Favorite Discs and Shows of 2005: Staff Picks
A number of our editors and regular contributors have given it some thought an delivered these picks from the past year
If 2004 produced a surprising number of really high-quality indie-rock CDs, 2005 happily introduced a number of high-quality indie-rock CDs by jambands. Yes, by jambands. Both Brothers Past ( This Feeling’s Called Goodbye), and the Benevento/Russo Duo ( Best Reason to Buy the Sun) produced excellent albums that transcend the chains of genre-speak. They’re great discs no matter whatcha-might-call-them.
A latecomer, Conspirator’s The Key made a huge impression on me in December. It would be easy, but clearly wrong, to write this off as a Disco Biscuits side-project. All the rules are different on this disc. Jake Cinninger (Umphrey’s McGee) provides some sharp moments, but overall, The Key is an authentic ambient-trance joy ride.
And now for something completely unexpected: Sam Champion made what was perhaps the debut album of 2005 with Slow Rewind. It had the enchanting nonchalance of a Pavement album – yes – but at the end of the day, it was just a collection of extremely catchy songs, man. I know I sang along…perhaps a bit too loudly…at perhaps a bit too many points. My apologies to the neighbors.
The year also saw a number of memorable live archival releases. The Jerry Garcia Estate released a daunting amount of material from the one and only Jerry Garcia, the best of which perhaps is Garcia Plays Dylan.The Pure Jerry series also came up with more hits than misses, topped by the four-disc Merriweather Post Pavilion; September 1 & 2, 1989.
And of course, Live Phish released the legendary Island Tour this year as four individual sets. It was Phish’s most consistent four-night run, ever, and the CDs obviously reflect that.Favorite Live Shows
It’s been a rough year for Trey Anastasio fans, although the man himself may have had a groundbreaking annum in terms of his own mental and physical health, personal growth, and musical inspiration. He may have had to destroy the band that held my universe together, but if he didn’t, the universe would’ve destroyed the man that held the band together.
After Coventry, there was some concern as to how long it would be before Mister Anastasio would…er…could…perform live again. But Coventry, like all deaths, was also a point of inception. Nine months later, 70 Volt Parade was verifiably born into the world. Like all newborns, it didn’t walk right away; and like all infants, it still has a ways to go.
When Anastasio hosted the Super Jam in New Orleans, during Jazz Fest (4/30/05), he used the opportunity, in part, to showcase a beta version of 70 Volt Parade. But the star-studded event slowly unfolded into an emotional communion, through music, of a rich spiritual need. The music had a function. It had a purpose, a meaning, an intention. It couldn’t have happened in any other city in the world, nor during any other festival. So as we be-bopped back from a day at the fairgrounds, and dined on oysters in the French Quarter – a bead toss away from jazz music’s first concert hall – invisible energies were swirling all around. Notions of the womb. Feelings of rebirth. Connections to the past. A ritual cleansing that both purged and promised.
The balcony of the State Theater bounced visibly – dangerously, even – under the weight of dancers while Anastasio used the first set as an introduction to his new project ("What’s done is done," he sang. "It can’t be undone"). He closed the set with an utterly symbolic cover of "I Am The Walrus." It was a transparent message; point taken.
The second set was a slip, stitch and pass that weaved New Orleans’ history ("Hey Pockey Way") with Phish history ("46 Days"); local heritage (Cyril Neville, Sunpie Barnes) with Phish heritage (Dave Grippo, Michael Ray); a superstar (Dave Matthews) with a Phish star (Mike Gordon).
Musically, well, I have the flacs at my disposal and yet, I’ll probably never listen ("Onward ho!). But this was a jamband concert that wasn’t about the moment. And, since most jamband concerts, by definition, should be about The Moment, this one anomaly stands out as a night of rare exception, a one-time only assemblage, a matrix between past, present, and future incarnations of a particular, incredible, musical journey. I rode shotgun the whole way, smiling at every turn, seatbelt off.
As for other great live shows of 2005, the Arcade Fire made my knees weak at Vegoose (October 30; Las Vegas.). They had me at hello; they consummated it with an encore that included Bruce Springsteen’s "State Trooper" followed by their own "Neighborhood #1: Tunnels." Really moving stuff.
Finally: dancing to Hallucinogen’s late-nighter at Camp Bisco was like standing at the base of Mt. Olympus, watching Prometheus steal fire from the gods (Younger Brother fans take note).
The Third Annual Mikey Awards
Another year, another step closer to my inevitable hearing aid. One again I am proud to present my own award-style look back at Mikey-tour 2005.
