Tis the season for the Besty's. Time has flown by, am I the only one who feels this way? In the proverbial blink of an eye, we are approaching New Year's Day. Before we ring in the new year, I'd like to revisit some of my favorite live performances of 2014. Seeing live music is more like a therapeutic ritual. Concerts are an invaluable presentation of art which unfolds in real time, while being shared with an audience. So without further ado, here are the Besty's.
|Marco at The Independent|
*Marco Benevento | Independent | 03.29.14
Captivation is a seamless tool for the creations of sound Marco produces. Yearly he makes a pit stop in the Bay area for one reason or another. My favorite's are when it's his show, or his band. This was one of those nights. Masterfully he fuses his ideas into the lush and uninhibited music he is known for, and that I am unwilling to escape from. Does a genre really apply to a talent such as this?
Witnessing his incredible control, while simultaneously veering into experimental landscapes, shows his understanding and appreciation of the process. Is there a more genuine smile than Marco's in all of music? He never lets you down. On this night there were plenty of eclectic rhythms and idiosyncratic pulses that oozed in all directions. There were a lot of great tracks played and this was perhaps the only show I didn't attempt to write a set list for. With that being said, I can tell you they played RISD, Green Point, It Came From You, Limbs of a Pine, At the Show, Real Morning Party, and If I Get to See You at All. There were plenty of others that have slipped my mind. Catching his show however, is a no-brainer.
|Thao at The Castro|
The SF international film festival hosted Thao and her crew of noise makers for an incredibly unique performance. Live music and silent films—a match made in heaven. What better contemporary music heroine is there than Thao?
'Holy Roller' was partnered with a Harry Smith animated short, getting things started. The next film, "Torture de Luxe," was a laughable exercise film from the 1920's that was the visual spring board for the song 'Body.' The timing of the film allowed for an epilogue in the form of, 'When We Swam.'
In between the vintage silent pieces were Thao's very own Talkies, a sort of Portlandia series of sketches based on her observations and inside jokes, that we would all be privy to now. There were vintage news reels that were extremely captivating when embellished by the sound of live instruments, in an almost Prairie Home Companion type of way.
My personal favorite of the night was when The Get Down started to play the riffs to, 'Baby Got Back,' while a fitness film from 1928 showed us modern folk what it took to be in shape. It was so F'n cool. The night came to a close with Charlie Chaplin in, "The Pawn Shop." The Stay Down performed four stellar tracks during this 1916 silent film. This was a truly a special event. I felt so good just to have been a participant in the evening. It was a happening. Inspiration was thrust upon us, wanting us to be aware, showing us how to take action.
setlist: Holy Roller (Early Abstractions 2, 1946-48), Body (Torture de Luxe 1926), When We Swam, The Day Long (Life and Death of 9413, 1928), City, The Feeling Kind (Metrotone News, 1930), Kindness Be Conceived (Early Abstractions 3, 1947-48) & (Metrotone News. 1932), Baby Got Back (Perfect back Contest, 1928), Every Body, Beat, Cool Yourself, We The Common (Pawn Shop, 1916)
|Sturgill Simpson | Big Meadow | High Sierra|
High Sierra served up the perfect schedule on day 1 of this annual shred-a-thon. For a complete review click here. I saw a total of six bands. There were three that really stood out...
*Sturgill Simpson on the Big Meadow Stage (5:45-7:00)
Lord Huron at the Grandstand (7:00-8:30)
STS9 also at the Grandstand (9:15-11:30)
*J. Roddy Walston & The Business | Lagunitas | 07.14.14
Right away they blasted the subdued Sonoma County crowd with fiery riffs. They were on a mission to Rock the F out, and they totally succeeded. The Business are best described as sounding like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and the guitar shredding rock of the 80's, except smarter and with lyrics that are on point. Did I mention they rock?
