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
Acknowledging the many roadbumps that the band encountered during this show, Dum Dum Girls' head honchette Dee Dee at one point said "this has been a difficult show... I'm going to need a lot of whiskey to get through it." As someone who was unfortunately stone cold sober at this show, I can concur that large amounts of whiskey couldn't've hurt.
This wasn't a great show for many reasons, several of which were out of the band's control. They had near-constant trouble with their sound throughout the night; soundcheck dragged on for-fucking-ever, and the soundman was compelled to rush up to the stage several times during the set to make adjustments, killing the momentum. What's more, Dee Dee appeared to be battling an illness, which clearly affected her usually outstanding singing voice.
But not everything can be rationalized. Why the hell does this band need *three* guitarists onstage? Is this the fucking Allmans? And when a large portion your image involves playing the part of sexy, well-dressed vamps (which they do well, hubba hubba), it detracts from things when said third guitarist is a bored looking stoner dude standing off to the corner wearing jeans and a tee shirt. What's more, they neglected to perform several of their best songs, including "Mine Tonight," "Coming Down," and the brand new "Little Minx."
In retrospect, my ticket to this sold-out record release show should've probably gone to someone who's a bigger Dum Dum Girls fan. (For the record, I'm several full listens in on their newest album, Too True, and I'm pretty lukewarm on it.) Not that the set wasn't without its high points. They opened with the excellent "Bedroom Eyes," and closed the encore with "Lord Knows" (see above for video).
Dum Dum Girls proper tour starts in early March, and hopefully they'll have the kinks worked out by then. The tour includes two more area appearances, one at Bowery Ballroom and one at Music Hall of Williamsburg. See below for their appearance on Letterman, recorded just hours before this show.
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've been holed up, working on writing the most miserable batch of songs ever... it's our goal for these songs to leave you depressed and miserable," Bobby Bare Jr. announced at his recent Mercury Lounge show, before launching into one of the evening's many fine new songs. The moment was quintessential Bobby Bare Jr., in that he eagerly (and humorously) plays the part of self-deprecating sad-sack, slugging beer and shit-talking, but he delivers with better tunes and stage skills than any alt-country act, and it's not even fucking close. How his work remains so underrated, I haven't a clue.
I became an "accidental" fan of Bobby Bare Jr.'s music when I was present at his set as the opening act at a show in September, 2006 at Webster Hall, during which his country-inflected rock tunes (rock-inflected country tunes?) made the subsequent set by headliners Drive-By Truckers totally irrelevant. I bought everything I could find by the dude, noting that many of his studio albums leaned a little too much towards traditional C&W for my tastes, although I grew especially fond of his Nick Nacks and Paddy Whacks live album and the mostly live OK - I'm Sorry... EP.
Much to my delight, his next studio album (and first new one after I became a fan), the excellent The Longest Meow, was recorded mostly live in the studio (in one 11 hour session), capturing the thrills and spills of his always-excellent live show. Since then, I've seen Bobby Bare, Jr. perform many times with his always-roving cast of fellow Nashville residents, and it's incredible to me that the quality of the performances can remain at such a high level with the live lineup in seemingly constant flux.
Tonight's set kicked off with with "Mayonnaise Brain," a song Bare, Jr. has said was written about witnessing The Pixies melt faces at a live performance. [The Pixies are one of Bare's most obvious influences; he has performed in a Pixies cover band, he has covered "Where Is My Mind" in concert and on record, and many of his songs share a quirky power-pop sensibility with the best Pixies work.] "Valentine," one of my personal favorites, (and a recent Song of the Week) was up next (see above for video). A new song, one with a bassline that sounded like Booker T and the MG's playing Floyd's "Any Colour You Like" followed. Fuckin' sweet there.
The next run of songs (not including new ones, which I don't know the names of, obviously) included some of his better contemplative material - "I'll Be Around," "Don't Go to Chattanoonga," and "Visit Me in Music City." For some reason, directly following "I'll Be Around," a gaggle of 50-something striped-shirt douchebags (why were they at the show in the first place?) began streaming out of the room. Bare announced, "well, that's the best song we know; that's the best song you, the audience, will hear tonight, so yer all free to leave," which drew laughs from the faithful. Bare continued humorously complimenting the fleeing shitnutses: "see? Those motherfuckers know what they're doing! Smart folks." "Terrible Sunrise" (introduced as "a song written about realizing you need to stop hangin' out with your drug friends") fucking rocked, and contained a full-on jam of the Star Wars theme song... if only my video (below) hadn't run out before the song's thrilling climax.
