January 16, 2012

Phil’s 2011 Live Music Awards



The stuff that dreams are made of…

C’mon, you didn’t actually think I’d publish my 2011 lists during the actual year of 2011…did you? Now that I have the undivided attention of eight people:

Best Show(s) That I Never Saw

Lightning Bolt at Healthy Times Fun Club (RIP) Soundgarden/Queens of the Stone Age/Mastodon etc. at the Gorge Pig Destroyer at El Corazon Musicfest Northwest Reverbfest Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings with Fly Moon Royalty at the Showbox Market Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Neumos Matsuri at the Black Lodge Portishead at WaMu Scratch Acid at Neumos

The Lightning Bolt, Portishead, Pig Destroyer and Scratch Acid shows are the ones I’m most upset about. Who knows if I’ll ever have a chance to see those bands in the city of Seattle again (and in some instances, anywhere else). I suppose I could hop on a plane for the sake of noise and nostalgia. Who am I kidding? I’m too poor to do that. Being broke is the reason why I missed that Portishead show at WaMu. I made the conscientious decision to avoid the “Dinosaurs of Rock” show at Gorge. I’m not too ashamed (“shame” is a word I am unfamiliar with) to admit that I still listen to Soundgarden and enjoy their music. This is the exact reason why I did not want to see them play the Gorge. I’m one of those people that likes to leave the past in the past. Which is why you’re not going to see me embracing the reunions of At The Drive In or Refused as much as my inner high school spirit would like to. Mastodon has been dead to me for a couple of albums now. When I heard they were coming to SoDo, I immediately assaulted the first human being I saw (some elderly woman with no legs) and yelled, “This is what happens when good bands put out terrible albums!”

Her hearing aid fell out during the attack. I don’t think she heard me.

I was actually at the Matsuri show when they played the Black Lodge. I went to my car for a second and by the time I got back they were done. I picked up their record “Endship.” It’s pretty great.

The Kool Keith “We Do This All The Time” Live Music Award(s) For Excellence.

There are few winners for the most recognizable award in the music community the award that is inspired by Black Elvis himself. First and foremost, I have to give it up to Spurm. They were the best act I saw at Capitol Hill Block Party, but I never published my post out of crippling writer’s block, oh-my-lanta sheer laziness. Here’s what I wrote (consider the “theme” of those write-ups):

“Of course you’re back in the bowels of Bimbo’s Cantina, the shadowy underworld that is known as Cha Cha. Today, there is hope because it is Sunday. For some reason the only time good things happen at Cha Cha is when the calendar day is Sunday or Monday. What brings you to the Cha Cha? One word: Spurm.

You’ve never been a pervert (unless the lights are off, meow) but Spurm feels so good. They are like a demented version of the B-52′s. You realize that you must rephrase your assessment of Spurm. Whoever is reading your thoughts is already aware of the “bananas” behavior of the aforementioned legendary Athens, Ga. based “New Wave” band. Whereas the B-52′s might tuck their kids in with stuffed animals that resemble Brer Rabbit, Spurm play the part of Anansi and spin webs to ensnare those same children and their pathetic limitless dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, Spurm know how to have fun. But there is a darkness in the presentation my friends.

Weird quirky keyboard that is sometimes defiantly noisy. Punk rhythms. Where did that fucking saxophone come from? That guitarist plays like he used to be in The Pretenders but his personality was licks were too vicious so they kicked him out. A charismatic, matter-of-fact lead singer, who dons a white ship captain’s hat and makes gestures to the crowd that are both exciting and flamboyantly menacing. At one point in-between songs Jordan Adams says something to the crowd but you can’t remember his exact words. You just know that he said something about this particular song being his favorite Spurm song. When the lead singer of a band says that before his/her band plays a song, your expectations tend to grow by the second. To no surprise the song exceeds whatever conjecture you have tied around its neck. At one point Mr. Adams enters the heart of the Cha Cha audience and is swallowed be the most eager jazz hands that the world has ever seen. It were as if ten thousand Richard Simmons just finished an exercise routine and had given the lead singer of Spurm a metacarpus cocoon.”

Man, they were so good. Simply outstanding.

Strong Killings at their Record Release Party at the Rendezvous.

If you were there, you know what I’m talking about. If you weren’t, you missed one of the most magical moments in music history. I’m not kidding. People in Seattle think they can get away with murder every once in a while act proactively dickish and think it’s OK.

