Top Shows of 2011: Readers

Top Shows 2011 Header

[show_avatar align=left avatar_size=62] Welcome to our annual Top Shows series. We asked local musicians, media folk, and our fearless readers to submit their top 3 concerts of 2011. The only requirement for these submissions was that the show must have happened in 2011. With this unifying detail you can read about the diverse shows that St. Louisans get to attend.

Lori Lamprich (@el_lamprich on Twitter) is a political scientist by day, and a committed rock and roller by night. One large serving of country, a heaping tablespoon of folk, a liberal dash of blues, a sprinkle of punk, a pinch of classic rock. Stir until frothy.

Clearly, I had a great summer.

KDHX Twangfest, night 1 – Kentucky Knife Fight, Elizabeth Cook, Hayes Carll at The Pageant – 7/8/2011
In this paragraph I embarrassingly reveal how sometimes, I am late to the party.  ——- This show was my introduction to Hayes Carll. He had me at “Beaumont”. I was completely wrecked over “It’s a Shame”. I was a fan for life by the time he got to “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”. “Bad Liver” and “A Broken Heart” changed my life. The next day I purchased every single one of his records. I love country rock more than anything, and Hayes Carll does it better than anyone. As a bonus: KKF opened up with a really tight, spot-on set. And Elizabeth Cook is Dolly Parton for a new generation.

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band at Off Broadway – 7/22/2011
Josh Ritter is, hands down, the greatest living songwriter right now. I’m pretty biased here. He could’ve shown up in a bathrobe and belched into the microphone for an hour and I still would’ve walked out of Off Broadway that night in a state of bliss.  Thankfully, he didn’t do that. What he did do was beautiful. Talking Heads cover! Lou Reed cover! “Playing Into the Dark” in the dark! Waltzing with his guitar! Protozoan crowd dancing! Anytime an artist seems just as happy as you to be there, in that moment, you’re really experiencing something special. Every Josh Ritter show is something special.

Langhorne Slim and the Law at Off Broadway – 8/23/2011
I’m a self-described “enthusiastic foot-tapper” more than a dancer. Blame it on oppressive self-consciousness and social anxiety, but I tend to suppress the urge to dance at shows. It really takes something special to shake me out of this state of hyper-awareness. Langhorne Slim makes me dance my ass off, without a care in the world. Also, “Past Lives” might be the greatest song ever to be performed live. Also, Slim is kinda sexy.

Honorable Mention:
Shot of Love: Bob Dylan 70th Birthday Party and KDHX Benefit at Off Broadway – 5/27/2011
I went to this show with my good friend Vanessa, a fellow Dylan fanatic. She actually won a CD for correctly answering one of the between-sets-trivia-questions.  We drank too much PBR, sang our favorite Dylan classics and got to see almost every local musician we love on stage all at once just killing “I Shall Be Released”.  Beautiful night, paid for with an epic hangover. (Those PBR tallboys are serious business.)

Kristi Beall – STL transplant, avid concert-goer, lover of most all things singer-songwriter this year, enjoys new music always.

So this year I’ve had a tough time narrowing down my top three choices for the Best of 2011. Obviously, this is an awesome problem to have, ’cause it means I saw that many artists this year and witnessed that much music magic. This year I was lucky enough to see the likes of Josh Ritter, Langhorne Slim, Nick 13, Girl Talk, The Nekromantix, Johnny Corndawg, Those Darlins, William Elliott Whitmore, Hayes Carll, The Street Dogs, Wayne Hancock, The Black Lips, Eza Furman, etc. and some of these folks more than once. And I’ve finally done the impossible by choosing my top three. Here they are in no particular order:

1.  Josh Ritter at Liberty Hall – 2/18/2011 & Josh Ritter at Off Broadway – 7/22/2011
I’m combining these two cause they were essentially the same setlist and both just as magical as the other. I drove five hours to Lawrence, KS in February by myself to see Josh play at Liberty Hall. The space was comfortably full and we had the largest group slow dance in Lawrence that night, possibly the largest in the entire state of Kansas. At Off Broadway in July, we also had a group slow dance, only this time there was no touching. It was the sweatiest, stickiest group slow dance of all time. The Off Broadway show is by far more memorable, as we were packed in like sardines, but no one was complaining. Josh is made to perform. The smile never leaves his face and hopefully never leaves yours either. I won’t ever stop going to see him, cause it’s an instant potion for happy. If you haven’t experienced his magic yet, make sure you do sometime soon.

