Staff Picks: Favorite Releases and Live Shows of 2007
1) Skip the Goodbyes Amfibian. Gloriously inappropriate due to its affiliation with Relix Records? Hardly. It’s the best classic rock album of the year in every sense of the heady term and two fingers to those who thought Tom Marshall was just along for the Phish lyrical ride before the jams kicked into the glow-sticked stratosphere.
2) Joint Happening Mushroom with Eddie Gale. Does Anybody Remember Jammin’ Jamming? If so, listen to this bit of confident weirdness. If not, listen to this SOON.
3) self-titled- Kemialliset Ystt. Finnish for “Chemical Friends.” Randy for mind-bending tweak fest. Get it. Live it. Flip thy noodle sideways.
4) Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon Devendra Banhart. Grossly underrated in a weirdly time-warped way but don’t let that keep you from his Royal Hippie Splendor.
5) Recollection Assembly of Dust. Who the heck expected this sweet and timeless vibe out of nowhere from Reid Genauer? Plenty. The man’s reputation is intact and the latest release from this band was an eye-opening, ear-pleasing charmer.
1) 11/14/95 Phish. STASH. They weren’t the best at what they did. They are the best.
2) Lucius Beebe Trey Anastasio. The bonus disc that went with Horseshoe Curve outshines its parent due to the diabolically ingenious sequencing. Epic TAB in its purest state and a fine addition to the top shelf.
6) Live at the Murat Umphrey’s McGee. First official live two-fer and a right gem from the band just waiting to occupy that jam throne but knowing that they aren’t quite there just yet. 2008 is a key year in their development. Stay tuned.
Favorite Live show:
1) Bonnaroo SuperJam Manchester, TN 6/15/07. John Paul Jones, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Ben Harper deliver Led Zeppelin six months before that “other” show and prove that the key to timeless music is writing great songs. Oh, and the atmosphere in the tent was beyond electric. The crowd was numero uno, as well.
2) Ween New York, NY 11/30/07. They don’t jam but they rock awfully well and ridiculously varied and hard. The band may have peaked in the studio but they are most certainly on top of the post-jaded smart-ass world on stage.
3) ALO Las Vegas, NV 10/28/07. The key to the futurehard rock, loose jams, great lyrical snippets and smart musicians playing memorable tunes.
4) Gelatinous Groove Mesa, AZ 9/29/07. Classic jams in a bar setting that reminded me why I will always dig great musicescalating tempos that segue into a space that is both unfamiliar yet absolutely exhilarating.
5) Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff Phoenix, AZ 9/30/07. And some other things that will also never go out of style like two excellent, seasoned performers sitting and playing acoustic instruments in an intimate environment.
1) The Wood Brothers – Ways Not to Lose
2) Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs
3) Karl Denson Trio – Lunar Orbit
Favorite Live show:
1) Karl Denson Trio – Lunar Orbit CD Release Party, San Diego, CA, October, ??, 2007
2) Medeski Martin and Wood – Acoustic Show, April 29th, 2007, Birchmere, Alexandria, VA
3) Allman Brothers Band – Jazz Fest May 5th, 2007, New Orleans, LA
4) Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Edgar Myer – Washington, DC November 1st, Lisner Auditorium
5) Umphrey’s Mcgee, April 14th, 2007, 9:30 Club, WDC
1) Ben Harper & The Innoncent Criminals — Lifeline
2) Ryan Adams — Easy Tiger
3) Lyle Lovett and His Large Band — It’s Not Big It’s Large
4) Josh Ritter — Historical Conquests
5) Bruce Springsteen — Magic
Favorite Live show:
1) Drive By Truckers, Dirt Underneath Tour, 10/26 at Bowery Ballroom, NYC
2) Yonder Mountain String Band, 10/13 at Irving Plaza, NYC
3) Ben Harper & The Innoncent Criminals, 9/15 at Radio City Music Hall, NYC
4) String Cheese Incident, 7/12 at Beacon Theatre, NYC
5) The Greyboy AllStars, 5/12 at Highline Ballroom, NYC
6) Nate Wilson Group, 4/6 at Knitting Factory, NYC
The 2007 Mikey Awards
Since I’m about as good at creating decisive best of’ lists as I am at proofreading my articles, I started hosting my own little typo-plagued award ceremony a few years ago when I should have been learning the oh so tricky difference between than’ and then.” I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did procrastinating from those pesky grammar lessons.
