Today I am playing catch up on blog posts. After making a resolution to blog about every show that I attend in 2015, i immediately disregarded it and now I have three shows to write about at once. Oh well, I can do this. I promise to step it up and at least do my show write ups in a timely manner, and with the event fresher in my mind.
First off, it was a cold night. Snow was piled everywhere in Baltimore, and it took us a long time to find a parking spot. When we did park, it was a sprint down several snowy blocks of city and we arrived shivering at Metro Gallery with opening band Black Clouds already playing on the stage. I did not miss much of their set, and was really into their post-metal jams. I did not realize that this DC band was a three piece, as they have a sound that sounds like more than three people are creating it. They do this by having a guitarist who also handles synth duty. Their light/laser show was a lot of fun as well, and added an extra element to their set.
After they finished, it was the band that I was the most excited to see that night, Thrushes. This Baltimore shoegaze band has been one of my favorites for over five years, with their albums Sun Come Undone and Night Falls in heavy rotation at various points. They went away a couple years ago, and I was surprised to see that they were playing again. They played some new tunes (which they are recording with J Robbins) and plenty of old ones as well. I thought they sounded great, and even with a long break, did not sound rusty at all. I really look forward to seeing them again, and hearing the new record. With Thrushes, Wildhoney, and Dead Mellotron all currently active/semi-active, the Baltimore shoegaze scene is healthy and I look forward to many future shows.
After Thrushes came another Baltimore band, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. I do not think I had seen them since the last Whartscape in 2010. Too bad, as I was blown away by the tunes, the showmanship, and the stage banter of Ed Schrader and his bass playing cohort, Devlin. They played in darkness, with only a light under the floor tom Ed bangs on, for illumination. He was really funny and I do not understand why he is not a major star in the United States.
The last band of the night was A Place to Bury Strangers. They were on tour to promote their new album, Transfixation. This was my second time seeing them (the first being at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC a couple years ago). They did not disappoint. They played loud. The drums crashed and thundered. The bass roared. The guitars screamed. Everything including vocals was covered in a haze of fuzz. As for the assault on my other senses, their light and laser show, and insane amounts of fog kept the visual stimuli interesting. The guys are really insane showmen. Guitars swing, guitars are thrown to the ceiling, pedals are stomped and heads in the crowd are banged.
As 2014 winds down, it is the time of the year to reflect on some of the music I saw live this year. These were my favorite 25 sets out of ones that I saw this year (I will be finishing this year at around 50 shows/festivals attended, almost one per week, and I am not sure how many total sets I saw (and I am not going back to count that). Anyways, here are my 25 favorite sets of 2014 with a short reason why I dug them so much and a picture taken from my Instagram account for each. They are more or less in chronological order. Most were in Baltimore or DC, unless otherwise noted. All pictures are by me.
Pixies, Electric Factory in Philly, January 2014
This was a cold night. We braved the cold and drove the two hours to the show, barely making it in time to catch all of Pixies set. It was crowded, a heater was blasting me while a draft on the wall was also freezing me, but it was a great time. I finally saw Pixies live, and with someone who was also a huge fan (my fiance). Plus it counted as a celebration for my birthday for this year. Even leaving the city heading the wrong way and having an hour added to our commute home cant tarnish the memory of their set, seeing all of these classics live with an enthusiastic crowd of fans.
Weekends, Ottobar in Baltimore, January 2014
I am a big fan of Weekends. Too bad they are going on a break, with one member moving away. The music these two can make sounds as big as a four piece band. Plus I love it when people switch instruments during a set. I am glad I get to see them at least one more time, at the upcoming Friends Records Anniversary party at the Ottobar.
Multicult, Stem Graphics in HarCo, February 2014
This whole night was pretty memorable. From the fist fight during Roomrunner’s set, to excellent offerings from One Watt Sun and Two Inch Astronaut, it was an all around good night of music. Multicult were no different, ripping through a set of precise and chugging riffs. This was also only one of a few times I saw them this year. Each was great. They do not disappoint. RIYL Shellac.
Priests, Barclay House in Baltimore, April 2014
I am a casual fan of Priests. I saw them a long time ago at the Black Cat in DC (with at least one less member I think). And then I saw them at a house show. And they were pretty rocking. Singer Katie is one hell of a front person, yelping and singing her way through politically charged ditties. The band played their surf punk rock and we had a blast in a basement. One day they will be huge and I will be able to think back on seeing them in a basement. With a pentagram on the wall.
Wolf Eyes, Current Space lot in Baltimore, April 2014
April. An outside show. What could go wrong? How about the coldest show that I ever experienced? It was freezing but the jams these trip metal masters brought were warm. This was my second live Wolf Eyes experience, and it was just as brutal as the first.
Cloud Cult, Sixth and I in DC, April 2014
Cloud Cult are one of my favorite bands. Their music helped me get through some tough times. Sixth and I is usually one of my least favorite places to see a show. But for some reason, this time it was just right. Cloud Cult did two sets, one acoustic and one electric. The reworkings of the tracks into acoustic songs was a nice touch to old favorites, and they brought their normal energy. I almost had to skip it because I was sick, but I sucked it up and ventured out and am glad I did.
