Monday, April 25, 2011

Top 10: Take Away Shows

Vincent Moon is a genius. The man has a gift in documenting performances that could be used to define the word "magic". Though he may not direct all the Take Away Shows, they are all his in the sense that his artistic vision laid the groundwork for his collaborators. If you like what you see/hear, be sure to check out La Blogotheque.

10.5. Delta Spirit - "People, Turn Around"

In the case of "People, Turn Around", the video itself isn't particularly impressive, but the song is just too damn good. The camera never really leaves the face of frontman Matt Vasquez, but that's okay. If the passion wasn't evident from the veins pulsing in his neck, the fervor in Vasquez's voice leaves you with no doubt that there is nothing in the world this man would rather do than sing. To quote the director, "He put himself back to the place where he wrote this song. It was beautiful. It was painful. It was perfect." Bonus points for the Beatles reference in the opening scene.

10. Fleet Foxes - "White Winter Hymnal"

Being that "White Winter Hymnal" is a masterpiece, the ingredients were there to put this in contention for the #1 spot. Unfortunately, the video itself is really mediocre, but hot damn, this song is phenomenal. Fleet Foxes are responsible for some of the best vocal harmonies in modern music.

9. Man Man - "A Day at the Races and a Night at the Opera"

This band is really just bat-shit insane, which makes them a joy to watch. It's contagious watching a group of musicians who have as much fun performing as Man Man.

8. The Antlers - "Two"

Shot in a Parisian cafe, this video is haunting, in a good way. Factor in the deeply personal lyrics about a terminally ill friend, and this will stick with you long after the viewing. Actually, watching this video back in '09 is what brought The Antlers to my attention. Chances are you are already well aware of this Brooklyn band. If not, this is the perfect introduction.

7. Mumford & Sons (with Johnny Flynn) - "The Banjolin Song" / "Awake My Soul"

This performance is everything the world has come to expect from Mumford & Sons. I find the location of a garden to be a perfect fit for "Awake My Soul". As the flowers bloom in the springtime and we shake off the cold grayness of the winter, "Awake My Soul" is on my go-to playlist. It should be on yours, as well.

6. Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible" / "Wake Up"

To warm up, we get a nice rendition of "Neon Bible" in an elevator as the band makes their way to the stage. The focus of this performance, "Wake Up", starts at around 8:30. The song starts well, but drags during the middle. What makes this top notch is that when the song starts its final phase (around 12:20), the crowd is absolutely electric.

5. The Tallest Man on Earth - "The Gardener"

In my opinion, Kristian Matsson has the strongest single voice in folk music today. Oddly enough, while The Tallest Man on Earth is about the size of an Olsen twin, his voice could knock over buildings. Throughout the performance, Moon takes us on a personal tour of the coolest guitar shop ever, Music Inn, located in Greenwich Village. Definitely checking that place out next time I'm in NYC.

4. Cold War Kids - "Saint John"

This video captures the off-beat, soulfully spontaneous nature of the Cold War Kids back during the Robbers & Cowards days. Some of the notes are out of key, and some of the percussion loses the beat, but that's music. I feel like Moon stumbled upon them as they were messing around before a show and just happened to have a camera with him. That's how authentic and impromptu this performance feels.

3. Local Natives - "Who Knows Who Cares"

I love how this is shot as a wandering narrative. Throughout the musical stroll, new voices and new instruments join in until all the pieces of the puzzle are together. When the band stops in the rotunda, something beautiful happens.

2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - "Home"

This one is easy to write about. Simply put, I think it's impossible to watch this performance and not smile. Try it.

1. Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"

At the start of this video, you hear a woman say "Break our hearts, Vincent", and with much help from Bon Iver, Moon is able to do just that. Justin Vernon's fragile falsetto sounds like a man weeping away every ounce of past pain, adding to the emotion that radiates from the screen. I love how Moon puts you behind the musicians; seeing the candle-lit faces of the crowd makes the performance just that much more real. As they smile, you smile; as they sing, you sing. When the crowd joins in for the first "my, my, my...", I get chills...every time. This video is raw, honest, and passionate...everything music should be. Enjoy.

There you have it. If you think I missed something brilliant, please let me know in the comments. There are well over a hundred Take Away Shows, there's a good chance I'm missing out on a hidden gem.


  1. Mike, this is a truly phenomenal list and probably my favorite post on A Brief Intermission yet...

    Two of my favorites didn't make it but you should check them out if you've never seen them:

    I Need A Dollar by Aloe Blacc (
    Beirut - Nantes

  2. I really like the Yeasayer one where they do Red Cave on the subway. But other than that I think this list is pretty damn good. Somehow I haven't checked out the Skinny Love one, so I'll have to make that a priority.

  3. I appreciate the kinds, but all the hard work was done for me. All I had to do was watch purely amazing footage and throw it together...buuuuut with my youtube it took three solid hours. Worth it, though.

  4. I'm glad I joined this. I'm finding out about a bunch of new bands! Haha.

  5. Great list! These guys are amazing, but it is hard to just go straight through all of their videos. I'm glad someone took the time to curate some of the best. Two others that I HIGHLY recommend are the Yeasayer video (where they do this incredible rendition of "Red Cave" on the Paris metro), and the Menomena video (if only for the kids busting a move on the street). Thanks again...

  6. The Walkmen, "We Can't Be Beat"
    Absolutely stunning. An unreal performance of a simply glowing song.