Rock in Museums

Hosted by

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

When you think of an art museum, you probably think of a venue more in line with pondering than with partying. And if there's a music program, it's probably classical, chamber or folk music. But in the past few years, museums all over the country have been hosting great live indie-rock performances.

In New York the Guggenheim has started a new series called It Came from Brooklyn, which includes performances by The Walkmen and High Places. High Places is an experimental band, with the signature sound of mixing bass-heavy beats, with folk percussion instruments and rhythms made from household objects.

Meanwhile, blocks away, The Whitney is hosting live rock music every week in July with two bands a night.

Here in LA, tomorrow night the Hammer Museum is hosting Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, along with Eskimo Hunter. It's a free show, under the museum's, I Like to Rock moniker.

There is something refreshing about sharing space with priceless art while live music bounces off the walls.

One band is even planning its release around museum performances. Since 2002, They Might Be Giants has added several generations to their fan base with a focus on meeting the kids' music market. They've actually successfully straddled the parent/kid cultural Rubik's cube, which is noteworthy. Their next album, titled Here Comes Science, marries their gifted alternative indie sound with subjects like paleontology and photosynthesis. A tour of natural history museums in planned, of course, in October.

Bands playing museums is a win-win for both parties. Museums are able build attendance – which has been tough for them during the recession, and bands are able to showcase their music in new and exciting atmospheres. The novelty of playing in a museum can draw large crowds willing to pay more than the usual rock concert venue. Tickets for that Walkmen/High Places show at the Guggenheim are going for $45 apiece. It's a little steep, but if you have an ear for music and an eye for art, you can definitely get your money's worth.

If your taste leans nostalgic, you could forego the live concerts and visit one of the many rock museums peppered throughout the US. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and the Experience Music Project in Seattle immediately come to mind.

But there are also small museums hyper-focused on relevant moments in music history. A recent article in the New York Times pointed out the wonderful charms of the Motown museum in Detroit, where patrons can actually walk through Hitsville, the very house that produced all those chart topping records. It's a chance to sit at Stevie Wonder's piano or test your chops in Studio A, where Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye recorded. The museum is truly remarkable for its preservation of the original Motown Records, a small residential house packed to the gills with some of the most treasured items and memories in music history.

And speaking of houses, in just a bit, you can ramble on down to The Big House in Macon, Georgia. The Big House is a large residence where The Allman Brothers wrote many of their greatest known songs. Later this year, the site will be turned into a museum for the band with tons of memorabilia.

If the sixties were the beginning of the musical Age of Aquarius, then it's fine time that our museums reflect this forty year culture.

This is Celia Hirscxhman with On the Beat for KCRW.