Swans, Black Cat in DC, May 2014
Swans are one of the best bands I have ever seen live. This set was similar to the first one that I saw. Crushing riffs, 30 minute songs… Two hours long… But at least this time the no Air Conditioning rule was not in effect, as it was the first time I saw them. I am looking forward to seeing them next year at a different venue, in Baltimore.
The Skull Defekts, the Gold Bar in Baltimore, May 2o14
Sadly, this set was sans Daniel Higgs. But, they still rocked. They played what they call Street Metal, and I rocked to the percussive big muffed tunes.
Matmos, Fifth Dimension in Baltimore, May 2014
This was at a fundraiser for High Zero. There were not that many people there at the warehouse space. Matmos were very friendly and Drew let me and my friend sit on the stage during their set. It was a mix of video and electronics, and was but one part of an incredible night that also featured a synth piece by Dan Deacon and a killer set by Horse Lords.
Microkingdom, the Crown, May 2014
What happens in Baltimore? Not only will you get a great set by jazz weirdos Microkingdom, but you will also get Sam from Future Islands to join them for a cover. Which they set up on the spot.
Wildhoney, the Crown in Baltimore May 2014
Wildhoney get better and better. Their shoegaze really sounds great live. I have been a fan for a long time, and am really enjoying experiencing their evolution.
Wing Dam, Ottobar in Baltimore, June 2014
Wing Dam are one of my favorites. They are super nice people who play some chilled out fuzzed out rock and roll. I have seen them a few times, and this one was as rad as never.
Guerilla Toss, Metro Gallery in Baltimore, June 2014
I did not know what to expect from Guerilla Toss. What I did experience was a short, intense set of rock and roll with a memorable jumping around like a wild person, front woman.
Dark Blue, Metro Gallery, July 2014
I finally saw a Sharkey band. I was actually at a show for another of his projects, Puerto Rico Flowers, but sadly I left early. This band, while way different, still allowed me a chance to see Mr Sharkey and company rock out. This Philly band should be seen by all rock fans.
Kowloon Walled City, Metro Gallery, July 2014
These guys rock. They are heavy, heavy, heavy. This whole bill was stacked, but this set was really special since I don’t have the ability to see Kowloon Walled City that often.
Neutral Milk Hotel, Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 2014
This was my third experience seeing NMH live. I saw them at 2640 Space for their return show in 2o13. I also saw them at DAR in DC earlier this year. But this set was my favorite. The set was about the same, but it was the night before I went on vacation with my fiance and her family, and the day before I proposed to her. It was us and her sister and her sister’s boyfriend, and we had a great time listening to great music on a summer night, while I was still on a high from telling her parents my intentions to marry her, immediately before the show. (also, another no picture NMH show so I snapped this crap one just because).
Charanjit Singh, Tropicalia in DC, August 2014
I heard of Charanjit Singh from a friend, and went to a Kennedy Center show that was cut way short due to a transportation issue. But he was also playing that night at a nightclub, so all was not lost. He rocked his 1980s seminal album and had the DC crowd dancing.
Joanna Gruesome, the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC, August 2o14
I saw these Welsh musicians with a stacked bill – which included Potty Mouth and Perfect Pussy. They did not let me down. They had an infectious energy that did not let up their whole set.
Horse Lords, Fields Festival, August 2014
I have seen Horse Lords hypnotic krautrock several times, but this set was my favorite. Usually they play two long songs, for about 20 to 30 minutes. This night under the stars in the woods with a lot of the Baltimore arts community for 45 minutes, it was true bliss.
clipping, Metro Gallery, September 2014
Clipping make noise. Clipping make raps that make you think. Both are delivered with a technical precession, both live and on album. I cant stress enough how noise and hip hop heads need to check them out.
Placebo, Fillmore Silver Spring, October 2014
This was a dream come true. I first heard Placebo in 1998, and really got into them in 2001 while living in South Korea and have been a huge fan ever since. The only chance I had to see them was about five years ago in Baltimore, but that show was cancelled due to illness. This was worth the wait. The Fillmore’s sound system rocked that night, and they played a set of old and new tunes.
Roomrunner, Metro Gallery, October 2014.
Roomrunner is one my favorite bands. Favorite locals bands. Favorite live bands. Just the best. Their 90s grunge throwback sound has been updated a bit, and their more melodic side was shining through this night. It was a release show for their excellent J Robbins produced Separate EP, and the hometown crowd of friends and fans went nuts.
Slowdive, 930 Club in DC, October 2014
I was never a huge Slowdive fan, but went to the show with a friend who had an extra to spare. And I am glad I did. I love shoegaze and they did not disappoint. They were loud, but not overbearingly loud. The sound was perfect. So clean, with every element of the music, every guitar texture and vocal, clear and beautiful as can be. I do not go to the 930 Club that often now, but used to go quite a bit; and I think this set stacks up with almost anything I had seen there.
