Bromantic

Last Friday night, I went to the Fleet Foxes show at the Doug Fir in Portland. Instead of following my usual trajectory for show-going — the one wherein I plan on going all week, but then bail at the last second due to tiredness, old age or an excuse to hang out with my pets — I arrived at the venue early with a sense of eagerness and anticipation. The Fleet Foxes did not disappoint. On the last show of its tour, the band sounded tight and seamless and so at ease, like that moment when new shoes or a baseball mitt finally acquiesce to the shape of your foot or hand. Like Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes' members do stage banter that forms a nice contrast with the near-hypnotic realm of their music. They go from creating an elixir of a sound to laughing and joking, never losing sight of the fact that it is five men, not magicians, on stage.

Live, it's much more wondrous how the band handles the vocals. I found myself looking around from the bass player to the drummer, trying to ascertain just who was contributing what vocal sound. The point being, of course, that the harmonies became nearly impossible to dissect.

Yet it is not the glory of Fleet Foxes that brings me to this blog entry. Instead, it's the fans. Sure, there was the middle-aged woman dressed in natural fibers, singing her heart out and barely disguising her excitement that Crosby, Stills & Nash had been reborn. But I knew she would be there; how could she not? And there were the couples gazing longingly at one another during key points of the songs, as if to say, "These lyrics deepen my commitment to you and so does this beer. Let's kiss." But mostly, I was fascinated by all the Bromance in the room. I'm certain you've seen it, or maybe you've even felt it — that phenomenon where mostly straight men show up to shows in small packs, high-fiving during songs, raising glasses at the band in a show of brotherly love, and shouting "I love you!" toward the stage. I don't think I'd seen so much man-on-man-concert-love in a long time, maybe not since the heyday of Built to Spill, or at the one Rollins Band show I witnessed.

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Bromance is a strangely beautiful phenomenon. At some points during the Fleet Foxes show, I almost felt like an intruder, like maybe this was a men's therapy group or a secret handshake to which I shouldn't be privy. But loving a band along with likeminded people is not about being exclusionary; it's more about a sense of commonality and appreciation cohering around an art form or a sound or a beard. And, let's be honest, there are probably men who love certain bands, but end up feeling like they're stepping into a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie every time they go to a concert.

I hope I don't need to say that of course I know music transcends gender, and that sounds do not belong to any one person or group. But we all know that some bands inadvertently inspire certain forms of bonding. It's those shows you'd rather go to with your friends so you can turn to them during a song, nod in agreement and astonishment, slap backs, and raise drinks in the air. So, what bands inspire a deep brotherly love? Or bring out the divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood?

Pictured below, the bromance inspiring Fleet Foxes:

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Ween was very much a dude-centric show. Probably 70/30. The sound of high fives and back slapping almost drowned out the sound of a couple of their songs it was so prolific.

In this case it's probably because of the deep appreciation that many males of all ages have of a good dick joke delivered over loud guitars.

Sent by Chad - Hungary for Turkey | 2:34 PM | 7-29-2008

I'm not one for shows where one group or another is favored with a bonding feeling over the rest; I never went to Lilith Fair, or the type of show that catered only towards men, and I doubt I listen to the kind of music that would seek that narrow of an audience. As was said, quite well I might add, in this post, music doesn't belong to anyone and its power transcends identity groups. Or, should. That's really the point I would like to make here; though I realize music is created by people who fall into identity groups, and though I sympathize with groups who have been and are marginalized and/or discriminated against and respect their desire to have something of their own(LGBT, female, non-white), it almost seems like a contradiction in terms to create music that would have even the secondary effect of reinforcing borders between people.

That being said, the best shows I've ever been to have been those where as soon as the band everyone came to see takes the stage, everything that separates is erased and the audience becomes one. The closest thing I've experienced to the purity of this feeling are shows by The Faint in Omaha, NE, their hometown. Everyone from the emo-hipster crowd that takes The Faint seriously, to clean cut college types, to hip hop kids, electronic music fanatics, and people who never much venture past the Top 40 all freak out, dance in unison, and leave half deaf, bathed in sweat, beer, and water, feeling euphoric and reborn.

-P.S.-

Has anyone had a chance to catch "She and Him" live yet? Im planning on seeing them in Madison, WI Aug. 8th and was curious how well Zooey and M.Ward do live.

Sent by Ryan | 2:43 PM | 7-29-2008

I have never seen so much Bromance than at a Guided By Voices show.
Lots of sweaty drunk dudes, singing together praying together at the church of Bob.
I think that would be universal at a GbV show, maybe venue or town has something to do with it, college town vs. larger metropolitan area.

