Whew. Whatta year, amirite?! Yes, new music may have been a bit lacking, but fortunately the one constant that remains is that there's a shit-ton of great live music coming through NYC year-round. When I moved to Williamsburg in '08, I did so almost entirely because of the proximity to so many music venues; nearly 6 years later, that remains my biggest motivation for sticking around.
In fact, my show-going affliction reached new heights this year - I did a rough count last week, and if I wind up going to the New Mastersounds afterparty following the Phish show on December 29th, I will have seen a robust *98* distinct concerts in 2013. According to Jalepzerz' / MeatBox archives, that's a personal record (although I've eclipsed 90 shows in several other years), and as proof, I uploaded literally hundreds of videos to my YouTube channel, effectively documenting my own crime spree.
So, here I sit on Christmas Eve, workin' on my final post of the year for this blog; a post that focuses solely on the highlights of my showgoing for the year. In 4 evenings, Phish NYE Run starts, and if some notable, epic shit goes down, several of these lists could be (at the very least) a bit out of whack and (at most) completely irrelevant. I welcome that. :->
See you in the new year, everyone!
Best Live Show of the Year - Phish at Hampton Coliseum, 10/20/13
Top 10 Phish shows I personally attended this year:
10.) 10/25/13 DCU 9.) 11/1/13 AC 8.) 8/4/13 BGCA 7.) 11/2/13 AC 6.) 7/6/13 SPAC (fuck off, I loved this damn show) 5.) 10/19/13 Hampton 4.) 7/14/13 Merriweather 3.) 10/27/13 Hartford 2.) 10/26/13 DCU 1.) 10/20/13 Hampton
The best three non-Phish arena shows I saw in 2013:
16.) Split Open and Melt at SPAC, July 6 15.) Rock and Roll at BGCA, August 3 14.) Crosseyed and Painless at Holmdel, July 10 13.) Twist > Under Pressure at AC, November 1 12.) Theme from the Bottom > Shaft theme at AC, November 2 11.) Drowned at Worcester, October 26 10.) Harry Hood at Merriweather 9.) Runaway Jim at BGCA, August 4 8.) Stash at Merriweather, July 14 7.) Carini at SPAC, July 6 6.) Carini at AC, October 31 5.) Golden Age at Hartford, October 27 4.) Piper > Taking Care of Business at Hampton, October 20 (yup, this is cheating) 3.) Light at Merriweather, July 14 2.) Seven Below at BGCA, August 2 (in spite of the butchered composed section) 1.) Carini at Hampton, October 18
After having never been inside Barclays Center during its first year-plus of hosting concerts and assorted events and such, I found myself entering the fortress of distressed steel for the third time in less than a month. My enjoyment of the two shows I saw recently at this venue (Yeah Yeah Yeahs in mid-September, Atoms for Peace a week or so later) was related directly to the concert sound inside the arena at each show (YYY's - great, A4P - shitty); what would Nine Inch Nails' live show have in store?
Within moments of Trent taking the stage it became plainly obvious that this evening would be more about the visual spectacle than anything else. And what a spectacle it was! In fact, this was likely the most visually stunning live show I've ever seen, featuring smoke, laser beams, innumerable lighting effects, and, most impressively, a series of huge, transparent curtains enveloping the band that allowed for all kinds of crazy bullshit. I'll spare you an excruciating description of what went on, because there are few things in life lamer than some dude trying to describe a light show (GOD! I WISH YOU COULD SEE IT!), but check out this article for some great GIFs and plenty of relevant quotes from Trent and his art designer.
Face it. It's tough to go into any Thom Yorke side project without at least partially wishing that was devoting more of his time and energy these days to Radiohead. This all started in 2006, with Yorke's first solo album, The Eraser, which was decent, but the material simply begged to be fleshed out by a full band, seeming skeletal and cold. Each of Yorke's projects following In Rainbows has continued more or less in the spirit of The Eraser, and each has been at least halfway decent, so I guess we'll take what we can get from the man.
At this show, I arrived just after 8, having found no evidence anywhere (Atoms for Peace's website, Brooklyn Vegan's show listings, even Pitchfork's AfP tour announcement) that there would be an opening act, but unfortunately I must not have gotten the memo; when I got to my seat a couple songs into the opener's set, Barclays was emptier than I've ever seen an arena during showtime. I have nothing good to report about the opening set (boring electronic crap), other than the fact that their suckiness allowed me to make frequent trips from my seat to the nearest beer vendor confident that I wouldn't be missing anything worthwhile.
Atoms for Peace took the stage around 9:20ish, starting off with the best song from Amok, "Before Your Very Eyes..." (see above for video). From the outset, the band was in great form, with Yorke dancing maniacally across the stage, Flea doing his thing, and the percussionists immersing the crowd in dense, dancy grooves. Also from the outset, it was pretty obvious that the sound in the venue was distractingly bad, and that the crowd (at least my section way up in the rafters) was comprised of chatty, drunk, bored Manhattanites who had no intention of dancing.
As expected, the evening took the band through several songs from The Eraser and much of Amok, with but one scant Radiohead song in the setlist ("Paperbag Writer" from the Com Lag EP). The highlight overall was probably the haunting performance of "Rabbit in Your Headlights" from the UNKLE album. Throughout the set, Yorke switched off between guitar, vocals, piano, and cutting some serious rug. Clearly, his enthusiasm lies with this type of material these days, instead of trying to write the next "Paranoid Android" or whatever. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the material at this show much more than I do on the Amok album, and I'd absolutely recommend seeing Atoms for Peace live.
AfP's tour continues throughout North America for the next few weeks before they shoot over to Japan for a few shows. Check out the Barclays setlist here if that's your thing.
My first time seeing Yeah Yeah Yeahs since nearly 4 years to the day at Radio City, at which point they were touring on the heels of their excellent It's Blitz record. This time around they're touring behind the decidedly more tepid Mosquito, so even though I was a little less psyched this time around, it was stupid to expect anything but a great performance from this great band.
I was draggin' ass getting out the door, and I had absolutely no interest in watching my second pasty, pudgy white guy of the day hop around in his underwear (I tend to get frisky after my morning iced coffee), I made it my business to skip the fuck out of [edit: be warned - this following hyperlink probably isn't technically NSFW but it probably should be]Har Mar Superstar's set. I wound up getting inside the arena towards the end of the second YYYs song, meaning I managed to miss two Mosquito tracks (yay!) as well as the choir (double yay!)
The rest of the set was jam-packed with YYYs classixxx. The mid-set "Down Boy" / "Zero" pairing was a highlight for me before three straight ballads kinda wrecked the momentum... which fortunately returned with a bang during "Gold Lion" and "Cheated Hearts" (see below for tidbits of both songs). The audience was at its rowdiest during the set-closing "Heads Will Roll," and the crowd-pleasing "Maps" / "Date With the Night" fucking ripped.
This was my first time actually being inside Barclays Center, and I was pleased that the sound was nowhere near as crappy as I'd heard, which bodes well for the Atoms for Peace show I'll be seeing there this Friday. Nonetheless, it's foolish to ever doubt a Karen O performance - she really hammed it up for the hometown show, and her enthusiasm and energy were the key to YYYs pulling off a massive arena-worthy spectacle.