When I sat down to write about the best gigs I attended this year, I can probably be forgiven for being a little distracted by the potential awesomeness of 2008. As much as I saw some amazing live music this year (and perhaps one that will make the Of All Time list), the line up in the first 3 months of next year borders on ridiculous. Anyway, here we go. My favourite gigs of 2007.
I did 15 of them, because I tried for 10 and chickened out. I am so bad at the comprehensive list thing. I always feel bad for the ones I have to leave out. Which is why I also have a stupidly long â€˜also ranâ€™ list. Anyhoo â€“
15. The Shins @ The Enmore Theatre
Friday 10 August 2007
Being a more recent fan of The Shins (and particularly the albums Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow) I was keen to see them live, but also a little unsure of what to expect. They didnâ€™t really have a live show reputation. They exceeded expectations though and the thing I remember about this show is how much FUN it was. The crowd was having fun and the band was having fun. And it was a beautifully balanced setlist â€“ plenty from Wincing the Night Away but fans of the first two albums were not disappointed.
14. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ The Enmore Theatre
Wednesday 23 May 2007
Beyond the few tracks played on Triple J, I wasnâ€™t at all familiar with this band before I went to the show. And it was so good â€“ a really generous crowd lapped up everything offered by Alec and the band, and their songs are catchy as hell.
13. The Black Keys @ The Enmore Theatre
Sunday 13 May 2007
Youâ€™d be hard pressed to find a more passionate and skilled guitarist than Dan Auerbach. Ditto for drummer Patrick Carney. The thing I love about this band is how much of themselves they throw into their music â€“ for a two piece they have the most amazing sound. I saw them first at the Great Escape and was completely blown away and this time they did not disappoint. I also wrote about it here.
12. The Paper Scissors @ The Great Escape Festival
Friday 6 April 2007
Before I start this, does anyone know whatâ€™s going on with the Great Escape for 2008?! Itâ€™s all a bit mysterious.
Anyway, the Paper Scissors are one of the best Australian live bands going around. I just love the voice of Jai Pyne, and Iâ€™d take the opportunity to see them live any time, any where. Iâ€™ve seen them live a couple of times this year and Iâ€™m not exactly sure what it was about this particular gig, but Iâ€™ve put it down to the rain. The weather on this particular day of the Great Escape was diabolical, and the band was playing in the Tin Shed, one of the only covered stages. The place was full to the brim, and the vibe from the crowd was great.
Also, their sometimes-guest bass saxophonist is disturbingly attractive.
11. Rodriguez @ The Factory Theatre
Thursday 12 April 2007
It might be a little odd this gig made the list, but sometimes itâ€™s more than the quality of a performance that will make it memorable.
The figure of Sixto Rodriguez is a mysterious one. Rumours of his death and a self-imposed musical exile gave the man an aura and legend status, and this combined with a cult following, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, led to a huge demand for tickets to his Australian shows when he announced a surprise trip here in April. It was something I never expected in my life to experience â€“ not while I was growing up listening to his music, and most certainly not when I came to appreciate it on another level all together later in life.
Part of the reason this night was special is that I shared it with my Ma. She introduced me to his music in the first place, and it possibly means more to her than it does to me. There was a feeling of full circle that night, and of a really special shared experience. Never mind that the guy was barely able to stand on his feet, and stumbled lyrically and musically through most of the songs â€“ the experience somehow outweighed alla that. And he played, and didnâ€™t cock up, the song Like Janis.
10. Cold War Kids @ The Forum
Friday 1 June 2007
Just making the top 10 is this gig at the Forum. The venue was really good â€“ the three tiers gave the whole place a really intimate feel. I was more than a bit curious about the band â€“ they had received a lot of hype, and it was going to be interesting to see if their live performance could live up to it.
And it really did. Nathanâ€™s voice hit a spot in me, and the personality and energy from the band were really something else. Hospital Beds was a big highlight, as well as an energetic rendition of Saint John.
9. Tool @ The Sydney Entertainment Centre
Wednesday 24 January 2007
I really, really dislike the Entertainment Centre. And itâ€™s not just the â€˜big venueâ€™ thing â€“ I think the Superdome or Acer Arena or whateverthehell theyâ€™re calling in now at Olympic Park is a much better venue. Thereâ€™s just this sterility about the place, and you feel a great, vast emptiness when youâ€™re there that means no matter how hard you try you can never connect with a performer.
Anyway, all of this doesnâ€™t take away from the fact that Tool put on a fairly awesome show at the Ent Cent in January. Iâ€™ve been a fan of their music for a pretty long time, and in my 18 year old days of NIN and other metal/prog rock stuff they ruled my world for a little while. Lyrically, for their genre, theyâ€™re excellent, and the thing I really love about them is the way the incorporate the visual into anything they do, whether it be their live shows or their album covers. This is music of the gut that grabs a hold of you and shakes you solidly â€“ you feel it through every ounce of your being. When they played 42 & 2 itâ€™s a little lucky that my head didnâ€™t explode.
8. Modest Mouse + Dappled Cities Fly @ The Enmore Theatre
Wednesday 3 January 2007
This was a really awesome way to start the year. I wrote a little bit about it here. There seemed to be a couple of lack lustre reviews of this show â€“ the main complaints being the lack of crowd interaction and the new-material-heavy setlist. Perhaps it was the fact that Iâ€™d never seen them live before, or maybe that I came to their music a little later myself? Whatever it was, I walked away from the Enmore that night with an enormous smile on my face, and the vibe and good feeling from that gig stayed with me for some time.
Also, I took Hellen along, who knew nothing about the band. And we had an awesome evening. And she is not only a fan now, she used Modest Mouse lyrics as one of the readings at her wedding in April. So that is pretty awesome.