Sent by Dan | 2:47 PM | 7-29-2008

I saw plenty of Bromance when I saw My Morning Jacket a couple of years ago. I felt like I stepped into the middle of a frat party, but all these guys were having such a great time.

And it's funny that you would write about Fleet Foxes. I drove around all day with their album in my car and I found myself wondering how they achieved the complexity of their vocals live. I need to add another secret weapon to my list from a week ago or so. Skylar Skjelset. His guitar work hides underneath and then jumps to the surface at the right moment, but the sound dynamic revolves around him. Their sound really is all-encompassing. I played the CD in the record store recently and a middle-aged lady asked me what it was. "It's so beautiful," she said. And then she didn't buy it. Lousy cheapskate.

A Bromance band for me and my friends would have to be Stars. We're not quite as huggy, but we do get excited when they play certain songs live. Throw Belle and Sebastian in there, too. The friends I talk about have moved to New Jersey, but I'm fairly positive that other Bromance bands for us would be Wolf Parade and Okkervil River.

Sent by Nick L. | 2:59 PM | 7-29-2008

I guess this is chickmance...I have never felt so close to hundreds of people I didn't know then when I was at your (Sleater Kinney)last show at First Avenue. It was beautiful. I will never forget how I felt. Dripping with sweat, holding my beer and dancing my ass off.

Sent by Jess | 3:11 PM | 7-29-2008

Good word.

Pearl Jam wins hands down.

Any local bands "on the verge" will have this as well, my latest experience being The Whigs in Atlanta.

Sent by Brian A. | 3:22 PM | 7-29-2008

Wilco's live show has become unbearably 'bromantic' since, I hate to say it, Nels joined the line-up. It's not his fault of course, but so much of the crowd nowadays is dudes in polo shirts and cargo shorts high-fiving each over after every solo. My main issue with these 'bros' is that they seem to get offended if you are not expressing your enjoyment in quite the same way. I've had complete strangers turn to me for a high-five (or to yell "Hell Yeah!!!" in my face) and then get seriously pissed-off when I don't return their enthusiasm.
Sometimes I think these guys just don't go to many shows so when they spend their hard earned money on tickets and booze they want every event to be THE BEST SHOW THEY'VE EVER SEEN IN THEIR LIFE. I go to lots of live shows and I've experienced many transcendent moments, but I can't remember once turning to the stranger next to me looking for a fist-bump.

Sent by Sal C. | 3:33 PM | 7-29-2008

I have to agree with My Morning Jacket from above, interesting observation. I've also seen And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead one too many times and cannot recall ever seeing a girl at those shows. The boys get all giddy for 'Mistakes and Regrets' and the stage destruction though!

Sent by Tom | 3:47 PM | 7-29-2008

That thing about feeling like an intruder in someone else's special thing? I used to get that every time I saw le tigre in SF. I sang along like everyone else during FYR but I got the distinct impression that I was not the fan Kathleen Hannah was singing to.

Sent by nathan | 3:59 PM | 7-29-2008

Interestingly enough, last time I HAD to turn to someone and mouth "wtf" was at a Malkmus and The Jicks show after Stephen had finished massacring his guitar with his mouth. Ordinarily, I'm averse to people near me needing constant reassurance that I'm enjoying myself ("This is great, right!?") but sometimes it needs to be done.

I can't argue with mass Bromance though; last time I experienced it was at a Radiohead show.. most of the people I was with had come alone or in twos but by the end of the show, there were about 30 of us united by an unstoppable force, unable to stop singing, smiling, bouncing.. it was beautiful. Ages ranged from 9 to 60.

Sent by Leah | 3:59 PM | 7-29-2008

LOL

Sent by Marissa | 4:30 PM | 7-29-2008

I just recently heard the term "bromance" for the first time around the NPR Music pod. I shuddered.

Some years back, my bros and I seriously bonded over an Acid Mothers Temple show at the Earl in Atlanta. We stood -- some in perpetual headbang -- smiling and transfixed in all the band's freakout-psych-kraut-rock. Afterward, we all immediately wanted to consume meat and drink cherry Coke. Thank God for 24-hr Waffle Houses on every block in the grand ole South.

I think it comes down to seriously "dudely" music that vaguely (or sometimes bluntly) celebrates the male spirit. Strangely enough, that can mean anything from full-on RAWK to West Coast good times (like the Fleet Foxes, I suppose). That doesn't mean ladies can't enjoy it as well... I probably shouldn't write anymore (heh).

