Beck, and music

One of my favourite TV shows is ending next week. I watch quite a few Japanese animated (anime) shows, which are recorded, translated, subtitled and distributed by enthusiasts over networks like BitTorrent, often within hours or days of being shown on Japanese TV. The distribution is a fascinating process in itself, actually – the most popular show I know of, Naruto, has an international viewing population in the hundreds of thousands purely by word-of-mouth advertising, fan translations and BitTorrent distribution, and that ought to give some TV networks nightmares. That aside, one of the shows I’ve been watching recently is Beck, which is a series about music.

It’s probably the best television show about music I’ve ever seen. It’s a fairly simple story (boy meets band, boy joins band, band does good, band breaks up). The writing is serviceable but not great, the pace is fairly slow, and the art is nothing special (if you want to see some really nice art, try Air). However, what it *does* have is a love of music in spades. The whole series hits home instantly to anyone who really loves music – if you own more than a hundred CDs, play guitar, go to concerts, you will get it immediately. The sheer excitement of discovering real music for the first time, the exact ambience of the whole live music experience, the milieu (bands, characters, even t-shirts) – everything is carried off perfectly. The music of the show is great, and the details of everything are perfect; even the animation of people playing instruments is done accurately. If you’re at all into the whole indie / rock music scene, it’s a show you ought to watch.

One of the things that started my love of the whole scene was my first live show, about nine years ago now – Ash playing the Manchester Academy, which is a concrete box with a stage at one end and a couple of thousand people holding plastic pint pots at the other. It’s a great if unforgiving space for live music – if you play right, the sound is fantastic and everything is focussed on the stage. If you play bad, it turns into a miserable experience for everyone (as I’d find out at later shows there…thanks, Space). Luckily for the younger me, though, Ash were fantastic – they were touring 1977 to a crowd of fans who knew every song, the entire place was bouncing up and down, and it sounded like nothing I’d heard before.

Since then I’ve seen Ash again a couple of times, memorably in 2001 at Leeds, where they headlined the second stage against Travis on the main stage and blew them away, packing their stage to way over capacity. They’re playing at an inexplicably small venue (Richard’s on Richards) here in Vancouver on Thursday, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them again. Should be a blast.

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