Post by FMC co-founder and consultant Kristin Thomson
As we approach the end of 2013, it’s time to reflect on the good times had… at this year’s rock shows.
2013 was particularly special for me. Two of my favorite bands EVAR—Rocket from the Crypt and My Bloody Valentine—were out playing live shows, and I made it a point to see RFTC as often as humanly possible.
Here are the top 10 live shows I saw this year:
10. Chickfactor Party at The Bell House, Brooklyn, NY. This was a special treat because the show included Versus and Lilys, two bands that I spent many days and months with in the 1990s. To honor the occasion, the original Tsunami members (me, Jenny Toomey, Andrew Webster and John Pamer) went to the show together, thus stoking rumors that we were the “secret band” set to appear that night. Not true, but it was great to bump into old friends and sing along to Ginger. And hog the photo booth.
9. My Bloody Valentine at Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA. The sheer spectacle and volume of it all took me back to 1991 when Loveless ruled my life. Kevin Shields had stacks and stacks of Marshall and Orange amps, and Belinda had rows and rows of sparkly Jaguars. Despite some flubbed starts and muddy mixing, the show was fantastic, and I was thrilled to see them again.
8. Replacements at Riot Fest, Toronto, ON. The Replacements played four shows in the US this year, one at each of the Riot Fests. Given that my parents live in Toronto, and that Rocket from the Crypt was playing, it was a no brainer that we would head up to see their first reunited show. And it was amazing. They blasted through their set, playing tons of their best songs, with just enough goofiness and irreverence to remind me of what their shows were like in the late 1980s (though with much less drunkenness).
7. Red Fang at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA. I love Red Fang. I love their stoner-doom-metal riffage. I love their scruffy, just-rolled-out-of-the-van look. I love that the bass player keeps his glasses on with a neoprene strap around his head. I love their video for Wires. I love that their audience throws their fists in the air during the entire show, just like they did at Underground Arts.
6. Rocket from the Crypt at the Double Door, Chicago, IL. This was probably the fourth time I saw RFTC in 2013 but it was a club show, the night before Riot Fest Chicago. A glorious full set of RFTC songs, complete with audience cajoling and running jokes for a sweaty mess of a crowd.
5. Elvis Costello at the Merriam Theatre, Philadelphia, PA. It was Elvis solo, masterfully playing dozens of songs from his enormous catalog. He was in top form, a dapper gent with a nice suit, a jaunty hat, an easy charm and cutting lyrics.
4. Rocket from the Crypt at Festaal Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany. This was Rocket’s first official reunited show (though they played a surprise show in their hometown of San Diego the night before) and, yes, Bryan and I made it to Berlin to see it. I shoved my way up to the front and sang along like an idiot.
3. Savages at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA. I’d like to thank Sound Opinions for alerting me to Savages after they saw them at SXSW earlier this year. Their live show was totally compelling; angular music, and an intensity and seriousness on stage that isn’t very common these days.
2. Tame Impala at Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA. I’m not a huge fan of psychedelic rock, but this was incredible. Early Pink Floyd meets Flaming Lips, their show was a supercalafragalistic swirl of guitars and synths, fronted by Kevin Parker, who excels at pedal management. Listen to Elephant.
1. A Tribute to the Last Waltz at The Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA. My top show was not one band, but 67 different Philly musicians recreating the iconic Last Waltz ¬–The Band’s final 1976 performance captured on film by Martin Scorsese – as a benefit for Philadelphia school children. The musicians faithfully and masterfully performed all the parts, with guest musicians filling in as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond (x3) and Muddy Waters. Even better was the appearance of Garth Hudson – GARTH HUDSON FROM THE BAND – who played the Hammond organ during the finale. The sold-out crowd sang and cheered the whole night. For me, this was the pinnacle of live music and a reason that I’m verklempt as I write this; talented musicians – some of whom had lived and worked as musicians in Philly for many years but never shared the stage together – recruited musicians, rehearsed for weeks and, on the night of the show, gave it all they got. Shows like this serve as a testament to how music can bring people together.
Happy 2013 and I’ll see you at the show!