As I predicted in my 2013 round-up, my show going would fall precariously in 2014. As the year came, to a close, I felt sort of “meh” about this year’s show-going experiences. Something about this snippet from the Atlantic piece on the mid-life malaise, “Jeste also notes that the brain circuits linked to rewards lose some sensitivity with age,” made me think that maybe I just wasn’t feeling the same euphoria that I used to feel from a really good show.
But with certain gripes (which I will note below) aside, 2014 was actually a pretty solid and enjoyable concert year. My hope for the years to come is that we can somehow maintain at the 10-12 show per year frequency, but we’ll see. In 2014, we did learn to enjoy the comfort the assigned seating, instead of fighting in the scrum of standing GA tickets, so maybe this will prolong our concert going.
I’m going to start with a run down of this year in live music, and end with my “top 3.”
- Kraftwerk at the Fox in 3D. This was my first 3D show, and probably one of my most heavily anticipated shows going into 2014. Yay, for the grandfathers of electronic music!
- Pantha Du Prince at Mezzanine. This is the show that taught us that we’re too old for shows at Mezzanine. We always knew it was a late venue, and arrived at 10:30. The door guy told us no “ins and outs” and that PDP would come on at 12:45. So, we went to eat, came back at 12:45 and felt like death because PDP didn’t come on until 1-ish. We stayed about 45 minutes before we headed to the land of nod.
- Beck at the grand re-opening of the Masonic. He put in a solid set, and it was nice to be in a newly re-done venue, however, the HVAC system was not up to par. They ripped out the seats on the first floor of the Masonic to make it GA and didn’t up the AC / ventilation for the increased crowd size, so I had to go out to concessions for air constantly because I felt that I was going to faint.
- The Cure (and TV on the Radio at the Bottlerock Festival). I have seen our future, and our future may be festivals like this. I had not seen the Cure since high school and J and had never seen them, so we went up to Napa for this festival. It was mellow, uncrowded, offered $25 glasses of cabernet sauvignon, snacks from Morimoto’s, and plenty of 50-year-olds in Robert Smith outfits. And they of course pulled the plug on Robert Smith because he played too long for them (but not too long for us).
- Jeff Tweedy and family at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. HSB remains one of my favorite SF events, even though I battle heatstroke at it every year. Mr. Hellman, God bless your soul. And friends, you should really try to go with me to HSB in 2015. It’s free and baby friendly, so you have no excuse.
- Com Truise (and Tycho at the Fox). We were initially going to waste these tickets, but I pointed out to J that Com Truise was the opener, so we went. This was a case of the opener definitely outshining the main act.
And for my top 3 (in no particular order):
- David Gray at the Paramount. Go ahead, and make fun of me all your want, but David Gray is one of my favorite performers and I’ve never seen him perform live before. I found out a friend was a mutual fan, and had company to finally see him live. I walked away thinking this was my favorite show of 2014, and this was the show that I felt the most acutely, in terms of my emotions.
- Slowdive at the Warfield. J said that this was his favorite show of his entire life, and he is a superfan who had waited forever for their reunion. I actually knew very little about the band going into the show, but appreciated that it was a great performance.
- Flaming Lips and Friends NYE Extravaganza. This is how we chose to close out the year, folks. This was not as great as last year’s Halloween show, but it hit my brain’s pleasure receptors with Beatles’ covers, confetti cannons, Wayne Coyne’s unabashed glee, and balloons. I could think of no better way to cap off 2014.
Happy 2015 to all! May the world have a geopolitically more stable year and may justice prevail in the U.S. of A.
P.S. – These were the other shows that I went to in 2014, but did not describe above: F**k Buttons at the Independent, The Knife at the Fox, and the War on Drugs at the Fillmore.
This annual round up is just about the only remaining item of consistency on this blog. Over the past few years, the formula for my show-going frequency has followed a pattern of n-3, where n= the number of shows I went to the previous year (i.e. 28 shows in 2010, 25 shows in 2011, and 22 shows in 2012), so my best of list is getting shorter. This post is an amalgam of best shows and interesting things that I saw at shows (through the hazy filter of Instagram, of course).
