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Friday, December 30, 2011

Margaret Welsh's top five favorite shows of 2011: Touring bands edition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 7:26 PM

Editor's note: This weekend we'll be dropping some best-of considerations from CP music scribes. Here's some commentary on notable live shows from listings editor and Family Circus enthusiast Margaret Welsh!

1. Earth, June 18, Braddock Carnegie Library Theater

Between the all-female Assembly of Light Choir (on tour with sludgy duo the Body), spooky loopstress O Paon, and the current lineup of Earth, of which Dylan Carlson is the only dude, this was a night of great lady performances. Earth is slow, either wonderfully or painfully so, depending on who you ask. I, for one, didn’t much appreciate their slowness before seeing drummer Adrienne Davies in person, serving as the band’s measured heartbeat and hypnotic conductor. Carlson, all in black, resembled both Johnny Cash and the devil, and his sparsely constructed western doom riffs seemed to bathe the room in both good and evil (or, more fittingly, Darkness and Light). I’d speculate that this is what church services are like in purgatory (not least of all because, all together, this show went on for roughly five hours) but I doubt parishioners in purgatory are able to achive such levels of blissed-outedness.

2.Mumford’s, July 20, Howlers

After hearing this Iowa band’s somewhat regrettable name (I’m guessing they had it before Mumford and Sons hit it big), and seeing several of their seven members assembling various horns, I’ll never know what compelled me to stay for their set. Combining frantic ska, rap, Red Hot Chili Peppers-style funk-rock, and ex-Catholic angst, Mumford’s should, by all logic, be terrible. And yet, somehow, they were riveting. From the first few bars of their first song, my face remained plastered with a huge, confused grin.

This was almost entirely because of front man Nate Logsdon, who is built like a young Scott Hamilton and dresses in sweatpants, for maximum mobility. When he wasn’t playing trumpet and/or performed synchronized dance moves with the bass player, he let loose jam-packed lyrical tirades that make “Hard to Be a Saint in the City” look spare. The guy never stopped moving, and never seemed to stop for a breath, even after falling with the grace of a gymnast off of a rickety bar stool and into the minimal crowd. Amazingly, without having listened to them since, I still get a couple of their songs stuck in my head from time to time.


3. Devo, June 17, Stage AE

Many were perplexed by the large number of free tickets available for this show, and the cynical among us, who don’t value anything we get for free, braced for an awkward nostalgia act. Devo, however, did not disappoint. Old hits were played with due fervor and energy, as were the few songs they played from 2010’s Something For Everybody. There were costume changes, and political jokes and bouncy balls. Booji Boy made an appearance and everyone, it seemed — little kids, old punks, the super fans and the people who barely knew who Devo were — danced and laughed and had a great time.

4. Bill Callahan, July 8, Carnegie Museum of Art Sculpture Garden

The peaceful and secluded sculpture garden, the breezy summer weather, Mr. Callahan’s light blue seersucker suit, the slowly setting sun, the enthusiastic fan who stood up, stretching his arms up along with the lyrics, “You won’t get hurt if you just keep your hands up,”: there really was a whole lot to like about this show. Callahan’s set list included treats from the old Smog catalogue, as well as plenty from his latest record, Apocalypse, and he delivered each song with the gentlemanly elegance and class of a Grand Ol Opry star. Is it any wonder that all the indie-rock starlets fall in love with him?

5. Inquisition, December 15, Kopec’s

Love letters to Kopec’s, I could write a dozen of ‘em. And Dagon, one half the thrashy black metal duo Inquisition — and possibly the most gracious and friendly man to ever wear corpse paint — seems to agree. He was effusively grateful for the chance to play the tiny, living room - esque venue, the sort of underground place, he said, that Inquisition played in their early days. Following crushing and highly entertaining sets by Abysme and Brock Samson, respectively, Dagon opened with an invitation, as metalheads crowded around him: "Even if you don’t like black metal or anything to do with Satan, enjoy the music!"

Dagon founded the band in ‘88, recruiting the drummer, Incubus, in ’96, and the two still perform like true believers. Black metal is not a genre known for its warmth, but Inquisition sounded amazingly rich — at times even teetering on the edge of a weirdly danceable bluesy groove — and Dagon’s robotic Popeye vocals were sharp and creepy and hilarious and totally awesome.

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