Saturday, December 31, 2011

Besty's 2011

it's time for a little reflection on the year, nothing like waiting until the last day. the besty's are an annual review of my favorite live shows from the last 12 months. in what has been termed, the new norm, i probably took in fewer shows this calendar year but fortunate enough to still catch some phenomenal performances. so, as it was last time, i'll be listing the best of the best chronologically. i hope everyone has a great holiday season & an even better 2012. here's to live music, good times, awesome people & places. And The BESTy's are...

* 05.30.2011 - Lykke Li - @ the Regency Ballroom... What a great venue for this artist. agent M somehow wrangled the only set list off the stage floor of this great concert. visually & sonically this was an awesome show. mad props to the sound engineer & lighting tech. Li has been gaining steam throughout the year. this was her first bay area show while touring in support of the wounded rhymes album. not knowing what to expect going in, i was pleasantly surprised by the band & it's creativity, playfulness & impeccable timing. they seamlessly crafted dance beats into the sultry songs. they were always able to explore, while never neglecting the rumbling pulse of the rhythm section. they played a very long mega set, which was nice, in that it really felt like a journey that should not be interrupted. after an amazing night of live music my wife somehow scored the only set list available. we were stoked. Lykke Li exceeded all expectations. on the flip side it, would have been nice to see more fans letting go. there were some serious beats being dropped & not a ton of dancing or engagement from those on the floor. the overall pageantry, mixed with a great performance both theatrically, as well as musically, made this a memorable moment in my concert going experiences of 2011. check her out if you get the chance, they rock.

Setlist: Jerome, I'm Good I'm Gone, Sadness Is A Blessing, Dance Dance Dance, Little Bit, Made Me Move, Until We Bleed, Youth Knows No Pain, Love Out Of Lust, Get Some, I Follow Rivers, Unrequited Love, Possibility, I Know Places

Harmony Festival - Santa Rosa CA

06.11.2011 - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals opening for the Flaming Lips - on the Main Stage... Grace Potter & her band, the Nocturnals, put out a lot of warm, fuzzy sound that resembles the late 60's & early 70's. the future departure of their bassist, Catherine Popper (also in the Cardinals), was announced at this show, making it feel a bit more special. they played a fair amount of tracks off of their latest, self titled album. one of my favorite songs from their new material is the single, Paris. they also rocked a rad cover of "White Rabbit". who doesn't love that classic bay area song?

this is a perfect segue into the Flaming Lips show which followed. Wayne, the front man for the lips, even commented on how much he loved the song white rabbit & how anytime it is played it is a good thing.
the lips' set was a welcomed blur full of hits spanning their entire catalog. they kicked it off with a string of fiery tracks including, do you realize, she don't use jelly, the yeah yeah yeah song & yoshimi battles the pink robots. they also took the opportunity to rock the festival crowd with some new material off of embryonic, which is more lips like & less like the catchy hits we've all grown to love. a cool cover of pink floyd's, eclipse, was a welcomed oddity. of course there were dozens of Dorothy's from oz running around, the giant hands, confetti, the space ball in which Wayne rolls out over the crowd like a human hamster & the onslaught of visual eye candy that makes a Lips concert feel as though it's an alien party. the last song of the night was Race for the Prize. a fitting end to a show that can take its toll, in a good way.

* 06.11/12.2011 - Ghostland Observatory - late night @ Harmony Festival in Grace Pavilion... this show had an amazing stage show & an otherworldly collection of props & visual madness throughout the pavilion (which is a giant Quonset). they theme & zaniness of this pageantry resembled a Tim Burton world recreated, a la Beetlejuice, set amongst the modern laser light show that is GO. this is the second straight year that this band from Austin, TX has made my best of list. they never disappoint a party! not only did they shred their newest record, codename: rondo, they also dropped a filthy piano man. dance track after dance track made this a great night/morning for me & the fellas. what up to Jorge, the Dr. & Beau.

Outside Lands Festival - Golden Gate Park & various late night venues

08.13.2011 - STS9 - Late Night show @ the Independent... Oh how I had been waiting for this show. I'm a huge sector fan & in recent years they haven't played a lot in the bay area. this was a burner two set show. the independent had been longing for some shredder nine. thanks for two nights fellas!

08.14.2011 - Major Lazer, STS9 - Outside Lands, Twin Peaks Stage... Rowdy, Rowdy, Rowdy is the best way to describe this onslaught of energy, music & dancing debauchery. the lazer got things bumpin' & it never really relented. for those of you in our group, how radical was it watching Parker bust move? mad props on the intergalactic moves Parker!

*** 08.14.2011 - Arcade Fire - Outside Lands Festival, Lands End Stage... Chillingly spectacular! this showed stayed with me for such a long time after. it's as if they drenched you with everything they had: their charisma, energy, art & passion. i felt as though something greater was happening than music. i felt a part of something that wasn't going to end when the performance ceased or the music stopped. i am so glad that this was the only day of the festival we attended. i never thought i'd say this again, but i'm pretty sure it will be remembered as one of those situations where you're seeing an artist at their peak, while at the pinnacle of their popularity. it was an experience that truly moved me. san francisco, golden gate park & arguably the hottest live band of the year. it wonderful to overload on that which is both unique & contemporary. thank you arcade fire for doing what you're doing!

for an additional review of these shows click here.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass - Golden Gate Park

09.30.2011 - John Prine (Banjo Stage) - first of all this guy is a living treasure to the world of song writing. some say he's a song writers song writer. whatever he may be, i'm sure as hell glad i caught this treat of a set with one of my greatest pals, the Colonel. as a perfect friday afternoon turned it's sun to the masses descending upon the free music mecca that is HSBF, my co-pilot had already navigated onto a patch of grass & began to unlock his "portable bar". yeah for bags of ice, bitters, citrus & whiskey. as the Colonel might mutter, boom!

