Concert Reviews

My First Show: 2011 Edition

Since this Sunday is Christmas, we decided to do something a little different with this week's edition of My First Show. Checking back in with a number of the people we interviewed this year, we wanted their takes on the best shows they saw, and to also get a preview of what they'll be doing next year. And we had to ask what they want Santa Claus to bring them.

What was the best show you saw this year? Darin Robinson (The Mumbles/Regatta de Faux): Without question, St Vincent at The Kessler. It really was the complete experience, an emerging artist who still has a bit of the "maybe you'll like this" in her, yet she's completely confident in what she's doing. She also released what I consider the best album of 2011. But in regard to the show, what went down was possibly what went down when Bowie was playing shows in '72. I was aware of her, but didn't own any of the albums; I think she fulfills the promise of Fripp and The Roaches hanging out with Thomas Dolby and Eno -- everything that's good about blending odd and normal. The word "swirly" applies to her. And that's how I felt the entire show. The only light missing from the show was a neon one over her head that simply said, "Genius at work."

Wanz Dover: Electronic show: Marcel Dettman, Ben Klock and Claude Young at Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. Soul/funk: Femi Kuti at House of Blues. Possibly the best live show I have ever seen. Rock show: Scratch Acid at Trees. They are my all time favorite Texas band so I am more than a little biased.

Sean Kirkpatrick (Nervous Curtains): Swans at Southside Music Hall. This was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Michael Gira's fury is genuinely terrifying. He conducted the crescendos from his band with mad passion. The drums were a physical force pummeling my body. There's something liberating about releasing yourself into such a maelstrom of sonic intensity. By the end of the show, I was awestruck. I could barely speak. It's rare to witness a bold, uncompromised vision executed with such magnitude and ferocity. Honorable mention: Harvey Milk at Rubber Gloves. The Athens, Georgia trio played a career-spanning set marked by their trademark chops, musical integrity and bleak, self-deprecating sense of humor. It was disappointing but hardly surprising to find out this would be their final tour, as they warned younger musicians in the audience not to waste their lives playing in a touring band.

Glen Reynolds (Chomsky): RTB2/Air Review at the Double Wide.

James Porter (Drawn By Jaymz/Disposable Music): My favorite show of 2011 had to be when Peelander-Z performed at The Loft. The band was knocking out the crowd with one pop-punk song after the other, and when I thought it couldn't get any better the guitar player, instead of being the flat surfboard upon the crowd's hands, was standing on the crowd's hands, letting them be the board and their arms the waves. True crowdsurfing. Peelander-Z is the only live action anime band I have ever seen, just downright awesome!

Scott McCullough (The Thing? DJ): This year I saw Allen Toussaint, Eddie Floyd, William Bell and Mack Rice in New Orleans at the Ponderosa Stomp. It was two nights of legendary R&B and roots rock.

Don Cento (El Cento): I hit my personal guitar hero trifecta this year with a pair of back-to-back shows in Austin. On a Wednesday night I caught Marc Ribot and David Hidalgo in concert. These two guys, both musically curious and adventurous, work as great foils to each other. Backed by a stellar band, they tore through a lot of rocking Cuban songs as well as a handful of Los Lobos tunes. There was an amazing, casual "living room" vibe in the Bass Concert Hall that night. The next night I saw Wilco absolutely destroy ACL Live. Right now, Wilco is probably the finest working rock and roll band. They're a perfect mix of writing, players, ability and vibe and their live show has been getting better and better thanks to this. Completing my guitar trifecta was Nels Cline and his abstract, pointillist anti-solos (he's cut from the same cloth as Ribot, in that regard). As an added bonus, Nels was playing the late Duane Allman's Les Paul gold-top that night.

Great as Nels is though, that night was owned by drummer Glenn Kotche. The first thing a great rock band needs is a great drummer and Kotche is a monster; an absolute beast. He's got that rare, rare, rare ability to drive the band like a locomotive, play with an enormous amount of finesse and dynamics and not yet overplay. He plays amazing stuff but it doesn't verge into "drummer" territory. And he's distinctive as hell. None of this overpowers Tweedy's songs and voice, which are clearly the center of this band. The message never gets lost in the chaos. Extra credit bonus: solo opener Nick Lowe (another personal hero) joined Wilco for a show-closing rendition of "Cruel to be Kind." Suffice to say it was a very satisfying week: big shows, challenging music, tremendously performed.

