By Claire Staten
I can whole-heartedly say that I get my passion for music from my dad. He introduced me to Motown when I was little, beginning with The Jackson 5. Growing up, he also introduced me to bands such as Earth, Wind, and Fire, The Beatles, and .38 Special. Sometimes I would brush off dad’s “old music” and turn on Top 40, but for some reason I was always drawn back to these bands. A few months ago, dad posed a question that took me months to answer: “Do you listen to any performers who play actual instruments anymore?” He had a valid point. The current forces in Top 100 radio included artists such as Gaga, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and One Direction. Though all of these people are magnificent performers, they are solo acts. Sure, they pull out the guitar or piano during live performances, as well as having a backup band, but there is something unique about a band actually being the performer.
Thinking back, 2012 and 2013 seemed to bring back “the return of the band.” Artists like Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, as well as Mumford & Sons brought top 100 singles into the scene throughout 2012, and leaked their success over into 2013. “It’s Time,” “Ho Hey” and “I Will Wait” are all songs that were heard regularly on Top 40 stations across the country. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good catchy pop song as much as the next person, but it is so refreshing to hear actual instruments being used. When it comes to live performances, it’s very different to watch a flashy show of a solo entertainer as opposed to a band. Not only are the singers providing vocals, but also you are able to see the sound of the songs unfold right before your eyes.
As a music fanatic, I am constantly looking up live performances of different musicians and bands. There have been few that completely blow me away and keep me coming back for second and third watches. For example, if you look up any of the Mumford & Sons songs from their performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado (and I mean watch, not just listen to the live audio), you realize that this band is monumental in the music industry. When watching Mumford &Sons live, there are a few aspects that stand out compared to other bands. For example, all four members are on the front of the stage, and you can literally watch the different pieces of music unfold in front of you. In addition, there is an intense amount of passion and emotion behind each song being sung. Marcus Mumford is a brilliant singer, because he puts his entire soul behind every single note that comes from his being.
Unfortunately, there is a way to cheat the system with bands these days. There are some bands who have the key members playing in the front, but then have guys in the back playing instruments to enhance the sound. Fortunately, bands like The Lumineers and Imagine Dragons know how to take a small stage and enhance it with their band and the sounds they create on their own. For example, when listening to Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” you hear an essential bass drum in the first part of the song, and when you see the song live, lead singer Dan Reynolds assumes position and plays multiple percussion instruments in front of the audience. The Lumineers also take the path of each member playing an instrument on stage. All four members of the band are at the front of the stage at one point or another, which gives the audience the chance to see the sounds of the songs being played right in front of their very eyes. The drums, piano, strings, and vocals are all played live as opposed to layers of back tracks. You can’t find that experience with many other popular artists these days.
2012 and 2013 are times where actual bands are taking over, and I definitely do not mind. The audience definitely gets a better understanding of the songs being played right in front of them. Mumford & Sons, Imagine Dragons, and The Lumineers are highlights of what is to come with bands, and I can finally report back to dad that instruments are making their way back into the Top 100.