Most of the calamitous action of the night was off of their Essential Tremors record from 2013. There were also some choice cuts from the 2010 Self Titled album.
setlist: (?), Black Light, Don't Break the Needle, (?), I Don't Want to Hear It, Don't Get Old, Take It As It Comes, Caroline, (?), (?), (?), E: (?), Marigold, (Irish jig ?), Brave Man's Death, (?), I Used to Did, E2: (?), Full Grown Man, (cover)
Steve Gunn | Lagunitas | 08.04.14
This performance exposed me to Gunn's humble persona, as well as his high quality musicianship. He cares about his craft and the songs are his own personal treasures. He cares. Many of the tracks he played were from his album Time Off. His most recent record, Way Out Weather, had not yet been released, but he did showcase some of those unknown tunes during his set. This amazing guitarist and songwriter is a true diamond in the rough. Take some time to explore his work.
|Lucius in the crowd at Lagunitas|
Although there were 5 member in the band, it was all about the two ladies fronting the outfit. Lucius came in and conquered. This was the secret show that Lagunitas decided to leave as a surprise. I hadn't heard them live prior to this and what I had seen/heard online seemed pretty good. But the way they performed was immediately captivating. I was genuinely entertained. Because their music was brand new to me, I only took notes as the show unfolded. A few of my ramblings are as follows...
Cool First track. They went poppy and upbeat. A rock n roll song that made me think of picnics and love. Cool percussive intensity with vocal power (Nothing Ordinary). A stripped down slide guitar number with grimy pop vocals. A late night-style throw down (Genevieve). A modern take on 50's rock (Turn it Around). Encore number one was Strangers! They played nine songs and encored with three more to treasure. They straight finished the audience. Here's a fan-shot video of Lucius covering the Kinks.
setlist: ?, Tempest, Don't Just Sit There, Nothing Ordinary, How Loud Your Heart Gets, Go Home, Wildewoman, Genevieve, Turn It Around E: Strangers, E2, E3
|The Uptown Theatre in Napa|
A little more than a week later this same downtown would be rattled by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. This was one of the last performances to grace the Theatre before they closed for repairs due to the damage from the quake. Doug and his gang of Idaho reverb-rockers gave the wine-country attendees a ripping show. They wasted no time in finding their rocking, fuzzed-out groove. Prior to the show I had mentioned that I wanted them to play 'Kicked it in the Sun.' Three songs in I was treated to this amazing track off of Perfect From Now On. Going into the aisle I had to dance. Built to Spill showcased material from throughout their entire career. The encore even had a Metallica cover which was followed by an incredible Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else). They were straight rock'n the joint, apparently causing me to jump around like a mad man. The show was rad and the three of us that escaped to the balcony were treated kindly.
setlist: (?), Reasons, Kicked It In the Sun, The Plan, Hindsight, (?), (?), I Would Hurt a Fly, (?), Things Fall Apart, Time Trap, Fly Around My Pretty Lil Miss, (?) E: Metallica cover (Orion), Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)
|Me & Chris Isaak in Golden Gate Park|
The best free fest in America did it again. Everyone should experience this event at least once. Due to the masses we typically attend the one day that appeals to us the most. That day this year was Saturday. We caught three acts on three different stages, but it was *Chris Isaak who stole the show. Built to Spill and Dave Rawlings Machine played great sets as well. For a comprehensive review click here.
*STS9 | Fox Theater | 11.22.14
The anticipation for Sound Tribe's return to their adopted home (Santa Cruz) was enough to stimulate the hype. The Fox has been their spot in the Bay area for a few years now. They played the night before in Los Angeles, debuting, 'West LA Fade Away.' The Fox, the fans, and the band were locked and loaded.