2.  Nick 13 at Firebird – 6/16/2011
The Tiger Army frontman is my favorite man to have a crush on. I don’t even mind his neck tattoos. This year saw the release of Nick’s long awaited solo, country-inspired album, after a long line of Tiger Army psychobilly albums. Surprise! Nick does country just as well as psychobilly. The show at the Firebird was everything I could have dreamed of. He played the majority of the new record and revamped Tiger Army classics to give them a new vibe for a new genre. The sound was full and twangy and the crowd was into all the material new and old. Another guy I’ll never miss coming through town.

3. Revival Tour at Solus, Cardiff UK – 10/16/2011
The revival tour began in 2008 as a acoustic musical collaboration started by Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan. This year I was lucky enough to catch it while visiting my husband in Cardiff. This year’s musicians included Dave Hause of The Loved Ones, Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, Chuck Ragan and Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem, as well as a fiddler and a stand up bassist. These guys came together and played each other’s songs all together and paired up separately. Whether or not you know any of their bands or any of their solo music, you would’ve had a blast at this show. It was a non-stop change up of musicians and instruments on stage all night and the crowd couldn’t have been more lively. My feet hurt from all the stomping at the end of the night! They closed it out with the song “59 Sound” and we had Cardiff’s biggest sing-a-long that night. I can’t believe I had a voice the next day. Amazing show.

Honorable Mentions:
William Elliott Whitmore at Off Broadway – 7/28/2011 (My first WEW show!!)
Girl Talk at The Pageant – 1/18/2011 (Biggest confetti party ever!)

Stephanie TolleStephanie Tolle is the best and runs the blog, Iron Stef, and is the mastermind behind Skank Ham.

Matt Nathanson at The Pageant –  10/18/2011
One of my favorite kinds of music is “Sad Bastard” music… songs that are gorgeous and heartbreaking. I don’t know why, as I’m generally a happy and optimistic gal. Anyway, one of the best Sad Bastard songs ever is Matt Nathanson’s “Bulletproof Weeks”. If you’ve ever been through a break-up, the song is guaranteed to turn you into a puddle of sad. It was basically all I knew of Matt Nathanson, so when a friend invited me last minute to his show, I expected a somber evening…but in a good way, you know? What really happened was an extra fun show that was part stand-up comedy (the dude is hilarious), part pop/rock concert, part cover song dance party. His newer songs are really poppy…like WB TV show poppy. His older songs are more my thing…fun, acoustic rock. This is on my list of best shows of 2011 because I was so pleasantly surprised by it. It helps that he did a meet-and-greet after the show, and was super-sweet and gracious to the long line of us silly fan-girls (he told me my scarf was pretty…quee!). Oh, and he covered “Laid” by James…maybe one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. I melted.

AUCW at Firebird- 9/10-9/11/2011  (
I look forward to these shows every year. And they just keep getting better, it seems. Local bands become a [nationally] popular band for one night only. It’s a sweaty, drunken, dancing sing-a-long good time. The stand-outs for me (though everyone was pretty amazing, really) were:

Union Tree as Marvin Gaye….I am expecting that at least 5 babies were made during this set.

Dots Not Feathers as Stevie Wonder…I put a lot of pressure on them in my mind…you can’t mess up Stevie! And they didn’t! They honored him well with a range of singers and good selection of his songs.

Via Dove as AC/DC and The Orbz as Stone Temple Pilots….The theatrics and rockingness for these two sets was incredibly fun… I got way too into them, as if I was actually at an AC/DC or STP show. Screaming, headbanging fangirl. That’s what happened.

