Why do rock bands like Oriental rugs so much?
May 26, 2011 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Why do rock bands like Oriental rugs so much?

I'm watching the Foo Fighters Wasted Light performance and couldn't help but notice the assortment of Oriental rugs that comprise the stage floor. This is an old cliche--I remember even LL Cool J rapping on a rug at his MTV Unplugged performance.

Where did it come from, and why? Is it comfort? Acoustics? Something the Yardbirds did?
posted by werty to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It hides spills & stains. Our is going on 10 years old now.
posted by Aquaman at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Feels better under the feet than plywood. Good for routing cables under as well, so you can move around and not worry about stepping on/tripping over them.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

But in looking at that Foo Fighters video, it seems mostly for aesthetic/acoustic reasons.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2011

Rugs aren't slippery, so you're not going to fall.
Cabling can be put under them without the need to be taped down.
Deadens the floor for less feedback.
Easier to stand on for a long time than a hard floor.

They're oriental patterned rugs in particular so they won't ever look dirty.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:39 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can have a whole bunch of them that don't match and they still look ok.
posted by The World Famous at 11:45 AM on May 26, 2011

Good answers, thanks. (As a longtime musician, some of these are very obvious.)

Someone tweeted that the Grateful Dead used to do this--does anyone predate them?
posted by werty at 11:49 AM on May 26, 2011

Well, man, a rug like that can really tie a room together.

But really I would agree with your conjectures in the question, that you don't want a hard floor if you're standing on it and making music. Painful and echo-y.
posted by madmethods at 11:50 AM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]

They're nice to look at while while under the influence of psychedelics.
posted by alms at 11:51 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Grateful Dead have been using oriental rugs for over 40 years. I remember seeing it and staring at it at a show at the Nassau Coliseum in or around 1978. I first heard it was so Jerry wouldn't get lost on stage, or so that when Jerry was looking at his feet he would see cool patterns on the rugs. I think the real reason is for comfort on the legs and to run cables, etc as note by the Threeway Handshake above.

And on preview as werty the asker mentioned.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:01 PM on May 26, 2011

Just popped in to note that it isn't just rock bands. I went to a chamber music concert last month where they brought in an oriental rug specifically to achieve a deader acoustic in an otherwise too-live space. Bonus: it served as a commercial for the rug importer, who was able to get his product in front of a lot of likely buyers.
posted by jph at 12:05 PM on May 26, 2011

A lot of rock bands have an aesthetic that involves having a lot of stuff (clothing, decor, etc.) that's ornate and somewhat classy or exotic, yet also kind of casual, "thrown-together," "lived-in," maybe a bit messy, and not-taking-itself-too-seriously. Having an assortment of Oriental rugs on the floor would seem to fit this sensibility. If the rugs are also useful (for acoustic, not slipping, etc.), that is, of course, all the more reason to use them. It's typical for decor to be chosen for both aesthetic and utilitarian reasons.
posted by John Cohen at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2011

Leonard Cohen had a pretty good spread for his 10-pc band this last year, so imma gonna venture there was some sort of folkie-gone-electric conversion that happened mid-sixties on, by the way of 'splainin above hypothesis on the Dead. All the things that made the seventies super smooth — rugs! big floor pillows! wine or pills or ???! hedonisic sex! — was being weilded by a smaller number of early adopters ...

Trap kit drummers, especially, always benefit from having a rug on hand & the rest of the band starts to envy the plushness?

Also, this. That is all.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 12:32 PM on May 26, 2011

It's also important to make sure the rug matches the band's shirts.
posted by The World Famous at 1:10 PM on May 26, 2011

My inner Don Draper tells me that, while it had been going on for years, MTV Unplugged made it really popular. Thowing a rug down instantly transforms a empty space into a living room. It's a way of instantly adding a artful flavor of indie, low-fi cachet.

In other words, they're working really hard to make it look lowbrow and accessible.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2011

My understanding regarding the various Unplugged performances is that MTV used one standard set for all of them. So I don't think LL Cool J had a special affinity for them, it was just the set that was there.

The SNL stage uses them, too, or at least they used to last time I paid attention to SNL music performances.

And, yeah, I'm with Cool Papa Bell - it's a set design thing in addition to the utility.
posted by Sara C. at 1:31 PM on May 26, 2011

Cool Papa Bell, my inner Don Draper was saying the same thing. Except I think mine might be an inner Peggy Olsen. Anyway, I looked up a bunch of Unplugged performances on YouTube, thinking I remembered Persian carpets from Nirvana's performance, and from an Eric Clapton performance, and even from the first episode featuring Squeeze -- but no dice. There were no rugs in any of the videos I could find from the late eighties or early nineties.

Then I remembered VH1 Storytellers, a series similar to Unplugged but even more intimate. I found (sketchy, tube) video footage of Natalie Merchant and Tom Petty from when they were on the show, and the stage was definitely covered in Persian carpets for both their performances. (There are some episodes legitimately available online, but only from the last four years or so.)

/splitting hairs
posted by brina at 2:05 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember a documentary that reckoned the members of Emerson Lake and Palmer got into an arms race over how much expensive equipment and theatrical stuff they could get on stage... unlike the drummer and keyboards Lake only had his one guitar so he decided to top them by getting an antique rug to stand on.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2011

My google-fu is failing me, or maybe it's pre-internet-2.0 but I remember a story where Richard Ashcroft of The Verve had his own customized "The Verve" embroidered carpet to stand on on-stage. In bare feet.
posted by panaceanot at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2011

Tangential but mildly interesting: the carpet is basically an antiquated stage. During the middle ages, fairground performers travelled with a carpet under their arm which they rolled out for shows. To this day performers who tumble on the ground (handstands, flips, etc.) are known as "carpet acrobats."
posted by vecchio at 3:21 PM on May 26, 2011

With a kick pedal for a highhat or bass drum, or with a 'cello, one will often want a patch of rug or carpet just to keep it in place while playing.
posted by idiopath at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2011

During the 1970's it was a trendy thing for symphony orchestras to give concerts where the audience lolled around on rugs and cushions. They were called 'Rug Concerts'. I assume that they used oriental rugs although I can't find any pictures to confirm this. I know this happened with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Pierre Boulez and with the Minnesota Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Slatkin.
posted by marsha56 at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2011

Brina ... Fwiw, before I made the post, I did some Google image searches to make sure I wasn't off my rocker, and found images of the Aerosmith Unplugged, with a rug. Maybe it was just present on some and not others?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:19 PM on May 26, 2011

It can also be used to protect the instruments during transport.
posted by gjc at 6:43 AM on May 27, 2011

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