“What the fuck are you doing to do about it? Passive aggressive, coffee-drinking, Subaru outback driving, yoga-mat carrying, vibram five-finger rocking, mostly neutral color wearing…”

I don’t remember the exact details of the exchange between the heckler and Nathan (the lead singer of Strong Killings) because too many grains of sand have sunk to the bottom of the hourglass. Did Nathan respond to the drunken heckling with a karate chop? Did the heckler leave the venue after he got the volume turned up on his antics? Gentle readers, just remember one thing the next time you go to a Strong Killings concert….


(Cue “Too Cool.”)

To read the rest of Phil’s live music stand-outs and disappointments from 2011

“Who Are You Boning For Your Success?” (Worst “Live” Music Award)

Even great bands have terrible shows. I always consider this before I give out prestigious accolades such as this one to unsuspecting performers of the musical persuasion. This one was a tough one. It came down to the Maldives at Doe Bay (rough outing for a normally exceptional live act) and The Young Evils at Sasquatch (I imagine they are boring everywhere, all the time. I’m not one to make assumptions). The Flaming Lips’ set at Sasquatch almost won this outright but hoarse vocals by the Wayne “The Wizard” Coyne didn’t ruin the spectacle of Oz.

The Young Evils at Sasquatch ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

Your Winner: The Young Evils

A woman was knitting in the media area while the Young Evils played. When the Young Evils began their set, they were playing to a half-eaten order of nachos, three empty bags of chips, an empty $9 beer and some marijuana seeds that were strewn upon the ground. Sure, their time slot was early as hell and the crowds did come after a few songs. What The Young Evils didn’t know was that there were invisible storm troopers, that had firearms that could not be detected by the human eye, held to the heads of all these kids that were dressed as fake natives. I’ve seen this band a few times. It’s weird that people with such personality produce music that doesn’t reflect that.

Pete Townshend Award For Six String Bravery and Excellence

Seattle is a city that’s ripe with decent good great musicians and the position of “Guitar Player” is no exception. While I still contend that the best guitarist this city has ever been associated with has a statue on Broadway, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who “slay” in the modern day Seattle music scene. I’m going to do the honorable thing and not make up an inane top ten lists of guitarists because that’s plain stupid. I’m my world (just like the realm of Highlander), there is only one person who I can think of who deserves this award….

Dog Shredder ::: photo by Abbey Simmons

Your Winner: Josh Holland of Dog Shredder

If musicianship were a role-playing game dominated by dice, Mr. Holland would be a black paladin at a level that your feeble mind can not comprehend. He’d be the leader of your party, killing monsters that your tongue could not name while you cowered in the corner, hiding behind a sword bigger that is bigger than your body.

Most Memorable Concert of 2011

This award could have been given to a few reckless nights (ones that I’m too lazy to name, 1500 words into this post) that I took part in. On the other hand, this award might have been given to one of the eventful concerts that I missed for whatever reason. However, this is a personal list. Out of all the concerts I attended, none of them were as serene and unequivocally awesome as….

Your Winner: Lesbian and Portland Cello Project at the Sorrento Hotel

“Chamber vs. Chamber,” “Night School Concert Series,” or whatever you want to call it. It was a pleasant evening consisting of two extremes coming together to make what was already quite beautiful, even more so. Imagine eating a sandwich that was two slices of wheat bread, a free house makeover courtesy of Design Sponge and two tickets to “GRAVEDIGGER — THE MONSTER TRUCK MUSICAL” Hosted by Mark Baumgarten and Hannah Levin. It was absolutely splendid.

Freddie Mercury Award For Awesome Frontman Antics

I kind of wanted to give it to the dude from Spurm for his brillance during the Capitol Hill Block Party. You could give this award to Robyn any time she leaves her house and goes to get a cup of coffee. However, if you were at Sasquatch, you know who deserves this award.

Your Winner: Nic Offer from !!!

Is there anything this guy did not do during !!!’s performance? He was all over the place. I think if you’re not playing an instrument and you sing in a band, IT SHOULD BE MANDATORY that you act like a goof amongst audience members. MANDATORY.

Mark Twain’s “Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated” Live Performance Award

Foo Fighters ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Your Winner(s): Mudhoney and Foo Fighters

Mudhoney made my pre-teenage dreams come true. You people from Seattle will never truly understand how much their performance blew my mind. Let me reiterate my everlasting love for Mudhoney. Literally, after night, I’d play air guitar to their self-titled album or Superfuzz Bigmuff + Early Singles while in the shower when I was kid. EVERY. FUCKING. NIGHT. To see Mark Arm and Company getting after it like golden gods left a tremendous impression in mind. I’ll never forget it.