I should mention that I REALLY enjoyed the new material, which was a good thing because he played at least a half dozen new songs. Most of them really rocked, which bodes well for a new album, whenever that may materialize. Bare has taken the helm on a couple of interesting projects over the last few years (shit man, whatever pays the bills), including a Shel Silverstein tribute album which featuring artists as diverse as My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, and Kris Kristofferson. His 2009 American Bread EP was a collection of his covers of songs by the band Bread. At this show, his version of the song "Cover of the Rolling Stone" (originally written by Silverstein, commonly known as a Dr. Hook song) was top notch, as was his subsequent take on The Smiths' "What Difference Does It Make?", a longtime Bare setlist staple.
The final "old" song of the evening, "Borrow Your Cape," was the only track performed off of The Longest Meow, highlighted by a cacophonous, Big Rock Finale (which unfortunately was cut off when my iPhone ran out of space... AGAIN, goddamn it). The set ended with another pair of new originals, the last one of which Bare described as being the song he's most proud of composing. (It was pretty great.) Bare graciously thanked the remaining crowd for sticking around and staying out late on a Tuesday evening, but when was the last time I got 90 minutes worth of rockin' great tunes on a Tuesday night? Sheee-it.
I'd be lying if I said that I was very familiar with Secret Chiefs 3's output prior to seeing this show, although I was definitely aware of their reputation for outstanding technical proficiency. Fortunately, the show wound up being a lot more entertaining than a mere blinding display of flash-fingered wizardry (although it definitely was that). In fact, I was so impressed by how they managed to incorporate so many different styles into their music that I made a list during the show. Here goes:
--Mr. Bungle (Guitarist / SC3 mastermind was Trey Spruance was, after all, in Bungle);
--Primus (similar to the Bungle elements; quirky, loud-ass funk / prog / metal sections);
--Wetton-era King Crimson (not only because of the lead parts played by the violin, but the aforementioned uber-tightness);
--Goblin (several sections sounded like they would've sounded right at home soundtracking a Dario Argento flick);
--spaghetti western soundtracks (self-explanatory).
(Of course, I'd have to be a real schmuck not to menton the heavy Arabic influence that informs most of the songs, but in all honesty I don't know any Arabic musicians I could compare 'em to.)
Pretty pleased with the audio on the videos, so if you like what you hear, you'll have plenty of chances to check them out on your own soon. (Of course, these videos still look like security cam footage, but ya can't have it all.) Secret Chiefs 3 have a residency coming up at John Zorn's The Stone club in the Lower East Side, where they'll be playing two sets a night from May 28th thru May 31st.
Williamsburg institution Oneida brought their brand of noisy, psychedelic krautrock across the river to Mercury Lounge this past Saturday night. I liked these guys last time I saw them peform (at Parts and Labor's farewell show in February of last year), and I knew that even if the music turned out to be subpar, it would be worth the price of admission alone to watch their drummer, the supremely talented Kid Millions, wreak havoc on the skins.
I've heard the "prog" label applied to Oneida in the past, and I have to say I don't really hear that, since it doesn't seem like they do much in the way of the complicated, rigid song structures or the odd time signatures that usually characterize that genre. Instead, the set consisted of several driving, seemingly open-ended grooves, reminiscent in some ways of other kraut-inspired acts like Maserati or Turing Machine. Like both of those bands, each of which employed the late, great Jerry Fuchs on the kit, the focal point is the outstanding drumming.
Long day / late show, and I wound up leaving a little early after my back stiffened up, but not before getting a couple decent videos (one above, one below). Checkemoutorsomething.
While scanning OhMyRockness last week, I was shocked to see that LiveFastDie was still around and playing gigs. After a quick Googling to confirm that it was the *same* LiveFastDie (c'mon, it's not totally implausible that another band had chosen to name itself after one of GG Allin's most infamous tatoos), it was on.
I first saw LiveFastDie opening up for King Khan at Mercury Lounge in August, 2008, and their kamikaze style of full-contact performance stole the fuck out of that show. The band members scrambled aimlessly across the beersoaked stage, alternately wiping out painfully and smashing into each other; the lead guitarist (who is now the frontman of The World's Greatest Band, Liquor Store) fell off the stage several times while still somehow managing to pound out his "hey mom look at me!!!" over-the-top awesome wankery. One part Jackass, one part catchy-as-fuck gutter-punk jams.
