December 19, 2008

Top 8 Live Shows of 2008

My roommate, Ian, got rather profound on us the other night. First there was this statement:
"It's too bad The Butthole Surfers had such a bad name. That guy produced a ton of albums and had his hands in a lot of good shit...shit that wasn’t buttholes."
Then he offered another gem:

"People love lists."
Ian, pack your bags, and get the heck out of town. We do love lists. And, if the Butthole Surfers had called themselves something like...The Stone Roses, maybe they’d get a little more respect. Your logic has inspired me on multiple levels.

This list is a gimmick but still, it seems appropriate since the majority of my posts have something to do with concerts, right? Stadiums and Shrines made a decent dent in LA's venues and festivals this year. Not as much as I’d like to, but such is life. I'd also like a better camera.

As for this list, the criteria for consideration were: I obviously had to be at the concert. I limited to only one appearance per band, to keep things interesting. And the numbers are basically for the sake of ranking. It wouldn’t be on this if it weren’t amazing. That’s why there's 8 and not 20.

08 Wolf Parade @ Fonda Music Box [LA; July 19th]
What I said then:
We had a strangely ideal view of Spencer's hands on the piano, which, we later admitted, were hypnotizing. Of the multiple high points, the 12 minute-plus “Kissing the Beehive” took gold. Spencer and Dan have always traded vocal duties song for song but before never verse for verse. Whatever rivalry the blog world has created between the two songwriters is simultaneously magnified and put to rest in this epic.

A really, really solid rock show. They played like they've been together for 15 years.

07 Roger Waters @ Coachella

What I said then (literally, then):
“Pink Floyd!”
“Is this real?”
“Holy Sh*t (at the first chord of every song)”
“Waters kind of looks like Richard Gere. No. He looks exactly like Richard Gere.”
“Oh I should take a picture with my phone and send it to every person who ever watched The Wall in my childhood basement. No Dave, you should stop thinking and start losing yourself in this moment. But how will I ever document this unprecedented greatness? You can’t, Dave. You’ll just have to write a dumb blog or something. Fine.”
“Woah flames. Weird how that pig is being released into the sky. Did they mean to do that? (Turns out they didn’t). “

Further down this list are a couple bands that would likely never exist without Pink Floyd. Finally I can use the word 'monumental' and know I'm not exaggerating. And they found that pig in someone's yard a few days later.

06 MGMT @ The Echoplex [LA; January 26th]

What I said then:
It didn’t look good for us and the dozens of others in a line of uncertainty running off Sunset Blvd. But torrential downpour on top of anticipation would only add to the tale. And luckily we had enough Christopher Walken impersonators around to pass the time.

This was the first of many MGMT sightings we had this year and arguably the best. It was a raw set and a massive indication of where their year was about to go. That overall night is one of my fondest memories, probably ever (hey maybe I should make a “top 10 fondest memories" list…)

05 Fleet Foxes @ Spaceland [LA; June 30th]

What I said then:
Each pause was met with a collective hush you might hear in a church service. The potent harmony of Robin Pecknold and his bandmates defined the term, breathtaking. I was speechless then, and it looks like I still am. This is me giving up on the blog. Go see them.

Yup. Still got me.

04 Hot Chip @ Coachella

What I said then:
Ironically standing in the same area as their set last year, I couldn’t wait to have our crew experience it. The situation was one upped when our LA friends Jessie and Elena appeared out of nowhere. Hot Chip owned it. They balanced choice hits from The Warning with their new stuff. I wouldn’t have made a playlist any differently. Last year’s highlight “No Fit State” might have taken second this time to world pleaser “Ready for the Floor.” This was the peak of sweaty. This was out of control.

We each burned roughly 10,000 calories in that hour. The entire festival piled into the Mojave tent. There was an earthquake in Indio. Taking pictures was physically impossible. As was breathing. A stranger asked to shake my hand afterwards, as some sort acknowledgment of the dance.

03 Animal Collective @ Coachella

What I said then:
I was frozen; eyes shut for long periods with the stage colors seeping through, my mind surfing on the beats. I’d occasionally glance over at Kati, who was spaced out as well. I think we managed to have a conversation telepathically.

The songs came in and out of form, but the stream of sound was never broken. There is nothing normal about an Animal Collective show. I remember some folks walking into the tent, looking puzzled, and moving on, while those who got it, really, really got it. Tickets for their January 24th show have been purchased, so now when people say "the end of January" can’t come soon enough, there is even more reason to agree. Two of the six recognizable songs played, “My Girls” and “Brother Sport” are now found on their forthcoming album (which is leaking and making people go crazy).

02 Of Montreal @ Palladium [LA; November 22nd]

What I said then:
Perfectly arranged set list – covered.
Album-matching quality of songs - covered.
Out-of-this-universe props and actors – covered
Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – literally, covered.
Kevin Barnes’ scantily clad body – literally, covered in red paint and shaving cream.

Even the most bizarre theatrics would have gotten lame if the songs weren’t up to par.
This is a sample of comments from the video I put up on youtube from the encore:
“Best concert I’ve ever seen.”
“Insane is the only word to describe this concert.”
“This was so incredible.”
“That show was the shit! I'm 47 and it was one of the best concerts (out of 100s) I've ever seen.”
“I want to relive that concert every day. Agreed. Best ever. “
“Best show I’ve ever seen, easily.”
“Effing incredible show.”
"It's almost a week later and I still think and talk about it everyday; I don't think I'll ever get over this!"
The kids (and 47 year-olds) have spoken.

01 Radiohead @ The Hollywood Bowl [LA; August 25th]

What I said then:
Over 2 hours, 26 songs, and 2 encores of the highest attainable level of human consciousness...
You could say ‘everything was in its right place’ on Monday. Just listing off the elements is overwhelming: the greatest band on the planet, under the Hollywood bowl moonlight, shared with the greatest group of friends a guy can ask for.

This, hands down, will not be topped until I see Radiohead again.

Notable Exclusions:

Fleet Foxes @ El Rey Theatre [LA September 22nd]

Hot Chip @ The Wiltern [LA; September 21st]

MGMT @ The Avalon [LA; June 4th]

Handsome Furs @ Detroit Bar [Costa Mesa; April 13th]

Thanks to all those who shared these with me. And a big sorry to those who were stuck behind all 6'3 of me.