Mary J. Blige, Reliant Stadium (RodeoHouston), March: Exquisite.
Beach House, Walter's on Washington, April: Can't hate on this one either. Magical.
Wu-Tang Clan, Numbers, December: Against all odds, they brought the motherfuckin' ruckus.
Pavement, Central Park Summerstage, New York: While we Pavement devotees bought our Central Park tickets (literally) a year in advance, most of 2010 was spent anticipating what we were led to believe would be one of the band's first shows after their decade-long hiatus. I first caught their Pitchfork Festival performance in Chicago, but it didn't compare to the NYC show, as it took place in atmospheric Central Park on a crisp autumn evening. The band seemed more unified, better rehearsed, and less characteristically apathetic.
Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield, Mercury Lounge, New York: As I maneuvered my way into the tiny sweltering Mercury Lounge, to catch the rare performance of who I consider the King & Queen of 90s alt-rock, the spirit of 1993 was revived, and Dando and Hatfield--their ambiguous, mysterious, visibly intimate relationship--were resurrected, celebrated. The duo alternated songs, delivering duets including "Paid to Smile," "Drug Buddy," and a welcome Teenage Fanclub cover ("Cells"). The best part of the show was the crowd--there wasn't a soul there who wasn't a diehard Lemonheads fan, and that's OK by me.
Titus Andronicus, Pitchfork Festival, Chicago: What closed the deal on this band for me was their performance at this year's Pitchfork Festival in Chicago. They were a mid-afternoon revelry to the fest's hottest day, throwing hefty doses of gritty, unapologetic punk-rock in our sweaty faces. Front man Patrick Stickles paired the band's explosive anthems with hilarious between-song banter, sustaining our interest during the otherwise sleepy afternoon.
Free Press Summer Fest, Eleanor Tinsley Park, June: Duh. There was nothing comparable to experiencing the thrill of the entire weekend, culminated by watching Wayne Coyne roll around the crowd with the Houston skyline serving as a backdrop.
Warpaint/Buxton, Walter's on Washington, February: Technically, this bill was headlined by Akron/Family. It was one of those magical moments in Buxton history - an important show for the locals, who were on a mission to impress some folks from New West. And impress they did, rolling out their new material to the delight of the crowd. Warpaint stole this show, turning Akron/Family into a mere afterthought. The California female foursome brought an impressive array of songs that had a serious groove, and led to myself spinning their debut EP on repeat for hours. It began what has become a quite amiable relationship between the band and our city - something that's been rather delightful to witness.
The Appleseed Cast, Rudyard's, February: This show was a full-on geek out session, as the noted post-rock band was playing their epic two-volume Low Level Owl albums in their entirety. After a middling opening set by Dreamend, The Appleseed Cast took the stage and plowed through Vol. I before taking a ten-minute beer/piss break, and then rolled right through Vol. II. It was two hours of swirling, soaring guitars building and crashing upon excellent and artful drums. My Rocks Off/Prairie Cadets comrade Adam P. Newton and I spent the entire time blissfully bouncing along while gazing at our shoes.
John Seaborn Gray:
Frightened Rabbit, Walter's on Washington, October: The way they bonded with the audience was nothing short of incredible, and the set list they played was absolutely perfect with no filler and no crucial songs omitted.
Lady Gaga, Toyota Center, July: Lady Gaga was my summer obsession. OK, a 2010 obsession. I began the year hating her and not getting it, but by mid-year I was a full-fledged little monster. Maybe it was the copious amounts of blood in her stage show, the Marilyn Manson-type imagery, or the Prince-like keyboards that sold me. There was something about hearing Mama Monster scream that made me feel all hot and sweaty too.
Ted Nugent, Pasadena Fairgrounds, July: It was at once a classic rock hootenanny and a venomous Tea Party rally, complete with fire, guns, Obama Hate, and a healthy dose of Nugent classics. Sure I was offended by some of his stage banter, but I still bought a shirt. Entertainment trumped all the hand-wringing.
The Dead Weather, House of Blues, May: I didn't know what was sexier, Alison Mosshart or Jack White that Saturday night in May. As far as White bands go, this is probably the best he will do away from the Stripes. The band's cover of Them's "You Just Can't Win" was one of the most brutally amazing moments this year for me, musically.
Jef With One F:
Unfortunately, I spent most nights this year at home watching the Pajaminals in a desperate attempt to get a toddler to fall asleep. So concerts were really not on the menu. I did manage to make it out to most of the good goth shows, though. First and foremost on that list was catching VNV Nation.
