Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 13 live shows of the 2009!

I originally wasn't going to do a "best shows of the year" post. I mean, I just didn't know if I could do it. How can you compare the insane energy of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead to the beauty of Neko Case? Or the almost spontaneous feeling of Dan Bejar's solo acoustic Destroyer show to The Decemberists playing their whole new rock opera album front to back? The insanity of Holy Fuck to the lovely Basia Bulat! I think you get the point. But instead of doing a list and ranking them all, here are some of the shows that stood out from the rest.

In case you're curious, here is the master list of all the shows I've been to this year. Over 50 shows and over 100 bands (some even seen multiple times). But now, here are my top 13 shows, in chronological order. I am going to try and be brief with each* and I'll link to the original review which were much more in depth (but be warned, the first few will be from my lamejournal, which I used before the move to blogspot).

March Sixth. Karkwa at the Biltmore Cabaret.
Ok, this one is tricky because Karkwa was an opening band. I hadn't heard too much of them before the show, just the one song from R3, which was a decent song. A decent song which is a horrible representation of their sound. Which was abso-fucking-lutely amazing. So amazing, in fact, that they managed to blow out a speaker.
The other interesting thing about the show is that it was the first time I had seen Said The Whale live. I was only a radio-fan of the band at that point, and so not only did they have the setback of following that, but their whole set was from blown speakers. I have to admit, I wasn't won over by that set. But knowing the deck was stacked against them, I knew I had to give them another shot.

April Twenty Third. Metric acoustic at the Media Club.
True, it was a very short set. Only Metric played and it was over and done in about an hour. But that one hour was pretty damn amazing. A win-to-get-in show put on by The Peak, I had actually managed to get tickets off their website. The intimate, hundred-some-odd person venue was filled with fans as Emily Haines & Jimmy Shaw took the stage and played some stripped down, acoustic versions of most of the new album as well as of the favourites. It cemented what excellent musicians both Haines & Shaw are (as if I needed reminding), but what made my life was seeing them do a cover of the Broken Social Scene song Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl. That is definitely one of my favourite BSS songs and perhaps one of my favourite songs overall, so seeing it live pretty much made my year.

May Ninth. Joel Plaskett at The Vogue Theatre.
Joel Plaskett. His father Bill. Ana Egge. Rose Cousins. Over the course of nearly three hours these four incredibly talented musicians all had the chance to shine. Sure, it was Joel's show and the other three were backing him, but each was given their opportunity to shine; and shine they did. There were so many highlights from the show, and a lot of them were the little things. Since the show, every time I hear the line "Do the switcheroo" in Fashionable People, I picture Ana and Rose quickly switching places and Joel almost cracking up. I remember the six dollar, duct taped casio keyboard from Value Village for Television Set. Not to mention all the stories Joel tells, sometimes even mid-song. Even in a giant venue like the Vogue, Plaskett made it intimate and like he was singing in your living room. And as if there is any more reason needed to love the show, I give you three words: Joel. Plaskett. Beatboxing.

May Twenty Fifth. TV On The Radio at Malkin Bowl.
I have said it before and I am sure I will say it again, Malkin Bowl is one of my favourite venues this city has. One reason I liked it can best be summed up by a quote from this very show. While looking up at the surrounding trees, specifically the eagles nest in a nearby tree, Kyp Malone told us "That’s something special you guys have. If we were in Brooklyn, that would be a telephone pole. Appreciate this." But of course a good venue doesn't necessarily make a great concert. A band like TV On The Radio makes a great concert. Each time I see them, they get better and better (this was my third time in as many years). They have a raw power that is almost unparallelled and a complex sound that would just sound that takes an insane amount of skill to pull off. If they were a lesser band, the intricacies and layers of their recorded material would fall flat live. And also, both Wolf Like Me and A Method have got to be two of my favourite songs (of any band) to see live.

May Thirtieth. The Dears (with Jets Overhead & Black Diamond Bay) at Richard's on Richards.
This show right here is a very strong contender for show of the year. Not only was the set from The Dears amazing, but one of my favourite lineups, too. Black Diamond Bay was first, the new band from former Dears member (and guitar deity) Pat Krief, and were absolutely spectacular. Jets Overhead were their usual fantastic self (their acoustic show probably would have made a top 20 list), but The Dears... sweet baby Odin, The Dears. From the opening of the show, with Murray coming in through the back and wandering amongst the crowd while singing, I knew it was going to be something special. The pure emotion that gets poured in to each show, I swear the whole band, and Murray especially, must be drained every night. It also included the first of two random Torquil Campbell appearances. Right before Lights Off, Murray dedicated the song to Campbell and his newborn daughter, and then part way through the song Torquil jumped on stage for some backup vocals. Maybe I am slightly bias since The Dears are one of my top 4 favourite bands... but I would say shows like this are part of the reason The Dears hold that position. The only possible word to describe the show would be: incredimazing.