Best Non-Jamband Album by a Former Jambands.com New Groove: American Babies, Self-titled
I never thought I’d say there’s a fine line between untz and Americana, but American Babies has proven once and for all that beneath every great jam lies an even greater song. With any luck, one day “Brooklyn Bridge” will be an anthem, but, for now, it’s just the soundtrack to my 2007.
Best Multi-Band Festival Disguised as a Civilian Vacation: Jam Cruise
Jam Cruise’s equation is simple: take the best musicians from the jam-world’s three most vibrant scenes (San Francisco, New York and New Orleans), add an all-you-can-eat buffet, subtract bad weather and divide by an infinite number of sit-ins and you get the only festival that makes even non-music lovers jealous. Just don’t tell them you’ve renamed the Shuffle Board court Shakedown.
Best Reason to Agree with Every Other Top Ten List Published Between Radiohead Releases: Arcade Fire, Neon Bible.
The inner-lot kid in me wants to hate the hype and the very principles that first ignited the Arcade Fire: the self-righteously dark lyrics, the baroque excess and especially the religious overtones, but, for some reason, I still listen to Arcade Fire every day. Perhaps I’m attracted to the grandeur or maybe I think I can see Anakin beneath Win Butler’s Dark Vader shell. Or maybe it’s just because Arcade Fire is the new Phish, only with less hemp and more hairgel!
Most Poignant Collection of Emo-Lyrics Published Anywhere Outside a High- School Yearbook Page: The National, Boxer
Besides having college to look forward to (probably paying better attention in English class), the only reason I still wish I was back in high school is so I could steal these lyrics from 2007’s best album for my yearbook page:
“Falling out of touch with all my/friends are somewhere getting wasted, hope they’re staying glued together/I have arms for them”
“You know I dreamed about you/for twenty-nine years before I saw you/
You know I dreamed about you/I missed you for/for twenty-nine years”
“They’re gonna send us to prison for jerks/ for having vague ideas of the way to turn each other on again/
“Your mind is racing like a pro, now/Oh my god it doesn’t mean a lot to you/
One time you were a glowing young ruffian/Oh my god it was a million years ago
I could go on and on, but my thesaurus is tired.
Also see for the above two: Best Reason to venture above (1)14th Street: Arcade Fire/the National at United Palace Theater, New York, 5/8
Best Reason to Ponder the Meaning of Life with a Member of the Opposite Sex You Last Saw Around the Release of Garden State: The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
I resisted embracing the indie-pop revolution until I saw Garden State and then the Shins changed my life. And, while no single moment can recapture that moment in time, Wincing the Night Away comes pretty close, offering a seamless mix of dark themes, light sounds and easily bouncible beats.
Best Reason to Turn on, Tune in and, Even, Chill Out: High Sierra
Being a neurotic, Northeast suburbanite I didn’t get High Sierra the first time I went and wanted to go home. But sometime between the Slip’s sunset show, the Disco Biscuits’ old-school meadow throw-down, ALO’s late-night sit-in fest and Page’s workshop (which somehow healed that “Velvet Sea” wound), this time I didn’t want to go home. And, in many ways, my Cold Turkey co-host never did (he’s currently writing a novel in San Fran).
Also see: ALO, Roses & Clover
Most Obvious Proof that the Grateful Dead are the Original Hipsters, Yo La Tengo, Port Washington, NY, 10/19
If Yo La Tengo covering “Ripple,” in Long Island, on a Friday during CMJ isn’t proof that the Grateful Dead were the original indie-rockers, then look no further than Jerry Garcia’s tight, black t-shirts or Bob Weir’s short-shorts.