Givers with Pepper Rabbit and 1,2,3 at Cicero’s – 6/27/2011 (I Went to a Show Presents!
I am not trying to brown nose here….this show really did kick ass. I love when I go to a show of bands I have never heard of and end up listening to their albums over and over again for months afterwards. The Givers were AWESOME. They put on a high-energy show…quirky, happy (Up Up Uplifting, you might say), solid. I had the CD on my dash for weeks after.

Erin Leach is a librarian, complete with glasses and sensible shoes. Erin loves music, both live and recorded. She also loves snark and cupcakes. You can find her on Twitter as @erinaleach where she tweets about music, libraries, her pets, and food.

1. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at The Old Rock House – 5/31/2011
It is worth noting that, with few exceptions, I don’t really like country music. Jason Isbell is everything that I do love about country music: thoughtful lyrics, excellent music, and just enough self-awareness to not take himself too seriously. Isbell is probably best known as a member of the Drive-By Truckers, but he has cultivated quite a following since the release of his two solo albums. In 2011, Isbell released Here We Rest, his third studio album and my favorite album of 2011. The May 31st show at Old Rock House showed off Isbell’s range as he weaved between straight-ahead rock songs, like the show-opening Go It Alone, and country ballads like Codeine. Isbell’s backing band, the 400 Unit, is packed with talented musicians and the fact that they took swigs from a bottle of Jack Daniels that they passed around the stage made them seem more edgy than folksy.

During the 15-song set, Isbell played songs from all of his solo records as well as the three Drive-By Truckers songs he’s best known for: Goddamn Lonely Love, Outfit, and Decoration Day. The stand-out of the show, by far, however, was a face-melting cover of Psycho Killer which featured guitarist Brown Lollar on lead vocals. My only complaint about the show is that the set-up at Old Rock House meant that in order to leave the stage for a break before the encore, the band had to walk through the crowd. This seemed okay on the way out, as the musicians could shake hands or high-five audience members. It seemed to sap the enthusiasm out of the band about playing an encore, though. I’m willing to cut Isbell and the 400 Unit some slack, since they brought it for 14 of the 15 songs that they played. Not bad, boys. Not bad at all.

2. Erasure at The Pageant – 9/21/2011
Let us be clear, I’m as shocked as you are that I’ve got this show made the list. Erasure isn’t even my favorite of Vince Clarke’s projects (if you’re curious, it’s Yaz). So when my husband suggested that we see Erasure, touring behind Tomorrow’s World, I agreed but wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it. As it turns out, Erasure puts on one hell of a live act and was my second favorite show of the year. It would be the understatement of the year to suggest that Andy Bell owned the stage. For the entirety of the 22-song set, Andy Bell owned every inch of The Pageant. He pranced across the stage for close to two hours, rarely standing still and even changing costumes on stage. It is rare for me to attend a show where there isn’t at least some part of the crowd whose disinterest is palpable. Not so with this crowd–Bell’s frenetic energy seemed to radiate out to a crowd who danced and sang along with Bell and his two back-up singers. I ended up wondering if those back-up singers knew what they were getting into when they signed up to tour with Erasure.

Clarke’s quiet presence was a perfect contrast to Bell’s flamboyant stage antics. He stood behind what looked like a pulpit, filling The Pageant with synth beats. If you looked closely, you could see that Clarke’s beats were coming from a Macbook which, I guess, should be seen as a sign of the times. Clarke rarely spoke, serving as a competent Silent Bob to Bell’s Jay. I don’t dance at shows, but Erasure made me forget that. And by Stop!, the last song of the encore, I was reminded how a good band (and a good audience) can make you remember why you love live music.