Best Inverted Adolescence: Brothers Past-This Feeling’s Called Goodbye Finally free from the Disco Biscuit’s shadow, Brothers Past has matured into the jamband of tomorrow: a well-layered indie/hippie hybrid, whose evolution sounds both synthesized and natural. Other nominees: Hallucinogen at Camp Bisco, NY, 8/27; the Disco Biscuits at Starland Ballroom, NJ, 3/24-26; and Lake Trout-Not Them, You
Best Becky: The Duo-Best Reason to Buy the Sun Its impossible to describe 2005 in a single word. But its easy to boil its essence down to a duo: Benevento and Russo. Between gigs with Mike Gordon, underwear sets as Come on Falcon and Metzger-approved Zeppelin covers, The Duo might very well be remembered be the world’s most portable supergroup. But its this disc, and its drinking game worthy signature-track "Becky," which solidified the Duo as an entity unto itself. Other nominees: G.R.A.B at TwiRoPa, LA, 4/30; Come on Falcon at Scenic, NY, 9/8; and Joe Russo and Friends at Tribeca Rock Club, NY, 12/7
Best Phish Supplement: Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon-Sixty Six Steps Mike Gordon’s other duo contains everything an aging Phish head can ask for in life: sweet harmonies, non-social lyrics disguised as verbal math equations and a kick-ass version of "Ya Mar." Other nominees: Phish: The Island Tour; G.R.A.B at Bonnaroo, 6/10; and Dumpstaphunk at BB King Blues Club, NY-8/5
Best Hickster Hoedown: My Morning Jacket-Z
Before it wins the Overplayed Masterpiece award at next year’s Mikey’s, Z is, simply put, a great rock-album packed with a kick-ass Hawaii 5-O sample.
Other nominees: Iron and Wine/Calexico/ Sufjan Stevens at Webster Hall, NY, 12/5; Wilco/MMJ at Agganis Arena, MA, 6/24; and Interpol at Radio City Music Hall, NY, 3/2
Best Jamband Retaliation: Ryan Adams and the Cardinals-Cold Roses If the indie-snobs who ruled my college radio station knew that Ryan Adams made 2005’s best jamband album, they’d likely brand the former Whiskeytown frontman a 21st century Benedict Arnold. But the joke’s on them: Cold Roses is the true heir to American Beauty, pedal steel and all. Indie-rock may have pinched Lake Trout, the Slip and about all of Brooklyn but at least we can call this Heartbreaker our own. Other nominees: Ryan Adams, Jesse Malin and Debbie Harry at Irving Plaza, NY, 9/20, Wilco-Kicking Television and The Slip at Southpaw, NY, 10/8
Best Use of the Jamband Blueprint: ALO-Fly Between Falls
If Fly Between Falls doesn’t rightfully turn ALO into the biggest band in the world it will help a generation of college-kids get laid along the way.
Other nominees: Hot Buttered Rum at Half Moon, NY, 8/9, Umphrey’s McGee at Jam Cruise, 1/9 and Ominous Seapods at Gathering of the Vibes, NY, 8/13
Best Phantasy Flashback: Phish-New Year’s Eve 1995 Its as good as the Pharmer’s Almanac remembers it.
Best Natural Disaster Relief Benefit Concert: moe. w/Trey Anastasio, John Medeski, Sam Bush and friends at Roseland, NY, 2/10 I’m not sure what it says about our time when this category could just as easily find a home at next year’s Grammy. But nights like this prove that music is still about more than beer and veggie burritos. Plus, I finally heard Trey play "Peaches." Other Nominees: From the Big Apple to the Big Easy at Radio City, 9/20, Disco Biscuits at Spirit, 9/13 and Russell Baptiste at Lion’s Den, 12/14
Best Wayne’s World Moment: Flaming Lips at The All Good Festival, 7/16
At the ripe old age of 24, life doesn’t get much better than dancing on stage with the Flaming Lips, on your birthday, to Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody," while dressed as a cartoon character who personifies your own disheveled dance step (Tigger).
Other nominees: Dark Star Orchestra on Cold Turkey at Gathering of the Vibes, 8/13, BIG Summer Classic, 7/21 & 7/24 and New Deal at BB King Blues Club, NY,
Best Organ Donor Rap: Phil Lesh and Friends at Vegoose, 10/29-30 If Phil played this well any night of the week, I’d gladly give him whatever organ he wanted. Other nominees: The Shins at Vegoose, 10/29 ("I don’t know what the meaning of life is, but I am pretty sure the Shins scored its soundtrack"), Bob Weir/Bruce Hornsby at Central Park Summerstage, NY, 9/1 and Phil Lesh/Ryan Adams at the Jammys, 4/26.
1. Illinois – Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty)
2. Kicking Television – Wilco (Nonesuch)
3. Arular – M.I.A. (XL)
4. Elephant Eyelash – Why? (Anticon)
5. Cru – Seu Jorge (Wrasse)Reissue:
Fillmore West 1969 – Grateful Dead (Rhino)Favorite live shows:
1. The Olivia Tremor Control at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 3 August
2. Yo La Tengo with Tortoise at Maxwell’s, 27 December
3. Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden, 1 October
Favorite Live Shows
Perpetual Groove – Jam Cruise 3. They were my new discovery of the year but they seem allergic to playing in the northwest so I haven’t seen them again since.
String Cheese Incident – Horning’s Hideout. The music was good
and the scene was amazing. It reminded me of why I started going to these events in the first place.
Comes a Time – Greek Theatre. This was my first time at the Greek.
It’s a beautiful venue and the tribute was touching.
