As eternally awesome as the concept of the rock concert is, its basic format could always use some souping up. Major bands typically enhance the basic premise of people playing their instruments by throwing in fancy-shmancy lights and pyrotechnics. Even though the smaller groups' budgets can't quite compare, a smart live band should at least aim to provide something special. Lightning Bolt and Dan Deacon play sets while physically immersed in crowds. Quintron and Miss Pussycat put on puppet shows and employ homemade instruments. Monotonix goes for dangerous stunts like igniting drum kits and leaping from uncomfortable heights. Even the rather staid Yo La Tengo is spinning a gameshow-like wheel to determine what its first set will involve. Sure, these ideas are prone to becoming gimmicky when overused, but if employed properly, they go a mile in making a show feel like a special experience. The Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Won't Be Your Regular Rock Show:
This is why the Elephant 6 Collective's Holiday Surprise Tour sounds like such a blast, even if you know barely a note by its artists. For the sequel to its 2008 Holiday Surprise Tour, the Athens, Ga.-based music collective will assemble a megaband that includes members of Neutral Milk Hotel, the Gerbils, Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, the Music Tapes, Major Organ and Adding Machine, Nana Grizol, and a handful of other acts affiliated with the indie rock-leaning project. In total, about 12 musicians will dip into some 50 songs prepped for this tour.