July Seventeenth. Destroyer (with Attics & Cellars) at the Biltmore Cabaret.
The night after playing with The New Pornos, opening for Death Cab For Cutie, Dan Bejar did a Destroyer show at the Biltmore. I thought it was an interesting choice, since last time they were headlining here they did the Commodore, but I figured out why when Destroyer hit the stage. And by Destroyer, I mean Dan Bejar. The show was not a full band, but rather simply Bejar doing a solo and pretty much acoustic set. You wouldn't think a lot of his songs would work like this, but it only went to show Bejar's genius that he not only made it work, but was taking random requests -- of ANY of his songs, Destroyer, Pornos or Swan Lake -- and playing them. The whole thing had a very unrehearsed vibe to it, as if he forgot he was supposed to do a show, then just went on and played whatever he felt like. It all seemed very loose and on the fly.
The other great thing was the discovery of Attics & Cellars, one of the opening bands. Consisting of people such as Jason Zumpano, Meegan Bradfield and Ryan Dahle, they sounded fantastic. Sadly, I haven't been able to catch them again live, and with no album or anything out, I've been relying on their R3 profile. Hopefully they will put out something in the near future.

July Eighteenth. Joel Plaskett Emergency (with Said The Whale) at Holland Park.
A free show at the Fusion Festival in Surrey, of all places. As hesitant as I am to go into Surrey usually, how can I pass up free Joel Plaskett Emergency?? You would be a fool to! it was also a perfect opportunity to give Said The Whale the second chance I promised them, and did they ever win me over with it.
As for JPE, it was quite a different show than the solo one at the Vogue. Incredibly high energy and fun, it was just more proof that whatever the setting, Plaskett is one of the countries worlds best live musicians. He was also joined by sometimes Emergency member Peter Elkas, who has quite the music career of his own, which was pretty damn cool. I was just disappointed they didn't do Poor Young Things since they were together, but I guess that is more an Elkas song. Hopefully someday...

July Twenty First. The Decemberists at The Vogue Theatre.
The Hazards of Love, the new album by The Decemberists, is a (folk-)rock opera. So when they took the stage, with contributors Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and proceeded to play the whole thing in its entirety... that was pretty amazing and theatrical. And intense. And epic. All the grandeur and drama from the album was translated brilliantly live, possibly even better than the album. And holy damn, does Shara Wordenhave an impressive voice. The second half of the show was almost completely opposite, with everything a lot looser and more joking around between songs. It even included something I have never seen before or since that was brilliant. Part way through one of the songs in the encore, while some of the band members were in the audience, they paused for Meloy to introduce a play in one act, with the band members that were in the crowd acting out the Norwegian discovery of Vancouver as Meloy narrated. It may sound silly, but it was pretty hilarious.

August Third. Sam Roberts with Arkells and Mother Mother at Deer Lake Park.
Quite possibly my favourite overall lineup of the year. Arkells were fricking amazing, like they always are. Mother Mother made a fan out of me after their set and Sam Roberts is... Sam Roberts. All terrific bands who I would or have seen themselves, so too see them all together was pretty cool. Not to mention the awesomely beautiful Deer Lake Park. Interestingly enough, all of the bands in this show I ended up seeing multiple times throughout the year.

August Twenty Ninth. Dan Mangan at The Cultch.
The show that made me fall in love with Dan Mangan. His music, that is. Ok, maybe a little bit of him, too. I went to the show on a complete whim, being most a radio-fan of his, but by the end of it... I was a fully fledged fan. With his backing band that ranged from a usual band of four others, to a complete horns and strings section. Not only did he have some great and catchy songs, but he played with a confidence of someone who had been doing that sort of thing for decades, and his great stage presence, demeanour and sense of humour reminded me, in some ways, of Joel Plaskett. Which is saying something. And twice Vancouver poet Shane Koyczan came out, once to recite a poem during Fair Verona and once for the encore to perform the song Tragic Turn of events/Move Pen move from Mangan's Roboteering EP. Their performance of that song was absolutely heartbreaking.

October Thirteenth. Monsters of Folk at the Commodore Ballroom.
Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, M. Ward and Jim James (or Yim Yames, if you will) combine forces for an awesome "supergroup", Monsters of Folk. Who put on an amazing show. Three hours of not just MoF songs, but songs from each artists "main" bands as well. They played all together, each individually, and every combination of the four in between. A really cool concept for a show -- it's something I wish more of these "supergroups" did, it made me not only love their album more, but like each individual artist better (I am still in shock that I actually liked the Bright Eyes songs!)

November Ninth. Matthew Good & Mother Mother.
November Tenth. Matthew Good & Mother Mother.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that knows me that these two shows are on the list. Matt Good has been my favourite musician for quite some time, and he has never disappointed live. Not only a top notch musician (and surrounded by ones for his backing band), he also has a great stage presence and banter between songs. Everything from a serious olympic protest to joking about it being "Bublé O'Clock" which somehow led into a spontaneous lounge song about the time he looked out his window to find a ninja getting it on with a pirate on the hood of a car. A true story, apparently. Much like with The Dears above, it's shows like this that are the reason I am such a huge fan of the man. I think overall, the second night was a bit better, but it was pretty awesome seeing him both nights. And to say nothing of Mother Mother, who were even better than when I saw them previously in the year!


So there we have it. My favourite 13 shows of the year -- or 12, if you count both MG shows as one.
And hey, some honourable mentions why not? All these would have
Holy Fuck, Said The Whale & Hannah Georgas, We Are The City & Bend Sinister, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Plants & Animals, Jets Overhead acoustic, The Trews acoustic.


(*Haha! I completely failed at that!)

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