On the other hand, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Foo Fighters since 1997. The Colour and the Shape was the last Foo Fighters album I owned. Once I heard about William Goldsmith Pat Smear getting kicked out of the band, I knew Dave Grohl was operating with a Kremlin-like stronghold around the throat his musical enterprise. Needless to say, the band suffered in Pat Smear’s absence. All of Dave Grohl’s cronie guitarist stand-ins have been garbage (it reminds me Weezer’s bass player problems sans teenage pregnancy bit). The music of the Foo Fighters became very pedestrian for more than a decade, until the re-emergence of the gloved wonder (Pat Smear). Now that Mr. Smear is back in the band, they’ve released a record that I wouldn’t be ashamed to listen to in my car while I’m waiting for a friend who wanted to stop in 7-11 real quick. Little Debbie snack attack.

“You’ve Been Hit By A Smooth Criminal” Award for Album-esque Live Performance

Your Winner(s): Hall & Oates

Going to see a concert in Key Arena is an experience that leaves much to be desired. Seeing Hall and Oates at Key Arena? It’s like arriving at the gates of paradise, complete with all the “baggage” you accumulated during your mortal life (Don’t worry, no baggage fees!). Instead of waiting in-line for your turn to enter like the rest of the proletariat, you’re carried on the shoulders of strongmen, like some forgotten Hollywood starlet. You get the Pharoah’s treatment at the expense of the Pharoah (Literally, King Tut is waiting in line behind you. Whoever said the good die young lied.). Inside the gates of your own version of paradise, everything goes the way you want it to. There’s only one catch, every night during happy hour, Hall and Oates play their tunes and host an open mic for all the deceased talent within close proximity. Those who fail to attend for an entire “week” (in paradise, what is time?) will be sent back to earth in the form of of an unwrapped Pampers bundle pack at Walmart. You deserve to be punished (ie. shat on by infants) for ignoring the greatness that is Hall and Oates.

“My Mind Is Melting And I’m Not On [That Many] Drugs!” Debut Live Performance Award

I was thinking of giving this prestigious award to Capsule or Owen Hart (Earth Control) when I saw them both at the Black Lodge. I don’t think that happened on the same night but maybe it did? I can’t remember. Then I was thinking about giving it to The Builders and The Butchers for their spirited performances at Doe Bay. In the end, I decided that none of the above were quite as worthy as….

Fly Moon Royalty ::: photo by Josh Lovseth

Your Winner: Fly Moon Royalty

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire they were great in the Yoga Studio at Doe Bay. I was at the edge of the stage and I was completely out of my head, losing my mind to the music of Fly Moon Royalty. The keys, the beats, the vocals had me completely floored and enthralled simultaneously. I was pressed up against the front of the stage. The dancing surge was so strong behind me that I had to keep placing my right hand on the ground to keep from falling over. Hell, Fly Moon was so good that an unnamed KEXP DJ was inspired to faux striptease on the stage *twiddles thumbs*.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to name any names. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking off your clothes to this duo. If you need a place to get naked at, e-mail me privately with your measurements and a picture. Maybe we can work something out.

Best Advice Given During A Live Set

Your winner(s): Femi Kuti and Best Coast

Femi Kuti told male concert-goers at Neumos that if they aren’t ready for that jelly (my hip kids, you know what I mean), then you need to do the following:

a) Fess up and admit it. b) Pull out and get your mind right. c) Come up with another plan of attack in the meantime or just to pass the time.

Not only does he do tireless work on behalf of Amnesty International, he is the next Dan Savage.

Best Coast: “My lifestyle determines my death-style.”

That statement could mean a million things or nothing at all. The best kind of advice is the cryptic kind.

The “Sweep the Leg Johnny” Award

This award goes to the musical act that I began the year hating, then out of nowhere end up as one of my favorite bands of the year. If you’ve read this blog at all, then this should come as no surpise. There was a time in which I did all my grocery shopping while listening to this band. I eat enough for a family of six, so I was kicking out the jams pretty often to say the least….

Your Winner: Warpaint

Saw them at Neumos and I left. Saw them again at Bumbershoot and I wanted it to last forever. There were many people yelling out, “I love you!” to the band during their performance. I wasn’t one of them, but I should have been.

“Yeah Girl! This Is My Song! Tell the DJ to Turn It Up!” Award for a Live Venue

Diverse bands? Check. Can you afford it? Check. Good shows no matter what day of the week it is? Check. All your favorite touring bands at your disposal? Check.

Your Winner: Black Lodge


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