Best Performance by a Group of Robots not Involving a Single Transformer: Daft Punk, Lollapalooza
Ever since my parents placed me in a Jolly Jumper when I was 2, people have judged how excited I am by how high I bounce. And let’s just say no robots make me jump higher than Daft Punk (except maybe Optimus Prime).
Best Reason to Trade in Your VW Bus for, Well, a Volkswagen: Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
Since the demise of Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy has used Wilco to define alt-country, defy indie-rock, revive avant-gardism in the mainstream and, now, even sell Volkswagens. But, then again, there is something to be said for aging with your fanbase.
Best Non-Musical Performance by My Favorite Living Musician: Trey Anastasio, 92nd St. Y, 2/7
Since high school, I’ve spent well over 100 nights watching Trey Anastasio perform onstage and far more time talking about that band he played in between Space Antelope and 70 Volt Parade. But, besides his set at the Tsunami Relief Benefit, this open conversation with Anthony DeCurtis was his most genuine performance since Coventry.
The First-Person Award: AGP, Mercury Lounge, 3/1
I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of amazing, but self-indulgent, musical memories from 2007 and even luckier to have a place (www.greenhauseffect.com) to reveal enough personal information about those moments to ensure that my family never sleeps a full night again:
The show Barber and Brownie played “Little Betty Boop” for me when the Biscuits surpassed Phish as the band I’ve seen the most, the night I spent seguing between electronic shows throughout the city, seeing a band that played my college radio show headline MSG (Dispatch), having American Babies play my birthday party (or what I remember of it), the afternoon I spent outside during Green Apple (breadsticks), cake at Camp Bisco, the Sopranos photo shoot at the School of Rock Festival and pretty much every musical performance we managed to score on Cold Turkey (especially Apollo Sunshine with Brad Barr at Langerado!), but my most meaningful musical moment from the past year has to be my final AGP show at the Mercury Lounge. AGP was the soundtrack to my college years, first band I ever wrote about for Jambands.com and one of the reasons I scored my editor post at Relix. Their final show should have been an incredibly sad moment, but, at the end of the night, things didn’t really feel like they ended. They sort of just faded into the night, like so many things in life.
1) Geoff Achison and Souldiggers Souldiggin CD
2) Umphrey’s McGee Live at the Murat
3) The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America
4) Jason Isbell Sirens Of The Ditch
5) Robert Plant/Alison Krauss Raising Sand
1) Neil Young Live at Massey Hall
2) Grateful Dead Three From The Vault (Portchester 2/19/71)
3) Jefferson Airplane Sweeping Up The Spotlight (Fillmore East 1969)
Favorite Live show:
1) Allgood Festival Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV in mid-July
Refusing to take the cues of other festivals, Allgood continues to “bring the jam” every year by loading their bill with jambands. This year’s version was loaded with so many of the finest jambands that is represented a sort of "state of the jam art," and just after The Slip finished the last chords of “Weight of Solomon,” moe. (already one blistering set deep into the evening) retook the adjacent main stage and performed a version “Meat” which would open up into an 90 minute-plus jam involving members of most of the festival artists coming and going. It was a hostile takeover event for the ages, and one of the best displays of Jamunity this aging, ace cub reporter has ever seen. Highlights were Terry Lynch’s freestyle rapping (namechecking almost every band on the bill) augmented by The Bridge’s Kenny Liner’s beatboxing. moe. Lighting Director Jeff Waful did Yoeman work putting his musical instincts to work as he brilliantly lit material with which he was predominantly unfamiliar, but Tea Leaf Green’s Lighting Director worked overtime as well, as he spontaneously joined Waful and hipped him to the changes of TLG’s "Sex in the Seventies" and they collaborated beautifully during the TLG portion of this beyond epic set. Grace Potter summoned the heavens with her powerful voice, driving a soaring reading of “Cortez The Killer” which also featured some savory twin shredding from Scott Tournet and Al Schneir. Perpetual Groove’s Brock Butler sang “Pawn Shop” exuberantly, and this gave way to the ultimate return to “Meat” which closed the set to a thunderous response.