7. Silversun Pickups @ The Annandale Hotel
Saturday 15 September 2007
Itâ€™s hard to figure out of this gig is so high on my list because of the awesome performance (which it was, by the way) or because it was such a wonderful surprise. I was sick as a dog that night, and tired as hell, but I was truly blown away. I wrote more about it here.
Like I said at the time, this band is the real deal.
6. Calexico @ The Basement
Sunday 25 February 2007
I went into this gig owning three Calexico albums, including the In the Reins EP they did with Iron and Wine. I tell you though â€“ there is no way you KNOW this band until you see them live. This is the sort of music made in darkened rooms or dusty streets with just the love of music as motivation. Each and every musician in that band holds their own weight, and they have a sound all their own.
Also, they make you want to dance. Sometimes you just want to listen to music that makes you want to dance.
5. Magnolia Electric Co. @ The Annandale Hotel
Wednesday 8 August 2007
I love the Annandale Hotel. Itâ€™s a bit smelly and REALLY sticky and sometimes the sound is a bit off, but itâ€™s a usually such an authentic live music experience that it makes up for it. Magnolia Electric Co. that Wednesday night is a good example of this.
I really believe that some of the best live music experiences stay with you for a really long time. I came out of this gig feeling very full â€“ full artistically and musically and emotionally. And that feeling stayed with me for a really long time. The music of Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia, for me, took a little getting used to. But when the penny dropped, I fell completely. Now sometimes nothing else will do.
And I still think Jason Molina looks like James Belushi.
4. Bill Callahan @ The Factory Theatre
Wednesday 7 November 2007
My experience of Mr Callahan as Smog at NIDA along with Newsom and Bird was good preperation for this. Bill on his own was a whole other thing though, and I was really unprepared for how much soul Iâ€™d find in his music that night. He came across a little reserved at NIDA â€“ not in a bad way, just in a quiet pensive way. But this night was Bill in full flight, and it was something beautiful to behold.
His music is from such an earthy and honest place. The addition of strings was genius. Also, the Factory is a really great venue â€“ a little out of the way, but then, when you live in Windsor, everything is a little out of the way.
3. Joanna Newsom + Andrew Bird + Smog @ NIDA
Friday 26 January 2007
Thereâ€™s probably one word that aptly sums up that evening at the Parade Theatre â€“ magic. It was honestly magical. The plush surroundings of the theatre were the perfect setting for the music of Newsom, which is in some ways not of this world. And it was the first time Iâ€™d experienced Mr Bird live â€“ holy cow. It was a really special night for a lot of reasons and I wrote more about it here.
2. Wilco + Glenn Richards @ The Enmore Theatre
Saturday 21 April 2007
Wilco own a piece of my heart. A perfect evening with a perfect set (and almost perfect setlist) and a great crowd added up to something that rivalled for gig of the year. The anticipation I have for them in March is plus plus.
Adding to the magic of the evening was Glenn Richards, solo, as support. I love you Glenn.
I wrote quite a bit (well, gushed quite a bit) about the evening here.
Okay, drumroll pleaseâ€¦
1. The Mountain Goats + John Vanderslice @ The Metro Theatre
Saturday 6 January 2007
Anyone surprised about this? Probably not. The great thing about music is that when itâ€™s done right, itâ€™s about so, so much more than just notes and sounds. This gig at the Metro, with my favourite band of all time, was honestly a life changing experience. It would be silly to write much more about it now, given the amount of gushing I gave it at the time, but Iâ€™m here to tell you now â€“ my feeling about this night has not changed an ounce. Possibly one of the greatest musical of my life.
A note here about the Enmore Theatre â€“ it probably isnâ€™t odd that this list is Enmore heavy. It should be noted that good sound and lighting makes an ENORMOUS differernce to a show, and the Enmore just seems to get it so right every single time. To this end, letâ€™s hope the Manning Bar is a decent venue, because I will be spending a lot of early 2008 there.
Andrew Bird @ The Basement, Saturday 27 January 2007 â€“ This might have made the top 15, only heâ€™s already there once and, well, I cheated a bit. This was a great show, but the Basement is just a weird venue. I wrote about it here.
Patty Griffin @ The Clarendon Guesthouse, Friday 23 November 2007 â€“ What an AMAZING voice. Enough emotion to carry you away. And the venue was intimate and perfect.
Elbow @ The Playground Weekender, Friday 9 March 2007 â€“ I was blown away by this set and wrote about it here.
Damien Rice @ The EnmoreTheatre, Thursday 22 February 2007 â€“ Wonderful voice, wonderful lyrics, wonderful instrumentation.
Whitley @ The Essential Festival, Wednesday 25 April 2007 â€“ It was easy at the time to predict bigger things for this beautiful boy and his beautiful music.
Dead Letter Chorus @ The Hopetoun Hotel, Friday 15 June 2007 â€“ Despite the interior of the pub being hot has a sauna, this was one of my favourite Australian gigs of the year. And theyâ€™re one of my favourite Australian bands.
The Panics + Whitley @ The Annandale Hotel, Friday 16 November 2007 â€“ A good, solid show of great Australian music.
And I usually mention the worst gig experience of the year. This year, hands down â€“
Augie March @ The Metro Theatre, Sunday 18 March 2007 â€“ I donâ€™t really need to write anything else about this, because I already did here, and here. I love you Glenn, but sometimes people just suck.
So there you have it. Given the difficulty of this exercise I have no idea how Iâ€™m going to manage 2008.
I hope whatever everyone is up to tonight they are surrounded by good spirit and good people. Iâ€™ve never been one to go crazy about the new year, but thereâ€™s definitely something about seeing one year out and another one in. The idea of a brand new beginning can sometimes be a comforting one.