Top Shows of 2010: Part 2
On Monday, we’d like to run a post with our readers’ Top 3 concerts! If you would like to make a submission, please email me at email@example.com and include a short biography and picture.
Elly Herget co-edits the St. Louis women’s lit mag, Bad Shoe. She is a member of the Skekses and O Fool, and moonlights with Pretty Little Empire. During the day (remember, friends, there is a time before darkness that we call Day, and things happen then, too), Elly nannies for an 18 month old Warrior Princess. (Photo by Ben Mudd.)
Black Diamond Heavies and Alley Ghost at Evil Prints: (Note: this review was posted on my fbook a few months ago) Park in creepy warehouse lot and cross the street to the only lit door on the block. Proceed up stairs lined with cases of PBR to print shop. Be careful not to ash your cigarette on the printing equipment as you pay the rockabilly girl to get in (or, as you tell her you paid already and just keep walking). Enter pitch-dark room, picking your way around bulky machinery, and lock your eyes on the sweaty fellows rocking their balls off under the lone, blindingly bright, piercingly hot spotlight. Dance crazily, heedless of the outside world for several blissful hours . On your way out, assume the PBR cases were party favors, and make your friend grab one.
Spelling Bee CD release at Apop Records:
Most people took breaks, escaping to gasp fresh air upstairs before plunging back in to the sweaty depths of Apop’s basement. I thought it was especially cute that, before their set, Joe watched Mabel’s eensy weensy dog in the store so she could go mosh for the openers. By the time Spelling Bee got started, there was no room on the floor of the basement, so I watched from the stairs, peering through a homemade dinosaur skeleton that hung from the ceiling. The duo glowed in a single orange spot that someone set in front of the drum kit. Spelling Bee usually plays a twenty minute set, but they threw in extra songs this evening, and of course when I finally slipped upstairs to breathe (“It smells like Human down there,” I told my friend), I discovered that I could hear them just fine through the floorboards.
Homegrown Show at the Pageant:
“Ew,” we all said, “The Pageant.” But it turned out pretty dope. High Point: Humdrum’s break dancer. Holy shit. That was awesome.
An Under Cover Weekend, Firebird, September 10 Union Tree Review as Postal Service, Sleepy Kitty as Pavement, Bruiser Queen as Descendants (Bruiscendants), The Blind Eyes as Fleetwood Mac, Troubadour Dali as Queens of the Stone Age
It may well be bad form to mention a show we played… but it can’t be helped for this night. After months of work, something like 15 bands played the Firebird’s An Under Cover Weekend in September on 3 separate nights. We’d heard legends of past glories, but we’re new enough to town that this was our first glimpse. On the evening we played, it was clear that all the musicians were feeling a range of excitement and nerves that comes from introducing an entire set of new material.
Union Tree Review managed to coax the spirit of Postal Service’s electronically based songs from their analog gear. The secret point of these shows, I suspect, is to reveal a key influence buried in a band’s core, and hearing Ben Gibbard’s melodies through Tawaine Noah’s voice changed both of them for me. Matt Strom’s interpretations of the inhuman drum patterns showed much brio and style. It felt like I could hear the band learning compositional tricks with every new section.
Then Sleepy Kitty did our thing as Pavement. It was so thrilling working out our own weird versions of those songs that we’re hoping to record them for an EP soon.
Paige knows more Descendants than I do, by far, but even I knew the logo on the t-shirts at the merch table…except these were branded for “Bruiscendants.” How TOTALLY awesome is that? Bruiser Queen’s set was fast, furious, and (Paige assures me) spot on.
On to our friends Troubadour Dali, who showed up with some over-sized cutout cacti to bring the full Queens of the Stone Age experience. Ben Hinn’s slicked back hair allowed him to simply become Josh Homme for the evening, and right from the opening list of illegal drugs, their set was made of the sternest stuff available, leaking a good-natured kind of evil all over the room.