10.01.2011 - Gillian Welch & David Rawlings (Banjo Stage) - before i begin to forget, let me list off some of the great songs she doused us with; white rabbit (apparently the cover of the year), miss Ohio, Elvis Presley blues and of course most of the material from her new record, Harrow & the Harvest. this particular duo is a must see for me & agent M every year. they are just far too superior to become spoiled to their annual appearance. her voice, his playing, they're simply magic...

* 10.02.2011 - Devotchka (Star Stage) - from little miss sunshine to the golden gate, this band has grown along the way while capturing new fans, me being one of them. i had never seen this four piece but i most definitely will be catching them again. let's just get this out of the way, they stole the show at hardly strictly. best music of the weekend. they have the uncanny knack of producing such intricate & lush sounds while making it appear easy. they are true professionals; from there arrangements, to the manipulation/understanding of their instruments & even their ability to soak in the atmosphere, which was electric. those who chose this act over the countless others were taken in by the beautiful songs that are all their own. they have a unique style & attractive sound. i will be looking to catch them on tour. i'm hooked, what a great revelation. thanks devotchka for helping me to branch out into new directions.

on a somber side note:
rest in peace Warren Hellman, the founder & source of funding, for this great cultural & musical event that is forever linked to the great city of San Francisco. best of thoughts to his family & friends.

** 11.14.2011 - Feist - @ the Warfield - this was a can't miss show for me & my wife. i think we both have a crush on her in some sort of nerdy way. she's artistic, has a beautiful voice & writes some of the best modern pop/rock songs of anyone in the biz. plus she's a Canuck! the opening act & her long time friend/collaborator, chilly Gonzalez was pretty rad in his own right. he comes across a bit arrogant, but nonetheless a genius, who entertained on a piano & through his witty banter. he gave one of the best musical lessons on major & minor ever, it was pretty cool. once he had ended the minimal stage assembly ensued. there was her band plus a pretty cool string section from Berkeley, the real vocal string quartet, who also played on the new album. the first four tracks were dripping in emotion. they were: Undiscovered First, A Commotion, Graveyard & the single How Come You Never Go There. the latter is like a secret charm you keep in your back pocket to remember later. images resembling that of metals in a multitude of forms gently transitioned on a large screen. this tour was focused more on the art of musical merit versus the visual stimulation feist exposed us to on the look at what the light did now tour. this was a night of mastery. she lead us through the gauntlet of her new material via metals, one of the best albums of the year by far. the last song of the main set was, get it right, get it wrong, which is also the final track on the record. during one of her many encores she blew us all away with a duet. Little Wings, also known as Kyle Field, came out for a simply gorgeous version of his own tune, look at what the light did now. one of the single best songs i heard live all year. it was totally unexpected & extremely rich in it's beauty. she came out again & again, lending one to believe she didn't want the night to end either.
some other points to blather about...
another thing that separates her from other contemporary artists is her ability & willingness to rearrange her past songs. she played amazingly reworked versions of the hits fans were hankering to hear. these new renderings showed up in So Sorry, My Moon My Man & I feel It All. all of which are tracks from the reminder. her innate ability to build a beautiful setlist is a skill more artist need to acquire.
her performances give you what you want while not giving into everything you desire. still you come away totally satisfied. her back up singers were phenomenal & were given a chance to shine while singing an old Irish ballad on their own. as bands go she is blessed. they are so tight & fully capable of playing more than one instrument throughout a performance. you have to pay attention at her shows or you won't notice the intimacy. i love feist a lot. her songs, her albums, the band, the artistry, the choices she makes in terms of personal & commercial direction, she's a must see. we were in the red light district of the warfield for this show. it was my wife's first concert at this historic venue & only the second time for me. we'll be back to attend another show at this underrated theater. in terms of what's happening in music today feist is one of the few artists who inspires! i encourage anyone & everyone to witness one of her shows.

...and that's a wrap. i hope you enjoyed your year of indulgence, i know i did. here's a little something else for ya...

Honorable Mention...
07.09.2011 - Widespread Panic @ the Fox Theatre... they played an old tune in easy wind (one of the few times ever & the first since the late 80's), dropped a hot arlene & busted a goodie in all time low... for the set list click here. what a great limo ride to the show in honor of the good Dr.'s birthday. hopefully he had a great time. i know i did & it was probably agent M's favorite panic show in quite a while.

09.30/10.01.2011 - Jayhawks @ Slims, late night concert for HSBF... this was the first time in a while that the west coast was privy to seeing the original line up for the jayhawks. they played the longest set, i didn't leave the venue until almost 1:30. their stage continuity was a bit off. at one point during the show they restarted a song three different times, ouch. it seemed as though Louris & Olson were willing to be a bit more open about what was displeasing each of them throughout the night. it wasn't in the best interest of the listener i can tell you that. regardless, it was nice to hear the new material from mockingbird time. not to mention the great tunes of yesteryear, namely blue & Tampa to Tulsa, two of my personal faves. for the set list click here.

10.29.2011 - Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers opening for the Mother Hips @ the Mystic Theatre...
costume contest & all this was a super fun night. thanks to our hosts in P town & the many friends who made the effort to make it.

the top ten were chronological. those with an * are on the podium & those with two ** indicates a notch above. the live performance with three *** took the title of best besty in 2011. enjoy the holidays & happy new year! Be Well.

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