This was not, as it turned out, a simple case of "whoops, too many rock-bottom whiskey shots" - the band's onstage attitude seemed to perfectly match their MySpace page's slogan of "oh boy. Another band that can hardly play their instruments and like to get wasted. Check back with them in a year and see who's dead." I "checked back with them" the following April at Union Pool, which wound up being the first time (of twenty or so) that I saw Liquor Store (who at this point were regularly performing with 5 guitarists onstage simultaneoulsly) live.
Anyway, fast forwarding to the present, these guys are still fun as hell. A persistently malfunctioning amp provided way more humor than it should've, as did an audience member's seemingly constant pleas for the band to simply "STOP!!!!" So watch these videos and judge for yourself, yeah?
Had the pleasure of catching Brooklyn's own Monogold at Mercury Lounge a few weeks back - very enjoyable set which mixed songs from their upcoming album and some favorites from 2011's The Softest Glow. Above is a video I took of one of said new songs, the driving, punchy "Holograms." Great stuff guys!
Anyway, if you enjoyed the above clip, Monogold will be playing twice in March at Knitting Factory Brooklyn - March 2nd, and March 30th, so check 'em out out.
Chatted with the singer / guitarist and the drummer from BOAT for awhile. Good dudes. Their recent tour has consisted of about 9 or 10 dates, and they recorded a Daytrotter session last weekend after their Brooklyn show. [Full disclosure: I missed the Brooklyn show last weekend due to a Costa Rica trip, which was awesome.] This would be the final show of the tour.
Said BOAT dudes mentioned that they needed to locate a store that would sell them a pair of scissors. Having attended two different awesome BOAT Arts N Crafts Nites (macaroni shakers were handed out at their Cake Shop show, and '88 Mets masks handed out at their Bell House show -- I still have both of those items somewhere, heheheh), I was curious what they had in store for us on this night.
Not going to slag off either of the opening bands, but let's just say they weren't exactly my cups of tea.
BOAT took the stage at about 9 PM or so. I've made this comparison in the past, but back when GbV first attained some level of national notoriety, audiences were expecting like a weirdo-folk hippie commune to show up and perform the music (understandable, considering some of the weird-assshit that's on Bee Thousand). Instead, legendarily, GbV showed up with an insanely loud, arena-ready 2-guitar attack up in this bitch, knocking the assembled audience out of their fucking socks. A similar thing could have been said for BOAT's live show a couple years ago, especially considering the first time I saw them live it was after hearing their weirdest, scrappiest album, Let's Drag Our Feet, and I half expected the band to consist of a ragtag bunch of acoustic-toting, xylophone-tapping nut-jobs, which was fortunately not the case. For the record, BOAT's live show these days is basically an awesome power-poppy deal, way louder, funner and more rockin' than 99% of today's (or any time's, for that matter) indie poppers.
The set was EXCELLENT. I was pretty liquid after a few pints and and a vodky Red Bull, so for much of the evening I was basically rocking out and shouting along. Apologies to anyone that overheard me screaming the lyrics totes off key an' shit. It happens.
The evening's "arts and crafts" consisted of a massive cut-out head and word balloon announcing that this was BOAT's New York Record Release show (they were selling their new album, Dress Like Your Idols, on vinyl at the merch table). Also there was a huge cut-out picture of a plate of nachos, and an another accompanying word balloon announcing "BOAT GOES THRU YOU LIKE A PLATE OF NACHOS!" or something similar, hahaha. Apparently they weren't allowed to hang these items on the walls around the stage due to potentially causing a "fire hazard," so instead the band held them up at different points during the show.
The set was EXCELLENT. (Yes, I realize I said that earlier, but it begs repeating.) Nothing from the first album (I was considering being a bastard and requesting "Lanterns and Laughing Ladies" throughout the set, but fortunately refrained), but a few each from Let's Drag Our Feet and '09's excellent Setting the Paces, with the rest coming from Dress Like Your Idols. For the encore, the band gave us the choice: "do you want to hear one of our songs, or one of someone else's?" The overwhelming response was "SURPRISE US!" so they whipped out their excellent "Interstate 5."
So yup, friggin' awesome all around. Check the setlist below, and further below check a pic of the shirt I bought (one for me, one for my bro Beafvy). RAWK.
I definitely drank the Kool-Aid early on with Deerhunter. After a brief period early in the year when I was finding Cryptograms impenetrable, it wound up as #3 on my Best Albums of '07 year end list. I managed to catch the band three times last year, with two of the three performances resting firmly within the top 10 best shows I saw in '07. Seen 'em three times so far in '08, and I'll be checking them out at Music Hall of Williamsburg when they come back in November. To quote the burly dude from the movie The Deer Hunter (no relation), "Fuckin' A."
