Posted by
Nov 192012

When was the last time you caught a live performance where the band was working it so hard, was so focused as a unit, that it was like witnessing a steam engine with the throttle open wide? A performance that induced in you a giant shit-eating grin? I’ve seen a lot of great performances, and many great recent one’s to boot, but I have to go back a-ways to land on a show that meets this criteria. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about.


  12 Responses to “Pumping”

  1. This pumping phenomenon, for me, may be the ultimate payoff of seeing a band in concert. You’re right, Tvox, it doesn’t happen often enough. I don’t get out much anymore. When I saw Elvis Costello & the Imposters at the Tower a year or two ago they achieved a few such moments.

    When Andyr and I were in high school, trying to figure out how to start a band while not really knowing how to play any instruments, we’d get together on a Saturday night and watch the syndicated video show Rock World. You’ve likely heard me wax poetic over this show’s opening montage, especially the part where it cut to a band called Supercharge. The members of Supercharge were shown thrusting in unison from the front of the stage. The cut may have lasted no longer than 2 seconds, but it became ingrained in our minds. A few years later, Chickenfrank joined our band. He also grew up focused on that 2-second segment of the Rock World opening. By this point our actual band could play a bit. Every show was geared toward that achieving that 2-second Supercharge moment of steam engine pumping. Whenever we actually reached that fleeting moment we knew we’d tapped into something magical and powerful. It wasn’t a given that we could reach that state, even though not a show went by when, during a certain instrumental break in a song we usually included in our sets, we lined up in Supercharge formation. One had to be ready. One had to be in formation to be ready.

  2. bostonhistorian

    Al Green’s performance of “Here I Am” on Soul Train does it for me…the extended instrumental coda the band kicks into is one of those things that should just go on forever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn17MYQz9Qg

  3. When you see it happening, it’s quite something. I used to see the Lyres a bunch back in the 80’s, and on a few occasions, they got into the pumping zone. REM at a 1983 club show. My very first Replacements club show (Tim tour) is another example. I since saw them be good after that, but not pumping like that one night. Possibly the Minutemen on the Double Nickles tour…I’ll try to think of more. I don’t think the concept is unique to one’s late teens-early twenties, as I only discovered that pumping Jr. Walker clip recently.

  4. Pumping is a good name for what goes down from time to time. One of the best double bills I ever saw was Old 97s opening for Drive-By Truckers. This was in DC about 10 years ago or so . . . I don’t know if there was some kind of band rivalry going on . . . but it was cool to see.

  5. Does the video for London Calling work? Or is it too scripted?

  6. BigSteve

    The only example I can think of is seeing the Beat Farmers at some point in the early 90s and thinking, right now, on this night, I’m watching the best rock&roll band on the planet.

  7. Slim Jade

    I love the description – – full throttle wide open, and all – – and it really sets the bar for live band criteria.

    But damn! I see shows on a regularly healthy basis, but why can’t I think of anyone but The Clash or The Jam 30 years ago??

  8. I was thinking about the Clash last night. I saw them once, near their end, and there was tension and it truthfully wasn’t an inspired show, but at their peak I’m sure they had pumping shows.

    I thought of another few last night, and they all occurred at the Khyber Pass here in Philly. Superchunk and GBV, both in ’93. Great bands who I’ve seen a lot since, but those show were pumping. The other was in the early aughts, a northern NJ band called the Rye Coalition. Pretty much if Fugazi and Led Zep had a love child who played pumping shows.

  9. I saw the Clash at U. Penn Skating Rink, and yes, they were far from pumping. I went hoping to experience the pumping I’d seen in Rude Boy, in which even the audience pumped along with the band:


    Oh, and when I saw GBV at the Troc the only pumping involved Pollard and his beer bottles.

  10. bostonhistorian

    When I was thirteen or so, my mother took me to see Count Basie and his band. Basie was up there in years and his piano playing was pretty limited, but the power that band had when they got going was a thing of wonder.

  11. Slim Jade

    I can’t say I’ve seen them live, but based on videos, I’m betting The Specials pumped it with the best of ’em.

    More currently…The White Stripes? Too few on stage. Yo La Tengo? Maybe only Ira Kaplan.


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