Sonny Rollins- Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert- The roiling, conflicting sentiments that undoubtedly informed Rollins and his band are palpable in this performance
Tie: The Grateful Dead – Fillmore West 1969: The Complete Recordings
Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders Band Keystone Berkeley: September 1, 1974
My Morning Jacket- Z- Music that manages to feel warm, comfortable and inevitable even as it crackles and bewilders
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall- Worth the wait
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon- Sixty Six Steps This year’s go-to album in any number of contexts
Bubbling under: Benevento Russo Duo- Best Reason To Buy The Sun, Sufjan Stevens- Illinois, New Monsoon The Sound, Budnick Family travel bonus: Tea Leaf Green- Taught To Be Proud
Favorite Live shows
Steel Train, Rose Hill Drive, Signal Path, ALO, Perpetual Groove, Legendary Shack Shakers- Bonnaroo 6/9
With a golf cart at my disposal and a bit of wiggle room (it being Thursday night) I spent that evening charging from stage to stage for a glorious swirl of music
(Stanley Clarke, Bela Fleck & Jean-Luc Ponty) New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Zeiterion Theater 10/12-
A pairing I had long-anticipated in a venue I then-discovered: the best recipe for an evening’s entertainment
Allman Brothers Band, Beacon Theater, NYC 3/18 & 19- I remain a sucker for the Beacon run. When I look back at year’s end to think about my favorite live music experiences, invariably I land at the Beacon Theater. In this case Little Milton, Susan Tedeschi, Ron Hollloway, Kofi Burbridge and Yonrico Scott were on hand as well.
John Patrick Gatta
With a year that gave me the return of Kate Bush and Fionna Apple, young producers pulling something vital out of treasured warhorses (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Neil Diamond) and a slew of other strong, infinitely multi-listenable releases including Sufjan Stevens, Teenage Fanclub, Jon Butler Trio, Madnesss and Garage A Trois, I’ve been requested to make the finally tally for 2005 down to five albums.
—Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning Each song is engrossing and evokes the memories of the first time I heard some of these tunes — Conor Oberst and company mesmerizing a pro-Springsteen crowd at a Vote For Change concert.—LCD Soundsystem LCD Soundsystem Whether it’s just straight up dance or fashioning elements born out of the notes of Brian Eno, Wire and Kraftwerk, this raises my spirits in ways more consistent than my other fav dance act, !!! (chk chk chk). —Beck Guero He’s always had the ability to mash styles together and make them co-exist like one big happy family but Guero did it in a manner that sounded truly inspired and not as if the artist was just putting on A musical mask.
—Robert Plant Mighty Rearranger
The album is the sum of all of Plant’s musical history as a music fan and performer with blues, folk, psychedelic, Middle Eastern and electronic effects coming together as well as Beck’S smoothly produced his work. It’s a Plant that fans expecting nothing more than power blues wails unfortunately can’t get used to, but it’s obvious that’s he’s having a helluva good time.
2005 didn’t allow me as much opportunity to get out as much as I wanted but when I did, I lucked out and enjoyed some very good times along with hundreds or thousands of others in attendance.—Phil Lesh and Friends, Oct. 29, Vegoose, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas. Before a note was played, Lesh exclaimed, "I hope you all brought your dancin’ shoes ‘cause we gonna be wiggin’ it today." And he was right. The nostalgia of Grateful Dead shows in that venue set in but rather than cry, it was a celebration. —BIG Summer Classic with String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, Umphrey’s McGee, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Yonder Mountain String Band and New Monsoon, July 17, Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. A day of great vibes on and off the stage surrounded by the rare amphitheatre that doesn’t look like I’m sitting in the middle of Sea World. See you next year? —Dinosaur Jr., July 19, House of Blues, Cleveland. Even if the trio was promoting little more than the re-issue of its original albums, it’s still strong enough to merit notice. Also, with a sound that unconsciously blended hardcore, heavy metal and Neil Young at his Crazy Horse guitar squalor best, Dino Jr. showed that a bunch of middle age guys can rock harder and with more conviction than scores filling up the charts.
Favorite CDsMy favorite studio album released this year is undoubtedly STS9’s Artifact- such a stunning sonic structure. I listened to multiple times a day for at least a month when it first came out, and it’s stayed in heavy rotation since then. It’s probably the first really great album I can think of in years, the kind of album you don’t want to start unless you’re sure you can finish the whole thing in a single listening.
The best live album is Monk and Coltrane’s At Carnegie Hall, a truly important historical document given to us in pristine quality- it’s worth a listen just for the warmth and depth of sound. Beyond that, the musicianship, the acute attention to detail and interplay shines as something to behold. It’s the sort of recording I know will still be rotation 20 years from now. Some other live releases of note, digital and otherwise, include the GRaB gigs from www.livephish.com, the NOLA relief download from the same source, everything in the Pure Garcia series, Sector 9’s multi-track releases (everything from 2005 at www.sts9music.com), The Band’s box set A Musical History, SKB’s 10/29/05 in Boston from www.dsbd.net, the other Coltrane release One Down, One Up, Phish’s Island Tour and NYE 1995, and Dylan’s Starbuck’s only album, Live at the Gaslight 1962.Favorite Live Shows
My single favorite show from this year is definitely Garaj Mahal’s March 25 gig at the Knitting Factory in NYC. It’s not even the whole show necessarily, but there’s this amazing "Lush Life" (Coltrane) jam, with Fareed giving a slow, stony rap about jazzmen and "listening to sides," into the distinctly Mahalic "Frankly Frankie Ford" into a crazed, back spinning "Tomorrow Never Knows" (always instrumental). I keep coming back to this jam over and over again; it’s so heavy and warm, I must have heard a hundred times since then.