I started out the concert year in Seoul, where I was very entertained by the innovative coat check at the city’s electronic music festival, and my friend’s friend’s Korean Justice banner. I also made it a point to see a few favorites again (Radiohead, Washed Out), but surprisingly, these shows did not make much of an impression on me. I can’t fault Radiohead; I think that even with floor tickets, the HP Pavilion is not the ideal place to see them. For the first time, I saw a few acts on my “must see” list, the Flaming Lips at the Bridge School Benefit, and Fiona Apple on her Idler Wheel tour, but similarly these do not demand more than a footnote. As J’s sidekick, I also saw a few of his favorite bands, Spiritualized, Animal Collective, and Metallica (where ash and soot from the pyrotechnics had me blowing out black snot from my nose the next day).
Here are the 6 “top,” aka notable shows, of 2012 (from very good to best):
6. M83 at NSSN – I saw M83 twice this year, but I have very little memory of the first time that I saw them at the Fillmore. While a Live 105 show is not my ideal concert experience, they were excellent at NSSN (the true headliner), and like other French electronic bands, they were more of a “jam band,” when performing live.
5. Cat Power at the Fox Theatre – This was the election night party in Oakland. I was pretty surprised by this show because Chan Marshall came out with a cropped, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cut, instead of her trademark straight across bangs and long-hair. Cat Power’s music was angrier than I expected and matched her look (and perhaps her health and financial woes). Cat Power is crazy; and for her music, this is a good thing.
4. Tamaryn at the Independent – The band’s music is strong and their new album was on heavy rotation in my playlist this year. Live, Tamaryn has the whole moody blond-hair covering her face, midriff bearing aesthetic rocker look down.
3. The Weeknd at the Warfield – I was hooked on the Weeknd the first time that I heard a Flunk sample in one of his songs. Seeing him live, I am convinced that he’s the next Michael, the next Prince, and that this was the last chance to see him in a non-arena sized venue. J commented that R&B shows were weird because the audience was a sea of smartphone video screens for the duration of the show. His opener, Nosaj Thing, was the best opener of the year, and someone that I look forward to seeing again.
2. Philip Glass, Tim Fain, and Joanna Newsom at the Warfield (benefit show for the Henry Miller Library) – The most civilized show of the year; a seated show at the Warfield. My favorite part was Glass’s performance of this work, featuring Allen Ginsberg:
1. Pulp at the Warfield – Back when I saw them in April, I knew that this would be number 1, since it is easily one of my top 5 concerts ever. So, I did a full write-up to memorialize the experience back then.
Overall, I’m a bit surprised that the top 3 slots were very different acts at the same venue, the Warfield. Then again, the Warfield’s similarity in terms of layout, age, and beauty to the Fox Theatre in Oakland, highlights how atrociously bad the sound system is at the Fox. Every year, I vow to not see shows at the Fox, since they manage to make great bands sound terrible, but I find myself back at the Fox for a show or two. My concert-going wish for 2013 is that the Fox puts some money into upgrading / fixing their sound.
‘Til next year, EC
Normally, I save my concert reviews for year-end one-sentence summaries. But by the time December comes around, my memory grows hazy, and it’s hard to reconstruct my feelings about a show based on a single Flickr upload. I’m breaking from routine, and giving Pulp a full review now because I’m pretty sure that last night’s show will garner the top spot on my 2012 Best Show list.
Last fall, when Portishead played the Greek, I was pretty ready to retire from show going because I thought there was nothing left. Essentially, if I got to see Radiohead live every two years or so, I thought that I’d be happy. Well, I was wrong. For my birthday, J got me general admission Radiohead tickets for last week’s show at HP Pavilion, and for a few weeks, I was happy. Then, I missed the Pulp ticket sale by an hour, and walked away empty handed when I acted on a rumor and tried the Warfield box office that night.
