Top Five: Shows of 2017

I went to a shit ton of shows last year.  Because I’m a soon-to-be-graduated graduate student with teaching and course pressure, I unfortunately lacked the drive and, well, simple energy to write out reviews.  The passion just wasn’t there.  I got…myself to feed, damnit!  Now it’s back. So, sorry, but not sorry.

Okay, time for a more coherent lead.  I attended and indulged mostly metal shows last year with the exception of Loufest (a trust fund Coachella clone) a couple indie rock/electronic shows, a post-punk show — speaking of which, we probably should’ve warned Ian McCulloch of notorious, trash smelling St. Louis summers — and started off 2018 with the radical punk extravaganza, Propogandhi.  Fuck the border!

Have a taste of my experiences and enjoy your vicarious skimming because here is a list of my top five shows (in no specific order). Oh, and disclaimer — I guess — I’m employing full bias, because people apparently care about that shit.

Gojira

These guys tour.  A lot.  I saw them twice last year, once at Indianapolis’ Egyptian Room with Opeth and the Devin Townsend Project, the second at Pops, supported by Code Orange (meh) and Torche (cool stoner dudes).  Unfortunately, I was unable to jump into the Indy pit.  Not to mention I was the only person headbanging.  That was just a generally unfortunate experience (I’ll get into why during the Devin Townsend Project fanboysturbation).  The Pops show, on the other hand…Let’s just say my ankle still pops and I still find sticky shit in random places.  Yeah, Pops is gross, but perfect for an explosive metal atmosphere.  Wall of Death, circle pit, St. Louis had it going!  What a show.  What an experience.   Also, the post-Code Orange karate was kept to a minimum.  St. Louis metalheads, I salute you.

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Find me this shirt in an XXL.  I need it.  Also, go to a Havok show.

Gorguts

This was my first show at Fubar STL and it certainly won’t be the last.  The beer is cheap, the stage close and intimate, if a little sticky (apparently that’s a trend in St. Louis). If you attend a Fubar show, pay the ten bucks for parking in the lot across the street. The, um, guard(?) is a super nice and friendly guy who knows St. Louis, in and out, and will get you woke.  Back on topic.  The pit was brutal.  And I’ve been in a Slayer pit.  At 270 plus, I was thrown around like MDMA at an EDM festival.  +1,000 points for the analogy/acronym/alliteration combo.  Gorguts played an extensive set, including cuts from The Erosion of Sanity, the avant garde bomb, Obscura, before closing with a full rendition of the 30+ minute epic, Pleiades Dust.  Just…holy shit.  Luc Lemay is so fucking cool.  I’m just going to leave it at that.

Amon Amarth

What do you get when you mix viking-themed melodeath, booze, drinking horns, and…Colombia, Missouri?  Closure.  Wait…wha??  I look at this show as a kind of personal redemption.  My first experience with the bearded Swedes occurred during a particularly hectic semester of graduate school.  At some point, right before “Guardians of Asgard,” I decided to leave early to finish an essay.  Yeah.  The things I will do for an opportunity-spare Masters degree.  Life decision rant aside, let me just say that Amon Amarth live performances are the definition of tastefully excessive showmanship, complete with smoke, giant phallic hammers (yep, went there), fireworks, topping it all off with a horned-helmet drum platform design (pun intended).  Definitely one of the best live metal acts out there.  Raise your horns!

By the way, the Viking horned helmet is a myth.  Jus’ sayin.

 

Devin Townsend Project

As previously stated, I saw DTP twice last year.  I’m gonna rant a little on The Egyptian Room real quick.  To those who scheduled stage times, please start future shows at the scheduled time.  I drove five hours, almost got stuck overnight on the highway due to a horrendous semi/car wreck (yeah, I know, super inconvenienced. My condolences to those involved in the wreck), and showed up at the scheduled DTP showtime.  And, of course, I missed almost the entire show because DTP started almost an hour early.  So yeah, fuck that place.

Ahem, DTP at the Ready Room? Hell yeah.  If Amon Amarth are the masters of tasteful excess, Devin Townsend holds the PhD.  Fuck, I really need to tone down the academic puns.  If I were to summarize the show in two songs, I’d have to say, “Deadhead” and “March of the Poozers.”  “Deadhead” put the crowd into a meditative, emotional trance, while “March of the Poozers” brought out laughter and smiles; that, my friends, is all you need to know.  At one point you will cry, the next roll your eyes as the  comedian/metalhead/singer/guitar virtuoso moves through his extensive, non-genre specific discography.  What else can you expect from the guy who shat in Steve Vai’s guitar case? I guess you could call him…

*puts on glasses

**pauses

…a shit show.

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Explosions in the Sky

There’s something about this band’s sound that stands out from the typical quiet intro –> loud climax postrock standard.  No lyrics.  Completely instrumental.  That’s pretty typical, is it not? But, unlike, let’s say Mogwai or Canadian anarchists, Godspeed You! Black Emperor — who have their groundbreaking postrock foundations, don’t get me wrong — Explosions in the Sky is somewhat accessible.  And by accessible, I mean instantaneously engaging.  I’m not discrediting Godspeed, but ya gotta be in a specific, fuck the world mood to listen to them, ya know?

During their St. Louis stop at the Pageant, Explosions in the Sky thrust listeners through waves of emotive passages, accented and emoted through an impressive light show and charismatic-but-silent stage presence.  Okay, you know what? Stop here.  Go to Youtube.  Type in “Your Hand In Mine.” Now, imagine that shit being played in a concert hall, while you enjoy a couple drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Review: The Rolling Stones – Dallas Texas

The Rolling Stones hit Dallas, Saturday, with a worthy setlist and age-defying performance, continuing their multi-decade tenure as the best live band around.

There isn’t much that could pull me into the not-so-humble abode of the Cowboys.  As an Eagles fan, I would spit on the stadium before even thinking of going inside.  However, as I was visiting Dallas and acquired some last minute tickets for The Rolling Stones…who are the Cowboys again?

Credit:  Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

Yes, Jagger, I’m a Fool to Cry for letting petty football rivalries obscure my judgment.  Okay, so, The Rolling Stones.  I’m what you would call a casual listener of the band.  My music library suffers from a lack of Stones records, instead burdened by two “greatest hits” cash grabs.  40 Licks, I think they’re called? I don’t care enough to look.  To me, if there’s anything worse than reissues, it’s the dreaded “greatest hits,” or even lower, the “acoustic” record.  I’m looking at you, Pain of Salvation!

So, in that regard, I’ll admit that I don’t know as much about the Stones as, say, Radio Rich — right, St. Louis peeps? Yeah, just said peeps — but I at least know the hits by heart.  And that’s all I needed for this show.  The band’s Zip Code Tour is a greatest hits show done right, a complete, powerful performance between the band — which still surprises me — and its backup performers, including a rousing opening set from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. As I want to keep this review under novel length, I won’t go into the openers, but I at least wanted to give them a shout out.  Here’s to you, Grace Potter!

The Stones came out swinging with one of their more recognizable tracks, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I didn’t know what to expect going into this show. I mean, these guys are 70 years old, you know, the time when the vocal chords disintegrate and arthritis kicks in the ol’ wrist.  I must say, however, Mick Jagger is the Hugh Hefner of rock n’ roll.  He even held his own vocally, using just enough echo effect to hide decades of wear and tear. But that’s to be expected, especially during demanding tracks like, “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Can’t Always Get What You Want.”  Age stands as an afterthought to these guys, something to stand in front of than behind, as evident in Keith Richard’s smooth-as-eggs stage presence.  Sure, Captain Jack Sparrow was most likely high as the fucking universe, but his style, the fashion he deconstructed and redefined classic riffs, looked so…easy. He may look like a paper bag, but the man still has his trademark, no nonsense, sex, love, drugs guitar feel.  Adjectives, galore.

Just look at that guy.  How does he even know where the stage is?  Richards and Ronnie Wood — who took on most of the lead phrases — played off each other through the set, occasionally allowing room for improvisation in performances of “Happy,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It), “Gimme Shelter,” and “Brown Sugar.”  The Stones and guitar solos were always hit and miss with me, but when the band delved into jam territory during “Sympathy for the Devil,” I realized just how tight their live performances are.  Utilizing a combination of blues and straight up rock n’ roll feel, the band pushed and pulled with the “woo woos,” throwing down some complex solos courtesy of keyboardist Chuck Leavell and the band’s guitarists.

As predicted, “Gimme Shelter,” stands as the pinnacle of the Stone’s Dallas stop.  As my favorite Rolling Stone’s track, my expectations were sky high to the point that a botched performance would ruin my evening. Lisa Fischer, backup singer extraordinaire, thrust her voice through those expectations and ripped my soul out in the process.  Overall, Dallas’ audience was substandard — what can you expect from a bunch of Cowboy’s fans? — but when Fischer belted out “Shelter[‘s]” iconic midsection, everyone, probably even Jerry Jones, was standing and cheering. What a performance.  Her vocal contribution is a testament to the band’s entire backing staff, from Chuck Leavell’s praised keys, to the horn/sax combo, to Fischer’s backing partner, Bernard Fowler.  Each member added their own unique flavor to the setlist, throwing in some new, musical approaches to help move along the band’s shakier sections, no pun intended.

Anyways, back to “Gimme Shelter.”  We’ll call it the setlist’s energy booster, a precursor to the band’s climactic conclusion in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and then — who’s surprised — “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” The University of Texas – Arlington made an appearance during the former performance and, I must say, I could feel goosebumps on every arm in the stadium.  That’s almost a million arms. Take that into the feels perspective.  Then, Jagger’s voice came in and I couldn’t help but kick back and forget that I had to write this review.

Overall, The Rolling Stones continued to stamp their name in Rock and Roll history, laying down a timeless performance at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. Although the setlist felt a little on the shorter side, the band never looked tired.  Maybe lost, but not tired.  Jokes aside, the production, band performance, backing performance, and Jagger dance moves operated seamlessly, showing that, after 50 years of drugs, sex, and alcohol, The Rolling Stones still have it.

RATING:  5/5

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