Hive Five: Acts Prime for the SNL Sound Stage

[caption id="attachment_28519" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo: Dana Edelson/NBC"]Sleigh Bells on Saturday Night Live[/caption]

Imagine you’re an emerging NFL star coming off a breakout year and your agent approaches you with the following news: you’ve been selected for the cover of EA Sports’ Madden video game franchise. But you grew up playing Madden on Xbox, watching the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and Shaun Alexander suffer tremendous injuries or other substantial setbacks the very season after they graced the cover and Peyton Hillis’ star-crossed 2011 isn’t making you feel any more comfortable.  You know how this usually goes: it’s a coronation and you generate a substantial PR bump in the short term, only to befall a potentially career-crippling malady of proportions unforeseen.  But what are you gonna do, say no after dreaming of this exact circumstance for your entire childhood?

Pop music has certainly seen its share of similar Faustian awards -- most notably, a Grammy for Best New Artist -- but as of late, the honor of being booked as Saturday Night Live’s musical guest has the Madden Curse’s strange and compelling omen of inevitability.  The issues facing bands are much less supernaturally based than the Madden Curse but every bit as problematic: pretty much every band simply sounds absolutely terrible to audiophiles and casual viewers alike, to the point where the cast members have no choice but to acknowledge it. Lana Del Rey and Bon Iver were mocked in consecutive weeks after brutal showings and the going consensus is that Sleigh Bells sounded like complete ass too too.

The problem is that SNL isn’t taking advantage of all the musicians out there whose sound or attitude is actually tailored to its notoriously horrible acoustics. Frankly, these five might be past their prime or in a prime of sorts that’s way beyond the scope of SNL, but whether sonically, personally or otherwise, they are completely prepared for the experience, and hell ... they can’t be any worse than Karmin.


It's safe to say a longshot for two reasons I can think of immediately, outside of the fact that he hasn’t actually sold a single record. First off, his “hit” is even raunchier than its title would suggest and the title of said song is “Suck a Dick For 2011.”  Secondly, it is no longer 2011 and the follow-up, “S.A.N.D. 2012” was actually the new year’s first major disappointment. Nonetheless, SGP’s production aesthetic -- essentially meant to sound like a thrice-dubbed over Three 6 Mafia cassette playing on a car stereo with broken subwoofers, in a closed garage 200 yards away -- leaves the RXIDXR KLVN boss as quite possibly the only guy whose sound might be improved by SNL.


One the big problems with the likes of Bon Iver and TV on the Radio flopping on SNL is the visual dissonance: though forces outside of their control conspire against them, these are clearly talented musicians who are really giving their all.  Which are two things you’ll never have to say about SALEM -- take your pick of their hilarious Fader Fort performance from SXSW or Iceland Airways as a prime example, but their inability to give even the slightest shit is an insurmountable standard along the lines of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game.

3. Justice

Audio, Video, Disco was pretty much a flop on all counts, but I can’t think of another act whose fans care less about the fact that they perform live with their instruments clearly not plugged in.

4. MF Doom

Lost in the otherwise stunning metamorphosis from Zev Love X to the masked Metal Face Doom is that MF’s live gigs generated the rep of being such energy vacuum that fans weren’t exactly sure whether to be mad when he obviously sent out impostors to perform in his place.  So even if the performance doesn’t come off well, there’s a very good chance Daniel Dumile won’t be the one taking it personally.

5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

Thanks to Wavves’ legendary implosion at Primavera in 2009, “meltdown” has been the pejorative of choice whenever describing a well-known act absolutely carking it on a big stage. It’s one often thrown at Ariel Pink, but having seen him piss off festival crowds ranging from Coachella to Pitchfork Festival, there’s a difference between a “meltdown” and being a whiny brat that Pink has long crossed.  For a guy who’s recorded most of his music on boomboxes, he’s certainly prone to getting a hair up his ass if his cordless mic isn’t to his liking, and once he inevitably throws a fit two minutes into “Round & Round,” we can all appreciate the comic gold as he soon realizes there’s no backstage to storm off to.