(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite reviewed concerts of 2013

This last year, I didn't review as many shows as I have in past years. That said, I still managed to find plenty of memorable moments in 2013.

# 10 - Sleepy Sun, with Glowing House and déCollage
22 November (Moe's Original Bar B Que, Englewood CO)
078 Sleepy Sun
Glowing House played well, but their moody folk sound made them an odd choice as a supporting act for this show. Fortunately, déCollage had a surrealistic sound that meshed well with Sleepy Sun's heavy fog of distortion. Sleepy Sun had already passed through Denver as a supporting act the previous month, but Moe's proved to be the perfect intimate location to enjoy the band's cathartic chaos and poetic intensity. It was noisy ritual of feedback, but the acid-etched reflections satisfied us all. (full review)

#9 - Immortal Technique & Brother Ali with various openers
18 September 2013 (Gothic Theatre, Denver CO)
062 Immortal Technique
Like any hip-hop show, there was no real concept of down-time between acts. The bill was packed with performers, each of which put their own spin on things. My favorite of these was Hasan Salaam, who had a tight, rapid-fire delivery and a well-informed, socially conscious message.

028 Brother Ali
Immortal Technique and Brother Ali negotiated co-headlining responsibilities with Brother Ali going first. This worked well because his low-key delivery and intense presence had time to build up the room. He adroitly balanced personal revelation with socio-political themes, delivering everything with an effortlessly smooth flow. Immortal Technique had a similar political perspective, but he was fiery and confrontational where Brother Ali was grounded. He whipped the crowd into a frenzy and fed off their zeal. (full review)

#8 - That 1 Guy with Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club
25 April 2013 (Hodi's Half Note, Ft. Collins CO)
018 That_1_Guy
The evening started with performance artist Cory McAbee in his persona of Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club. It was a strange mix of madness and karaoke, undercut with a serious layer of cheese, but he proved quite entertaining while he made That 1 Guy seem much less eccentric. That said, although I've seen That 1 Guy a several times, he was still adept at creating a full blown performance as a one-man band. His music was quirky and a bit untethered as usual, but for all the odd twists and turns, the beat remained insistent and the showmanship was topnotch. If you've never seen him and his musical invention, The Magic Pipe, you need to check him out. (full review)

#7 - The Pimps of Joytime, with Mlima and Funkma$ter
31 August 2013 (Cervantes Other Side, Denver CO)
079 Pimps of JoytimeLocal live-looper Funkma$ter expanded his one-man band with a line up of talented rappers to kick off the evening's festivities. The second act, Mlima, was more of a distraction. Their jam band approach built on their guitarist's remarkable chops, but their set was weak on personality and performance. This brought down the energy a little bit, but fortunately The Pimps of Joytime were so over-the-top, that they had no problem resetting the mood once they took the stage. Tight funk grooves, shift on a dime dynamic changes, and wickedly catchy tunes laid the foundation, but Brian J and the rest of his band dressed it up in pure pimp finery. They played a remarkably long set that never surrendered to formula or got boring. (full review)

#6 - Whiskey Blanket CD release party
2 November 2013 (Cervantes Other Side, Denver CO)
053 Whiskey Blanket
Whiskey Blanket celebrated their new CD, From The Dead Of Dark with a full night of music. Their opening acts served up hip hop, funky blues, reggae beats, and an intriguing blend of DJ mixing and live music. I appreciated the wide-ranging mix of approaches because that meshed well with Whiskey Blanket's natural scattershot style. While they favored material from the new album, they still managed squeeze in plenty of older songs and concert showpieces, like Funny Biz's classic beatbox/cello duet. All the members are consummate performers, both on their instruments and as stage personas. Their three way rap arrangements recall The Beastie Boys or Run-D.M.C., but they manage to incorporate humor, heart, and braggadocio that transcends their choreography, polish, and technique. (full review)

#5 -Vieux Farka Touré with New World Citizen Band
Tuesday, 6 August 2013 (The Walnut Room, Denver CO)
062 Vieux Farka TouréLocal opener, New World Citizen Band, provided a great start to the evening. Composed of a soulful singer (Venus Cruz) and a subset of the Greg Harris Vibe Quintet, the group celebrated African musical roots, centering most of their arrangements around Harris' Ghanaian wood xylophone. It was very unique and well-executed. As much as I enjoyed their set, they didn't begin to eclipse Vieux Farka Touré, the son of famed Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré. Touré's guitar work was amazing. He could shred like a metal master, build up a hard rocking expressive riffs like Jimi Hendrix, and lose himself in the hypnotic sway of African syncopation. (full review)

