This is my third Top Ten list and I found the choices more difficult this year. Like last year, my first cut reduced the list to 25 and it took some time to hit the magic ten. This year I found the order almost meaningless whereas in the past, there were some clear breaks and overwhelming favorites. The list is twelve long as I decided to include two non-DC shows that were important to me and still include a full ten DC area shows. And here they are...
12. Magma - French Embassy (September): I was quite impressed with this band at the time, but the show really stayed with me longer than I expected. They have a very creative classical, yet experimental take on progressive rock music, especially in the vocals area. They hooked with me with their opening number and kept me interested throughout the set.
11. Members of Morphine - Velvet Lounge (June): The substance was good, but the style was extraordinary. I knew a bit about this band, but did not expect to be pulled into their sonic world as I was in this small, quiet club. Saxes, guitar, drums and vocals and a world of their making--a real world, but one which has a lot of room on the sidewalks.
10. Retribution Gospel Choir - Rock'n'Roll Hotel (February): Two of the members of Low with a different drummer turn it up a notch for a rocking set with the great songwriting I expected. And I anytime I can give props to fellow Duluthians, I will do so. But they earned it this night.
9. Caedmon - Edinburgh, Scotland (May): This and any remaining show could easily be first on my list. This one was important as I had a small part in talking this band into reforming. So I certainly felt obligated to show up. I was glad I did as they did a great job over two nights and I spent some time with them in between. The band is a mere cult act in the grand scheme of things, but they played an important part in the psyche-folk-rock scene in the classic era. And they are good people still making some good music when they choose to.
8. Grinderman - 9:30 Club (November): The Bad Seeds made my list a couple years back, so it is no surprise that four of them in this dark and intense combination would make my list again. Nick Cave and company really can deliver his challenging and high level songs. There is no good excuse to miss any show that Cave is a part of.
7. Public Image Ltd. - 9:30 Club (May): This was a mild surprise. I expected them to deliver a good show, but it was at a higher level than I thought. Lydon was pleased enough with the way things went to promise more PiL projects in the near future (although Arri Up's untimely death has slowed things for a while). Lydon put together a band featuring members from the Damned/Mekons and the Pop Group. So there were plenty of diverse creative elements there to add nice original moves to the still recognizable songs from the PiL catalog.
6. George Kinney and Kohoutek -Velvet Lounge (July): It is not surprising that my list contains one show from a pivotal member of the 1960s Texas psychedelic scene who hasn't played in ages. What is surprising is that it was George Kinney of The Golden Dawn making my list and not Roky Erickson. Roky was enjoyable, but George Kinney was in great physical (and mental) shape and played guitar and sang like a guy 30 years younger. Three of the Kohoutek veterans helped out and did their usual great job (and had fun doing it when I chatted with them later). Sadly, the Golden Dawn got lost below the radar of the 13th Floor Elevators success. If you do your part to correct this, you will likely be rewarded with an excellent psyche-rock set.
5. Woven Hand / Serena Maneesh - DC9 (October): I would call this a double headliner bill as the bands were touring together. Each has major talent, although Woven Hand is a bit better known. Woven Hand are one of my favorites working these days and they delivered an excellent set as I expected. I cannot praise this band enough and I won't spend a whole lot more time here. Serena Maneesh had a wild and heavy psyche-rock style and had David Eugene Edwards join them on a song for a nice bonus. It was great to see two excellent bands and to see both enjoying each other's sets while on tour together.
4. Iggy and the Stooges - Atlantic City (August): Tough call between this show and the London show, but this one had the better playing (and I was in the front row). The London show had Suicide, a great crowd, a classic venue, but this one rocked out a little harder and was right in my face. These guys are still pure genius and worth traveling long ways to see.
3. Shooter Jennings & Hierophant - State Theater (September): I knew Jennings was doing unique things with Hierophant (unlike many in the crowd), but was still stunned at the overwhelming roar of rock music these guys created. The material was varied and strong. It cleared out a whole lot of people in the back, but for those of us up front, we had a wonderful night.
2. Boris - 9:30 Club (August): This Japanese trio with Ghost's guitarist put on another intense set of tuneful loud post metal rock music. They are intense and accessible in a very creative way considering the brute force of the sound. A great band that really needs to be experienced live.
1. Government Issue - Black Cat (December): This was so tight and such a strong set, that they earned the top spot. They were an important band in a very simple and direct way, but are not always thought of when you think of the great bands of the past. They showed a sold out show why they are indeed one of the finest acts of the punk era. I had fun reliving these songs, but I would have had a blast hearing them for the first time if that were the case.
See you all in the clubs in 2011!