Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2013: The Year in Gigs Attended

Below is a review I intended to post right at the end of December, but failed to given our vacation overseas...

2013 started hot and ended pretty nicely when it comes to live music I saw and heard. In between there was a long walk in the Gobi where there was NOTHING happening, but I think the wait was worth it. Here are a few thoughts on the shows I attended this year...

2013 Blasts to a Rocking Start. 
Things were looking good in Q1 2013 let me tell you! A load of great shows opened up the year and got me thinking..."Wow, this could be the best year in a while for gigs."

Mudhoney on stage in Seattle
Mudhoney + The Sonics at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle. What a way to kick off the year with a hot, hot, hot show on a cold, cold night. Packed to the gills, the show started with Seattle grunge legends Mudhoney and topped off with perhaps even more mythic 60s garage rock Gods from Tacoma The Sonics.

I bet most of you have heard of Mudhoney. And well you should. They are among the originators of "the Seattle sound" that dominated the late 80s and most of the 90s. Mark Arm and crew deliver raw, aggressive Stooges-inspired blasts that any fan of rock love. And they were the opening band on this night. Yep. And they delivered. "Touch Me I'm Sick" and on down the line, they played their "best of" set to the adulation and excitement of the crowd. Mudhoney are the real deal all these years later and I feel lucky to have seen them for the second only time in my life. Throw in that I was able to say hello to Mudhoney main man Mark Arm in person and, well, the night was a success just on that.

The Sonics rock Seattle 
But then came the second act, The Sonics. OK people, if you don't know The Sonics you should. Get everything they have on iTunes today. You like rock and roll? You like The Sonics. They were the Stooges, MC5, Ramones, Clash, Pistols, Nirvana, Mudoney, etc. before any of them were out of primary school. Hailing from Tacoma, this band set the template for raw, aggressive rock and roll.

And yes, they are in 2013 guys in their 60s. But make no make mistake, they ROCK. And they did on this night. What a special memory.

Soundgarden live at the Paramount
Soundgarden at the Paramount. This was the one major Seattle band I had never seen live, and I relished the opportunity to do so with their touring of their new album King Animal. Luckily...and I do mean "with luck"...I was able to get tickets for the floor in front of the stage. And it was from here that I and my buddy saw this epic rock and roll gig. All four members were in prime form, thudding out classic Soundgarden hits and best-of songs, along with equally good new tunes. Ears ringing, we left this gig truly fulfilled with that old time Seattle rock and roll spirit!

Volbeat at a venue in NYC. On a business trip to NYC, a colleague of mine who is a heavy metal fan said he wanted to check out a band called Volbeat at a mid-town venue one night. Who was I to disagree? Nobody. So I didn't. Combining an oddly attractive combination of Social D-style rockabilly and Metallica-style heavy metal, this band from Denmark rocked. And I loved it. Check them out.

Volbeat on stage in NYC

Ritzy Bryan of The Joy Formidable on stage in Seattle
The Joy Formidable at the Neptune Theater in Seattle. One of my favorite new bands. Hailing from Wales, this band has a heavy sound leavened with great hooks, challenging lyrics and the genius and charisma of front-woman Ritzy Bryan. What a great explosion of rock and roll. The packed theater ate it up, and I counted myself lucky to have seen this band up close and personal. You can also read my review of their most recent album HERE.

Billy Bragg at the Neptune Theater. One week after The Joy Formidable, I found myself back at The Neptune for a much different show. This time it was British troubadour Billy Bragg. Sporting an acoustic guitar, a backing band and a lot of commentary about the state of the world, Bragg delivered an enjoyable set of music spanning his long career.

Problem Child in Chehalis, WA. My wife and I a have a dear and very talented friend who is the lead guitarist an excellent AC/DC cover band called Problem Child. Yes, he plays the Angus Young part, and does so perfectly - in sound and look.