There were so many other highlights Bob Weir teaching his hand signals to guest guitarist Brian Stoltz in animated fashion to the delight of the (maybe) 35 or so patient but drenched people that were awaiting what would be a Jay Lane-led, Ratdog-hosted jam session (one that wandered deliciously into hiphop and jazz realms and eclipsed the band’s main stage set) – Les Claypool jumping up to play some tempo-perfect drums during a Dillon/Skerik set on the same Ropeadope “third” stage (which was a festival of its own) Sam Bush taking a stab at George Bush with his subtle lyrical twist to Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up” Leftover Salmon’s gallant return to West Virginia – the crew repeatedly working their asses off tracking storms and behaving proactively to first make sure noone was in lightning danger, and then working to get the music started again as soon as the storms began to pass. They wanted the festival-goers to get the most music possible. There is a genuine concern for the experience of the employees and attendees at Allgood, and this is a big part of why this festival has the best feel of any on the circuit.
2) Neil Young @Tower Theater; Upper Darby, PA December 10
This man is seemingly ageless and undeniably amazing. The acoustic set was riveting, and while there was scattered yelling (despite a preset announcement asking for people not to do this) during quiet moments between songs during this opening round, the crowd was respectfully silent during the actual performances This type of old school respect is all-too-rare these days and Neil in turn rewarded the Philadelphians with stories about his musical grandmother and stunning takes on gems like, “Ambulance Blues,” “Harvest,” “Journey Through The Past” and “A Man Needs a Maid” He even dusted off unreleased 30-plus year old unrecorded gems like, “Kansas,” “Try,” and “Love Art Blues” to the delight of his most ardent fans.
The powerful electric set featured folk art paintings adorning stage left, one for each song (excepting a couple). Neil’s expert pacing found “Spirit Road” and “Dirty Old Man” from 2007’s Chrome Dreams II, mingling appropriately with classics like “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” “Winterlong,” and “Oh Lonesome Me.” He even closed the set with two more from the new release – “The Believer” and a guitar-frenzied “No Hidden Path” which was so vicious that it actually overshadowed the ensuing encore of “Cinnamon Girl” and “Like a Hurricane." Neil even returned one last time to perform the surfy instrumental, "The Sultan," which dates back to his earliest days.
3) Arcade Fire/The National @Atlanta Civic Center; Atlanta, GA – May One
I walked in with knowledge of only a few of Arcade Fire’s songs and ended up being swept off of my feet and blown away (and inspired to write about them without any lame or predictable fire references). This was a powerful show where the band seemed at one with the audience, bringing forth their oft-anthemic songs (some of which offer true hope and celebrate sincere passion) with infectious vigor. I’ve since learned that much of the show was drawn from their albums Neon Bible and Funeral, but most of the people around me knew the songs intimately and their unbridled joy fueled my experience. Win Butler eschewed any rock star posing and fronted the band in a way that made you feel his love for the music and his fans he even further boosted the energy by inviting those in the back to come dance in the aisles up front before they blazed (whoops) through the last couple of numbers. The National may be overhyped, but I enjoyed their opening set and one couldn’t help but get the sense that you were looking at the future of rock n roll on this evening.