I checked Stubhub and Craiglist religiously and one of my friends added me to a “Help everyone get to see PULP at the Warfield!” group on Facebook, and in the end, everything worked out. J’s roommate ended up having a pair of extra tickets, and I let out a squeal of delight when she nonchalantly offered them to me without knowing of my quest.
Thus, even before yesterday’s show, I was pretty psyched. I spent an entire hour clockwatching while sitting through a lecture on Biophilic cities right before the show. And for once, the show, ended up exceeding my keyed up expectations.
Jarvis Cocker, at age 48, may be the best showman that I’ve EVER seen. He likely arranged the opening green laser messages that added up to the build up of the band coming on stage. He read out facts about Isak Dineson, whose birthday was yesterday. He threw out to the audience a book of poetry that he bought at City Lights that afternoon. He handed a beer to someone in the front audience, and told them to share it. He did this again with a couple of glasses of wine (Greg, who patiently waited hours to secure a front spot, deservedly got one of these glasses). But most of all, in playing Pulp’s hits, he alternated from a writhing dorky-sexy rockstar to a guide who gently coaxed me to re-live my awkward adolescence in verse. He owned the entire audience.
Yesterday’s show also answered the mystery of why I hadn’t seen Pulp live before. The last time they played in San Francisco was at Bimbo’s when I was in high school. I wasn’t even old enough back then to make it through ID check.
The concert gods have blessed the Bay Area this week. Pulp matched Radiohead’s two-plus-hour set with double encores, with their own two-hour set with double encores, albeit shorter double encores. By the end, Jarvis sweated through his dress shirt a la Morrissey and looked a bit misshapen as he performed Misshapes. But everyone left smiling as they sweetly ended with Pulp’s earliest song.
In keeping with my tradition of annual round-ups, here are my noteworthy shows of 2011, a year, where I saw everyone from Prince to St*rF*ck*r, and Arcade Fire twice. I didn’t cry tears of emotional joy at any of the 2011 shows, but the band that took the top spot very nearly put me into concert retirement with their performance at the Greek Theatre. So, in ascending order of how much I enjoyed myself:
8. Cut Copy at the Regency – This is the runner-up in the dance party category, simply because it was the most energetic. It took me forever to steady my phone to take a picture because people were jumping so hard on the dance floor. Oonce oonce oonce.
7. The Kings of Convenience at the Fillmore – Based on Erlend Oye’s past work with Royksopp, this show was in some ways a companion piece to entry #5 below. This was a two-man acoustic guitar and vocal set, which definitely emphasized, loud audience aside, that quiet is the new loud.
6. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Miss Thao always gives her all, in her full messy glory for her shows. She’s definitely my favorite local musician.
5. Royksopp at the Regency – This won the dance party category by the sheer force of Royksopp’s sound.
4. Foster the People at Outsidelands – I went to the festival for Arcade Fire, but on day one, Foster the People stole the show. I didn’t think of them their album as all that dance-y beforehand, but I had fun doing the indie bop in Golden Gate Park during their set. Plus, it helps that like everyone else on Spotify, I spent a few weeks listening to their album non-stop.
3. Fitz and the Tantrums at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Such stage presence! I boogied! I shook! Hands down my favorite act of HSB. Thank you, Mr. Hellman.
2. Erasure at the Fox – Oh, L’amour, I broke out my gold suspenders for this show, and it was worth it.
1. Portishead at the Greek – Half of the number 1 spot was earned through anticipation alone, but Beth Gibbons’s and her haunting presence earned the rest. It was nice to see that they moved beyond the screaming banshee rendition of Sour Times, into a more jazzy, lounge-y mode. After waiting over a dozen years for this show (and after having checked off all of the other acts on my list), I felt very satisfied after this show to enter into concert semi-retirement (I had a very long post-Portishead show lull in ticket purchases). In 2012, I’ll probably halve, if not quarter, my show going habit, but I’m looking forward to Radiohead and M83 at Fauxchella.