People LOVE AC/DC, but are not likely to see them live any time soon, so Problem Child fills the bill. In this case, they were finishing up a weekend of NW touring with a gig in...of all places...Chehalis. Now, this just happens to be the town of my wife's birth and upbringing. So, what were we to do, but journey the 90 miles south and check it out! And are we glad we did. Packing in with locals at a small bar on the now mostly deserted main street of Chehalis, we witnessed a blistering set of the full Highway to Hell and Back In Black albums by the band situated at the front of the establishment and NOT up on a stage. That's right. They were in the front part of the place at floor level...a mere two feet from the crowd. And what a sweaty rock and roll delight that was!

And then came a loooooooonnnnggg wait.
Yes, things dried up quick after March. Sure, some great new music came out during the middle of the year, but none of those bands were touring in the USA. And, none of the summertime showcase festivals appealed or were anywhere near downtown Seattle. So, I endured the March to August drought as best I could.

And then things got real good, real quick!

Everest at The Tractor Tavern in Seattle. OK, so I had not heard of this band before, but a friend knew of them and insisted we go. I'm glad we did.

Stereophonics live in Seattle
The Stereophonics at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle. Kicking off the late year surge of good shows, a buddy of mine and I went to see Welsh band Stereophonics downtown. Standing near the stage, it was great to see this band that could certainly fill much larger venues in the UK so up close.

The Joy Formidable (again!) at the Neptune (again!). Another week and another Welsh band. This time, The Joy Formidable for the second time in 2013. They came back to Seattle for a special gig in which ticket proceeds fund after school music programs for kids in the Seattle area. Not sure why they did this, but I'm glad they did as it gave me another chance to see this dynamic band. Once again, the Neptune was packed and a good time followed.

Mona at the Chop Suey in Seattle. Mona is a great band out of Nashville that I've been keeping an eye and ear on over the past year or two. You can read
Mona live in Seattle at Chop Suey
my review if their most recent album HERE.

Mona has been quite successful over in the UK developing an audience and becoming popular. However, back here in their homeland...it's been a slower go. I actually talked to front man Nick Brown about this at the bar before the show on this night. My supposition was that Americans really don't like rock and roll any more - or not nearly as much. They prefer rap, country, pop and dance. Nick replied that rock and roll used to be the embodiment of rebellion and a sonic middle finger to the establishment...and that it is not that here now. Rap is. He wants to bring rebellion back to rock, and in the process rock back to America. I for one am 100 percent behind him and his band mates.

The Long Winters at The Neptune. Now, this was a Seattle band I had not heard of, but should have. A friend of mine recommended we go because this was a reunion of the band in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of their best known album When I Pretend to Fall and 15 year anniversary of the record label they are on, Barsuk. The short version of the story is that TLW debuted at about the same time and in the same scene as Death Cab for Cutie, a more well known Seattle-area band on Barsuk.

Anyway, TLW lineup included Sean Nelson on keyboards, backup singing and clever in-between-song commentary. Sean was the lead man for mid-90s Seattle band Harvey Danger. So, you might remember him. In any case, what ensued was the band running through When I Pretend to Fall in sequence. At first, I thought it sounded a bit to much like happy pop rock with a bit of an edge, but after about the third song I was hooked. Good tunes, well played, interesting lyrics, great on stage persona by the band members. Lets put it this way: the next day I bought the album and really enjoy it. Check this band out!

Missed Opportunities

Some acts I did not get a chance to see when they came to to the Seattle area that I wish I could have seen:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - they played a festival way out in eastern Washington, and I could not be bothered to drive four hours and endure massive crowds to see their truncated set among so many other bands I could not care less about. BRMC are a very good band that I would drop everything and see if they came to actual Seattle, but not in the situation that happened this year.

Death. This is a band from the 60s reunited now for a tour. Think Detroit garage rock heaviness. I did not realize they played Seattle until after the fact. Oh well.

NOTE: All pictures in this post taken by Marc Osborn. Copyright owned by Marc Osborn. No use of any of these pictures for any purpose is permitted without the prior written permission of Marc Osborn.

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