scored a pair of tickets to see the Fun Lovin' Criminals playing at Koko. But this was no ordinary gig - it was a gimmicky 'silent disco' sponsored by Smirnoff. Basically, instead of plugging the instruments and mics into amps, they're all fed directly to the mix desk and then broadcast to the headphones you're wearing. And the drummer is locked away in a soundproof box... so now you get the idea.
Given only a few hours notice that I had in fact received tickets, I called on Mad Mark - music punter and critic extraordinaire - to join me on for this surreal concept in live music. It didn't take long for us to make up our minds that the old ways are still the best. The headphones weren't exactly top notch and gave a tinny sound experience, the mixing was either poor or couldn't cope with the fact that the instruments and vocals weren't being sung properly (not that Huey was messing it up, but amping up someone singing under their breath doesn't produce the same sound as someone singing properly). So, the 'silent' part of the gig definitely hampered the sound. The one saving grace of the headphones was that we could take them off to ignore the utterly atrocious Dutch DJ (perhaps I missed the joke, as others thought he was great). What would have been a great gig was sadly ruined by the gimmick.
Sound quality aside, the headphone gig also destroys one of the quintessentially valuable aspects of seeing music live - the sense of community and collective experience. Instead of feeling like you've shared a musical moment and thereby connected with the masses around you, everyone is at the same place, listening to the same band, but isolated in their own little 'ipod bubble'. Instead of stumbling out the doors overjoyed after a collective aural orgy, you hand back the headphones and leave feeling slightly dirty after a session of mass musical masturbation.