But the Blind Eyes—this was their night. And, as is their graceful style, they spread it out ’til the night belonged to everyone. They made their allotted 25 minutes feel like an entire concert, blasting through early- and late-stage hits like they’d written the songs themselves. I had no idea I’d know every song in their set, but I did; I suppose I have a lifetime of grocery stores, coffee shops, and car radios to thank for that. But where I’d always thought of Fleetwood Mac as essentially mid-tempo breeziness, Matt Picker’s drumming gave the songs a rocked-up, roughed-up feel that got the room keyed up. And the best move of the night was to have a different Stevie Nicks for every song—Beth Bombara, Cassie Morgan, Sunyatta Marshall, and my own Paige Brubeck took turns pulling leads and harmonies out of each composition. By the time Seth Porter struck a chord and called out the last number, it felt like they’d pulled a trick with the clocks, and when that song turned out to be “Go Your Own Way,” it was time for the whole audience to join in with the full collection of Stevies assembled onstage to blast our way through the decades. It doesn’t matter whose song it is, when everyone in the room is singing the chorus, the feeling is unforgettable.
Wormwood Scrubs: Stag Nite Halloween show at El Lenador, October 27
The first time I went to Johnny Vegas’s Stag Nite at El Lenador I understood why my friends in Chicago think of St. Louis as “the South.” A windowless hideaway decked in smoke-tinted Bavarian landscapes, El Lenador is the only late-night place to get a drink on West Cherokee. The front room is a south city music-scene menagerie that feels more like a house party than a bar, and the room is buzzing with good conversation, good music and dollar Stags.
The Wednesday before Halloween, Evan and I arrived just in time to see the Wolfman, Count Dracula, and Bride of Frankenstein setting up their gear. The band was Wormwood Scrubs, and it was our first time hearing their set (we’d glimpsed them a month earlier at the excellent Alex Chilton/Big Star tribute). When musicians are going for that raw, warm sound of the ’60s that only good players on analog instruments can get, this is the sound they’re talking about. The guitar tone was wicked as Dracula made guitar solos look natural, and the Bride of Frankenstein looked like she was raising a Rhodes from the dead. With stiffly outstretched arms and sudden movements, the keys were at her command. The Wolfman’s restlessly prowling limbs were fully in character, with loud, crashing drums coming from the paws of a wild creature. Larissa Dalle (or is it Larissa Rook?) has a beautiful, strong voice and a lot of character. Her darkly enchanted vocals completed the spell, soaring over the instruments to haunt the room (and Bavarian countryside) with an undead, fantasy version of 1969 Memphis.
The Dresden Dolls / Sleepy Kitty / Ellen the Felon at the Pageant/Halo Bar, November 16
One thing about being in a band: a pretty high number of the shows we see are shows we’re actually playing. I mean, our attendance at shows with Sleepy Kitty on the bill is 100%. And man, some of those go great. One of our favorite musical moments of the year was just back in November, when we were asked to open for one of Paige’s long-time favorites, the Dresden Dolls, at their reunion show at the Pageant. Just after happily saying yes to that gig, we went out and finally properly saw Ellen the Felon strut her (their?) stuff, and we realized that, while we weren’t about to hand off our coveted spot, the Felons were absolutely required to be a part of that same show. It was worked out that the Felons would play the Halo Bar after the Dresden Dolls: perfect.
Sleepy Kitty had a great time during our set. The Dresden Dolls were very friendly and put on a whirlwind display of virtuoso musical stagecraft. Amanda Palmer has become a legend in her own right with her solo music and her outsized internet persona, but that was all founded on the amazing songs and even more impressive interactions of her and Brian Viglione—drummer, occasional guitarist, mime, and foil for Amanda’s melodramatic postures and parade of characters. At one point, Amanda dropped into the ecstatic crowd to sing one of my own favorite songs, Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Two-Headed Boy,” enlisting the entire audience in the narrative’s longing pain, reaching for but never quite reaching Brian’s face where he played acoustic guitar on the edge of the stage, bent down to receive her words. They turned songs into stories, and then stories into plays, and those plays into whole relationships building up and falling apart. Watching from the wings, I couldn’t help but take notes on how two people can overflow a gigantic stage, and a gigantic room, through sheer personal fire.
But the best part hadn’t happened yet. It took us a while to get sorted and over to the Halo Bar, where the Felons had just finished their first set. I came over to Ellen to say hello and let her know that Amanda had mentioned stopping by at some point—only to find them standing side by side. Ellen got up onstage and started slyly playing the opening piano riff of Dresden Dolls’ “Missed Me”—of course, Ellen would have that song in her bag of tricks—and suddenly Amanda was clumsily but cheerily bashing the drums and belting the lyrics. Every cell cam in the house was raised and rolling, and from there the two launched forward into one of Ellen’s own, “Bang Bang Bang.” It was entirely perfect, the kind of night that confirms what live music is for, what it does for the body and mind and dreams of the people who are there to witness and participate.