The band, like many of great goth acts, is rediscovering exactly how much fun a show in Houston can be. Add that to the fact that I spent an hour backstage with the guys while two incredible local artists, Bret and Rachel Harmeyer, did Ronan and Mark's portraits, and you end up with the only time thus far that I have felt like I was actually living out the Almost Famous life.
It was also a treat to meet our newest spooky pop princess La Catrin, and get to watch her marry the audience at Etro in a small concert. The former Heist at Hand singer is really carving a niche for herself as the half-Lohan, half-Siouxsie poster child for the Hot Topic generation, and it was great to be able to witness the genesis of it.
One of the greatest concerts in Houston we got to see by proxy. Faith and the Muse decided Numbers would be the best place to film a live DVD, and Marc Moorash of Seraphemera did such an exquisite job doing so that I felt like I was actually there. Except of course I smelled 90% less like urine than I would have if I'd actually been to Numbers.
KISS, The Woodlands, September: Need we say more? The hottest band in the world may not have changed their repertoire or performance very much over the past few decades, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Free Press Summer Fest, Eleanor Tinsley Park, June: Even Girl Talk couldn't ruin it for us. To see so many people gather in Eleanor Tinsley Park to support local and national music was awe inspiring.
The Last Place You Look, Warehouse Live, December: These boys always put on a solid show, but their Christmas show was especially fun. To hear a rock and roll rendition of Ring Christmas Bells as a finale was too much fun, and their rendition of Do You Hear What I Hear, a la A Perfect Circle's eMotive, was bone chillingly good. We can't wait to hear it again next year.
Hands down, the best show that I went to was the Jay-Z show, which is a little weird because Trey Songz opened for him and he's easily the worst, most disappointing live show guy I've ever seen. Have you ever lost your wallet before? It's the worst feeling in the world. Watching Trey Songz in concert is like losing your wallet for 45 minutes straight. Plus, you have to worry about that wallet trying to sleep with your girlfirend after the show.
Young Jeezy's show at Arena Theater was a lot of fun too. He is excellent live. And J-Dawg, who was one of the opening acts, was absolutely murderous live. He was so, so good.
Oh, and Lupe Fiasco belongs in there too. He was so bananas live, at House of Blues. I wasn't a big Lupe guy until I saw him live. He was so much fun. I never wanted to know all of the words to an artist's songs as much as I did that night at that show.
Easy. Lady Gaga, who is probably the biggest stage show I've ever seen. She even rivaled Cher. And I love her message of acceptance and ars gratia artis. Dave Wakeling as The English Beat was pretty cool, because with a revival act like that, you never know how the show will turn out. I went in with the lowest of expectations and was completely blown away by how much fun it was and how great his voice sounds after all those years.
Same thing with Dick Dale and Booker T, who could eat crackers in my bed any day. Biggest revelations for me was going to my first Jimmy Buffett show, Say what you want about Margaritaville,"" but the man's early work is so charming and his fans - even the ones who'd been drinking/tailgating all day - were some of the most laid-back, friendliest concertgoers I've seen in years. It's impossible not to like the guy. I know that's more than three.
God, is it obvious that I hate all modern music?
William Michael Smith:
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Under the Volcano is right around the corner from my humble abode, which means no parking issues, no drunk driving (although there is occasionally inebriated walking involved), a generally music-oriented crowd, seldom a cover charge, early 8 p.m. start and 10 p.m. finish times for a work night, so we tend to see most of the Wednesday shows there unless we're on assignment elsewhere or out of town.
Not only are there those pluses for us, it doesn't hurt that the club has a great knack for snaring national and regional acts on off nights. Since we've already listed our favorite Houston shows of the year, here are some memorable ones from a year of Under the Volcano Wednesdays that we didn't include in our other list.
- Chuck Prophet: Like the Rolling Stones playing your living room. Don't be whining about "the music scene" if you missed this one.
- Anne McCue: We weren't really sure how McCue would play here, and we were wondering if her live show would match up with her excellent album. She rocked it hard. Very hard indeed.
- Damon Bramblett: It was great to see Damon playing in Houston again. A savvy, gifted writer, picker, and singer, a few years back we thought he might be one of the few to claw his way out of Austin and on to the country music mainstream without watering himself down.
After shelving his career for a few years, it was great to see him back on the boards, doing what he seems to have been called to do. Find us anyone else who sneaks in a cover of Fred Neil's "Sugaree" and absolutely owns it.