here's a nod to the best shows i caught in 2010...
as a true fan, i try to attend as many shows as possible, assuming i can afford the time or money. plus, i want these nights out to spark my interest or involvement. you know, give me something to think about. certain acts are perennial personal favorites, some were my first chance to see an artist(s) live & still others were my first experience all together with a band or performer. anyway, i encourage others to enjoy live music, to be a part of the process & dialogue. without the listener or audience, the conversation would be incomplete. the beauty of live music, as an art, lies within it's intimate connection to those that listen to or experience it. all great pieces of music should be heard in order to be thought of as explored (let alone how that music transforms over time & multiple performances).
and the nominees are...
* may 12, 2010 - anders osborne at the hopmonk w/ the stanton moore trio. this was a true rock & roll show! when you put a bunch of guys from NOLA together in a historic rail station turned concert venue & tap house in the heart of wine country you get rockin' fireworks! these guys used their performance to throw down. they were playing as if to prove to the audience, that when done right, rock is not dead. it is still alive with perhaps the most infectious of heartbeats. one of the tracks off of anders' new record is titled, on the road with charlie parker. let's just say that the live version i got the pleasure of hearing is now a benchmark in how a judge if another band is really rocking (or to use the parlance of our times: shredding). a rip roaring good time, in a very chill atmosphere, i can only hope they come back.
july 1, 2010 - edward sharpe & the magnetic zero at the big meadow stage on the 1st night of high sierra. great energy & pure fun. the band seemed to be having a blast. i was really anxious to see this show. i love their record, up from below. the ensemble was 11 or 12 deep, it was semi organized chaos & i dug it! they pretty much played their album. taking some of the songs into slightly new directions. this was a tough act to top considering it was only the first night. i kept saying to my friends, "this might end up being the best show of the weekend." later i would rephrase it noting, "i think that might be one of those shows where you say, 'i was there when'." their set was the right way to start off my high sierra weekend.
july 4-5, 2010 - lotus at the funk'n jamhouse late night finale of high sierra. this show was a dance party that shredded into the wee hours of the morning. it was as if sunshine was orchestrating the music & lights. one of the finest lotus shows i've ever seen! this band was made to close out festivals. the two other friends who chose to rock this show all night will attest... one of the funnest 4-5 hour stretches of music in a while. plus the walk back that night was hilarious... you know who you are.
* august 13, 2010 - the levon helm band ramble at the independent w/ larry cambell, phil lesh & jim james (outside lands late night series). yim yames is one of my favorite contemporary artists & levon was a founding member of the band, which have influenced a plethora of my favorite recording artists of today. throw phil lesh in the mix & you're talking about the sort of stuff myths are made of. larry cambell was an excellent band leader for this late night summer ramble. one that included an a cappella version of attics of my life with lesh (it should be noted that this song was memorable because of who was on stage, not because phil is an amazing singer). after which he grabbed his bass for a tennessee jed. jim james was all the rage during amazing renditions of the weight, it makes no difference & an encore of i shall be released! i would have to say that hearing jim sing it makes no difference was possibly the single coolest song i experienced this year. it's as close as we'll get to hearing danko sing it. what a night!
august 14, 2010 - my morning jacket at outside lands music festival in golden gate park (land's end stage). these guys are what most bands want to be. they are true to themselves & create music that's vivacious in its intellect. jim james has a voice that's one in a billion & at times instrument like. the rhythm section is capable of going where ever they want while remaining both tight & thunderous. MMJ should have been the headliner, their set was killer. they introduced a new song, circuital & played a pretty good cross section of their catalog considering the condensed set. i love this band & really enjoyed my day at outside lands (the food was the best of the CA fest scene). highly suspicious, wordless, off the record & one big holiday were high points for me. i recommend catching this outfit from louisville anytime possible. here's a look at their set list...