Sector was firing on all cylinders after a season of touring with Alana. Now their sites were set on blistering the Oakland crowd with dances beats and crazy-cool covers or teases. Things got going with 'New Dawn, NewDay,' a regular since reformation. I didn't mind as they segued into 'Golden Gate'—a sound choice in the Bay area. Next down the pipeline came 'Ramone & Emiglio,' which was old school-esque and nasty. They used subtlety to create anticipation—soft piano keys, solid guitar work by Hunter, and the rhythm section was keep'n shit on lock. Velmer's a machine. At the 5:28 mark R&E went all frenetic until it unfurled into bass-gnarl. Then Phipps, Rocklin and Velmer just owned it. At one point the keys began to sound reminiscent of Bernie Worrell as the song dissolved into an art of story telling. There wasn't time to catch your breath as 'Monkey Music' came barreling down. Near the 6:00 minute mark it got real dirty with electronic effects and thick bass lines. There were some unneeded vocal samples during 'Walk To The Light,' (not my favorite addition). The ride continued as they tore up 'Frequencies Peace 2 > 3.' The first set closed fashionably funk-tastic with 'World Go Round.'
'Dance' fired up the second set as they teased 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)', those listening early on could hear it. Seamlessly they weaved in and out of their own standard, as well as Sly's. A couple of tracks later a sampled voice became too prevalent. I didn't care much for their use of the sample, it took away from an otherwise solid 'Only Light Remains.' Less than half-way through 'Kamuy' the percussionists treated us to a drum driven interlude. It felt like they were tapping into their past. The combination of 'Orbital,' merging into 'Hubble,' was a tactical appetizer for what would happen next. The swirling sounds of 'Abcees' pulsated into a classic cover of 'No Quarter.' At the 8:50 mark they began the rock homage, melding their sound into and around that of Led Zeppelin. They were surgically precise at augmenting their own sound, for that of the rock gods. Anytime you get the Led out you know it's been a party. They would return for an extended 'Circus.'—encoring in an attempt to satiate the Sector withdrawals.
|STS9 | Fox Theater | Oakland|
(2nd set) Dance>Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)>Dance, Vapors, Only Light Remains, Kamuy, Orbital > Hubble, Abcees > No Quarter > Abcees > No Quarter > Abcees (encore) Circus
Steve Kimock w/ Bobby Vega, Jeff Chimenti, Dan Lebowitz, Bill Vitt & J.M. Kimock | SweetWater Music Hall | 12.06.14
This show marked my inaugural visit to the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. What an invite. There was an absurd amount of talent on display here. It's also worth mentioning up front that the sound was awesome in this former Masonic Hall. And there bar is top notch too.
Kimock might be an alien. He's on that rare list of being able to do whatever he wants on a guitar. Vega is also always on point, pressing the envelope while remaining super tight. Together they bring out the best in each other. Throw in Chimenti, a demon on the keys, and those three alone could hold it down for hours on end. Lebo was the icing on the cake. Very few guitarist can co-exist with Kimock and this creative union made sense. Dan would also carry the burden of lead vocals throughout the night, which he handled incredibly well. When an intimate show starts with, 'It Takes A lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry,' all bets are off and anything could be played. Which is pretty much what happened. Jeff and Bobby were locked in from the get go. Steve's vibe felt so pure, as if they had already been playing for hours. Near the end of the first set they treated us to 'Scarlet Begonias.'
The second set opened with the best 'Deal' I've heard in quite some time. Hopefully this show will appear on archive. Jeff could've stole the show leading up to, 'Boogie on Reggae Woman,' but instead continued to be a team player. After '5B4 Funk' they went all yesteryear with, 'After Midnight > Eleanor Rigby > After Midnight.' This portion of the show was fire. They would play more songs, most notably, 'Mississippi Moon.' When one night exposes you to the sounds of Dylan, JGB, The Grateful Dead, JJ Cale, Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles, it's a night worth mentioning. Great show, great venue, and a new friend to boot.
In the spirit of Mr. Salty—the Man, the Myth, the Legend—His top three would be STS9 at the Fox (he's a big fan), Chris Isaak & probably J. Roddy, with Lucius oh so close. The Roo Ratings stamp of approval holds the highest of standards. My favorite shows were preceded by an asterisk.
Happy New Year,