Best of 2011: Top 5 Shows I Saw But Didn’t Bother Writing About At The Time

Much of my 2011 was dedicated to travelling to various locations around the world and seeing as much music as I could.  As a result, I saw a lot of music, and tried to write about as much of it as possible, but of course a number of great shows fell through the cracks for various reasons – laziness, distraction, or simply not knowing what to say at the time.  The end of the year is a perfect time to revisit some of the “ones that got away.”  Now their stories can be told …

Hazel Dickens, March 16, Driskill Room, Austin, TX

Hazel Dickens was one of the performers I was most looking forward to seeing at SXSW simply because I figured it would be my only chance to catch the pioneering bluegrass legend in concert.  This ended up being truer than I’d thought as Dickens passed away just a little over a month after this show, which I believe was her final performance.  While looking a bit frail and older than her 75 years, her voice was still ridiculously powerful and resonant.  I’m definitely glad I got to see this.

Yoko Ono, March 19, Elysium, Austin, TX

Yeah, she’s weird.  Yeah, she can get noisy and the potential for pretentiousness is high.  But here’s the thing: that’s kind of what made this such a great show.  That, and a top notch crew of musicians assembld for her new Plastic Ono Band that included her son Sean (looking a bit goofy in top hat and goatee), Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Mr. Bungle’s Trevor Dunn, and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto fame.  With a group that like backing you up, you can get as out there as you want and it’s still going to sound fantastic.  On top of all that, tUnE-yArDs opened things up with a cover of one of Ono’s songs that sounded pretty good as well.

Swans, May 28, Primavera Sound, Barcelona

Epic, noisy, and a little bit scary, Michael Gira and Co. also bring a strange kind of beauty to their sound as well.  Still don’t have that much to say about this set (to quote the title of the song they opened with, I have “No Words/No Thoughts”) but I felt this show was worth mentioning at the very least.

Tindersticks, June 23, BOZAR, Brussels

Performing as part of the Brussels Film Festival, British band Tindersticks put on a special show made up entirely of the music they’ve composed for the films of French filmmaker Claire Denis.  As they band played a bunch of pieces I was unfamiliar with against a backdrop of scenes from a number of Denis’ films, none of which I has seen or ever really heard of before, I was totally drawn in.  Not only by the music, but by the images, which I attempted in my mind to combine into one weird continuous narrative.  The show got me interested in looking deeper into Denis’ works, but on the other hand, I’m not sure if the fake story I made up in my head isn’t better. 

Mercury Rev, May 29, Primavera Sound, Barcelona 

While Ricky will tell you that Pulp’s set at Primavera Sound was hands down the best show he’s seen in his life, for me, it wasn’t even the best set I saw in Barcelona.  Don’t get me wrong, Pulp was fantastic, but for me, this show was much more compelling.  Sure, I was only going on a couple hours sleep from the night before and has just spent an inordiante amount of time waiting to buy a train ticket that afternoon, but after one last trip to the beach and a stroll through the streets of Barcelona taking in the post-Champions League win reverie, i was ready to tackle the Catskills band’s festival closing set at Poble Espanyol.  And what a show it was.  The band sounded amazing and frontman Jonathan Donahue was a sight to behold onstage, progressively getting more drunk on a bottle of wine throughout the set and making pretty much every second of the set a photo op with his dramatic, grandiose gestures.  It’s a shame my camera’s batteries went dead right before I arrived.

So there you have it. 2011 was a pretty good year for live music. 2012, you’ve got a lot to live up to. Don’t let me down.

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Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Year End Reviews

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