A close second, though, would be Ratdog’s first night at the Garcia Birthday Bash in Terra Alta, West Virginia. Not only was the scene phenomenal (totally chill, all camping within listening distance of the stage, filled with new and old friends), but Weir and crew seemed tapped in as well. The show started with Bobby casually strolling out for a solo acoustic "Blackbird", and you knew it was a special night. The "Crazy Fingers" that closed the first set is mind numbing, and the whole backside of the second set is a darkly fantastic emotional roller coaster- "Uncle John’s Band" > "The Other One" > "Jam" > "Lady with a Fan" > "Terrapin" > "Two Djinn".
There is a whole list of honorable mentions- two nights of Sector 9 at Irving Plaza; moe.‘s benefit show at Roseland; Wayne Shorter at Carnegie Hall; The Dragon Flys’ 45 minute "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" from Mexicali Blues; other Ratdog gigs; a dozen or three groove sessions at Tonic, The Knitting Factory, The Blue Note, or Scenic with members of MMW, Club d’Elf, The Slip, The Duo, Sam Kininger Band, Soulive, Project Logic. The one show I’m sorry I missed was the one night stand of Warren Haynes and Friends at the Bowery Ballroom (2/2)- Schools, Abts, Medeski, and Skerik lay down a ferocious show that is simultaneously magical, and a punch in the gut. It’s the other piece of music from this year that I can’t listening to.
Top 5 CDs:
1. Kings of Leon – Aka Shake Heartbreak
2. Ali Farka Tournd Toumani Diabat In the Heart of the Moon
3. The National – Alligator
4. Ryan Adams – Cold Roses
5. Stephen Malkmus – Face The Truth
reissue: Bob Dylan – No Direction Home, Bootleg Series Vol 7
Top Live Shows:
1. Tom Waits at Radio City Music Hall – Katrina Relief Benefit show 9/20
2. Jeff Tweedy at BMCC Tribeca PAC 11/16-17
3. Olivia Tremor Control at Bowery Ballroom, 8/2
The Mars Volta – Frances The Mute – Satan’s answer to Steely Dan. A VERY electric Latin duo. Pawn anything you own. Follow them everywhere. Listen to everything. Don’t expect answers. Don’t expect clarity. For crissakes, don’t expect sanity. As a matter of taste, don’t expect anything. It is the 21st Century, after all.
Roger Waters – _ Ira_ – Waters has always been the Supreme Segue Master and his ability to weave multiple storylines with many three dimensional characters wedded to a sound that combines Old World opera with modern sound effects is astounding. His surreal conquest of a genre that he had only hinted at before is also quite profound. I’m not sure how he developed such a powerful canvas with colors even I didn’t know existed but, that is a mystery I will leave to those who ponder genius for a living. In an age when rough tracks are recorded in two days, overdubs in a week, mixed in a month, mastered in a day, Waters has created a modern work that feels like it took two centuries to write and record but goes by in a fleeting moment that demands repeated listening and attention to beautiful hopeful detail.
Devandra Banhart – Cripple Crow- When being a bizarre, 1960s artifacty, Haight/Ashbury/Soho beardy, staccato-voiced hippie is better than anything else you could imagine-cosmically witty & subversive lyrics, to boot.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Nothing But the Water – The technicolor images scattered throughout the album give the work a sublime visual texture that seems to float in your mind, echo deep within your chest and slap your ass while you close your eyes and allow the band to play the soundtrack of your dreams. And did someone say "easy on the eyes?" YESH. More, please.Tim O’Brien – Cornbread Nation – He comes from some place that you and I don’t know about but we’ve certainly been there. The tunes float like some mist off a North Carolina pond. He’s one of those cats that play deceptively simple tunes that defy genre and slip past the sands of time. This platter could have been written in the 1920s, 1950s, tomorrow, yesterday? Who knows? The companion piece to the simultaneously released, Fiddler’s Green-both create rich unique sonic experiences that pull you down to earth while lifting you towards the sky.
Reissue – PHISH (all capital letters, man, all CAPITALS) – _New Year’s Eve
1995_- Ten years gone and the band’s relevance like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Dead seems to weather the passage of time quite well. Perhaps, there is a bit of romantic nostalgia when one looks back at how great the band actually was on stage. However, a show like 12/31/95 should dismiss any notion that the band was ever overrated in any sense of the term. Like their aforementioned predecessors, PHISH is a genre upon themselves and we’ve got an entire lifetime to enjoy their incredible back catalog of releases-and, perhaps, a future catalog of live dates that may or may not happen as 2006 dawns. Time will tell. For more information about PHISH, look for that special spark and glimmer in the eye of anyone from the ages of 20 to 45. Or call me. I’ve got your hetty 2/20/93, brah.