My first Deerhunter show was in April '07 at a sold-out Mercury Lounge, with the performance accompanied by all the hype drummed up by Pitchfork's gushing review of Cryptograms, and the band totally delivered by managing to out-creepy the album versions. Part of this was due to me being blindsided by the striking live show, which featured Bradford Cox wearing a sundress, chewing blood pellets, and (lightly) physically abusing his bandmates. At this show, bassist Josh Fauver grabbed the glasses right off of my fat face (I was front and center as usual) and wore them for a good portion of the set. It was also at this show that Karen O spat beer all over me (yeah, I know, take a number) and I got to shake a visibly uh, "moved" David Cross' hand afterwards.
Second time I saw them was at Bowery in July, and the set was solid (as were the openers, Blues Control and Ex Models), with a now-legendary Bradford-onstage-meltdown occurring post-set prompted, in his words, by a saucy alprazolam and whiskey sour combination. The third time I saw them was at my favorite show of last year's CMJ, which also included splendid sets from Dan Deacon and No Age.
So, September 9, 2008 was to be the third time I've seen them so far this year, too (first time was at the free McCarren Park show with King Khan and Black Lips, which was as revelatory a set as I've seen all year, and second at the quasi-secret Mercury Lounge show about a week later). I already have tix to see them again on their next swing through in November, after the official release of their new album Microcastle. I absolutely love what I've heard of the new one, and if it doesn't crack my the top 5 of my Best Albums of '08 list, I'll eat my hat.
Got to (le) poisson rouge just before 11 and waited briefly for my buddy Sluggo to show up before heading in. He got there a little later and we immediately began firing it up. I'm really liking this venue, and although I saw the Lou Reed/John Zorn show here last week this was the first chance I'd get to see the (le) poisson rouge light show in full effect. For the record, said light show matched Deerhunter's psychedelic shoegazeyness perfectly.
The set was opened with what's IMHO Bradford Cox's finest composition, "Calvary Scars," and many of the evening's songs trod similarly swirling, krautrockish territory-- trance-inducing, melodic, and wholly danceable. The set continued with songs from Cryptograms ("Hazel St.," "Spring Hall Convert"), the Fluorescent Grey EP ("Dr. Glass," the creepiest funk song ever, and the title track) and a generous helping of new songs, including the fantastic "Never Stops" and "Operation."
The stage banter was clever as usual, with one particularly funny story involving Bradford wanting to meet Lou Reed, who had performed at the venue earlier in the evening, but missing the chance encounter by minutes because he (Bradford) was purchasing a Velvet Underground compendium at the nearby Strand Bookstore (haha, that's irony for you). At one point, guitarist Whitney Petty led brief jams on Skynyrd's "Simple Man" (not "Freebird" as the crowd had implored) and Tom Petty's "Last Dance With Mary Jane," which brought a rise.
Although the band suffered through several equipment malfunctions, Bradford managed to pull off the lemons/lemonade thing with funny, self-deprecating patter.
I've noticed this year that the band has begun to distance itself from the clammy creepiness of their '07 output a bit, (no "Wash Off" for the third straight show, and less droney/instrumental pieces) and towards a more palatable/less harrowing direction. Nothing embodies this shift more than set closer "Nothing Ever Happened," a fairly straightforward, awesome rock song complete with a stunning finger-tapping-centered (!) coda. Many of the new songs do have a more classic rockish feel, and just as Bradford has ditched the sun dresses and blood pellets, so has the band's sound come to rely less on the macabre and sound trickery.
For the encore, the band emerged and jammed briefly on a speed metal theme, claiming, jokingly, that "this is on the new album" before closing out with the bittersweetly hopeful "Strange Lights." Man oh man, this is a great fucking band.
Prob'ly not heading to another show until Friday's Jazzmaster 50th Anniversary show (with Thurston Moore, J. Mascis, Tom Verlaine, Lee Ranaldo, Nels Cline, others I'm probably forgetting) at Knitting Factory. But holy fuckin' shit, my dance card will be pretty full from that point on with shows by A Place to Bury Strangers, Mogwai with Fuck Buttons, Bobby Bare Jr., and, finally, BOTH My Bloody Valentine Roseland shows over the following coupla weeks. Yowza. Till then, Muddd outward.