Written by Parisa Eshrati
Though it may be hard to feel connected to the music scene during this time of self-isolation, there are countless videos and resources available online to keep fans in touch with the spirit of live music. Below are some of my favorite concert footage, ranging from 80s punk shows at CBGB to Pagan Norwegian folk music in the forests, plus some recommendations of live music channels you can stream from the safety of your own home.
Artist: The Knife
Concert: Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience (2006)
It says this video was recorded in 2006, but I’m pretty sure this show is from the year 3000. Everything is pitch black save for the hypnotic visuals, allowing the audience to just fully delve into the experience. It’s hard for me to put my feelings about this concert in words. It’s so esoteric, strange, and one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen or heard. The performance of “Marble House” brings me to tears every time, and again, I can’t really say why.
Concert: LIFA: Live at Castlefest (2017)
Are you feeling bummed that quarantine has you missing out on your weekly Proto-Indo-European-Pagan-Shamanic rituals? Well no need to fear, you can watch a full Heilung concert from the comfort of your own home!
In all seriousness, though, Heilung performances are more than just a concert. Their shows are a theatrical recreation of their lyrics, words taken from runic scriptures from the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age, and sung in about ten different languages (including Icelandic, Proto-Norse and Old High German). The visual production is what really brings the musical themes to life. The costumes are historically correct reproductions of Eurasian circumpolar peoples, with performers alternating between stoic, warrior marches to trance-induced states. The instruments are also period-appropriate; the group creates a hypnotic cacophony of sounds with horse-skin drums, antiques from temples, and even clay rattles filled with human ashes. You can feel that every detail of this performance is carried with fullest intent.
This YouTube comment helps explain the story behind this particular show:
Heilung means healing, and it's the final message of this show. When you look through the set and the translations behind the lyrics, it's about a peaceful society being driven to war because their enemy only speaks the language of the sword. But during the conflict, their shaman/soothsayer guy reads the bones and discovers the only rune that has significance in the future is 'Ear' ... the 'Grave' or 'Death Incarnate'. Then, the final song's lyrics are taken from the Merseberg Incantations where Wodan heals a horse's broken leg with a chant of healing. So, the entire show is about healing the world of man from the scars of war, lest we be overtaken by the grave.
This is a great video to watch not only if you’re bored in isolation, but if you're looking to escape into a more natural, primitive time, and delve into a spiritual journey through Heilung's powerful music.
Concert: Sognametal (2004)
If you didn’t already fulfill your full Norse folk fantasy from the Heilung video, then check out this concert from one of my favorite Norwegian black metal bands, Windir. There is nothing theatrical about this show, rather it’s a testament to the extreme technical musicianship of this group. The lyrics are all sung in Sognamål, an archaic rural dialect of Norwegian, and the musical themes are based on traditional folk tunes and local sagas.
This show is also a tribute to the main songwriter and vocalist, Valfar, who passed away from hypothermia after being caught in a snowstorm traveling to his parent’s house in the mountains. The show was recorded one year after his death, what would have been Valfar’s 26th birthday. His brother, Vegard (the giant beefy mcbeef man who sticks out from the rest of the band), fills in for vocals for a part of this show.
It’s not to say that Heilung isn’t as genuine, but Windir really brings music straight from the spirit of the mountains. This show has no creative gimmicks, but the music fills me with so much emotion. You can feel that Valfar wrote this music from the isolation of his home in the fjords, connecting with his ancestors through nature and exploring ancient mythological folklore of his very rural town.
Artist: Various Artists
Concert: Woodstock (1994)
God, what a shitshow Woodstock ‘94 was. Here’s a Wiki excerpt explaining how the madness ensued:
Though only 164,000 tickets were sold, the crowd at Woodstock '94 was estimated at 550,000. The size of the crowd was larger than concert organizers had planned for and by the second night many of the event policies were logistically unenforceable. The major issues related to security, when attendees arrived, left or returned to the site, and the official concert food-beverage-vendor policy initially restricting attendees from entering with supplies of food, drinks and above all, alcohol. With the concert site mostly enclosed by simple chain link fences, there was hardly any difficulty for many attendees to enter freely with beer and other banned items. The security staff, along with the entrance and exit staff, could not continue reasonable monitoring of increasingly vast numbers entering, exiting, inspecting, while at the same time maintaining safety, security and peaceful atmosphere.
Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment when watching the Woodstock ‘94 footage. Most of the shows can be found on YouTube (other acts included Cypress Hill, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Green Day, and so many more), but Nine Inch Nails absolutely takes the cake for the most iconic set of the whole festival. They had the highest crowd density of the whole weekend, everyone is covered in mud, Trent is destroying everything on stage, and the setlist is every Nine Inch Nails song you'd wanna hear (and fun fact: their performance of "Happiness in Slavery" won a Grammy for Best Metal Performance.)
This is a great series to watch and have your own private music festival. Feel free to throw mud on yourself or spend $12 for a water bottle online for a more authentic Woodstock experience.
Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Concert: And All That Could Have Been (2000)
In case the Woodstock performance wasn’t enough live Nine Inch Nails material for you, here is some more emotionally-driven NIN tour footage, and my favorite videos of NIN to date. The Fragility tour was occurring at the peak of Trent Reznor’s depression and drug addiction, and the last leg of the tour was cancelled since Trent was hospitalized for overdosing. I’m not saying that tragedy or addiction makes for better music by any means, but am forewarning you that these are some pretty heavy performances. You can feel Trent shedding every layer of his skin and exposing his soul (especially in songs like “Piggy”). It’s so vulnerable it hurts.
Full concert stream here or purchase here.
Artist: The Prodigy
Concert: Live at Phoenix Festival (1996)
If I had a time machine and I could only see one concert, there’s no doubt in my mind I would go see The Prodigy in their prime. But I guess that’s the blessing of the internet - we can watch a full Prodigy concert from ‘96 and imagine what it would feel like to be in that crowd.
Everything feels so fresh here. This is the brink of a whole new wave of music. The Prodigy was introducing punk and electronic together in a way that no one had heard before, and the energy is absolutely psychotic. MCs Maxim and Keith Flint are on full freak-mode, running all over the stage and drugs pumping through every vessel in their bodies. Every shot of the crowd shows people jumping in a frenzy, no cellphones, no distractions, just pure energy. This is a great concert to watch if you’re trying to have a solo dance party and/or one-person mosh pit.
Artist: Rage Against the Machine
Concert: The Battle of Mexico City (1999)
Similar to The Prodigy show above, this concert is pure adrenaline. You can’t even see where the crowd ends in this massive warehouse, you just see a swarm of bodies jumping up and down I get claustrophobic just watching this, but damn, what I would give to be there. The best part is that this concert doesn’t age. Rage’s lyrics are just as relevant today, and the passion in the crowd is the same fuel we’re feeling as we watch our political system crumble during all this chaos right now. You can watch this concert for free on YouTube, or you can purchase it so you can hear the songs uncensored and even see a bonus interview clip with Noam Chomsky!
Artist: The Cramps
Concert: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital (1978)
During their 1978 tour, The Cramps and The Mutants made a stop to play a free show at the Napa State Mental Hospital. The concert was filmed by a small business called Target Video on a ½” Sony Port-a-Pak black-and-white camera with a single microphone, so the quality seems like it’s straight off of public access television. It’s a bizarre one, and you won’t see a crowd quite like this in any other of these concert videos. I recommend reading this Vice article for more backstory on this whole show and some additional photos too.
Concert: Black Mass Krakow (2004)
This has to be one of the most notorious concerts in the black metal scene. The stage is lined with sheep heads on spikes, adorned with Satanic symbols and naked, crucified models, all of which is covered in over eighty liters of blood. The band went under police investigation, as there are anti-blasphemy laws in Poland, and were almost banned from the country. They ended up just being fined 10,000 Polish zloty and having the concert footage confiscated. I’m still not sure how they got the footage back, let alone how they released it on DVD, but thank Satan they did! It’s pure black metal gold, and truly one of the most evil concerts you’ll ever witness. Amidst all the chaos on stage, I still think the most terrifying thing about this show is the look in Gaahl’s eyes. And that’s saying a lot.
Artist: Bad Brains
Concert: Live at CBGB (1982)
Quintessential punk history right here. One of the best punk bands, at thee premiere punk venue, at the peak year for punk music. The crowd, in true 80's hardcore fashion, is running all over the stage and dogpiling all over each other. It's hard to see where singer H.R. is half the time because there are just bodies flying around in every frame of the video. Not much more to say besides this is a time capsule piece of gold.
