Heheheheheheh. Ah, 2014: another year where I tell myself 'this is the year my obsessive show-going addiction ends;' another year where I see more shows than anyone I know who isn't employed at a performance space / venue. WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!
A quick list of locations where I've seen shows this year:
--Brooklyn (double natch)
--on a boat circling Manhattan
--Commerce City, CO
--Miami (in 7 days!)
As of this very moment, I've seen 93 concerts this year, and I've got at least three more coming up - Uncle Ebenezer at Knitting Factory Saturday night, Television (first time seeing them) at Irving Plaza on 12/28, and a little up-and-coming rock band who I think are called Assface in Miami on New Year's. The following is my totally subjective, largely meaningless, and wholly amusing (to me) recap of the best stuff I saw in '14.
Oh, and Happy Holidays to all!
The Ten Best Phish Shows I Saw All Year:
1.) Phish, 10/31/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
2.) Phish, 7/13/14 Randall's Island, NYC
3.) Phish, 7/27/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
4.) Phish, 8/29/14 Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
5.) Phish, 11/2/14 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
6.) Phish, 10/22/14 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara
7.) Phish, 7/26/14 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8.) Phish, 10/28/14 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Fran
9.) Phish, 7/11/14 Randall's Island, NYC
10.) Phish, 8/31/14 Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
After hearing multiple reports about last weekend's White Denim show at the Black Cat in DC being borderline disastrous, I was worried that, the band's live prowess may have waned a bit. Furthermore, this was the first "regular" NYC-area show that White Denim has played since last year's release of Corsicana Lemonade (their sold-out outing at Mercury Lounge during CMJ and the invite-only show at Bowery notwithstanding), so I was eager to see how - if at all - their decidedly more "mature" approach on the new album had affected their live show. Fortunately, just a few minutes into the set, it was perfectly obvious that White Denim still has "it," and then some. IMNSMFHO, White Denim is one of the three-or-so best club acts in the world.
This was, to my knowledge, the first time White Denim has played an area show at at a venue the size of Webster Hall. (This was the eighth time I've seen White Denim live, and the first since last summer's Brooklyn Bowl shows.) For years, it seemed at every White Denim show I attended I'd inevitably wind up in conversations with complete strangers lamenting why this great band hadn't yet found the popularity it deserved, and it seems as though the higher profile accorded Corsicana Lemonade has led to the band successfully filling bigger rooms. Selling out Webster Hall is nothing to sneeze at, and these guys deserve a good deal of respect for reaching this level, gradually developing their fanbase over the past near-decade.
The band took the stage at about quarter to 9, and plowed through a 100+ minute set (including encore) of tightly-wound, impeccably executed tunes. The songlist ran the gamut of the many styles White Denim wields in their sonic arsenal, from riffy blues rockers ("At Night in Dreams") to flashfingered instrumental workouts ("At the Farm") to Southern-fried garage stompers ("Shake Shake Shake") to songs in several other genres that I haven't made up yet. The dude next to me said their playing reminded him of the Dead, but to me on this night White Denim sounded more like the Allmans on Adderall.
Although I arrived towards the end of opening band The Districts' set, I enjoyed what I heard and was compelled to purchase their recent 5-song EP at the merch table for $7. Aside from the bandmembers' youth, their most immediately striking characteristic (to me at least) was that they sounded like My Morning Jacket if MMJ was fronted by personal fave Bobby Bare, Jr. In other words, good stuff.
White Denim's headlining tour continues for the next month or so, and they'll hit a few domestic festivals in early summer too before heading over to Europe. Check 'em out before they're filling your local EnormoDome.
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
I saw The Thermals perform less than three months ago, when they stopped by at Maxwell's on their pre-SXSW tour. On that night, the setlist was divided pretty much evenly between their decade-old debut album, More Parts Per Million, and their (then) as-yet unreleased new LP, Desperate Ground. Although the Thermals never really stopped rocking over their previous couple of albums, focusing on the punkier early stuff and the new material (which was described by the band at the time as a purposeful return to their skuzzier, more lo-fi beginnings) seemed to be a conscious effort to scale back the more despondent, emo-ish leanings of '09's Now We Can See and '10's Personal Life.
The Thermals appeared on my home turf at Bowery Ballroom on the two nights prior (5/28 and 5/29), but I skipped those in favor of this show, knowing I was going to be in DC anyway for "work" and to see a few friends during this weekend. Started with some beverages at my pal Bricer's place before meeting up with another buddy, Salsa, at vaguely British-themed pub The Codmother. Several further potent potables and a brisk evening stroll later, we found ourselves at the nearby Black Cat, a venue I'd never been to before.
First impressions of The Black Cat were pretty damn great; the layout actually reminds me a bit of a balcony-less Bowery, in that the crowd enters the room towards the right (if you're facing the stage) in the way back, which means that sneaking up close to the stage on the left is easy. We did so immediately, although we probably wound up too close to the speakers, for which my cheap earplugs were no match (left ear still ringing 4 days later). I liked that the bars flanked the floor, which allowed for many PBR tall boy purchases throughout the evening, and the sound wound up being great, as well. Really, really, really like this room.
We skipped the opening acts, and less than 10 minutes after entering the building, The Thermals began their set with Desperate Ground's "Where I Stand". I had marveled at the band's spirited display at the Maxwell's show, and it amazes me that they seem to manage to put out maximum effort like this night after night. Of course, this sort of sweaty, dynamic presentation fits perfectly for a band whose catalog regularly draws upon themes of perseverence and struggle.
I bitch a lot about Brooklyn crowds sucking, and, for the most part, the crowd at this show was no different. (For the record, the single lamest crowd I've ever seen was Van Halen at DC's Verizon Center last March, and friends who live in the area have often lamented DC's apathetic crowds.) Several kids up front seemed to be rocking the fuck out, and there was some stage diving, but overall those standing motionless greatly outnumbered the people who seemed to be enjoying themselves, which is a fuckin' shame any way ya slice it. Fortunately, this didn't affect the band's performance one iota, as Hutch rabidly sweated through his shirt, Kathy pogoed joyously, and Westin stage dove with abandon - hell yeah.
Just as at the Maxwell's show, the setlist delved heavily into More Parts Per Million and Desperate Ground, but at this show equal time was given to their 2006 masterpiece, The Body, the Blood, the Machine, songs from which made up several of the evening's finest performances. Other highlights for me were the show's lone representative from Fuckin' A, "How We Know," and MPPM's "No Culture Icons," which served as the evening's encore (see above and below for video of both).
Going to shows like this is an invigorating experience for me, which is why I try to get out as much as I can. Of course, there are few bands that are as enjoyable live as The Thermals. If you live in the southwest or Cali, do yourself a favor and check them out over these next few days while they're still on tour, and when you do, don't be afraid to move around a l'il.