august 20 - ghostland observatory at the warfield. this band definitely helps you party. they're a duo consisting of equal parts: drum & bass, live/sampled electronic & cape wearing. mix in some post pop vocals, a little guitar & add effects. blend well with an extremely bright & intense light show & you end up with this ultra fun band that makes me want to move. these guys from austin, tx are sure to bring high energy during live performances. their hipness seems to ooze from the perception that they don't seem to take themselves too seriously. i like that. this was an awesome show for it being the first time seeing them, thanks Dr. they played a lot of stuff that would later show up on their newest record named, codename:rondo.
october 3, 2010 - elvis costello & the sugarcanes on the star stage at the 10th annual hardly strictly bluegrass festival in golden gate park. he & his band mates won me over big time, seeing as though i was going in without any expectations or hankerings of a particular song from a vast career. throughout his set all i could do was think, i gotta get all of his stuff & become more familiar w/ his body of work. what i actually got to see was, an esteemed artist doing his thing with a cast of seasoned professionals, who truly are musicians. they gave us a remarkably diverse set, that not only covered his journey, but dug into some great hits by other stellar artists as well. his covers of, friend of the devil (grateful dead), mystery train (elvis), you've got to hide your love away (beatles) & happy (the stones during an encore!) were absolute gems. he gave them respect, by respectfully recreating them into his own & with talent. during hide your love away, he had the entire field of people at his disposal. he's a faithful artist in that he welcomes diversity & seems comfortable with change. he has his own identity. but at the heart of it all is skill & a passion to present music that is rarely displayed these days sadly enough. his legacy will stand up over time. he's fresh, in that he doesn't give the listener the same thing every time. he's got a great handle on a lot of music while doing it with style. i'm so glad i caught this act.
* october 30, 2010 - the gorillaz at oracle arena in oakland, the night before halloween! holy hot sh*t batman! this show was simply ridiculous. one of the most grand scales of production i have ever witnessed in terms of any type of live performance...wow. of course people were going big, it was the saturday night before halloween. those in attendance were spoiled by the diverse talents of the gorillaz (with murdock dressed as a zombie), a horn section dressed in jason like hockey masks, a syrian ensemble dressed in traditional attire representing the sounds of the middle east & then some, an all female string section that was phenomenal, 4 back up vocalist costumed as mummies, bobby womack bringing the soul as only he can, 2 additional female vocalists (one more classical & one was a hip hop mc), de la soul (who came out & blew it up during super fast jellyfish. i was anticipating this single song more than almost any other song i've ever hankered to hear live. they also reappeared for feel good inc. during the enore), 2 more mc's & the bassist and guitarist from the clash, who were dressed as bloody sailors & are legitimate shredders! it sounds like a modern trip hop-digital-post-pop-rock orchestral/theatrical production doesn't it? well it was! not to mention the gigantic digital screen that was as captivating as the music at times.
it was sensory overload. there was so much going on...it embodied the current cornucopia that is modern western living. the animated story boards were mind bending. the set list was an A+ (i would have given it an A++ if they would have dropped kids with guns). the attention to detail, mixed with the generated journey they took us on left me to wonder; will there ever be another tour like this? it was on the scale of the rolling stones, u2 or even a phish fest & yet all i can think is that this was something extremely different. dare i say better? the escape to the plastic beach tour may turn out to be one of those situations where we were seeing an artist at their peak, while at the pinnacle of their popularity. this was a bucket list show & i'm stoked to say i was there. mind you 20 of us were dressed up as muppets, tv/movie characters, skeletons, devils & grim reapers. did i mention we rented a party bus to get to & fro...? peep the set list here.
