For our last list of 2012, we highlight some of the best live performances we had the pleasure to see and hear. Even though choosing from a whole year of shows is like choosing your favorite child, some of us managed to narrow them down to a handful.
Having moved back to Memphis a little over a year ago after a stint in Asheville, North Carolina, I’m constantly amazed at HOW MUCH BETTER the shows are here. It became evident to me a few years back after following King Khan and the Shrines from Asheville to Nashville to Memphis, with the show in Asheville being cold and lackluster due to a shitty venue and a lifeless crowd, the show in Nashville being alright, and the show in Memphis being specfuckingtacular, gritty, sweaty, and totally out of control. That was when the seeds of doubt about Asheville being my “home” started to plant themselves in my mind, and not long after our relocation was in full swing. This year I saw lots of great shows, but here are a few that stand out in mind.
The Flaming Lips at Handy Park – Memphis, TN. This was especially fun because they were breaking the record in the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Live Concerts in 24 Hours, with the kick-off starting in Memphis on Beale Street. It was a weird show during the day in the middle of the week, and directly in the sun on a Delta summer day that felt like 110 degrees, but the Flaming Lips gave it their all, complete with Coyne’s usual antics involving fur suits and giant hamster balls that roll over the crowd. There were confetti cannons, costumed dancers, and it was an incredibly sweaty fun time, all which was broadcast live to document them breaking the world record. What a crazy thingto be a part of!
Gonerfest 9: Party Bat and Nobunny
As always, Gonerfest was amazing. There’s so many amazing bands it’s obviously hard to pick favorites, but Party Bat was a riot with trashbag cape, beer helmet wearing masked bandmembers that shredded all over that little stage at Murphys. They were the first band I saw that day, and it was a great way to kick things off. My other GF9 pick is Nobunny, who always seem to whip the crowd up into an amazingly perfect frenzy of sing-alongs, beer showers, and nude asses.
I was also lucky enough to see Swedish hardcore legends Refused in Atlanta on their reunion tour this summer. I got bashed in the face within the first second of that one starting, and it was an intense, emotional show the whole ride through, with some of the the band members collapsing and sobbing during the last song. I couldn’t hear and had painfully ringing ears for at least a week after, so if you see me with earplugs at a show now, blame it on them!
When Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat played the Hi-Tone with Sharp Balloons and John Wesley Coleman III on Dec. 2, I cut loose and ended up contributing toward a communal dance catharsis, jumping around making friends and acting the fool so much that by the time Quintron entered the crowd to mix it up during the encore, he was walking right up to me with the microphone in his hands to feature me in this episode of Mr. Quintron! I wanted to tell him it was the closest to being asked to play the Grand Prize Game on Bozo’s show that I’d ever gotten, and the whole time I felt like a little kid. I wanted to say, “We’re on WGN! We’re on WGN, Daddy!” So ya know what? That’s exactly what I yelled into the microphone! Quintron nodded with approval: “Dja hear that folks? Turn around and wave at the camera back there! [the fans complied]. We’re on television.”
