My last post - the last of 2009 - was kind of a bummer, so I'm glad that things are looking up as the new year begins. They've arrested someone for the fires that were set the night after Christmas and while it will no doubt take a while for things to play out legally, it's looking likely that they got the right person. Holly and I are relieved and cautiously optimistic.
A couple years ago I began cataloging parts of my musical experience in a more thoroughgoing way than I'd ever done before. I typed out a complete list of every record and cd that I own and have continued to add to it as I make new purchases, as well as keeping count. This was mainly to satisfy my curiosity, but also serves as a sort of catalog to my own personal music archive, which isn't super big but it's big enough, and growing.
I also made a list of every concert that I've attended, at least every one that I could remember. This was a very different exercise, since it was as much a memory test as it was a means of record-keeping. As with the list of recordings, I've forced myself to update the list every time I attend a new show, which means it's easy for me at this point to look back over the list and see what I've seen in recent months and years.
I don't go out to see music as much as I used to and this past year was one of the thinnest in recent memory where seeing live music was concerned. I attended some 16 concerts this past year, barely more than one per month. Partly this was because there just weren't that many things coming through town that I was dying to see, and I've never been so inclined to go see music just for the sake of it. But of course it's also a product of now being forty-something and just being too damn busy, or too drained of energy come night time, to go out and see music on a regular basis (regular meaning more like once a week or so, as opposed to once a month).
(I should note, though, that I don't count concerts that I attended where the performers were my colleagues in the Smith music department, of which I saw maybe half a dozen or so over the past year. Those events are often very pleasurable but they also feel like work.)
That said, I did see some great shows in 2009, and it's a decently varied lot.
Here's my top five shows of the year:
1. Isis w. Pelican and Tombs. The best full-on metal show I saw this past year (and one of only two - we don't get enough of it coming through our little town), and it was a blast. I especially dug Pelican, very cool progressive/instrumental metal, short on solos but long on texture and dynamics.
2. New York Dolls w. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. I wrote about this show months ago on this blog. Given that only two of the original Dolls are still alive, this was better than it had a right to be.
3. Allan Holdsworth. First time I've ever seen him, even though I've owned some of his albums for over twenty years. Without question one of the best guitarists on the planet in terms of sheer technical ability. Sometimes it sounded like he was playing two different single note lines simultaneously, his fingers moved so fast.
4. Fiery Furnaces w. Cryptacize. Can't say I was super impressed by Cryptacize, but Fiery Furnaces were great. I'd seen them once before about six years ago, in London no less, but I think this show was better. Eleanor Friedberger is a commanding stage presence almost despite herself. Not nearly enough people in attendance though - Northampton, you should be ashamed.
5. Natacha Atlas w. Syriana. I caught this show when I was in Liverpool, due to the good taste and good graces of my friend Anahid. Very cool Arabic pop, great vocals and some decidedly slammin' percussion. Caught me off guard in a good way.
Honorable mention goes to my fave local band of the moment, Bunny's a Swine, whom I've seen on a few occasions (and even played a gig with earlier in the year, at a Smith event that also featured my so-called band the Distractions - this does not count as one of the fifteen; again, it was too much like work) and who are great. I'll be reviewing their new cd in an upcoming post.
Queer Sects and Royal Vets
6 years ago