Sent by Lars Gotrich | 5:27 PM | 7-29-2008

A Hold Steady show is Bromance Central.

Sent by Heather | 5:33 PM | 7-29-2008

Dudes, its all about hardcore shows. The best are Limp Wrist shows!

Sent by nicolai | 5:34 PM | 7-29-2008

There are two shows that I've attended in the last ten years where I have felt disconnected from the rest of the audience. One, like Nathan above, was Le Tigre. I had a great time, I was just surprised to see so many women ready to rock. I suspect it had more to do with my expectations, which should have been more attuned. The other show was Greg Allman. I was lost in a sea of fringe.

Hold Steady was a serious Bromance. Too, before they disbanded, Dead Moon.

Sent by mikeyj | 5:55 PM | 7-29-2008

the avett brothers.. the perform so smoothly together, it pulls you in along with them

Sent by jonny | 5:58 PM | 7-29-2008

At the last Drag the River show I made out with at least 4 dudes around me, including a skinny Australian and a portly Canadian.

Sent by RanMan | 6:02 PM | 7-29-2008

When tegan & Sara first came to town, my brother and I were intrested in checking out the show. this was back in 2003, so they were the unknown opener.

Well, for some reason - and i wish i could remember the headliner -we were the only two males attending this packed show. It caused some comments, but we didn't have have our "YA YA" moment until we found ourselves in the men's room surrounded by all females.

A little awkward, but they were very polite about the situation . . .

Sent by gcn. | 6:04 PM | 7-29-2008

The Sadies. Nothing like the brothers Good (Dallas and Travis), to bring out the bromance in full force.

Sent by John T | 10:06 PM | 7-29-2008

Gossip, undoubtedly. Gossip fans are all amazing; I love being part of a big group of queer, fat and fat positive ladies who dance their hot asses off. It's one of the reasons I will always go to a Gossip show whenever they're in town, barring me being in a coma.

Sent by Anjanette | 11:14 PM | 7-29-2008

Recently, at a Tegan and Sara show, I found myself looking around the crowd during the show and feeling this weird bond with everyone in the room. Most were young, teenage girls who were straight until they lost their "Tegan and Sara virginity." But we all knew each and every word to their songs. We all bounced and danced to each beat. We all laughed at their stories about "dad" learning to text message or how the opening band thinks "mom" is hot. We all found them adorable, lovable and awesome.
I attended that particular show with a good friend/ex-girlfriend. She was only familiar with a handful of tunes by the talented, Canadian twins. However, when they began to finish out their encore with the song "Living Room", my friend and I looked at each other, smiled and began dancing our asses off. It was a connection we hadn't experienced in a long time. And although it only lasted approximately 5 minutes, it's still something we talk about to this day.

Sent by brittani | 12:14 AM | 7-30-2008

I guess most of the bands I see live don't inspire Bromance. Seeing, say, Yo La Tengo play "Night Fall on Hoboken" live would likely inspire more than just a little fist-bump or high five from me, but we're talking about a different kind of male bonding in this case.

At my next concert, I will turn to a nearby fellow, sip my Miller ever so seductively, and whisper into his ear, "Care for some Bromance?" (In my fantasy life it would be with the man in the middle of the first photo. Totally my type.)

Sent by Michael | 1:13 AM | 7-30-2008

What you said in the last paragraph totally happened to me at a Sleater Kinney show in Omaha, NE 2005. I had just moved to Omaha one week before the show and saw that Sleater Kinney was playing at the Sokol Underground. I immediately went and bought a ticket, even though I didn't know anyone to go with. I'm also not the most visual identifying "fan" of Sleater Kinney. I'm about 5'11 280lbs and male. I was so moved by the show that I waited afterwards for autographs on a vinyl copy of "The Woods" that I purchased at the merch table. I was so excited that I might have the chance to meet all of you in the band that I was almost more nervous than excited. That nervous feeling turned to one of embarrasment when I realized that you actually need a pen to get an autograph. A pen that I did not have. But, you, Carrie Browenstein and Corin Tucker were so gracious, put up with my blunder, and got a Sharpie from one of the road crew members. I was so embarrased after getting Corin's autograph and that the road crew took their Sharpie back that I didn't wait for Janet Weiss. Mainly because I couldn't suffer any more awful looks from the road crew and other fans that were like, "Who does he think he is getting their autograph? He doesn't look like a fan. He'll probably try to sell the album on Ebay." The truth is, I still have the album. It's one of my favorite pieces in my vinyl collection. It sits in a glass display case for all my friends to see when they come over. One day I'll get a ticket to see Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Hopefully Janet Weiss will still be the drummer. And I'll be there with my copy of "The Woods". I know this all sounds sappy as hell, but I loved Sleater Kinney's music. I'm definitely not the prototypical "fan", but I've been one ever since I heard "Dig Me Out" in 1998.