3. The Hold Steady at The Brooklyn Night Bazaar – 12/17/2011
In the spirit of full disclosure: The Hold Steady currently owns the title of Erin’s Favorite Band. And the stars aligned perfectly in December when I learned that I would already be in New York City when THS played the last show of its tour behind Heaven Is Whenever. If you saw them at LouFest, you know how awesome they are. You know how much the band loves playing live. You know how Craig Finn’s sing-speak narratives about Hood Rats and camps by the Mississippi River and Holly’s clairvoyance are mesmerizing. So take that LouFest show and turn it up to 11. Because if rock’n’roll has taught us anything, it’s that Last Show of the Tour + Hometown Show = Awesome.  The band showed that it came to play when it opened with Hurricane J and continued to kick ass through a 23-song set that covered the range of the catalog. The band gave the audience everything it had left after a year of being on the road. Forget everything you’ve heard about the disaffected hipsters of Williamsburg. Those kids gave The Hold Steady back as much energy as they were putting out. And the show ended with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus singing Stay Positive with the band as the audience moshed and pogoed and left everything they had on the dance floor that night. I tweeted later that the words to that song never felt truer than they did that night. This was, by far, my favorite show of the year. And, as cliche as it sounds, they reminded me of how a resurrection really feels.

I’m Ryan Albritton, Co-owner of R&R Music Labs and The Loud Label. Check out the STL LOUD compilation series as well as other local releases:

After much internal turmoil and debate, these are the three awesome shows (out of a sea of awesome shows) that I would point out:

(In alphabetical order based on venue)

Rockwell Knuckles’ Stacks to the Future show at Cicero’s.  
The Chalk Boyz opened, Rocky and Tef followed.  It was a damn blast.

AUCW Night 1 at the Firebird
A shout out to Night 2, which was also pretty epic, but Night 1 was the more complete, literary experience…you know how that goes. Lasers, Cake, Motown, and cannons…indeed!

Kings Go Forth, Questlove, and TV on the Radio sets from LouFest 2.0 in Forest Park
Kings brought the dance party and some fresh air into the festival’s first day, Questlove did a stellar DJ set in the void of the absent Roots (thanks, hurricane), and TV took an otherwise lackluster second-day and closed out the festival with some awesome lights and good grooves.

Ellen Herget leads St. Louis folk duo The Skekses and also writes interesting poetry, much of which is featured in the Bad Shoe series here in town. She sent us her Top Shows of 2011 submission late and we are calling her out right here, right now!

1. Campfire Club/Scarlet Tanager/The Skekses Heavy Anchor, November
This was a show [my band] played with longtime friends the Campfire Club for their LP release. I am listing this show for two reasons: Scarlet Tanager blew me away with their tight, layered harmonies (instrumental and vocal); and the Campfire Club, high on the culmination of an insane record-making process, smashed the night to pieces. The folks in Scarlet Tanager possess a Scooby-Doo-Gang-level of cuteness–regarding both appearance and songwriting. The Heavy Anchor is a great venue, and the sound guy deserves a lot of credit–balancing their keys, drums, toy piano, extra drum, multi-vocals, multi-guitars, and bass must be a delicate art. Pulled together, their sound is all-encompassing and eternally joyous. I bought their record (a high compliment from me–I’m broke). Also, they receive bonus points for covering “The Monster Mash” with startling accuracy.

I’ve seen the Campfire Club evolve over the past few years, from a folk duo/trio/whoever shows up, to the country-rock multi-man monstrosity it is today. It took them years to make this record, and the work was worth it. They played an extra-long set, and brought home the final song on the floor, acoustically. It was a blast.

2. Magic City/Warm Jets, El Lenador, sometime in the summer madness
My ears still hurt. So good.
You know that thing where you fight to the front of the heaving-body-jello-mass and take that gasp of slightly cooler air and you can feel bass blasts through the floor and from the PA and inside of your skull? That thing?
I love loud music that means something.

3. Lester Shy and the Shyphonics (a tribute to the Dead Milkmen)/The Rum Drum Ramblers/The Griddle Kids/Maximum Effort, house party, October
Have you seen the Griddle Kids? Go see ’em.
Have you Maximum Effort? See above.
Have you seen The Rum Drum Ramblers? (What the hell? Did you live under a rock for the last five years?) See above.
Have you seen Lester Shy and the Shyphonics (a tribute to the Dead Milkmen)? Perhaps, if you bury a rabid skunk under a full moon when the sun is in the 7th house and water drains counter-clockwise, you will get a chance to see them again.
Go see ’em.

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