When Josh first asked me to write a post, I pondered some sort of “it’s been a great year for us as a band, and let me count the reasons why” approach, but I bored myself before I began writing. Don’t get me wrong. It has been a great year, and we’re very thankful that we had the chance to meet so many new people and see so many places. I’ve never been much for reflection in prose-form, though. I prefer to leave that to songwriting.
So, I jumped on the “list” bandwagon. As the end of the year approaches, you’ll see a lot of lists that ultimately will decide the fate of the world. The best example of this would be the list I read yesterday, which was dedicated to the Top 5 status updates on Facebook in 2011. A gripping read, I must say. Who knew that the letters “lms” carried such weight?
Since that one was taken, I chose a different route. Here are my top 5 shows of 2011.
5) Gomez – Denver – Soiled Dove Underground
This is a bit of a selfish pick for me. Gomez has held a position among my favorite bands since I first bought Bring It On in 1998, and in March, I was lucky enough to open a couple of acoustic shows for these guys. At this show, Ben, Tom, and Ian showcased the band’s top-notch songwriting in prime fashion: guzzling red wine for two hours while making their way through the best of the band’s material. It’s always a treat to open for a band that you would have paid for the ticket to their show anyway.
4) Arcade Fire/The National – Chicago – UIC
Like everyone else who reads indie music blogs, I voted for Lady Antebellum for Album of the Year. Some band named Arcade Fire who made their record in the lead singer’s garage won it instead, to everyone’s surprise. Talk about crazy. One day, this band is playing at a small backyard house party in the UK, and the next, they’re winning the Nobel Prize for Musicians.
Some bands bring 10 members on stage because it looks nice to have an entire football team playing tambourines. In Arcade Fire’s case, each of the members is there with a purpose, and they shined on-stage in the second night at UIC.
**Please note that I love The National as well (I would actually place High Violet among my main influences currently), but in this mid-size arena setting, Arcade Fire proved their position at the top of the indie rock kingdom.
3) The Fling – Denver – Moe’s BBQ
The second Denver show in my Top 5 reveals one undeniable truth: I’d like to move to Colorado. I love the mountains, and the city’s Underground Music Showcase hosts some great bands that no one has ever heard of (that includes us) in the summer. After we finished our set, Jeff and I did what any band does: take advantage of any free food offerings. We wound up at this bbq place where The Fling happened to be playing for the festival. My pulled pork sandwich was decent. The music was incredible.
The band’s When the Madhouses Appear was re-released in 2011, and it’s a masterful combination of California energy and delicately shaped harmonies. You should download their record.
2) Nathaniel Rateliff – Chicago – Schubas
I have seen Nathaniel Rateliff around five times in the past two years. In the crowded playing field known as “singer/songwriter”, Nathaniel is a standout with a weathered baritone and the story to support it (he worked on the docks of a trucking company in his early days of recording demos). He typically plays with a band called The Wheel, but on this evening, he played solo and played a few tunes I’d never heard before from his self-released record, “Desire and Dissolving Men.”
1) tUnE-yArDs – Chicago – Lincoln Hall
I’m always skeptical of the blog flavor of the month band. This show erased all forms skepticism about tUnE-yArDs. Merrill Garbus has an Einsteinian approach to the live music experience, crafting on-the-fly drum loops and using her voice in ways that defy all conventions of sound. A lot of bands get accolades thrown on them from the corners of the music blogging world. This is a project that deserves every good word said about them.
That concludes my list, folks. We’ll be playing a-plenty in 2012, and I hope to see you there.