(Seriously, go check out the RFT’s photos of the Dresden Dolls’ set. The photo of Brian Viglione clamping a cymbal in his teeth gets my vote as the Best Rock Photo of 2010.)
I chose these three shows, because they were my favorites both as a listener and a photographer. These are shows that I was proud to have captured physical images of the music being played, and the emotions created on and off stage. In chronological order:
Mumford & Sons w/ Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine at Off Broadway, June 15, 2010
Deer Tick w/ Dead Confederate at Off Broadway August 5, 2010
Justin Townes Earl with Jessica Lea Mayfield at Old Rock House, September 15, 2010
Cassie Morgan is a St. Louis-based singer-songwriter and independent musician, whose projects include fronting folk duo Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, as well as collaborating with alt-country trio The Blind Nils. (Photo by Kate McDaniel)
1. Sarah Jaffe at the Billiken Club on 9/2/2010 – Jaffe was equally captivating and comfortable on stage; the subtle power of her voice paired with poignant lyrics and careful arrangement kept every eye on her, with mouths agape (including my own). She exhibited great warmth and accessibility to the crowd, lending the illusion that we were a part of her inner circle, if only for an hour. I bought Jaffe’s latest album, Suburban Nature, directly from her at the merch table that very night; it has scarcely left my turntable since.
2. Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs at The Firebird on 4/30/2010 – I was already a fan, but Golightly and her lone partner “Lawyer Dave” completely sold me on their brand of lo-fi, rambling, twang-rock at their Firebird show in April. Lawyer Dave expertly complemented Golightly’s signature warble and penchant for tongue-in-cheek old-timey tunes by simultaneously contributing background vocals, guitar, slide, and drums (via a one-man-band drum kit, which he plays with his feet). I heard a rumor that they’ll be back in St. Louis soon. You won’t want to miss it.
3. Kentucky Knife Fight and The Blind Eyes at Off Broadway on NYE – Kentucky Knife Fight and The Blind Eyes are arguably two of the best bands in the St. Louis area, with all-around tight musicianship, solid songwriting, and a fresh sound to the music scene. When they combined forces on New Year’s Eve, with Kentucky Knife Fight’s boot-stomping, garage/blues rock and the Blind Eyes’ smart, snappy pop sensibilities, they filled the venue with energy and endless possibilities for the new year.
Annie Zaleski is the RFT’s music editor, which means she blogs a lot here (www.rftmusic.com), goes to a lot of shows and mainlines coffee so she can stay up late. Believe it or not, she’s still a music fan who lives for fantastic new albums.
3. Jonsi at the Pageant, November 2, 2010 Any number of shows I saw could go in this slot. But like the best concerts, this solo show from Sigur Ros’ frontman transcended the music. 2010 was a frustrating year for a lot of reasons — and this show especially functioned as a stunning conduit to catharsis. Evocative movies and photographic clips combined with brilliant musicianship, howling vocals and emotional vulnerability — the kind you dig deep within yourself to find. I left the show exhausted but ecstatic, humbled by Jonsi’s music and inspired by his craft.
2. Wilco at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, April 11, 2010
Setting aside the fact that this show had meaning for me and my boyfriend (cue retching noises), this Wilco show was a sublime, unique experience. The venue was attached to a museum in between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh; you had to walk through an ornate, echoing lobby to get to the intimate performance room. This made the show feel delightfully forbidden — and even more of a special occasion than Wilco concerts usually are.
As it was the last show of the tour, the night had a sprawling, loose vibe: The band played nearly 40 songs, spread out over four sets. Whatever your favorite Wilco song was, it was probably played. Really, there was nothing flashy about the night; it was just a solid rock & roll show by one of the best live bands around. http://pittsburghchambermusic.org/?page_id=41
1. LouFest, Forest Park, August 28-29, 2010
Putting aside the music — it’s a given that there were plenty of highlights — LouFest was the best overall concert experience I had this year. Sitting outside in the gorgeous weather in Forest Park, surrounded by pals, pleasant vibes and fantastic bands, was nothing short of perfect. I was proud of our city for coming out to support this new event, proud that so many people committed to an all-day outdoor festival — the kind other big cities have done for years and take for granted. People didn’t act like douchebags, everybody was happy — and it was enough of a success that LouFest Mach II is happening again in August 2011. Mission accomplished.