Sent by Jack | 1:17 AM | 7-30-2008

Greg Dulli is the King of Bromance, and yes, I am smitten.

Sent by Michael | 1:55 AM | 7-30-2008

La Raza always shows up for Los Lobos gigs. Nothing like bluesy norte~as to mellow the machismo. The more intimate the setting for a LL show the better.

Sent by Rich | 6:15 AM | 7-30-2008

Ani DiFranco's early days felt a lot like chickmance. The time I felt most excluded was at a Modest Mouse show.

I used to really love going to hardcore shows. It always felt like a "oneness" and that girls were always welcome.

Sent by Gretchen | 6:39 AM | 7-30-2008

Hold Steady and Wilco.
I like the Hold Steady records, but the live show has made me less of a fan. Wilco? Just don't get it.

Sent by BB | 7:48 AM | 7-30-2008

I've seen some serious jamband bromance in my day, with Phish taking the cake for envoking some serious crowd-on-crowd lovin'. Some smaller bands, like Tea Leaf Green and Disco Biscuits, seem to do the same thing but it's mostly for all the folks in the front row.

"I love you, man."
"No, I love YOU, man."

Sent by Justin Ward | 9:19 AM | 7-30-2008

My friends and I are like that almost all the time. I was once high-fived for falling off my bike. We throw high fives around like it's nobody's business.

Sent by mccormack | 10:13 AM | 7-30-2008

I went to see an opening band and stayed for the first song or two of Pete Francis (of Dispatch). I was going to leave anyway, but my decision was cemented by the bromantic tableau that formed in front of me of a group of bros frat-dancing and crushing beer cans on each other's heads.

Sent by sylvia | 11:20 AM | 7-30-2008

Lol. I was at that show. I thought you were going to write about an overly loud, drunk woman in the crowd (my wife) who talked louder as people began to give her the stink eye. THere were 4 or 5 guys in front of us all but making out with each other.

I was at the First Annual New Year's Eve Freak OUt Ball in SF w/ Primus, Mr. Bungle and the Melvins. THis was before the term bromance was invented, but it was certainly a sausage fest.

Sent by tim | 12:42 PM | 7-30-2008

Hold Steady is a big bromance show as well.

Sent by carolyn | 1:25 PM | 7-30-2008

I once stood outside of a Built to Spill concert with a cardboard sign with "looking for 1 ticket" sprawled in sharpie. Another dude stood next to me, definitely a moment of bromance between us when we caught eyes later that night in the show. Just something about a shared experience that makes those connections.

Sent by Jack | 2:36 PM | 7-30-2008

I hate to jump on the bandwagon but one could have bottled the "bromance" displayed at the Hold Steady show Sunday night. The energy from the bottled "bromance" could have powered Portland for a month. Admittedly, I did partake in the raising of the glass and nodding to lyrics, and even though I'm not a guy, as a lesbian I'd say it's close enough.

Sent by Jen | 2:53 PM | 7-30-2008

I love that you "witnessed" a Rollins Band show. Like you were a bystander at an accident or a crime and could be called to testify.

"Yes, your honor, he scowled and yelled and broke microphones and whenever he tossed his head sweat flew off of him, like, twenty feet in the air. And in between songs he lectured the crowd about racism and homophobia."

To paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I may know be able to define Rollins Band-icide, but I know it when I see it."

Sent by Liam | 7:24 PM | 7-30-2008

Pearl Jam fans are the ultimate bromantics. I think its because of Eddie's voice. Extremely masculine in its tone and emotionally revealing at the same time... Nothing better than a stadium full of mostly heterosexual males coming together in the spirit of brotherhood to contemplate aloud why that poor lady can't just leave that bastard and find herself a "better man".

Sent by Jonah | 8:48 PM | 7-30-2008

the hold steady.

Sent by Joe G | 9:22 PM | 7-30-2008

bon iver had a pretty big dudebro ratio last night in new york. unfortch, the dude standing near me did not have a compadre so he voiced his satisfaction with the show every 2 minutes to no one in particular. i tried not to look his way because i just knew he would try and high-five me.

p.s. is that first picture of bon iver? it just dawned on me that i have never seen him up close or even a picture. either my eyes are going bad or his band is made up of 15 year olds.

