I reviewed a lot of concerts this year. Partly I love live music, and partly it was a way to get out the house for cheap. Really though, I was excited to spend the year exploring every musical experience this part of the world has to offer. From shows I knew would be great to shows I kind of stumbled into that smacked me round the head with their sheer brilliance, it was a musical 2013 I won't ever forget. Here, in no particular order, are my favorite picks -- gigs I will remember until I'm really, really senile. I even made up some meaningless awards, so you know this is an end of year thing.
I did not have the first idea what I was going to get from this concert. I was still mad at Omar for the Mars Volta ending, and someone had told me Zorch were good once. It was one of those gigs you're not even sure about attending. You know the sort, where you feel like you might be paying actual money to be disappointed and frustrated for several hours, as if you were attending a Cowboys game.
Zorch remains the full-on weirdest thing I saw in 2013, a pair of normal-looking guys that have no time for things like verse-chorus-verse structure or indeed time signatures, yet still play at a pace that would make Megadeth blush. I spent a long while exchanging looks with my colleague that established we didn't really understand a single thing that was happening right now, but it was fantastic. Bosnian Rainbows, meanwhile, were triumphantly great -- another feather in the cap of Rodriguez-Lopez.
For things I will never forget, I will take Teri Gender Bender's manic chicken walk and complete madness with me to the grave. That lady is nuts. I give this concert my 2013 "Totally Unexpected Gem" award. I capitalized each word so you know this award is serious.
Spillover was a wonderful, wonderful festival with a scarcely-believable line-up all on their way home from SXSW. From taking in Parquet Courts and Vietnam at Sandbar, in the warm sunshine and with my toes in the sand, I trecked to the Double Wide to witness the far darker and scarier metal stage. Who should be there but the one and only Nick Oliveri, long time stoner rock hero of childhood Gavin, ready to unleash the sort of mayhem on a tiny venue that only Nick Oliveri can?
In an audience of what can't have been more than twenty people, I saw one of the guys from Kyuss play a version of "Allen's Wrench" that was so fast and brutal that I still have several hairs that haven't returned to place. I clung to the side of the stage and swung my body in a manner that can only be described as dangerous to those around me. I give this gig my "Fuck Yes" of the year award.
Now, I really hate the Verizon Theater. It's in the middle of freaking nowhere, parking is expensive, and they've still somehow managed to make it difficult for everyone to get in and out despite the absence of any noticeable impediments to that goal. That said, you can't deny that the sound system is crystal clear most of the time. I saw a Mastodon set there once that managed to accomplish the impossible and separate bass and treble from the chaos.
Sigur Ros there was as perfect a concert as I am likely to see in this or any other year. So incredibly overwhelming was the whole thing, so spiritually complete and soaring and magnificent and affecting and heartbreaking, that I am still having trouble describing the actual concert several months later without sounding like I'm teaching some sort of "spiritual wellness" class, as you can see. Holy baby Jesus though, it was unbelievable. I couldn't speak for several hours afterwards. I was never even a massive fan of their records. I give this concert my "I Have No Way Of Describing The Joy This Concert Brought Me" of the year award.
Head over the page to find out who won my "Thank Fuck For That" award.
I was over in Fort Worth to catch up with the latest Pinkish Black stuff when I was accosted by a noise that melted my entire face. Opening up the night were three large, hairy men who seemed quite determined to short every single fuse on the tiny stage they were perched on, with a stack of amps that made Spinal Tap look like a solo acoustic singer-songwriter. By the time they had shorted out the electrics on a third occasion, Kiernan and I knew it was boom or bust. This would either be one of the greatest things we had seen or an absolute disaster. We didn't even know at the time it was the band's first gig back after ten years apart.
Clearly, as it's on this list, it was monumental. Sludge metal re-defined at barely a beat per minute, a huge man was playing his bass with a violin bow and shouting "FUUUUUUUUUCK" into the microphone, and glasses were travelling across tables. It was the single loudest thing I've ever heard, and I accidentally stood right next to the speaker as Slayer started up at Fun Fun Fun Fest last month. My hearing has never been the same, but I don't even care. It was like a hundred-foot tall statue to the monumental power of stoner rock. I give this my "I Can No Longer Hear For Shit" award.
What do you do when all around you is lost, when you are stuck in a dangerous sea of lunatics and listening to terrible things that make you sad? The three brave souls, me included, who ventured to Rocklahoma to report back for you had no idea. We had witnessed what must go down as one of the worst things I have ever seen in the form of a near-3 hour Guns 'N' Roses set the previous night, and had spent that day listening to luminaries such as Bullet For My Valentine.
Cue, then, Alice In Chains, who healed everything that could possibly have been wrong with us by way of a set so perfectly-pitched, so meaningful, so powerful, that to this day the three of us talk fondly about our trip to a field in northern Oklahoma full of people with "white power" tattoos. When Jerry Cantrell brought his father onto the stage for the closer "Rooster," we knew we had been saved, and that everything would now be okay. I give this show my "Thank Fuck For That" award of 2013.
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Honorable mentions: Nick Cave at McFarlin. It comes to something when I don't put Nick Cave in a list, let's be fair. Jeff Mangum at Majestic Theater. Spellbinding, legendary, brilliant. The Relatives at the Kessler. I will go and see The Relatives every time I possibly can, and the Kessler is an extraordinary venue. Dillinger Escape Plan at House of Blues.Awful venue, best live band in the world. Electric Six at Dada. Seriously. I've never laughed so hard at a concert. The exact opposite of how I assumed it would be.
Here's to 2014. It's starting off with Neutral Milk Hotel, Pixies, and Primal Scream. I'm okay with this.