Breathe Owl Breathe @ Off Broadway
Big Smith & The Domino Kings @ Off Broadway
Band of Horses @ The Pageant
Jessica Luther writes words and sometimes takes photographs for I Went To A Show. She lives in Soulard and works a 9 to 5-er downtown. She can’t believe you’re reading this, but thanks you very much for doing so.
An Undercover Weekend. September 10th, 11th, and 17th at The Firebird. Think back to when you were a kid, and you’d spend hour upon hour imitating your heroes. Whether you were standing in front of a bedroom mirror lip-synching into a hairbrush or just following an older sibling around relentlessly, we spend much of our youth wishing to be someone else.
As adults, the pedestals on which we place our idols seem lower. But last year’s Undercover Weekend gave many local bands the chance to do what they dreamed of when they were small – to become, for a night, those artists who inspired their own musical endeavors. The fans in attendance were receptive, enthusiastic, and appreciative. “This is my favorite song!!!” I heard throughout the evenings, and watched attendees move forward and sing along. The quality of musicianship and showmanship at each concert manages to equate or surpass the previous year. We’re very fortunate to have something like it in our city.
The Avett Brothers. September 24th at The Pageant.
Certain bands enter your life at exactly the right time. Avett ambled alongside me throughout 2010, and provided a fitting soundtrack to the unexpected and ultimately formative moments that took place.
Expectations going into this show were lower than they should’ve been. I’d attended AB’s Red Rocks show in Colorado just weeks prior. Oh, and our group met them afterwards. As Seth Avett’s arm rested gently on my shoulder while a photo was taken, I assumed I could cross off a big, highlighted item on my concert bucket list.
It’s a funny thing about lists and buckets – what you end up remembering, then cherishing, are rarely the moments you anticipate. Before the Pageant show, a cheerful hodgepodge of new and old-ish friends gathered on the dartboard side of Blueberry Hill for drinks or food. We laughed and got a wee buzz on. Having my then favorite band in my city playing in front of people I care about trumped the startling beauty and seemingly unbeatable atmosphere of Colorado. I’m still surprised. And the Avett Brothers put on exactly the St. Louis show I should have known to expect – loud, loose, and generous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TNL6r_Frjw
Beth Bombara Album Release Show w/ Dropkick the Robot and Old Lights. November 19th at Off Broadway.
Beth released a full-length album in late 2010 after leading a successful, fan-funded campaign. The culmination of her band’s effort was realized in mid-November, when she took to Off Broadway’s stage and played to a packed room. The crowd was singing the lyrics to a local musician’s songs. They were dancing, and they were happy.
Admittedly, Beth is a pal and I was proud of and happy for my friend. But mostly, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of folks who came out for an entirely local ticket. I thought about small rock clubs and community radio stations and independent printing presses and coffee shops and food trucks. I thought about how those businesses and the humans who run them all working together is not an absurd dream, but how it should be (and is) a concrete goal the St. Louis community’s gotta keep in mind if we are to become the kind of musical presence everyone complains we aren’t.
On the stage that evening there were lamps, the kind you’d put on an end table in your
living room. They cast a warm glow on bands and fans alike. It was charming and appropriate; for the umpteenth time in 2010, Off Broadway felt like home.
3) Clutch @ Pop’s 11/4
Annie McCance is the newest contributor to I Went To A Show.com. By day, she is an in-house designer and developer. By night, she is a freelance designer and developer – pretty much the same thing. At shows you can find her standing near Jess Luther, holding Kateober’s photography bag, and drinking gin & tonics.
3) Freelance Whales – Off Broadway – June 8, 2010 – This Brooklyn band is one of my favorite newly discovered bands.
2) The Avett Brothers – The Pageant – September 24, 2010 – If you can’t do the robot during folk music, then I don’t want to do the robot.
1) Tegan & Sara – The Pageant – April 2, 2010 – Come on, this was a given. If I’m not quoting The L Word or Ellen’s Here & Now, I’m using the lyrics of Tegan & Sara to talk to women. I love when most of the fans at the show could sing along to almost all of the songs.