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The 15 best stage banter spewing musicians in live music today

Father-John-Misty
Photo by Sam Heller // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

For better or worse, these 15 artists entertain, control and impact the collective mindset of a capacity crowd with between-song bantering as much as their music. Here’s a hint: we like our banter dry.

What did we miss? Drop us a comment to to continue the flow.


15. Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon’s stage banter serves the purpose of helping to curate a mad, collective experience. If you’ve never taken the Dan Deacon plunge, do it. And come with an open heart and mind. -MF


14. Samuel Herring (Future Islands)
Samuel Herring’s motivational banter nicely segues into Future Islands’ songs, combining over-the-top crowd engagement, fully-committed dance moves and passion that boarders on possession. For example, when introducing “Lighthouse” (watch above at 4:24), Herring says “this is a song about those dark moments in our lives, and the friends and the family that bring us back.” Here the introduction makes you ponder about the song’s lyrical meaning, magnifying its importance. -MF


13. Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)
Billie Joe Armstrong has already had a long, epic career on stage and has seen it all and has done it all. After one logs as much time as Green Day on stage, some epic moments in banter/antic history are bound to happen. In the early days, they egged on the crowd to pelt them with clumps of mud, while more recently Billie Joe has decided to take his anger out on the teleprompter crew and likely be extension, Clear Channel. -KQ


12. Tom Waits
Tom Waits is no doubt one of a kind, and the man surely isn’t a road warrior these days on the live circuit. But he did perform at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit last year to steal the show with his banter as much as his iconic, raspy voice. -MF


11. Dave Matthews
If the whole music thing doesn’t work out for Dave Matthews, he can likely take up a career in being an aspiring stand-up comedian as he has entertained crowds between songs for decades. The stream-of-conscience delivery that Matthews regularly launches into has become a fond pastime for longtime fans, even going as far to create an endearing term for it known as “davespeak”. -KQ


10. Jack White
White can talk up a storm during his gratifying live performances — no doubt he’s in the running for best live musical act of 2014. The biggest rock star in the world made headlines earlier this year at Fenway Park when he trashed Rolling Stone while also dumping on the Foo Fighters. But White’s banter can also be fun, lighthearted and engaging, something most everyone can appreciate. -MF



9. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age)
Ya don’t fuck with Josh Homme when he is onstage. Period. However, if this happens, you should be prepared to be entertained, as he will fully launch into a tirade of epic proportions upon his deserved target. I weep for those who have been on the receiving end of these legendary diatribes. -KQ


8. Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams’s passion flows from him like an angst-filled teenager, often spastic and random. But at his headlining show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this year, Adams transitioned his banter into an impromptu gem revolving around a someone holding balloons in the back of the park in SF. If you haven’t yet, listen to his new album — it’s wholly deserving of being his self titled record. Also, watch this montage of banter highlights from the aughts. -MF


7. Les Claypool
Les Claypool is weird in all the right ways. And he’s willing to stop mid-show and comment on circumstances that surround him, whether he gets spit on from the pit, gets hit with an empty water bottle by some spunion or if he witnesses two chicks brawling front and center. -MF


6. Jeff Tweedy
Tweedy has interpreted Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” as historical spoken word poetry. There’s the time the Wilco frontman told the story of ending up two doors down from former bandmate Jay Farrar in Mexico. No matter the show, his banter contains the all important element of surprise, even that time he said “I’m trying to balance fun with crushing depression. Always a challenge.” Dry wit and wisdom define the man, yes indeed. -MF


5. Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P)
El-P and Killer Mike are two of the most creative minds in music, plain and simple. You hear it in their rhymes and in El-P’s production, but also in how they grasp control of the crowd between songs. A perfect example: El Producto’s recent story about meeting Mark Kozelek before they took to their competing sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest. El got his crowd to yell “Suck My Dick Sun Kil Moon”, injecting Run the Jewels into Kozelek’s war on The War on Drugs. And the duo’s banter about finding your own 36″ Chain is an empowering lesson of personal pride and swagger over materialism. On top of that, count on Killer Mike and El-P to crush every moment with excitement and ownership. Just never forget, Run the Jewels is not for your children. -MF