** december 4, 2010 - marco benevento with reed mathis & andrew barr at the independent. improvisation meets jazz, rock & roll, minimalism, individualism & cohesion, rooted in hard work & creative, virtuoso talent, is the best way i can even begin to describe how impressive this show was. no where, ever again, will this night be recreated. it was so good, so inspiring. it felt positive & right just in being there. this trio's chemistry was unmatched & yet there own styles were still distinguishable.
reed seemed to have this, what my wife called, "west coast vibe," both in his physical & musical demeanor (he hails from tulsa). reed's emotion & body language look relaxed & brought freedom to mind, while having obvious focus. andrew barr was fierce on the drum kit. few others could hang with reed & marco on the drums through this type of exploration. but barr was right in his element, playing with such vigor & care. you can't help but be drawn into his playing, he works so hard. then there was marco, this mad scientist of motion & busyness. he had this energy that could only be described as new york city. he wastes little time, or movement, in his pursuit of manifesting his musical ambitions. just as new york is full of hustle & dreams, so too, are his compositions. an amazing amount of sound comes from him. at this particular show he pretty much just played an upright piano with its percussive strings open to the audience. of course he had a some pedals & effect buttons delicately arranged above the keys. his mac book pro & digital keyboard were balancing a top, it still felt organic.
amongst witty banter, that included both tequila & lsd, this two set show raised the bar to another level. there's no need to interpret what this should have been, or was supposed to be. just embrace the experience if you were fortunate enough to have been there. i will remember how the music was living in the now & inspiring the future. major props to the benevento trio for giving me even more reason to embrace instrumental music. it's a reminder that genius resides in many forms.
the night included a lot of work from marco's solo albums, including tracks off his latest release, between the needles & nightfall. there was a segment of time near the end of the first set where the flow of the songs just pulled me in. those tracks unfolded as follows: it came from you, you know i'm no good, heartbeats, call home & RISD. early on in the second set they welcomed out gabby la la with her theremin set up for a cool version of twin killer. when they later played, a waltz destroyed by fire, it inspired a slew of dancing. he also threw in a fearless>benny & the jets>fearless jam that was awesome. their last song of the night was the perfect cover, nobody does it better. i haven't had a concert feel so real in a long time! the music happening on this night was the best of the year! i might regret saying that since my wife & i are going to catch marco & friends again on NYE at cafe du nord.
a special mention goes to...
december 18, 2010 - a christmas carol at the sonoma county repertory theater in sebastopol. this was an awesome treat to soak in during the holiday season. the house was packed, the actors were terrific, the set was modern in its minimalism yet corresponded brilliantly with the era of dickens & the costumes, which too, were great! the sound, both in engineering & use of voices/set were so timely & well utilized. everyone involved must have really known what they were doing & with such quality. the narrator, who was also scrooge, was marvelous. it was tough to take your eyes off of him. he did so well segueing in & out of roles. the actor who brought to life marley's ghost, as well as some of the other holiday ghouls, was boisterous & captivating. the cast consisted of 7 major players, all of which were spot on in their portrayal of more than one character. this was a great date night & one that we'll try to recreate again at the rep. bravo, bravo!
honorable mention goes to...
february 13, 2010 - sts9 at the fox theater in oakland. one of my favorite bands! this was a nice set. highlights for me: abcee's, lo swaga, one a day, arigato, '68 & '08, unquestionable & a rad open e closer. too bad they only gave the bay area one set. two sets fellas, c'mon.
july 2, 2010 - widespread panic on the grandstand stage at high sierra. the bowlegged woman they hammered the audience with was dirty. their cover of ride me high was filthy too, which was probably will into existence by the utah lobsters. panic should leave jerry joseph at home.
july 3, 2010 - trampled by turtles under the big tent at high sierra. northern minnesota slam grass in the sierra nevada mountains is tough not to like. especially when they were allowed to play an additional set because of another artist not showing up. it's worth mentioning that they stood for the whole show, possibly the 1st time ever. they nailed their double mega set closer, which was a sped up version of, don't think twice, it's all right. it had me movin' & howlin'.
november 24, 2010 - pretty lights at the fox theater in oakland. the venue wasn't very full & it let out too early in my opinion. the light show was hip & teamed well with d. smith's beats. adam deitch was a machine on the kit. it was a fun way to bring in the thanksgiving weekend.
the top ten were chronological, which includes a christmas carol. those with an * are on the podium. and the ** indicates the live performance that took the title. enjoy the holidays & happy new year!