Other honorable mentions:
Washed Out at the Great American – This originally made the list above, but I couldn’t remember anything from this show, other than it was good.
Ellie Goulding at Outsidelands – Her music is not quite my cup of tea, but an excellent set, plus the sunglass scramble added to the fun.
Best Coast at the Regency – Along with Thao, this goes into the messy, drunken, emotional vocalist category, and I mean this in a good way.
Beach House at the Fillmore – I was worried about this show because Toastyken had told me that seeing Beach House live was one of his least enjoyable concert experiences, but despite the droning vocals, I liked this show, and the teepee stars were a neat touch.
I was going to do a post on the 10 books that I read in 2010 (not “best” books, mind you, but the 10 books that I read in full) under the mistaken impression that I wrote a post about the books that I read in 2009. It turns out, however, that my only year-end round-up post last year was the Best Shows of 2009. So, in the spirit of that post, here’s the 2010 edition.
Although I saw more acts this year (my unscientific count via TwitFlick photos is 28), I thought 2010 was only a “meh” concert year overall.* So, instead, I’m just going to list shows that I really really liked (once again in good to better to best order):
10. Phantogram at the Indy – Such a big sound for such a simple 2-person duo.
9. Mirah and Thao Nguyen at Noisepop – This sounds bad, but it was actually quite good: this show = your Gender Studies T.A.’s performing while a bit drunk.
7. Pavement at the Greek – And to compliment #8, this one occupies the spot of “Grandfather of all Indie Bands from the 90s that I’ve been waiting forever to see.”
6. The Morning Benders at the Independent – I’ll let my pal Wenlin’s cartoon speak for this night.
5. The National
at the Independent (Correction – GDubrow points out in the comments that this was at the Fox in Oakland. My memory failed me because I didn’t think that I could get that close to the stage at the Fox) – I thought Matt Berninger and the band engaged the crowd more at Treasure Island (with the quips that only Matt is allowed to wear suits and that “Slow Show” is the National song that’s most often played at weddings), but it can’t beat the spot that we had at the Indy the Fox.
3. DeadMau5 at Treasure Island Fest – This is the year that I converted from being an Indie Sunday to Dance Saturday person at T.I. Fest. The Mau5 was a huge reason why. Oonce oonce oonce
2. Thom Yorke at the
Warfield Fox (addendum: My brain completely erased the knowledge of the existence of the Fox Theater in Oakland while writing this post) – If it wasn’t for Arcade Fire, Mr. Yorke (one day, Sir Yorke, when William is king?) would automatically get the number one spot. This show was a reminder to take Eraser out again, and give it another good listen (in fact, just writing this post is forcing me to put Eraser on).
1. Arcade Fire at the Greek – Though I’m still not in love with The Suburbs, this was the first concert that made me cry in a long time. There’s something about this band, where the crowd wails out in unison, and feels better afterwards. Collective catharsis, however cheesy that may sound.
*I started this post thinking that 2010 was a “meh” year, but by the time I’ve reached this part of the post, I’m pretty darn satisfied with what the 2010 concert calendar delivered. No Portishead, but I’ve decided that “Waiting for Portishead” is the new “Waiting for Godot.”
**Peter Hook and Co. playing all of Unknown Pleasures, LCD Soundsystem at the Fillmore, the Magnetic Fields at the Herbst, and Hot Chip at the
Warfield Fox probably deserve some kind of honorable mention, but whatever.
***Vampire Weekend at the Warfield gets the award for “loudest concert of the year.” My ears are still ringing from that show.
4 3 different venues on my list, The Independent wins my vote for favorite venue of 2010. I’m a bit amazed the the Fillmore isn’t on this list at all. And I’m amazed that I forgot that a couple of the shows were at the beautiful, albeit acoustically challenged Fox in Oakland.
I went to see Phantogram open for the Antlers yesterday. For their encore, they played, “When I’m Small,” and I think the reason why I love this song is that it reminds me of very good Moby, not car commercial Moby.
Otherwise, the duo really rocks the electronic-industrial sound live.