Archive for the ‘concerts’ Category

Favorite concerts of 2009.

Friday, January 1st, 2010

In 2009, I went to 44 different concerts at 18 different venues in 4 different states and saw a total of 127 different bands. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

1. Big Shoulders Inauguration Ball presented by the Hideout Chicago & Interchange (20 January 2009, the Black Cat, Washington, DC)
‘Twas the night before the inauguration, and I fell into a friend’s +1 for this great show, full of fantastic Chicago bands. It was a marathon, but there were so many great performances: Tortoise (who are always great, and their performance of “Along the Banks of Rivers” this night totally slayed), Ken Vandermark, John Herndon, and Jeff Parker (performing the songs of Sun Ra), Freakwater, Eleventh Dream Day, and the Waco Brothers. It also reminded me how much has changed just in 4 years; I know that’s such a cliché, but four years ago (20 January 2005) at the same venue was a very different kind of pre-inauguration show; it was called Noise Against Fascism and featured Mirror/Dash (Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore), Chris Corsano & Paul Flaherty, Magik Markers, and To Live and Shave in L.A. It was a great, great noise show, which I photographed for the Wire), but it was a totally different energy from this one– and even the people I go to shows with (and see at shows!) has changed dramatically since 2005.

2. Mastodon (12 May 2009 at the 9:30 club, Washington, DC, and 31 October 2009 at the Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA)
Things have changed a lot for Mastodon since I first fell in love with them, and I never thought I’d see them in a big basketball arena. on Halloween. with hundreds of people singing along. Both of these shows were great; I think the 9:30 club was probably better musically, but the Halloween show had such a great energy with the people there in costume (one was even dressed as the undead Rasputin, from Crack the Skye!). Both shows had such a great personal energy as well; stood outside the 9:30 talking to Chris until about 2 AM after the first show (thereby missing all of the deadlines I had for him the next day), and spent the round-trip drive to and from the Patriot Center nerding out about music and metal with Brandon (who totally reminded me how great that Orthrelm album is).

3. the Pitchfork Music Festival (17-19 July, Union Park, Chicago, IL)
It’s probably cheating for me to list this, but I do every year. It’s always a great time personally (this year, it was a weekend-long slumber party, turning the P4k HQ into a 9-person group house for those three days), seeing tons of old friends that I only get to see once a year. And, of course, a bazillion fantastic bands. Personal highlight this year was, of course, the Jesus Lizard, whom I’ve wanted to see ever since Goat came out in 1991. And ooh boy, it was worth the wait: within 1 second of starting the set, David Yow sailed right over me in the photo pit and began crowdsurfing. I lost one of my favorite earrings in the melée, but it was totally worth it. Other highlights: Bowerbirds, Lindstrom, the Very Best, Dianogah (with Rebecca Gates), and lengthy discussions of donk.

4. Soulsavers (20 September, the Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, DC)
I rushed over to this show right after rehearsal and missed their first few songs (and Red Ghost’s entire opening set), but the addition of Mark Lanegan to this band just totally kills. That voice, that voice….

5. Neil Halstead (25 March, the Talking Head, Baltimore, MD)
I used to road-trip up to Baltimore to see shows all the time, but I went up for only two this year– this one and Jucifer/Mount Vicious at the Ottobar. There’s something about Neil Halstead’s hushed serenity that taks me to a calmer place, and even though his solo music hasn’t been loved by most critics, I just can’t get enough of it. And he played Slowdive’s “Alison”.

6. Future of the Left (29 October, the Rock N Roll Hotel, Washington, DC)
Rare is the rock show that entertains with words as much as with music– I wish I could remember all the hilarious things these guys said and did.

7. Lady Gaga (29 September, DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC)
I don’t go to as many big-name, mainstream concerts since I lost my primary concert review outlet, but this show reminded me why I enjoy them so much: these types of shows are just such a great spectacle. There were so many girls and boys dressed up like Gaga (in other words: wearing barely more than their underwear), making for some of the best peoplewatching around. Oh, and of course, Ms. Gaga herself is always so enchanting to watch. She doesn’t have an amazing voice, but she knows how to use what she’s got in a way that’s hard to look away. It wasn’t about big stage sets (her props were fairly minimal) or legions of backup dancers (there were 3)– it was all about HER. And from the skimpy costumes to a tender hope that her dad would make it through heart surgery, you never quite know what she’s going to say or do next.

The full list of bands I saw (alphabetically) is after the jump. Bands I saw more than once are listed in bold. (more…)

Save me, San Francisco.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I saw Train tonight at the 9:30 club. Train is a band that I’m surprisingly really torn on; I find their albums to be pretty schmaltzy mainstream fare (my review of their latest, Save Me San Francisco, for Express, can be read here), but they absolutely blew me away when I saw them about five years ago at the Birchmere. That was an eye-opening experience, for sure: it was about the fourth show I’d ever reviewed for the Washington Post (my review can be read here), and I remember going into that show full of hipster arrogance about how awful this stupid mainstream radio band was going to be. And then Pat Monahan opened his mouth to sing, and my hipster stock plummeted as I stood in awe of his voice. Sure, Train’s original songs are kind of lame and cheesy, but at this show, they did a ton of classic rock covers that just blew me away: a note-perfect version of Aerosmith’s “Dream On”. The Beatles’ “Get Back”. Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”. And– my personal favorite– Led Zepplin’s “Ramble On”. (John Bonham died when I was too young to go out to concerts myself, so seeing a band cover Zep is the closest I’ll ever get to seeing the real thing.)

Without going all Garden State on you, the show really surprised me and made me think about music differently: I went into it with this whole scathing review written in my head, and then I had to take it back and write something much more positive– and genuine.

But, as for tonight’s show, I’m really not sure why I went. It was a weird show for a different reason; Monahan’s voice was pretty shot, which you could hear in everything he sang (and he even apologized for his lack-of-high-notes, especially in “Dream On”, which is the only cover they attempted). And there’s just something about the 9:30 club– yeah, it’s my favorite venue in this town, by far. But it also doesn’t have the same intimacy as the Birchmere did, and having seen them once in such a small venue, I could sense that some of the impact and intensity was missing. And, thinking back to that show from 5 years ago, even though I knew at the time that all the lame moves were totally calculated and predictable (bringing girls onstage to dance, etc), they feel way more so when you’ve already seen the same gimmicks before.

The other weird thing about tonight was this intense realization that I didn’t fit in there. This was A-OK fine by me– i certainly didn’t expect to. But there was the couple standing in front of me, sucking face during the entire concert. There were the girls who got pulled onstage to sing and dance who looked like they stepped right out of an Abercrombie ad. Just judging from how dressed up some of the crowd was, I’d guess that most of the people in attendance tonight go to a half-dozen concerts per year, tops. It’s a really weird feeling to be standing in a room full of people who connect with music in a very different way than I do, and I became acutely aware of being such an outsider (which one of the dudes in the crowd pointed out to my face, when he yelled at me for reading a magazine between bands. hey, dude, whatever.). I’m not really sure what kind of concert or crowd I do fit in at, but it’s most certainly not this one.

NP: Tortoise, “Along the Banks of Rivers”.