We pick up our intrepid bloggers as they take us through their favorite shows of 2010.
Moe from Latest Disgrace
I used to see a dozen or more shows a month. It wasn’t something I really ever thought too much about, it was just a way of life, something that came as natural as hanging with my friends or drinking at the bars.
These days, getting out to a club is much more complicated; it’s something that I have to plan out in advance. Sometimes, if my wife wants to join me, I have to hire a sitter or make sure someone in my family is available to watch my daughter. It’s a commitment.
But you know what? The shows are better and they mean more. While I miss the spontaneity of hitting shows on a whim, there’s something to be said for the power of anticipation, for the joy of staring at a list of upcoming shows and saying to yourself, “That’s the one. There’s no way I’m missing that.”
With that said, picking any one show as THE standout of 2011 is next to impossible. There were too many great events, too many epic performances to narrow it down like that. So here’s what I can say definitively:
The most breathtaking performance I saw this year came from Red Sparowes at the Earl. The band’s sprawling, psychedelic post-rock is perfect for that room, filling every nook and crevice with the melodic interplay of their three stellar guitarists. Oh man, and that pedal steel! As if all that crescendo building and swelling dynamics weren’t enough, when Greg Burns locks into one of those Floydian grooves it just takes everything to another level. The crowd was small but they hung on to every note; it was one of the few shows I saw all year where there wasn’t a group of jackasses talking their way through the set. Of all the shows I saw this year, this was the closest I came to a feeling of transcendence.
The most fun I had at a show was, oddly, when I saw Primus at the Tabernacle. I say oddly because I’ve seem them a dozen or so times over the years and while they never fail to deliver—their technical prowess and sense of showmanship are off the charts—there’s nothing that they can do live that I haven’t already experienced before. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was the crowd response. I’ve seen a shit ton of shows at the Tabernacle and I’ve never seen an audience that jacked. People were losing it, and on more than one occasion I swear I thought the balconies were going to collapse. Everything you could have possibly wanted out of that show was there: killer stage presence, amazing setlist, insane levels of audience participation.
Locally, the highlight for me had to be the Letters Organize reunion shows. I moved to Atlanta a few years back just as they were starting to call it quits, so 2010 provided me with my first opportunity to catch them live. A buddy of mine warned me beforehand that Brent Jay and company didn’t hold anything back, but still I wasn’t prepared for the staggering amount of energy these guys put into their performances. Nobody I’ve seen in this city, short of maybe HAWKS, gives as much of themselves on stage; it’s exhausting just to watch. And, man oh man, do their fans buy in. Moshing isn’t my thing at all, but TLO shows are like mini riots—fierce, chaotic and full of fire.
Nadia from The Moon and Pluto
I’m basically in the same boat as Moe. Going to shows has to be planned when you’ve got rugrats! It’s also rare that I actually get to enjoy a show without having to analyze the performance and music for a live review or I’m working in some capacity. But, there were a few shows during which I didn’t have to work, and they were pretty memorable!
Muse at Gwinnett Arena was amazing! Their stage plot was exhilarating, having three enormous skyscraper-like platforms on which each member was planted. The platforms would move, so the guys would go from playing way up in the air to tearing it up all over the stage. Watching Matthew Bellamy play a gorgeous piano in mid-air was a highlight! The energy was intense and I left knowing that Muse just put on a flawless performance. They were beyond awesome!
Locally, I was in awe of Stokeswood at Koo Koo Room. This is not one of Atlanta’s traditional venues, residing underneath Flip Flops in Midtown with no sign to indicate that it exists. The space is very posh and normally the patrons are dancing to the mixes of whatever the DJ is spinning. But there is a small stage, that barely fit the 5-piece band, where the dance floor and stage area melded into one. Watching Stokeswood in such an intimate setting was really breathtaking. This band is ridiculously good, especially live, where frontman, Adam Patterson emits every passionate note and vibration straight through his mic, as he holds his plugged-in acoustic guitar high up on his chest, in his signature way, as if he can’t get it close enough to his body. He is captivating to watch, dancing around on stage, moving from guitar to keys to the mic alone. On this night, the audience was actually part of the performance, because half the band members had to set up on the floor, since the stage was so tiny, and Patterson did not ignore them. He danced around with the audience, even extending his mic to nearby friends to sing along. They played a ton of their original songs, which have really grown into spectacular electroacoustic dance-rock masterpieces, as well as some impressive cover songs, including Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” This show was especially sweet, because they actually played two 1 hour sets, with a DJ in between, so it was like 2 shows in one night! If you haven’t seen Stokeswood live, just go! I can’t wait to hear the new album they have coming out early next year.
Rube [hey, that's me!]
I already hinted at the best show of the year for me – the David Bazan house show. Bazan is a powerful and serious songwriter. He was at his most sincere and earnest standing on a small platform above a tiny portable amp. His usual “any questions” routine was, for probably obvious reasons, more conversational and intimate than I had ever seen it. I know my blogging pal Alex would tell you that Bazan’s all electric full band show at the EARL was better. It rocked, but this was my favorite show of the year. The surprise opening set by Andy Hull and Chris Freeman of Manchester Orchestra was a special treat.
My second most memorable show of the year was an artist that David Bazan mentioned at his house show – Josh Ritter. Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band managed to hold the close to capacity crowd at Variety Playhouse in the palm of their hands. Like Bazan, Ritter’s songs are often earnest and almost always heartfelt. He was at the tail end of a tour swing but still played with impressive energy and obvious delight. Few artists thank their audience with the sincerity that Josh does. A delight.
Though I saw many other shows of note, I need to mention Janelle Monae’s performance on the second of her two night stand at the Variety Playhouse in November. Of Montreal is notorious for the quality and reach of their live performances and they were quite simply outdone by Ms. Monae. She was on her game for the hometown crowd.
Davy from Ohmpark
This year I went to a lot less concerts than I normally do, so I don’t have as huge a list to choose from. Definitely my favourite of the year was Roger Waters doing The Wall. In terms of stage production, there just isn’t anything that comes close to that. Other shows that really stood out for me was The Morning Benders Criminal Records/Drunken Uni double header, Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra at The Earl, Phish at the OTP amphitheater, Phantogram at DU, The Barroco Fest, and Suuns and Land of Talk at The Earl.