Matt Barnhart (Tre Orsi): I was on tour quite a bit this year with Superchunk, Destroyer, the Dodos, and Scratch Acid and as such I didn't see a lot of other bands. It's hard to get motivated to go out when you've been away from home for months and you spend the rest of your time holed up in the recording studio. That said, nothing else quite matched the excitement I felt when Scratch Acid launched into "Mary Had A Little Drug Problem" at their first show in Atlanta. It was at a small, sweaty club (the EARL) and it couldn't have been more perfect.

Wes Todd Solem (Here Holy Spain): I saw We Were Promised Jetpacks and they were really good. I love how their singer is so unassuming and he just walks out like, "This is my band, we're going to play now, I have a really amazing voice and write amazing songs."

What can we expect from you in the new year? More shows? A new record?

Sean Kirkpatrick: Nervous Curtains' second LP, Fake Infinity, will be released on vinyl, CD and digital February 21 on Chicago's Latest Flame Records. We've been reworking our live show and set-up and making a lot of videos. So we're looking forward to showing people all the things we've been working on for the past year. We will be playing some Dallas area shows and will be doing some tours following the release.

Glen Reynolds: I have an upcoming song I co-wrote for Talib Kweli on his forthcoming album, Prisoner of Consciousness, and I also guested on his upcoming first single called "Push Thru" featuring Kendrick Lamar and Curren$y. This comes as a result of my songwriting partnership with Dallas producer S1, creator of Kanye West's "Power" and Beyonce's "Best Thing I Never Had." I have a completed lo-fi minimalist pop album that is awaiting someone to release it, but Idol Records is releasing a techno-pop song I did called "All the Beautiful Things" on a forthcoming Christmas album. Chomsky could very likely make an appearance here or there in 2012, too.

James Porter: My long-lived project called Drawn By Jaymz is about to release the final album called Farewell. It is just an acoustic [guitar] and me, kind of a precursor to what I will be performing as James Porter in 2012. DBJ has put out over 20 albums and is finally calling it quits. I am the drummer for Disposable Music, which is Tim Ruble's project, who was a main vocalist and songwriter of The Happy Bullets. Our album is just about finished! So be sure to look for us in 2012 because we will be playing around the DFW area and pushing our record.

Don Cento: Certainly more shows. No new record yet, but I'm writing and we'll be working out new material at shows.

Matt Barnhart: Tre Orsi took some time off as some of us had babies and others of us were away from home most of the year. We have plans to finish a new record and start playing again in the next few months.

Wes Todd Solem: Another Here Holy Spain record. We're about to start collectively writing songs. I've been writing a lot of songs and I've been letting them sit there for a while and thinking if they're actually good or not. I think we'll be able to knock out a record pretty quick.

Darin Robinson: More shows, yeah, Mumbles, Regatta de Faux, same old song and dance. Tossing out the loud in a FU fashion for people to jump around to.

Wanz Dover: Blixaboy: Intro to Futro EP January 16 and Futro City full length in April, both on the Brighton U.K.-based Concrete Plastic. The Black Dotz: A few 7-inch singles. Bringing our brand of rock and soul revolution to the masses. Wanz Dover: Launching the online music zine version of Lost Generation. It will be a music site for extreme music nerds.

Lastly, what do you hope Santa Claus will bring you this year?

Sean Kirkpatrick: A food processor, instrument cables and a book about parasites.

Glen Reynolds: I'd like him to help Talib Kweli get that Prisoner of Consciousness album out. I'm generous with my wishes like that.

James Porter: If Santa has the ability to infiltrate the brains of people and adjust their opinion on what good music really is, well that my friend would be all I need. Otherwise, I will settle for a new coffee mug.

Scott McCullough: Mack Rice 45 "Baby I'm Coming Home" on the Lu Pine label. An amazing stomper!

Don Cento: I asked Santa to bring me some TARP bailout funds, but I'll settle for a Stretch Armstrong.

Matt Barnhart: A new Menorah.

Wes Todd Solem: I hope he brings me an "I still love you anyway, even though you wrote a song called 'God-Damn This Christmas' card."

Scott Brayfield (Here Holy Spain): I hope for a bundle of real bad-ass shows. It's been a blast and I can only hope we can help keep the momentum going.

Erica Guagliardi (Here Holy Spain): Oh, I don't know, maybe some whiskey and scratch-off lottery tickets.

Darin Robinson: A time machine, more energy, one of those hula girls for the dash of my car (a real one), good health and prosperity for my family and friends. I'd also like some tacos. But then again, wouldn't we all?

Wanz Dover: A new saxophone or my current one fixed.

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs