First, we want to express our gratitude to those who have been following IWTAS’ annual Top Shows series – all four of us have been commenting on the amount of musical diversity and general awesomeness contained in each contributor’s submissions. So thank you again, friends of IWTAS, for your work and for your support. Part III is our two cents on live performances we enjoyed most in 2012. In 2013, we resolve to explore more of our city’s venues, make new friends (and keep the old, relaaaaax), and most importantly, expand the breadth, depth, and creativity of our coverage. Thanks for being here.

TOP SHOWS OF 2012: Part II

TOP SHOWS OF 2012: Part I

Dave Baker and a falcon.

Dave Baker: Dave is an avid music fan who also enjoys duck hunting, meat cooking, beer drinking, and spending time with his lovely wife, Natasha, and their two dogs. He did not author this bio. 

Beth Bombara – McNellie’s, May 17

This year I had the privilege of joining Beth Bombara and her band (Kit “Kim” Hamon, Karl “Fucking” Eggers, and JJ Hamon) for the tail end of their spring tour. I met up with the band in Dallas and would travel with them through Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. The show at McNellie’s (Norman, OK) followed what was destined to be a not so fun show in Dallas. That day our Dallas explorations lead us to breakfast tacos (Taco Joint, you guys…), thrift stores, and an impromptu brewery tour and tasting at Deep Ellum Brewing Company. After a fantastic dinner at Eat At Local in Norman, Oklahoma, we pointed the Suburban towards McNellie’s for load in. The upstairs venue was a shotgun style room made up of a long bar with many taps on one side and tables for patrons on the other side. Soon the room was filled with Oklahomans enjoying their beers and politely listening to Beth and her band. As the band drew out the long opening notes to “Winter Blues”, something in the room clicked and suddenly everyone was giving their full attention to what the band was doing. From that point on, people whooped and hollered after every song, bought merchandise, and genuinely enjoyed the music they were hearing. It was great to see the crowd make that transition and that’s why this is one of my favorite shows of 2012.

Phantogram – LouFest, August 25 The weather is always a topic of discussion when it comes to LouFest. August in St. Louis can be a broiling experience, but this year, the talk was of rain – something that we had seen very little of this summer. Rain is exactly what we got during Phantogram’s set, but it didn’t detract at all from their set or the experience. St. Louis was dry and the rain was mostly welcomed. We pushed towards the stage as Phantogram played a mix of songs from both of their albums. They didn’t let the rain hinder their set, so we followed suit. I had been waiting forever for Phantogram to play St. Louis and was originally worried about what a day time outdoor set of theirs would be like, but it turned out to be perfect. Easily one of my top moments of LouFest 2012 as well as one of my favorite shows of 2012.

The Avett Brothers – The Fox Theatre, September 29 While it’s always fun to see bands work their way up the venue ladder in St. Louis, it’s also kind of a bummer when they get to what I consider the larger venues – purely for selfish reasons. I knew The Avett Brothers would put on a great great show at the sold-out Fox Theatre, but their songs have such an intimate and bombastic feel that I was was afraid some of that closeness and energy would be lost in the rows of people separated by padded chairs and carpeted walk ways. I should stop worrying about these things because almost every time, I’m proven wrong. The Avett Brothers brought a whole new level of class to The Fox with their stage setup. Between every song, the lights would be brought down so that all you could see were the silhouettes of the musicians on stage. It was beautiful and of course so were their songs. I’ve never seen a bad show at The Fox and it will continue to be a treat every time I get to see a show there.

Annie McCance and a golden retriever.

Annie McCance: Annie is a web developer by day and a live music fan by night who also enjoys reading, sketching, watching movies, and DIY projects. She did not author this bio.

1. Kishi Bashi, Tall Tall Trees – Off Broadway, August 4
2. Yellow Ostrich – The Gramophone, November 7
3. Avett Brothers – The Fox Theatre, September 29
4. Samantha Crain, Old Lights – Off Broadway, January 25
5. Dr. Dog, The Flaming Lips – Loufest, August 26

Jess Luther and a cocktail.

Jess Luther: Jess is a proud public radio employee who also enjoys sitting ’round a fire pit, watching TV shows for the first time that were popular, like, 5 years ago, and listening to her friends tell stories. 

1. Those Darlins, Heavy Cream, Kentucky Knife Fight – Off Broadway, November 15
Whew. This city (and its New Belgium Beer Ranger, Joel) sure does LOVE those talented, brash, lovely Darlins outta Nashville, TN. I was reminded why we feel such an affection last November, when the bill at Off Broadway also featured punk femme fatales Heavy Cream and STL’s own Kentucky Knife Fight. The dance floor at OB was trembling under the assault of the crowd’s stomps two songs into KKF’s set. When those boys are on it’s pure magic, and that night Jason Holler and his gang were fucking wizards. Heavy Cream fed off the wild-eyed group, already keyed up from our religious Knife Fight experience, and gleefully wrecked the place. It was raining Stag and PBR by the time Those Darlins took the stage, and they closed their “Summer’s Dead” 7” tour in proper fashion. TD invited Heavy Cream back on stage at the very end and the two bands sang freaking Fleetwood Mac all together, huddled around mics and laughing. It was over as quickly as it began. To borrow from Dave Eggers, “Goddamn sometimes I only want this feeling to stay and last.”