Acoustic Syndicate’s final performance at Smilefest – Blair Witch Country, NC – 5/29 -They closed Smilefest with their last gig ever – two hour first set, three hour and fifteen minute second set. No special guests. No delays. No technical fuckups. No crying. No bum notes. No pauses seaching for material. No bullshit. Everything they had ever played or wanted to play or liked to jam on – and some breakouts, as well. The awesome goosebump juggernaut highlight of the weekend was Bob Marley’s "No Woman, No Cry" into The Police’s "So Lonely" back into "No Woman>So Lonely>No Woman>So Lonely>No Woman" into "Flyswatter" followed by a transcendent "Sugaree>Morning Dew." Zeppelin’s "Heartbreaker" was used as a glorious instrumental cruncher. Raw, beautiful music played with total heart by men who wanted to go out being remembered as a GREAT LIVE BAND. And they did.
Trey Anastasio & 70 Volt Parade – Warfield Theatre – Market Street, Frisco – 12/3- For whatever reason, Trey Anastasio came out on stage with something to prove. He certainly didn’t owe me anything other than a solid set of music and he most certainly didn’t need to prove his artistic chops to the naysayers lingering in the crowd or the net. We were lucky on this Saturday evening. The second of a two-night stand at the legendary Warfield yielded yet another version of 70 Volt Parade that was loose, exploratory and full of a hard rock grandeur that seemed to lift Anastasio off the floor.
Jerry Joseph – Solo – Rhythm Room – The Arizona Desert – "My main influences are Steve Earle, Dylan and Elvis Costello," Joseph told me afterwards. My three empty glasses sat nearby. His glass was filled with ice and a liquid I hoped was whiskey. Man’s cool. Hoped he drank the good stuff. Dunno. "I once saw Rage Against The Machine in Glastonbury, England," he continued. "I love that fucking band. Well, Johnny Cash came on after that and it was ‘Rage Who’?"
Favorite CDsIn no particular order:
John Prine – Fair & Square
Alison Krauss & Union Station – Lonely Runs Both Ways
Reissue: Grateful Dead – The Complete Fillmore West 1969 RecordingsFavorite Live Shows
Elvis Costello @ The Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, CO, 3/19 Two perpetual hours containing passionate performances, lay-it-all-down-with-no-bullshit rock & roll and superlative songs, all in a truly impeccable show by Elvis and (most of) the Attractions.Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, CO, 6/16-19 A festival loaded with stellar moments and gorgeous weather, the 33rd annual festival contained these kinds of moments: – Alison Krauss & Bobby McFerrin performing an a capella duet of "Now That I’ve Found You" so stunning that Alison gushed for two minutes onstage after Bobby’s departure. – Yonder Mountain String Band’s 6/18 Nightgrass show with Darol Anger and Noam Pikelny (for the second set) at the gorgeous Sheridan Opera House. Cameos by the g’Earls of Uncle Earl and Bela Fleck in the first set, and an unplanned 35-minute segment with Nickel Creek’s mandolin wunderkind Chris Thile. – Bobby McFerrin leading Bela Fleck, Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty through Chick Corea’s "Spain" near the end of his masterful set. – A half-Q&A/half-song Songwriter Workshop featuring Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Emmylou Harris at Elks Park; followed by an all-song blues & bluegrass workshop featuring the great David Bromberg, Noam Pikelny, Mitch Corbin, Gillian, David and Emmylou. When Gillian & David had to leave to appear in Old Crow Medicine Show’s set on the main stage, Vince Herman stepped in. – David Bromberg & his Large Band’s brilliant Friday night set, with cameos by Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris. – Many more moments that would need an article of their own.
e-Town taping with Doc Watson and Kathleen Edwards @ Chautaugua Auditorium, Boulder, CO- 8/1
I list this because this radio taping contained one of my all-time personal favorite
coolest moments by any musician. After each artist performed superb segments of music and interviews handled by host Nick Forrester (also the bassist of Hot Rize), both artists and the house band the e-Tones collaborated on a tasty "Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor," the audience gives what would normally be their final applause, and the musicians start to leave the stage…except Doc! Jack Lawrence tugged Doc’s shirt, noting that the show was over. Doc sternly nodded "no", sat in his stool and flat-out refused to leave the stage! Quickly, Nick Forrester strapped on his electric bass, and he, Doc and Jack served up one final nugget, a rippin’ "Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms." After having played two of three days at Rockygrass that weekend, to see 82-year old Arthel "Doc"
Watson wanting to play one more and then being the last to leave the Chautaugua Auditorium stage on that Monday night was an unforgettable example of how aging so gracefully is an inspiration to every human being who aspires to live a long, rewarding life.