Riff Raff, Baltimore Soundstage, October 2014
This was my second time seeing Riff Raff. It almost could have been the worst thing of the year. Riff Raff’s plane was late, causing the openers to have to stay on for three hours (the crowd was booing, they were restless). He played a short set (30 or so minutes) but he put a lot of energy into it, and it seemed like he was actually rapping more of his lyrics than he did the first time I saw him. It was a party for sure, but his set was almost a warm up for the party that was Waka Flocka. Whatever it was, I had a lot of fun; possibly due to the fact that his album has been out for a while and I am a fan of all of the songs that he rapped.
Yusuf, Tiny Desk Concert, October 2014
I finally got to see Cat Stevens aka Yusuf live. He played four songs, two old and two new. I was able to say hi to him afterwards, shake his hand, and get my CD signed by him. It was a day of pure elation.
Dragged to Hell 17 features 22 rock and roll tracks from some amazing female voices that are currently kicking ass. The tracks run the gamut from indie folk to noise-punk. 1 hour and 10 minutes long. Image was taken by me of the only Afghan girl that I saw in 9 months.
SoftSpot – The Cleansing Hour
Which Magic – High Already
the Courtneys – Insufficient Funds
Body/Head – Everything Left
SLUTEVER – No Offense
NUDITY – BADD TEEETH
Jail Solidarity – Cries and Hues
Manic Sheep – You Lie, You Choke the Rules We Trust
Pleasure Leftists – Passage on a Ghost Ship
Shannon And The Clams – Into A Dream
Potty Mouth – Damage
White Murder – Safety in Numbers
Speedy Ortiz – Tiger Tank
the Stargazer Lilies – Sad Colored Tears
SISU – Light Eyes
Veronica Falls – If You Still Want Me
Joanna Gruesome – Satan
Young Trynas – Be Gone
GOAT – Run To Your Mama
Hunters – Brat Mouth
Magik Markers – Mirrorless
Perfect Pussy – III
I am going to keep the descriptions short and sweet. These 20 releases made up my other favorites that aren’t from Baltimore, or dark/electronic. A very East Coast heavy list, with Massachusetts having a strong showing. In no particular order, the rest of my favorites (and a mix).
1. ovlov – am: catchy noise rock is what these brothers deal in
2. Exit Calm – The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be: second album of soaring British shoegaze; vocals are up front unlike a lot of their peers
3. The Courtneys – The Courtneys: probably what I sang along to the most this year in traffic was from these Canadian Keanu Reeves enthusiasts
4. BAMBARA – DREAMVIOLENCE: noise powered pedal theatrics from this NYC band; their day time set at Hopscotch this year was easily among my top five favorite for the year
5. The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True: the only kickstarter project I supported this year; I have drank their Kool Aid for over a decade, and this one didn’t let me down
6. Sebadoh – Defend Yourself: one of my favorite bands of the 90s return to form; I am glad I was able to see them on tour for this
7. Locrian – Return To Annihilation: I was lucky enough to see them on their short tour for this album; their set’s mix of ambient metal synths and guitars let me wanting more
8. Wolf Eyes – No Answer: Lower Floors: I always thought I wouldn’t like them because they would be too harsh; this release is just the right combo of noise and songs (also another killer band I was able to catch this year)
9. Weekend – Jinx: beat driven shoegaze release
10. Veronica Falls – Waiting For Something To Happen: pop from London; another sing along fest
11. The Stargazer Lilies – We Are The Dreamers: ethereal shoegaze release from Soundpool alums
12. Placebo – Loud Like Love: another strong release from a mainstay in my favorite list; I am not sure if this will convert anyone, but is a treat for fans of the band
13. Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving: I like all the post-Sonic Youth bands but only wanted to include one; CLM made the cut since I listened to this the most, and also really enjoyed the tracks when I experienced them live
14. Kal Marks – LIFE IS MURDER: Guitar heavy Boston band featuring a vocalist with one of the most unique voices I have heard in rock music in a long time
15. Paint Branch – I Wanna Live: the only DC based band on this list; which is sad, I spend a lot of time every week in that city; smart, vocal driven pop from ashes of Q and not U
16. Krill – Lucky Leaves: another reason Massachusetts kicks ass with its music scene
17. Palehound – Bent Nail: another release that has a 90s vibe to it; nice mix of acoustic and electric parts and also singing about a range of topics including pet carrots
18. DJ Dog Dick – The Life Stains: NYC based noise artist releases a instant noise pop classic; beats, singing, basslines, and melodies abound
19. PERFECT PUSSY – I have lost all desire for feeling: probably the noisiest of all of these releases, shoegaze ones included; too short at four songs and they leave you wanting more
20. Potty Mouth – Hell Bent: this band of punk rockers put on one of the funnest sets that I attended this year at an all ages event at an alternative worship place; much ass was kicked
the image of Locrian synth player/singer Terence Hannum at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore was taken by me