Sent by Lauren | 12:03 AM | 7-31-2008

I was once one of three women at a Hold Steady show. But this comment has been beaten like a dead horse.

Shockingly - my boyfriend dragged me to Stars - I was not expecting bromance?

Sent by Angela | 12:36 AM | 7-31-2008

I was @PDX POP on Friday night, listening to Tu Fawning, Panther and Nick Jaina so I missed this show. I actually wanted to see The Dutchess and The Duke more than Fleet Foxes.

Bromance wise, I think the Gutter Twins back in March at the Wonder Ballroom had a lot of it going on. Maybe not the most tender of bands, but the bonding was palpable.

I'm going to Bend in Aug to see Fleet Foxes and Wilco. Bromance double header?

Sent by setya | 10:41 AM | 7-31-2008

Definitely felt a tad out of place at my first S-K show. That feeling disappeared during the first song. But I certainly felt like I had walked into the wrong building for a while there.

Sent by Gary Drechsel | 11:36 AM | 7-31-2008

There's a feeling at a Drive By Truckers show that encompasses both men and women- but mostly it's thick on bromance.

Sent by Pudd | 12:04 PM | 7-31-2008

KISS inspires bromances the world over.

Sent by Jen | 1:50 PM | 7-31-2008

Hmm...only 1 GBV comment??!!

Hands down the most bromantic (and fun) environment in live music. I had moved from Columbus to Providence and 2 months into my stay, GBV played, I didn't know a soul and I was arm in arm with with complete strangers seconds into the first song.

Felt like Ohio for a few hours.

Sent by Jason M. | 6:43 PM | 7-31-2008

Content over bromance for me. I liked that the Fleetwood Foxes were making such good use of their 3 part harmonies. That is something that I don't hear much of. Now if they can just get a hit or two to go along with it.

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 10:13 PM | 7-31-2008

The most memorable on-stage bromance I've seen was David Berman and Stephen Malkmus at a Silver Jews show at the Crystal Ballroom a couple years ago. Seeing those two guys smiling at each other as they played brought me to tears.

Sent by Cristin | 10:22 PM | 7-31-2008

Never heard of this term before. I love it!

Iron Maiden
Jawbreaker
Frankie Bones
Michael Gira

Sent by daniel | 10:01 AM | 8-1-2008

You're too damn cute... what with the bromantics.

Ween or Sonic Youth or SK.

Sent by joe | 9:49 PM | 8-1-2008

Don't call it bromance, but there is a palpable feeling that the crowd is one cohesive body, and a spirit of togetherness reigns for a Flaming Lips show. The positive atmosphere they cultivate results in a complete loss of vulnerability and inhibition; the reason we go to shows, right?. It's pretty awesome.

Sent by Brazito | 12:55 PM | 8-2-2008

I know it's been established that bros rule a Hold Steady show, but seeing them on a Wednesday and then going to a Thao with the Get Down Stay down show on Saturday was the most jarring combination of shows. Men, in an ecstasy induced adoration, sweaty and hugging during the encore on one night to the most verbally aggressive women I've ever encountered in a show, essentially moon-eyed and propositioning/declaring their love for Thao three nights later.

Sent by eurie | 2:20 PM | 8-4-2008

want bromance? Go see RUSH live.

Sent by jeremy | 7:29 PM | 8-4-2008

I guess it's a sign of strength that you can tolerate, even appreciate, the mysterious world of bromance. My personal opinion is that if large amounts of bromance can be anticipated at a show, the ticket cost should either be cut in half or doubled. The ticket cost should be cut in half if the venue wants sane people to show up. The ticket cost should be doubled if the venue doesn't care and just wants to make some cash, because there are at least 30 bros who are guaranteed to show up to a bro-tastic band.

Sent by natalie in pdx | 2:04 PM | 8-5-2008

Drive By Truckers

Sent by james | 4:16 PM | 8-5-2008

Wolf Parade was surprisingly dude-filled when I saw them at Terminal 5 here in NYC, though I don't know if it quite reached bromance heights.

Sent by Taylor | 8:04 PM | 8-5-2008

Thanks http://www.trsohbet.name

Sent by sohbet | 10:53 AM | 8-12-2008

The Constantines. But it's all good.

Sent by Kristen R. | 10:45 PM | 9-2-2008

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