My favorite show of the year wasn’t really one show, it was a festival: the High Sierra Music Festival. I think anyone who attends this gem of a festival would be hard pressed to say they attended a better event during the year. The people, the weather, and the huge amount of great music for four consecutive days make it pretty hard to beat. Highlights from this year’s festival included stellar sets from Garaj Mahal, Steve Kimock, Gov’t Mule, Karl Denson, Perpetual Groove, and Gordon and Kottke, just to name a few. Of course there was a heaping helping of great younger bands, as well, which is always a high point to this very high experience. Bands like the New Mastersounds, Meltone from Japan, and the Scott Fisher Band kept things fresh and interesting. With late night shows, yoga in the mornings, daily parades, great food, perfect weather, and the best vibe a jam fan can find just about anywhere, the High Sierra Music Festival was my "favorite show"
My second favorite show of the year wasn’t really a show either, it was three shows: the three-night run of Umphrey’s McGee at the Great American Music Hall. For one long weekend in early May 2005, the Chicago band took San Francisco by storm. All three nights of the run were excellent, the Great American Music Hall is a beautiful and historic room, and the Bay area brethren who attended this show were very good people. Umphrey’s dished up a little bit of everything over their three-night stand. Off the wall covers included I Ran by Flock of Seagulls and Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. Serious rockers included tight version of Plunger, Get in the Van, and Mulche’s Odyssey. Hefty, powerful, extended jam vehicles included mind blowing versions of Der Bluten Kat and Hurt Bird Bath. Of course, all three shows were peppered with seamless segues, animated stage presence, humorous banter, and even some guest sit ins by Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits and Eric Levy of Garaj Mahal. It was a high energy affair that had me lost in the music for three straight days.
My third favorite show of 2005 would have to be the Trey Anastasio and 70 Volt Parade concert that took place here in Portland, OR on November 30th. It had been quite some time since I had last seen Trey, but my expectations were not that high. I had not heard a single lick of his new material and had heard he stopped touring with backing horns. I really dug Trey’s big band sound that he had with TAB, so was sad to hear that the horns were not a part of his new line up. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Trey added horns for the tour and the show was absolutely full of power. The fact that that the Roseland Theater only holds 1300 people and I was basically right on top of the stage didn’t hurt either. But Trey was totally pumped for the show and he took the crowd on a wild ride through jam after jam after jam. The highlight of the show was the seemingly never ending version of Simple Twist Up Dave to kick off the start of the second electric portion of the show. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more intense, Trey would keep pushing the jam. It was great to see Trey beaming with energy and happiness on the stage. Other highlights of the show included a sweet Push on Til the Day opener, a nice acoustic medley with some Phish covers like Get Back on the Train, Sample in a Jar, and Limb by Limb, and the triple encore power house of Driftin>First Tube>Mr. Completely. The incredible show is available for download and I highly recommend grabbing it as it displays the full potential of this great band.Bret Gladstone CD’s:
1.) The White Stripes- Get Behind Me Satan
2.) The Arcade Fire- Funeral
3.) Tie: Fiona Apple- Extraordinary MachineBroken Social Scene- Arts & Crafts
4.) Beck- Guero
5.) Kings of Leon- Aha Shake Heartbreak
Reissue: Bob Dylan- Bootleg Series Vol. 7
Shows:1.) The Word-Bonnaroo 2.) The Arcade Fire- Vegoose 3.) Tie: The White Stripes- Keyspan Park, Brooklyn/ The Benevento Russo Duo- Bonnaroo
Heartless Bastards, Stairs and Elevators
Hearing the loud, crunchy garage rock of Heartless Bastards makes one wonder how so much noise can come out of such a little lady. But Erika Wennerstrom delivers as a catchy songwriter, ripping guitarist and Joni Mitchell-meets-Patti Smith vocalist supported by drummer Kevin Vaughn and bassist Mike Lamping. Stairs and Elevators is the band’s debut recording on Fat Possum absolutely kills – a stripped down, straight up rock record that was recorded in a few short hours and captures the rawness of the band’s performance.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cold Roses
What can one say about rock’s most prolific songwriter this side of Hibbing, MN? Ryan Adams has proven that he can write great songs – check out any of Whiskeytown’s four classic albums as well as the slew of solo records he’s released post-Whiskeytown meltdown – so it’s no surprise to find such gems as "Magnolia Mountain," "Let It Ride," "Sweet Illusions," "Cold Roses," "Easy Plateau," or "Rosebud" on Cold Roses. However, the key to the album’s success is not Adams’ songwriting, but his return to being a member of a band rather than his recent work as a solo artist. As his Whiskeytown catalogue attests, Adams is at his best surrounded by talented musicians that help realize the songs that stir in his head late at night.
Dungen, Ta Det Lugnt
What do you get when you mix together a front man that looks eerily like a young Robert Plant, music that beckons comparisons to the psychedelic sounds of Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets and lyrics that only residents of Stockholm would understand? Dungen’s Ta Det Lugnt is the band’s third studio album, but the first that’s been released in the United States from the Sweden-based quartet. The brainchild of singer Gustav Ejstes, Dungen’s brand of folkrockpsych is raw and at times intimidating, but their sound is balls-to-the-v.
