Sam’s Favorite Shows of 2013
It’s been a crazy year of reunions, breakthroughs and masterpieces, and that means the number of bands hitting the road has been astronomical. From old bucket-listers to new surprises, these shows are the ones I’ll be recounting with disbelief and arm gestures for years to come.
Samothrace – This Seattle four-piece was the group that finally cracked metal for me, and their set at the now defunct Aqualung’s was a transporting exercise in build and release. Their set consisted of three 15-minute songs, each a mini-opera of gorgeous, shimmering guitar plucking and destructive, agonizing drones, with Bryan Spinks’ vocals tearing a guttural hole through the roof of the garage.
William Tyler – William Tyler’s live experience is immersed in storytelling, from his emotive, pastoral fingerpicking pieces to the helplessly ironic anecdotes he recounts between songs. By themselves, the songs already convey enough feeling to project whatever story the listener might want over them, but understanding Tyler’s ancient, curious mindset adds an extra dimension to why his songs seem so surprising, yet familiar.
Califone – Full disclosure, Califone is one of my all time favorite bands and this show took place in the house I grew up in, so it’s already impossible for this to be the kind of show I’ll forget anytime soon. But the manner in which Tim Rutili and his touring mate crafted his songs out of a modest set up of pedals, busted down guitars, keyboards and e-bows made for a surprisingly full sounding “acoustic” show, as precious and weary as the group has ever sounded.
My Bloody Valentine – It’s hard to go into an MBV concert without massive expectations regarding their notorious live show, but their appearance at the Ogden was about as close to perfect as a show can be for a fan of the band’s work. The volume was as punishing as promised without crossing into unbearable territory, the setlist was packed with essentials as well as forgotten early gems, and the backing visuals were stunning to behold. The 10-minutes of feedback that closed out the show may have been appalling to the uninitiated, but for the vast majority of the audience who’s been begging for an MBV reunion for years, it was just what the doctor ordered.
Animal Collective – This particular show was about 9 months in the making as their spring tour got rescheduled, and it being my first time seeing them I had no idea what to expect (I’ve heard completely mixed things from various trusted sources regarding their live show). But from the moment “What Would I Want? Sky” kicked in, Animal delivered a frenzied, groovy set that was loaded with old favorites and bursting with energy. The band even overcame technical difficulties with grace, building every sound from scratch and jamming them out to their greatest potential.
Boris – Rarely has a band felt as realized at a show as Boris did at the Bluebird earlier this summer. The Japanese noise lords typically play their potpourri of doom-drone-punk to much smaller audiences to it was refreshing to see their music take on such a massive form, and their rendition of their classic album “Flood” (played in its entirety) was nothing short of spiritual. Also, easily the most fog I’ve ever seen deployed at a show.
Thundercat – Stephen Bruner’s supremely stoned blend of jazz, hip-hop, and old school R&B came to life at the Cervantes, coming about as close to a straight jazz-fusion show as seemingly possible while still inhabiting Bruner’s cosmic world. His trio included a drummer and a keyboardist who both added a fair dose of unhinged improvisation, while Bruner’s 6-string bass shredding was a force that conveyed sentimentality, fury, romance, and whatever other impulses the L.A. native might’ve been toying with.
Destruction Unit – There are few things as potentially cataclysmic as a well-executed triple guitar attack, and this five-piece from Arizona’s set at Lion’s Lair was a brutal marathon of riffage and distortion. In between guitar solos, leader Ryan Rousseau would find every possible part of the ceiling to hang from, while the other four members’ pummeling mix of classic psych rock and hardcore punk made for a wonderfully dissonant storm.