2. Yellow Ostrich – The Gramophone, November 7
I heard about YO’s first release, The Mistress, in 2011 from Chris, and pre-ordered the gorgeous yellow vinyl on a whim. I received it in the mail, gave the album a spin while cleaning my place, and promptly forgot about it. When I heard about the Schaaf releasing sophomore full-length (and as it turns out, an EP, too) in 2012, I was mildly interested. Then the band sent a single out into the universe from the forthcoming Strange Land. It was called “Marathon Runner”, and I don’t possess an adequate grasp of any language to explain why it moved me like it did, but guys, I spent about half of 2012 in goosebumps listening to that thing. Something about that line “I can’t stop putting on other people’s clothes…” (and as I general rule I wear my own apparel). Annie and I met a couple of kids who worked at a camera store and we spent some minutes leading up to YO’s headlining set talking about lenses and light. The best track off Ghost is “USA”, and it’s about loss and movement and bittersweetness, and Schaaf dedicated it to a fan who had driven a bunch of hours to see the St. Louis show and who stood front and center all night.

3. Samantha Crain, Old Lights – Off Broadway, January 25
Here’s how this one goes: It’s always kind of neat when Samantha is in town because she and our Beth Bombara (“our” meaning St. Louis’) used to play music together (as did Josh, co-owner of The Heavy Anchor). And I assume that when a touring musician looks out into the crowd in a distant city and sees one or several familiar faces, the odds of the night being more enjoyable improve. This show was extra special because one of Beth’s current bands, Old Lights, was on the bill, and the David Beeman-led outfit brought the heat. They had fun up there, they always do, and if my arms were long enough to wrap all four of ‘em up in a big hug that night, I would have. Whiskey didn’t hurt. Finally, Crain, Penny Hill, and Anne Lillis took the stage and the three of them brought us home. Lillis drummed like a true rocker in a vintage, flowery dress. I’ve been into Penny Hill since she stopped by a few years back and played a solo set at Foam. She and Crain dueting on “Santa Fe” sounded better than the album version. I forgot everyone in the room didn’t grow up or live around here. And isn’t that what live music is supposed to do: cover up all the differences between us for a couple hours with loud, beautiful sounds?

Julie Dill and a plush creature.

Julie Dill: Julie is an open-minded and passionate live music fan who also enjoys writing, reading, experimenting with new and traditional recipes, and writing funny tweets. She did not author this bio.

Holy shit, you guys. Three? Really?? I went to 50+ shows in 2012. I worked for 5 days to get my list down to 13, and you want 3?


1. Fiona Apple – The Peabody Opera House,  July 14
I judge a stellar show by how close I come to crying during it. I sobbed like a little girl with a skinned knee for this one. It was one of those shows you hope you get to relive right before you  kick the farm, when your life is passing before your eyes. She screamed, she wailed, she stomped around, she laughed, she flitted, and she fucking ROCKED. Fiona Apple gave me the show I waited 15 years to see, and not even I know yet how rare that will be.

2. Guitar Wolf, Transistors, Ded Bugs, Dino Fight! – The Firebird, April 5 
There was a full moon the night Jim Marshall, The Father of Loud, died. A Firebird full of legit punks (and big ole nerdy me) paid tribute to noise in the best way possible: BY BEING COMPLETELY OBNOXIOUS FOR THREE SOLID HOURS. The moshers and thrashers dripped with sweat, the ceiling dripped with beer, and Guitar Wolf dripped with SWAG. And I never say SWAG. Had the ‘bird not pulled the plug on the soundboard, we’d probably still be at that show today.

3. The Mountain Goats, Water Liars – The Gargoyle, April 21
75 members of the public got to go to this show, and I was one of them. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things that you can’t beat out of your top 3 of the year, possibly the top 3 of your life.

And because I need to impress upon you how hard my list was to cull, these are my top 10 those 3 beat out: Purity Ring @ The Firebird, Frank Turner @ Off Broadway, How to Dress Well @ The Firebird, EMA + Britches @ The Luminary, Reptar @ The Firebird, Beach House @ The Pageant, M83 @ The Pageant, Fun. @ The Pageant, SHATNER @ The Peabody (WHICH WAS BEYOND AWESOME), and NOISEFEST @ Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center.

It was an amazing year for music in St. Louis, and I can already tell 2013 has designs to top it. Go see Father John Misty at the Firebird on Tuesday, people!

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