I had been late to Sharp Balloons but I caught all of John Wesley Coleman III’s show — and that performance got things goin’ real good if ya know what I mean. I asked JWCIII if he was going to play some guitar solos and he looked at me not like I was an idiot, but as if I might be a troll. He just said, “Sure, man.” I wasn’t being a troll; I wanted the goods and his new band delivered! I could be wrong but I think it was Julia Hungerford on drums, Geena Spigarelli on bass and Yamal Saiid on guitar and keys backing up Jay Dub C-3. Jay Dub isn’t afraid to bring the reggae with tons of Neil Young fuzz leads on top. LOVED it, diary. LOVED ITTTT! I was also glad to hear the song “Ooh basketball.” Its lyrics are “Ooh basketball. / I want to play!” That one hit home with me because I love basketball. The whole band was so nice, and Brandi Rinks was there. She got a pic of me with them all sans Yamal:
Julia, JWCIII, Geena, Daniel
After the show I asked John Wesley Coleman III if he was named after the founder of the Methodist denomination of protestant Christianity, John Wesley. John Wesley Coleman III then told me a little secret. “Of course I’m named after him – most people named ‘John Wesley’ are,” he told me. “Though I’m only partly named after him, because that’s not my real name. My real name is John Wesley Harding Coleman. My dad and his dad didn’t have the Harding in their names, but my parents are old folkies and they named me after the Bob Dylan album as well as the founder of Methodism.” I asked, “So are you rejecting the name your parents tried to give you?” He said, “No, not at all. I think it’s great, but it’s just so long I don’t think it’s a good idea to use it to market myself as a musician. I felt like something had to go, and I didn’t want to drop Coleman, because I am a Coleman, and I didn’t want people to think I was trying to be the character from that Dylan song or album, or that I was some kind of Dylan tribute act. “I used to be a Dylan tribute, but now I’m almost all original.” We asked him if he really used to be a Bob Dylan cover band. He said, “Yes, that’s true. We did a tour with The Schwag called the ‘After the Flood’ tour — get it?” He went on: “But the tour took place in 2006 after Katrina, by sheer coincidence, and people asked us which hurricane relief charity we were donating all our proceeds to, and I felt really bad because we were just trying to get gas money at the time. So we ended up giving all our money away to a shelter just out of guilt, and that was the costliest tour, or, for that matter, the costliest musical project I’ve ever participated in, so I stopped doing Dylan then.” Later that night, in an almost empty Levitt Shell at Overton Park, with the acoustic accompaniment of Star & Micey, Jay Dub C-3 made an exception to that statement, in performing Dylan’s arrangement of “Moonshiner Blues” for some local college students and me. An English major named Tanner had brought a large joint, and he smoked it with us. “Sorry, it’s just schwag,” he said – to which JWCIII deadpanned: “Sometimes ‘just schwag’ is just what the moment needs, especially if it keeps a steady backbeat.” Tanner asked, “You mean like, that Grateful Dead cover band, The Schwag?” JWCIII exhaled: “Yep.”
My live music highlight for 2012 would also be considered my LIFETIME highlight, as I finally got to see something I’ve been waiting nearly my whole life to see: the elusive Mike Nesmith, performing alongside two of the three other Monkees during the “Evening with the Monkees” tour. It only included 12 cities, and I was fortunate enough to catch it in both Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, New York. The Monkees focused on material rarely (if ever!) featured in their live shows before, with special attention given to the Headquarters album and the soundtrack to their movie “Head.” Life-changing, breath-taking, and something I will never forget!
Honorable mentions include Gary Wrong (ex-Wizzard Sleeve) at Horrible Fest 7 in Cleveland back in May, who were joined on stage by a certain Mr. Quintron for their set. Another highlight was finally getting to see the legendary Chuck Berry at a show put on by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to honor the 86-year old musician. The evening included over a dozen performers such as Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and David Johansen of the New York Dolls, covering Chuck Berry songs. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Lemmy singing “Let it Rock.” At the end of the night, Mr. Berry himself came out on stage to perform two of his signature songs, “Reelin and Rockin” and “Johnny B. Goode.” Although it was bittersweet seeing the aging musician struggling to remember lyrics and musical cues, I can cross a bucket list item off now that I got to see him duck walk not once, but twice. How many 86-year-olds do you know that get to hang out with Lemmy and can still duck walk across the stage? Hail, hail Chuck Berry.
This was a great year. While reviewing the shows I attended, I realize I drove about as many miles going to and from these shows in 2012 as I drive in my daily work commute in half a year! Wowza.
