More often than not, we always seem to refer to using home theaters on this site for “movie night” (read: also extending to cable/broadcast TV shows) and to a lesser extent for “watching the big game” (read: not just the Super Bowl, but sports in general, of course)—and I’m as guilty as anyone for that generalization.
Maybe it just doesn’t sound right for us, or the custom electronics professionals we often talk to about home theater installations, to refer to special theater times as “music nights.” Or maybe we just don’t think about using our theater rooms quite that way, because after all a 120-inch screen kind of puts the focus on video over audio.
But if you’re a music fan, you should make it a music night. Chances are, you put a lot of investment into the audio side of the equation, too. Don’t let movie nights grab all the glory.
My wife’s a huge Green Day fan, and recently we saw them recently live in concert for the first time on a tremendous night ... but another Green Day performance I’ll also fondly remember is when I queued up their Bullet in a Bible concert DVD for her in our own theater. I was reviewing a Digital Projection DLP projector at the time on my 92-inch Elite Screens projection screen, and the video was nicely complementing the Paradigm speakers/Anthem electronics sound system for an utterly rockin’ show—my wife would rather not go down to the basement for nightly viewing but the concert DVD had some major pull.
A few years ago I offered up 15 Blu-ray Concerts to Rock Your Home Theater, and I’ll harp on the Blu-ray format as being arguably the ultimate way to turn your home theater into a mini concert hall with their ability to offer uncompressed multi-channel Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks plus linear PCM.
And there’s tons of great Blu-rays and DVDs (which can still look and sound pretty darn good in a solid theater system) to choose from—if you’re fortunate enough to go to a tradeshow like CEDIA Expo or CES, you’ll return with plenty of ideas for purchases. For instance, one of the demo highlights during this year’s CES was seeing Lucia Micarelli jam out Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on the Josh Groban Awake Live Blu-ray disc in the RBH Sound/ADA/SI Screens room. (Speaking of Zep, their Celebration Day is also a must-have if you’re seeking out recently released Blu-rays for your music night.)
Beyond the disc format, these days you can also host a live concert. No, I’m not talking about bringing in a $250K pipe organ as part of transforming your home into a concert hall (as crazy as that sounds, is that the music equivalent of hiring James Earl Jones to come over to your house and re-enact Darth Vader lines?), but you can virtually punch your ticket to a Phish show or Furthur or other live concert now.
For the moment it seems to be more of a “jamband” thing—probably not coincidentally the same bands that have invited “tapers” to share their grooves for years—but in recent years those bands and others have taken to streaming, or webcasting, some select concerts either free of cost or for a relatively small sum. Watching these concerts—and following social media feeds for alerts of their broadcasts—has become known as “couch tour” in a nod to “summer tour” or “fall tour” or whenever you’d ordinarily attend one of the band’s concerts. For example, last year on my birthday I bought a Phish webcast from one of their concerts in Colorado, which I wouldn’t be attending anyway since I live in Massachusetts. The stream looked fantastic in HD connected via my laptop and the audio quality was better than the video quality, though the most incredible part for me was reminding myself that the whole thing I was seeing and hearing in my own theater was going on live ... for just $14.99, too, as opposed to the $60 ticket (not including fees, $9 beers, parking cost, traffic hassles, etc.) to actually attend the event.
If you follow the Couch Tour page on Facebook, you’ll hear about the live streaming events as well as discover great YouTube concert clips and full concert videos (which may not always have the greatest video value, but the audio is typically fine). Plus this could be the wave of the future in terms of taking in live concerts as streaming becomes more ubiquitous. Phish opened its webcasting to Apple’s iOS, and Furthur’s Bob Weir (the band is the latest incarnation of the guitarist’s former band, the Grateful Dead) made news last year by turning an old warehouse into TRI Studios, a venture in which the recording studio acts as a venue for live performances streamed to the public for free, with media partners on webcasts that have included Yahoo. As you might imagine, being a professional recording studio the audio quality streamed during performances is impeccable—and almost every Wednesday Weir hosts musicians for a roughly two-hour evening of songs and stories (apart from other special events that are streamed, like a handful of Furthur concerts earlier this year from small Bay Area venue Sweetwater Music Hall).
With Record Store Day coming up this Saturday and thoughts of the great idea by Classic Album Sundays behind its monthly events and its room demos at this past weekend’s New York Audio Show, I’d also encourage you to invite some friends over and let them experience hearing a full album from start to finish on your home theater system as a way to make music night special.
You can do this in multiple formats too, maybe picking an album and even playing it twice - once on CD and then on vinyl, or perhaps once on vinyl and then in multi-channel format (like on SACD or Blu-ray), or maybe the CD against the 24-bit/96kHz HDtracks download if you have. My colleague Bob Archer and I started down this path at our friend Demetrios’ house by listening to several tracks off Rush’s 2112 (though not the full album) on vinyl and in 24/96 resolution of its Blu-ray release. For music night you’ll be guaranteed to leave guests in awe of hearing an album or band they’ve heard hundreds of times in a new sonic light. So forget about movie night or game night for a change, and put your theater to good use as a concert hall.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.