I saw several hundred bands in 2011. I had no idea how to narrow it down to the top 5 best live performances (in no particular order until the final one) I saw this year, but here is my attempt. I am going with my gut and my memory, those shows that stick out in my brain as the ones I never wanted to end. Also starting with the farthest back in time and moving through my year of music.
Ringing in midnight by myself is not how I pictured my New Year’s Eve, but I was on assignment to shoot and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the band. Just before 12 hit, there was a digital countdown clock displayed on the backdrop of the stage helping to pump up the crowd. When midnight hit, the crowd cheered, white balloons fell from the ceiling and confetti shot out from the stage. The band took the stage and started the best way to start a year. Smoke machines, pink, blue, and purple lights were a perfect backdrop to the dance party that ensued. For any one that is unfamiliar with their music they have been termed “psych rock” and a rock show is what they put on. Dance beats mixed with tribal influences help create a perfect mixture along with echoing vocals.
According to Yeasayer’s website the band is currently on a break until March of 2012.
On a cold February night, Justin Townes Earle helped warm up the crowd with his folk songs and southern charm that is not expected if you based it off his tattooed Brooklyn hard exterior. Justin is not one to be shy to talk about his history with drugs and willing admits to it being something he struggles with; even taking a moment to acknowledge it mid-show with smile and a cock of the head he was off to the next song. The crowd ate up every note he and the band played, not wanting the show to end only to be greated by the harsh weather waiting outside the doors. I am waiting for my next chance to see him in 2012 along with some new material.
I am a huge fan of bands on Jagjaguwar Records and by looking at their list of artists, I came across Peter Wolf Crier a couple years ago. I lucked out and saw them open for Dawes last year and then again,however this time they were my “headliner” of the night. These two men are so in sync when they play that I wouldn’t be surprised if they could talk to each other telepathically. They are the two tightest, most intense performers I’ve ever seen. The best song of the night’s intimate setting was “Untitled 101”, not only my favorite song recorded thus far by the band, but hearing it live that night sent shivers down my spine. I don’t for see these guys intensity ever lessening and if that’s the case I will do my best to see them every time they come through Chicago.
Prior to arriving at The Vic, I had not been familiar with Cage the Elephant and wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The crowd was rowdy through the opening groups, but it wasn’t until one of my “friends” (a security guard who loves to chat with me at any and every show) informed me that, “These guys are great performers,” that i trusted something was up. After telling him that I had not seen them before he told me the lead singer (Matt Schultz) had a tendency to walk on the crowd similar to what the Flaming Lips had made famous only without a bubble encasing him. I was able to witness this act within the first three songs. Luckily Schultz’s high energy had him racing across the stage and during the second song straddling the stage with one leg and the security gate with another myself underneath and between his legs. This high energy show was one for the books, and luckily my first of many times being able to see and shoot these guys this year.
Have you ever wished one of favorite musicians would appear at a party you were at and just start playing songs for you and some friends? That’s basically what the last time I saw Dave Hause felt like. It was the late afternoon in a tiny bar, no stage, and in order to walk to the bathroom one needed to walk over cords and through the main playing area. Maybe 20 people there, not including my friends who I dragged with me or the bartender. I had become familiar with Dave as the front man from the punk band, The Loved Ones, but he is now doing his own solo acoustic work. No performance I will ever see will have a more intimate and special feel then what Dave gave us that day. The love and passion in his voice and he sang “C’mon Kid” was something that I’m pretty sure everyone in the crowd new was a special moment. Not only was it part of my top 5 of the year but also top 3 of the whole SXSW experience.
I have the pleasure of seeing and reviewing Dave Hause this coming week along with my other favorite Cory Branan, with whom he is currently on tour.
Best show of the year: Deervana at Lustre Pearl SXSW
I had to put this show in the list somehow because it was easily the best show of my life to date, but alas Deevana is not a real band, but rather the alter ego of Deer Tick while covering and impersonating Nirvana. I was in the front and waited 6 hours for them to go on stage, almost had a speaker fall on my head and came out so bruised and battered, but in the end it was all worth it. The crowd was beyond amped for this show. Seeing as it closed out the night other bands were there to watch and stage dive throughout the set. In true rock fashion after perfectly executing an entire Nirvana set, they smashed all instruments, totaled the stage, and left the crowd in awe and what we had all just experienced. This performance unlike any other I have been part of is still just as vivid in my mind as when I was experiencing it, luckily I had my camera and was able to capture the night, while my roommate was lucky enough to capture the set list. If Deervana plays another show, do not walk, but run to get a chance to experience it.
All Photos (c) Daniela Montelongo
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