In a year, where I may have set a record for a quantity of bands seen live, I've certainly had some of the best adventures I have had since the early punk rock days. Here are a few highlights:
1. Flew to Sweden to see bands on a boat between Stockholm and Helsinki and back.
2. Flew to London to see a reunion show (and bumped into two friends before the show).
3. Drove cross country to Louisville, KY to see 39 bands in 3 1/2 days.
4. Went to Monolith Festival at Red Rocks.
5. Saw live music in four states that I resided in this year (counting DC-MD-VA as a state for music scene purposes).
But now, the list.
10. Valiant Thorr - Who were these weird biker looking guys taking the stage prior to Motorhead and the Misfits? I was prepared to wander over to the merch stand, when an MC-5 styled assault hit. Although they fit into a metal show, they really blast out killer hard fast rock as good as it gets. Fun, crazy and a nice surprise.
9. Kinski - I really enjoy this Seattle four-piece who plays everything from attic shows to opening spots for Tool. This was the second time I saw them at a Terrastock festival and the third time I saw them. Great grinding, intelligent, tuneful songs--mostly instrumental, but enough lyrics to round it out a bit. Covering Hawkwind with Acid Mother Temples' Kawabata Makoto guesting was the highlight.
8. Motorpsycho - A powerhouse trio from Norway that is far too neglected in the US. They ripped into their very melodic but ultrastrong songs at Terrastock. Really outstanding choices in the playing and such simple power. It felt like they were moving in on and surrounding the crowd during their too brief set. Hard to categorize this band, but a joy to finally see.
7. LoveLikeFire - One of my breakout band predictions. Other breakout predictions were for Husker Du, Nirvana, Wipers and Ragged Bags. We'll see where they fall on that scale. Hopefully north of Ragged Bags (stll great in my mind). Three great shows in DC, Denver and Red Rocks. Hopefully their label deal resulting in their first album in 2009 will lead to great things. See below review for more.
6. Motorhead - How did I make the ripe age of 48 without seeing Motorhead or the Misfits ever. Well, the Misfits had a bad rep as a live act and there is only one original and is now 2/3 Black Flag, so I can see that. But Motorhead rocked the Fillmore hard and heavy. Truly a perfect hard rock sound. Not much more to say about these proud dinosaurs.
5. United Bible Studies - Another big surprise at Terrastock. This Irish ensemble flowed from experimental to traditional to whatever they felt like playing in a seamless beautiful manner. Just a high quality, thoughtful approach with some of the more accessible experimentation I've heard.
4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Finally saw my first Cave show although I've admired him for years. Excellent show as my review below describes.
3. Spiritualized - As an earlybird to the Monolith Festival (to ensure catching LoveLikeFire), the parking lot guy gave me two tickets for Spiritualized at the Ogden next week. I was thinking of going, but was now committed. Wow, what a great freebie that was. Jason of Spaceman 3's newer band was brilliant. Great psychedelia and lovely mesmerizing tunes. Very exciting show, better than the few CDs I've heard by them. Although most acts you should see live, this one is one of the most worthy I've seen this past year.
2. Pentangle - I've been a huge fan for a number of years now as I discovered their place in the English folk-rock revival of the late 60s where Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention were the better known stateside. I have seen four of the members solo and duet in the past decade or so, so it was without hesitation, I snapped up a ticket for their 40th anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall in London where they recorded a live album in 1968. Just two quality sets of their wonderful material, but a magical night. As a bonus, I bumped into Pentangle's friend, Wizz Jones who I've met before and my old friend from Massachusetts, Charles Reynolds (now in Germany). Great band that still had enough in the tank to rekindle their musical magic from the past.
1. Comus - It's no secret of what a huge fan I am of Comus, a British band who did two albums in the early 70s and dropped off the face of the earth. Just check my Myspace page for proof of that. So when a Swedish record dealer sends me an email showing the Meloboat ad listing the bands that would be on their annual cruise, I had to look twice when I saw Comus listed with the more expected names (Opeth, Leafhoud, Bo Hansson and others). I had trouble believing this so I decided to investigate. Comus had a new Myspace page that wasn't there when I last checked, so I wrote them to ask if it was reall them? Bobbie Watson (fem vocals, percussion) wrote back and said it was them and I wasn't dreaming. They had all original members except one and were rehearsing pretty hard to get ready for this one show. It was uncertain if they would play others. That was enough positive points for me to book my passage on the Meloboat from Stockholm to Helskinki and back. And I'm so glad I did. There were fans from Canada, US, UK, Europe, and Asia that all came out of the woodwork to see Comus. The band was overwhelmed by the crowd support and delivered a brilliant set featuring their absolute best songs and a Velvet Underground cover they used to encore with. Saw the soundcheck, chatted with them a bit and their original manager that they pulled into the mix and had a fabulous time. They still haven't played a show since, but they are trying to set a few things up. I am there to help if they need it, as they really deserve to get the accolades that eluded them in 1970 when no one could understand what they were doing. I am not sure many people can today either, but those that do will have a magical time.