Useless Eaters/White Fence/Ty Segall
White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR – May 23, 2012
This lineup was the best head start to that sweet summer season of sweaty shows in the South, and totally worth the excessive beer stains and the following workday brain pain. I left having to shout in order to hear myself and smelling just as one would expect after a muggy night in a jam packed dive. The only downside to any of this was losing two rolls of film to some negligence at my one hour photo, but at least I have some from the beginning of the night. This just means they’ll have to come back to Little Rock and play this show all over again for me, right?
Night Beats/Black Angels
Sticky’z Rock & Roll Chicken Shack – Little Rock – August 11, 2012
Night Beats played live exactly like they sound on their self-titled release on Trouble in Mind Records, which is just what my ears and hips were craving. I was there more for them as I was the headlining act. Not surprisingly, the Black Angels were powerful as hell, but I gotta admit their excessive sitar solo in their encore dragged on so incredibly long my cohorts and I almost thought they were playing a joke on us. I wish I could have taken their bodacious light shows home in my pocket but instead we just bought sweet Night Beats shirts.
GF9 After Parties
Buccaneer – Memphis, TN – September 2012
I seriously enjoyed every single part of Gonerfest, but some of my favorite moments were spent after the Hi-Tone closed for the night and we crammed into the Bucc for another haphazard round. (Anomalys-Manhunt-Manatees-Cyclops- and various incarnations of alliances.) There is some kind of primitive electricity of rock and roll that keeps you going until near sunrise, elbow-to-elbow and tapping your bruised feet and sweating bourbon and turning your respiratory system into an ashtray and your pulse into reverb, then sleeping like a pile of cave-babies until it’s time to wake up and do it all over again. Those hours in the cavernous confines of strangers and spontaneous setlists and smoke and scrapes are what it’s all about.
Rogue – Fayetteville, AR – October 13, 2012
Glory Bones played the funnest show they’ve ever had ever ever ever. Silly string and stage shenanigans and crazyness galore, and their sound was incredible.
It is really hard to narrow down my favorite concert memory from 2012. There were so many great shows that I was fortunate attend, Gonferst9 was non-stop incredible, finally getting to see “X” live, Tav Falco & His Unapproachable Panther Burns, Ty Segall, Useless Eaters, Night Beats, not to mention countless local bands that really impressed me: The Chads, Shook Yang, Mister Blister, Not on Your Life.
I think my favorite concert experience was a series of shows that happened one weekend between Fayetteville, AR and Tulsa, OK.
The first evening was Thursday, July 19th, The Rich Hands and Doom-Ghost from Denton, TX played with Fayettevilles Messy Sparkles at JR’s Lightbulb Club to roughly 10 people.Though few people came out it was a super fun time.
My wife and I realized that we really didn’t have very many pressing engagements that weekend so we decided to get out of town and see the show the next night in Tulsa. The line-up was Doom-Ghost, The Rich Hands, and Norman, OKs’ The Boom-Bang in a free show at Soundpony Bar. There was an earlier show next door at the Crystal Pistol Saloon, Sealion from Dallas,TX played a set of super tight poppy rock-n-roll with some surf undertones. Next up was The Rich Hands at the Soundpony who jammed a collection of very dynamic, soulful, psyched-out rock-n-roll. The Boom Bang
ended the night with a sweaty, loud, reverb drenched, overload of super catchy, poppy, garage-punk. It was my first time to see them and it left me pretty well blown away. The overall experience of hot summer nights, great people playing great music, and wonderful friends
makes this stand as a fave memory of 2012.
Edie Sedgwick, at JR’s Lightbulb Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Hands down, best night ever. They were so tight and sexy, I couldn’t control my body. I had multiple thoughts about kidnapping. How badly I wanted to shrink them down and keep them in a box in a secret place. I wanted it to never end and was willing to do dangerous things to be sure it didn’t. But it did, and they broke my serial killer heart and now I just regret not taking my chances when I had them. I will daydream forever about that icy guy in his sharp white suit, tearing the air apart and crooning creepy things, with them foxy ladies filling out the rest.