White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
Jack White is a musical chameleon. Just when music critics and fans alike feel like they have White and drummer beauty Meg White pegged, they pull a U-turn on the highway to the Delta blues and take their sound in a completely new direction. That’s not to say that there are no screeching guitar leads or pounding drums on Get Behind Me Satan- there is. But it’s the introduction of the marimba to Jack’s arsenal that expands the band’s sonic palette and breathes life into their fifth studio album since 1999. Not since the introduction of the Theremin on the Beach Boy’s "Good Vibrations" has one individual instrument meant so much to a recording.
My Morning Jacket, Z
Jim James walked away from the famed farm silo in which he recorded his haunting vocals in for My Morning Jacket’s three previous studio recordings amidst a shuffling of the band’s lineup and the hiring of producer John Leckie to help shape the band’s fourth studio release. Z features more of the same straight up rock ‘n roll that’s made MMJ famous, but it’s the change in James’ vocal approach that’s the starkest difference. With less reverb cluttering James’ poignant lyrics, Z may be the best MMJ album to date…and that’s saying a lot.
Reissue: The Grateful Dead – Fillmore West 1969Favorite Live Shows
Dungen: 7/9/05 – Bottom of the Hill, SF, CA
My Morning Jacket: 11/12/05 – The Fillmore, SF, CA
The White Stripes: 9/20/05 – Boston Opera House
Mandorico- Strong Fire
Chicago Afrobeat Project- self titled
Mike Doughty- Haughty Melodic
Dave Matthews Band- Stand UpFavorite Live Shows
Zen Tricksters Gathering of the Vibes
Freekbass SONO Arts Festival
Mandorico SONO Arts Festival
Steve Kimock Band- Eudemonic
ALO- Fly Between Falls
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey- The Sameness of Difference
Favorite Live ShowsRatDog Pantages Minneapolis , Minnesota 3/28
Radiators/Theresa Anderson Pearl Room Mokena Illinois 6/3
ALO Martyrs Chicago IL 11/9Brad Hodge
John Scofield- That’s What I Say
Marty Stuart- Souls’ Chapel
Atmosphere- You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having
Reissue: Bill Withers-_Just As I Am_
Favorite Live shows
Widespread Panic- The Fillmore; Denver, CO 11/6/05
The Secret Machines- Bonnaroo 6/10//05
Old Union with the Junkyard Horns Belcourt Theater; Nashville, TN 12/31/05
Brothers Past- This Feeling’s Callled Goodbye
DangerDoom- The Mouse and the Mask
STS9- Artifact: Perspectives
Blackalicious: The Craft
Om Records: 10 Year Anniversary
Favorite Live shows
Mark Farina, The Church, Denver, October
STS9, Fillmore, Denver, 2/5
Meshell Ndegeocello, The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance Of The Infidel
Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings, Naturally
John Ellis, One Foot In The Swamp
Wayne Shorter Quartet, Beyond The Sound Barrier
Favorite Live shows
David Byrne, Central Park Summerstage, NYC (6/29)
Roy Haynes Quartet, Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, VT (10/8)
Otomo Trio with special guest John Zorn, The Stone, NYC (12/27)
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
My Morning Jacket – Z
Deerhoof – The Runners Four
Spoon – Gimme Fiction
Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree
As for re-issues, I didn’t explore many. If re-issue compilations count "Midwest Funk: Funk 45s from the Tornado Alley" on Jazzman is stellar, stellar, stellar.
Favorite Live shows
My daughter turned 1 on NYE, which dramatically cut into my concert going. To be honest, I didn’t even see enough good shows to fill this in.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey- Sameness of Difference
Have you ever dumped a large box of legos on the floor? If you say yes then you know about the millions of endless possibilities lying in front of you. It’s not the final product that so exciting, but the way you build to the end that’s the fun of the project. The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has done ultimately that. They have built a master Lego castle of jazz pieces by grouping together covers and original work on their latest album “The Sameness of Difference.” The album pulls you into a deconstructed universe of song and jazz. As you listen to certain sections of songs your ears can pick up the melodies of the originals over the covers. At other points you are sent whirling in opposite unparalleled directions. Just let yourself go and JFJO will take you to a place in your imagination. The place you tried to capture in the Lego towers of your youth. Watch for this album to pop-up at this years Jammys, pick it up before that happens so you can have something to listen to as you dig out your old boxes of legos and create.
Wilco – Kicking Television
My Morning Jacket – Z
Steve Kimock – Eudemonic
The Mars Volta – Frances The MuteFavorite Live shows My Morning Jacket Bonnaroo, 6/12 Do you ever want to turn one of your friends onto a band and not know weather you should give them a live show or an album. MMJ made that decision a little easier for me this past summer. Now when I want someone new to dig on what MMJ is doing, I give them a copy of the 2005 Bonnaroo show. From the “Off the Record” to the Prince cover of “I could never take the place of your man”, breaths were sucked away. The MMJ show at Bonnaroo was simply put – astounding.