4. Mac Demarco
Mac Demarco holds a mellow, irreverent spirit that is contagious. He can also stage dive like a boss, too. Then there was that time he performed naked and semi-attempted to stick the mic up his bum. He’ll never live it down. He often introduces his songs with a healthy dose of charm, and you gotta love his propensity for spontaneity. The key ingredient: Demarco ain’t afraid to engage with his audience and among the band, creating a spoken word moment out of nothing. -MF


3. Kanye West
Stage banter usually means an epic rant or four when it comes to Yeezus live, and some of the soliloquies this year have lasted longer than a Type II Phish jam. At London Wireless Festival, Kanye gave a 20 minute-plus speech, he addressed the “Fuck Kanye” mantra, attacked the media and proclaimed he’s the No. 1 fucking rock star on the planet in his return to Bonnaroo. And at Outside Lands this year, West commanded that we “make some circles … and push whoever is next to you and shit.” In most all cases, Kanye’s stage banter collects both awes and boos, while at the same time, signifying his narcissistic tendencies better than any South Park joke or comedic parody. -MF


2. Father John Misty
I know it’s early, but J. Tillman is on a legendary path. Sure, he’s a captivating storyteller, but he also has the uncanny ability to add improvised, add-on words and phrases at the end of each line at a whim (particularly with his acoustic performances). You get the sense that Tillman looks to keep things interesting for himself above all else, a quality that churns out memorable performances night after night. Most impressively, Father John Misty has created a performance space that consistently questions our collective reality, hoisting his freak flag high and daring you to come along for the adventure. What’s ultimately so captivating is how he doesn’t let you in on the joke, if there even is one to begin with. -MF


1. Mark Kozelek (Sun Kil Moon)
Kozelek has had a career-defining year that has spanned beyond the brilliant Benji. His stage banter included telling one festival audience “all you rednecks, shut the fuck up”, and in the musical feud of the year, Koz fought a one-sided battle against The War on Drugs, going on a relentless campaign against the band when their overlapping festival sets sent the WOD speaker sound across the field to invade Sun Kil Moon’s set.

To commemorate the beef, Kozelek wrote a song, “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock”, which describes how the whole thing began — with stage banter, bringing the whole thing full circle by creating a song that he promised on the stage that day. Talk about manifesting reality. By the way, Mark, I was at The War on Drugs show at The Fillmore that night, and I didn’t take no bridge or tunnel.

It’s improvised stage banter on a genius level while also often abrasive, cruel and surly. But holy shit does it suck you in like a controlling bully on the schoolyard, forcing you to stand still so you aren’t the next target. And if you’re doubting Kozelek’s banter at all, just listen to these wise words. -MF

Run-The-Jewels

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Comments

  1. Some faves ..
    1) Father John Misty is still my favorite..Kind of a crazy cross between Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman. Others who made an impression on me…
    2) Jack White – His onstage banter at Bonnaroo this year was epic. “I don’t believe in any of it, but I believe in all of it” kind of also sums up my personal philosophy in a weird way.
    3) Jarvis Cocker – His antics at Coachella were so nuts that we called him “Pulp Jesus” the rest of the fest. I love how he told the audience he was going to take them to a crazy journey and blow their minds..and he did ..hahah
    4) Alex Turner – . When Arctic Monkeys played Coachella he asked the audience to clap along..when they didn’t he said “Cmon Coachella, don’t be a dick about it.” We spent the weekend saying, “Cmon, Coachella, don’t be a dick about it.” whenever we saw lame audience participation…
    5) John MCrea – Cake – I’ve seem him “kill it” with stage banter and also “kill the vibe” with endless talk. But usually highly entertaining

  2. I enjoy Tom Krell’s (How to Dress Well) banter. It’s both awkward and funny at the same time.

    Also Mark Kozelek is very much #1. I remember being scolded at his show at the Great American for wearing headphones as earplugs. It was funny as hell.

    • I totally wrote this into the review of this show Church Chill: Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive.

      • It was an interesting experience to say the least.

        He never felt angry or threatening, it was all in good fun and made the whole experience nicer in a weird way. I certainly won’t forget it.

  3. Anders Beck from Greensky!

  4. Honorable mention for me goes to Fiona Apple

  5. Beck & Sharon Van Etten!

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