#4 - Surfer Blood with Team Spirit and Andy Boay
16 October 2013 (Larimer Lounge, Denver CO)
048 Team Spirit
No disrespect to Surfer Blood or Andy Boay, but this slot is all about Team Spirit. In this particular show, they played in the middle before Surfer Blood's headline spot. Surfer Blood weere a solid band; their music had a pop foundation, but they brought a new wave sensibility that shadowed the tunes and gave them depth. Their tight, twin guitar attack matched Team Spirit's set in a way that I missed when Team Spirit opened for Peace earlier in the year.

I ended up seeing Team Spirit four times over the course of the year: twice at SXSW and twice at Larimer Lounge in Denver. All the shows were centered on the songs from their EP, but even though they had played these tunes repeatedly, they had lost none of their exuberance. All four performances took these thrashy gems and pumped them way past the suggested maximum pressure. Frontman Ayad Al Adhamy rode the crest of that energy and fed it back to the audience every time. What's most amazing about this show in particular is that the Al Adhamy's backing band had completely turned over since the previous tour. The new band brought the same ecstatic flail to the set but still let their personalities shine through. (full review)

#3 - Reel Big Fish with Pilfers and DanP
12 January 2013 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)
097 Reel Big Fish
This was a solid show, starting with the humorous Dan P (MU330) performing an acoustic set, followed by the hip-hop flavored ska-punk of Pilfers. The openers provided a nice ramp up for Reel Big Fish. I've seen the band a few times over the years including back in their heyday. Fortunately, they can still bring it on and recreate the qualities that made them so much fun. Aaron Barrett's sarcastic persona was in full effect and the set covered a good mix of old and new material. The stage banter, tight arrangements, and great humor added to the natural fun vibe of ska party music and created a memorable show. (full review)

#2 - String Cheese Incident with Bootsy Collins and the Funk Unity Band
28 December 2013 (1st Bank Center, Broomfield CO)
064 String Cheese Incident
Ahh, this one is still fresh in my mind. String Cheese Incident lined up a phenomenal run of shows leading up to their New Year's Eve extravaganza. The big show has the Del McCoury band opening; Sunday's show featured the Flaming Lips. But Bootsy Collins was the pick for the first night. To be fair, I wasn't completely sure about the combination, but the crowd had no problem accepting Bootsy's generous gift of The Funk, embracing the full, spaced-out experience and dancing along.

String Cheese Incident took the party atmosphere and ran with it. Like any other SCI show, the band pulled selections from across their full career, but since they were celebrating their 20th anniversary this time around, it emphasized their roots and deep connections. The encore made this explicit, with a short run of songs that walked through the band's evolution. While they didn't manage to get Bootsy to sit in, they did have the legendary Karl Denson sitting in on sax and flute for several tunes. (full review)

#1 - Steven Wilson
6 May 2013 (Boulder Theater, Boulder CO)
002 Steven Wilson
Steven Wilson is a perfectionist control-freak and some aspects of his show reinforced that image: he insisted on a ban on cameras and cell-phones, he started precisely on-time, and even told the audience whether to stand or sit. At the same time, that focus and obsession probably had a lot to do with how he assembled his band full of virtuosi talents; Nick Beggs on bass was particularly fine. This show breathed with the musical flow as each song demanded its focus. In contrast to his tightly wound sense of control for the production, Wilson proved to be a much more relaxed and engaged performer than he used to be. (full review)

Honorable mention: 
Austin TX
482 Richard Thompson SXSW2013
I've wanted to make it to South By Southwest for quite a while and 2013 turned out to be my year. I saw so many shows from famous acts -- Camper Van Beethoven, Richard Thompson, Billy Bragg -- to undiscovered gems like Some Dark Holler and Kao=s. It was also the first time I saw Team Spirit, who ended up on my official list above. Read the full report for more details.

No comments:

Post a Comment