Widespread Panic Portsmouth, VA, 8/6
Mad Cow w/ Skerik, G. Calvin Weston, Dion Paci, John Buck, Marco Beneveto, Tritone, Philadelphia, PA, 11/26 (late show)
Top Five CDs:
Brothers Past – This Feeling’s Called Goodbye Tom Hamilton and company blast off from behind their electronic Philadelphia shadow to produce an album that’s light years beyond their last-as well as every other album ever to come out of the scene. Postmodern Radiohead paranoia speaks with a more human voice, and Hamilton accents his break-up woes with shimmering Floydian guitar. All that, and it’s got enough digital hooks to make even the most jaded indie fan believe that those hippies just might be on to something.
Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn Its acoustic sister, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, got most of the attention, but Digital Ash is the record all the not-so-folkies have been waiting for Connor Oberst to make. His shaky voice quivers over lush strings, synthetic drums and enough layered vocals to fill "Bohemian Rhapsody" twice over, but it all still manages to sound as pure of heart as anything he’s ever done.
My Morning Jacket – Z
The departure of two founding members left a hole, but instead of filling it with waves of reverb or rumbling guitars, the band gives the void a voice of its own. Jim James’ vocals come from somewhere on the dark side of the blue moon of Kentucky, and the twinkling keyboards and sparse arrangements quiet the band’s rock bombast just long enough to let the album’s whispering melodies shine through the quiet, empty spaces of night .
Chad VanGaalen – Infiniheart
From the sparest beat up acoustic guitar to tangled, robotic beats, VanGaalen makes better use of his bedroom studio than Larry Flint. Seeking shelter from the Calgary cold, he finds a chillier psychic wind inside.
Watery interstate crashes and apocalyptic blood addicts stumble maniacally through his dreams as homicidal lovers hover over his sleeping body, all while his shakier Neil Young falsetto narrates the whole psychotic scene.
The Decemberists – Picaresque
Colin Meloy’s drama king vocals would be way to easy to dismiss as pretentious highbrow art-school pop if they didn’t fit The Decemberists’ vaudevillian melodrama so well. Like any good stage troupe, they tell stories as much with their moods as with their words, and the sad laments of a pauper on "Eli, The Barrow Boy" and a helpless prep-school ne’er-do-well on "The Sporting Life" match sonic scenery with Dickensian detail as well as anything on Broadway.
The Grateful Dead – Fillmore West 1969 This three-disc expansion of Live/Dead’s ground-breaking psychedelia is the most essential archival release from the Dead in years. It captures the band’s most revolutionary line-up at its explosive peak with face-melting renditions of the two song suites that would come to define the Dead for decades. The then state of the art 16-track recording has just enough pops and crackles to sound vintage, but the music it captures is as fresh today as when it was first put down.
Gov’t Mule, Yonder Mountain String Band, Xavier Rudd – The Norva, Norfolk, VA, 7 June 2005
Aside from the jamband connection, the line-up seemed to be a bit eclectic, but after over five passionate hours of music, it didn’t matter how the pieces fit together, as long as they did. Rudd’s gritty, aboriginal acoustic stomp astounds crowds wherever he goes, and any fan of American music would be hard pressed not to enjoy Yonder Mountain’s faithful but laid back Rocky Mountain reinterpretations of Appalachia. Haynes sat in on a gorgeous "Dear Prudence" and Dylan’s "It Takes a Lot to Laugh" before joining Mule to rip through their own balls-out rock and roll. After a punishing "Lola Leave Your Light On" and an adventurous "Trane," when it became clear that a second set was on the way, a few folks just couldn’t take anymore. The weak of heart missed a hell of a second set, too, but they could take comfort in knowing that, for this night, at least, the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts.
Vegoose – Las Vegas, NV, 28-31 October 2005
Offering all the sonic riches of Bonnaroo and all the comforts of around-the-clock gambling, light- and sound-proof rooms and unlimited hot water, Vegoose was a pricey ticket, but when isn’t Vegas pricey? Not only did Jamnation get to see a short but authenticating set of Umphrey’s McGee, some cosmic jamming from Phil Lesh and his Friends, and Trey Anastasio sitting in with Widespread Panic for the first time since 2001, but with a little bit of consciousness, they got to watch as the world open up around them. Vegoose showed once and for all that the scene is growing up: Sleater-Kinney and Spoon tore down one stage while Beck and the Shins proved that it really is better late than never. But the we-were-there-when-it-happened award gets split between Beans w/ Holy Fuck and the Arcade Fire, who sandwiched the weekend with revelatory sets that will be on people’s lips until next Halloween.
Widespread Panic – Ntelos Harbor Pavilion, Portsmouth, VA, 5-6 August 2005
There’s no shortage of Spreadheads claiming 2005 as Widespread Panic’s best year yet, and this tour-closing two-night stand on the banks of the Elizabeth River was arguably their best of the year. After a few tours to warm up, George McConnell has finally found his place, and while he may never supplant John Bell as the band’s spiritual leader, he spent most of his time this weekend at the front of the pack. Those standing a little too close risked being singed on "Thin Air" and "Surprise Valley," and his polished chrome tone launched "Maggot Brain" off somewhere into the Atlantic. "Fishwater" got the crowd amped early in the first night, "Second Skin" proved itself again to be one of the best of the new batch, and the Panic never calmed until the closing notes of "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," leaving the Hampton Roads crowd to hope that this particular destination might become a yearly tradition.