Artist: Various Artists
Concert: THE HEIGHT OF GOTH: A Night at the Xclusiv Nightclub: Batley, West Yorkshire UK (1984)
This doesn’t really count as a concert, but if we’re talking about musical events that are a total blast from the past, I highly recommend checking out this television special from 1984 documenting a night at a UK goth club. I probably say this a lot, but this is truly one of my favorite videos that’s out there in the cyber world. The music features all the best goth hits of the time from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Killing Joke, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. It’s not even so much a documentary, you’re just a fly on the wall observing the people, the fashion, the sounds, and most of all...the KILLER dance moves.
Artist: Mindless Self Indulgence
Concert: Our Pain, Your Gain (2005)
Don’t judge me for this. You know if you’re in your 20-somethings, you loved Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy in middle school, even if you were like me and pretended to hate it ‘cause you were “too metal” or whatever. Everyone at this show is having so much goddamn fun, it’s infectious. Go ahead and blast this, but make sure your mom doesn’t hear you singing along.
Concert: AT&T Wireless Acoustic Session (2000)
This concert is great if you want to nostalgia real hard. I feel like I’m transported back to the year 2000 with posters of Brandon Boyd all over my wall, listening to my local alternative rock radio station and waiting to hear Incubus come on the airwaves. Aside from the nostalgia, this is actually a really stellar concert (pardon the Incubus pun). They do acoustic versions of their weird, proggy metal stuff from S.C.I.E.N.C.E. and other earlier albums that I almost like better than the originals. This is a great one to watch to bask in the memories of simpler times!
Artist: System of a Down
Concert: Live in Armenia (2015)
If you can't tell by this list already, the 2000s were a very formative time for my music taste development. This video is very near and dear to my heart because it shows how System of a Down has really stood the test of time. They're not just a nostalgic feel good band (perhaps like that MSI video above), rather they're still fighting for the same causes as they were twenty years ago. It feels very full circle to watch them play in Armenia now that as of this year, 32 countries have officially recognized the Armenian genocide. It's powerful to watch them play for the Armenian people after all they've done to raise awareness for their history and culture.
There are countless media outlets that produce high quality content of live performances or full-length concerts. Here are a few recommendations of my favorite channels so you can keep streaming from the safety of your home.
COLORS is one of the most unique and aesthetically conscious web series that focuses on promoting the most distinctive artists from all over the world. As COLORS explains on their website: "COLORS is a unique aesthetic music platform showcasing exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on promoting the most distinctive new artists and original sounds. We offer a minimalist stage to shine a spotlight on the artists and give them the opportunity to present their music without distraction." You'll find artists of all genres from all around the globe on this channel, some more famous and some completely underground. The performances are only one song, but you can check out their playlists and binge ‘em all. Also, check out our blog on how to find new music for a list of some of my favorite COLORS videos.
NPR Tiny Desk Concerts
NPR truly can do no wrong. The Tiny Desk project is a series of intimate video performances, recorded at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen. If you’re new to this channel, start with their playlists where they categorize all their performances from staff favorites, contest winners, etc. I personally love the Dan Deacon concert because of how interactive he is with the crowd. Feel free to join his dance contest from home!
KEXP In-Studio Sessions
I firmly believe KEXP is the best radio station in the country. If you’re looking for up-and-coming artists, you can rely on KEXP to bring the best musicians of any and all genres to their studios for incredible performances and insightful interviews. Click here for the full channel.
Boiler Room is an online music broadcasting platform that streams live music sessions of all genres from around the world. Since they launched in 2010, Boiler Room has continued to release roughly 30 new videos out each month for a vast, eclectic selection that could put any music lover down a deep video wormhole for hours.
If you follow T&E. you already know we're a huge fan of Boiler Room. You can find our favorites listed in this collab blog from 2017, my updated list of favorite videos in our How To FInd New Music collab blog, and play along with our Boiler Room bingo game! Heck, you can even call your friends via Skype and play along together.
It goes without saying, MTV Unplugged set the standard for broadcasted musical performances. From 1989 - 1999, MTV offered a platform for musicians to share their art in a stripped down, acoustic fashion. We got some of the most iconic performances of all time out of this series, and you can refresh your memory of performances with this list here.
Arte offers a fantastic selection of concerts from electro to classical, jazz to world music, live and on demand. I'm fairly new to this channel, but so far my favorite performance is Idles playing at a French wedding.
What are some of your favorite concert videos? Feel free to comment below with links or general recommendations!