4) Bright Eyes/Gillian Welch + David Rawlings; Fox Theater – May 16
It is easy to like Bright Eyes. They book their shows exclusively with independent, usually local, companies, Conor Oberst’s lyrics are about as brilliant as one could hope, and they have a sense of theatrics that helps to bring their songs to life in the live setting. On this night, one of the greatest acoustic acts in the world first opened for, and later played with them. The Bright Eyes fan base represented themselves well, listening intently and responding appropriately during the riveting opening act. These are bigtime lyric fans, and the kids singing along with almost every song during Bright Eyes was not annonying (surprisingly) – it actually enhanced my experience in a similar way the Arcade fans had earlier the same month. Conor and band were dressed in white and served as an animated partial canvas for their adventurous light show. First Rawlings and then Welch joined during the set, and then during the encore, which began with just Conor, David and Gillian seemingly unearthing some BE chestnuts (based on the response around me). The encore segment gradually built, with each song taking on stronger energy until it culminated with a wild romp through "Ode To Joy," which found every band member (including Welch and Rawlings) storming and stomping regaliously across the stage. It was a powerful conclusion to an amazing show.
5) Umphrey’s McGee/Mother Vinegar -Orange Peel; Asheville, NC – March One
This was a classic Umphrey’s show. With Brendan Bayliss singing with gusto all night (he is the Tom Brady of the band) and the powerful rhythm section even more ferocious than usual (Moss, Welker) this show is one that even a casual “umphreak” may want to procure. Opening with a set loaded with focused improvisation, and sprinkled with aromatic nuggets for the loyalists (“The Haunt,” “Sweetness,” “Padgett’s Profile”) and moments of measured explosion, many were satisfied by the break. However, the band really lowered the boom in the second set which exemplified their ability to, as many of their younger fans might say, “melt faces.” Starting and ending with the delightfully chest-thumping, schizophrenic “Pay The Snucka,” in between the band conjured the Gods of musical mayhem with “Got Your Milk (Right Here),” which was propelled by aggressive vocals from song’s author (and Mother Vinegar front man) Karl Engelmann. They covered Zeppelin better than most LZ cover bands do during “The Song Remains The Same,” and conjured Zappa with their own, “Smell The Mitten.” The biggest surprise of the night was when Mother Vinegar guitarist Tommy Dennison dueled with Jake Cinninger during a jam that flowed out of an energetic “Hajimemashite.” Even the encore held its rewards, as Joel Cummins saluted the recently deceased innovator Dr. Robert Moog, who had taught in Asheville for many years, with a solo on the instrument that bears the great Doctor’s name. Then Derrick from Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band (the first person to email his last name to me will win a prize) joined on trombone for a brassy slant on the geographically appropriate, “Mullet (Over).”
There was also a successful collaboration during Mother Vinegar’s opening set, as Cummins and UM percussionist Andy Faraq joined for a version of “Syncopated Strangers” that was radically different than the one Umphrey’s would perform about an hour later. It’s a damn shame that Mother Vinegar is now defunct. The band’s decidedly unique sound featured quirkily intelligent lyrics usually adorned with balls-to-the-wall musical arrangements. While their sound may have been too aggressive even for many UM fans one couldn’t deny their enigmatic frontman, the collective musical dexterity and overall chutzpa. Upon reflection of the versions of songs like “Zit” and “Constipated Monkey” performed on this night, I wonder what could have been.
6) Jason Isbell @Park Tavern in Atlanta, Georgia – September 9
In my younger days, an engaged vocal from Jerry Garcia, Van Morrison or Arlo Guthrie during a poignant song had the serious potential of moving me to tears. But ever since being reduced to a puddle during a Maine Dylan performance of “Visions of Johanna” shortly after Garcia died, this phenomenon has almost completely left me. On this night, Jason Isbell’s passionate reading of his moving and timely “Dress Blues,” ( written for a friend who lost his life in Iraq) rendered my cheeks salty with tears. The rest of the show was considerably more rocking than weepy. It also offered a memorable moment when a curious microphone failure inspired the boisterous crowd to step in on vocals during “Psycho Killer.” Jason’s new band can kick up some dirt, particularly Browan Lollar with whom Jason shares guitar duties.
Oh yeah, and The New England Patriots won the season opener against The New York Jets that day, and they have not lost since.Honorable Mentions>
The Slip/Bobby Bare Jr.; Visulite Theater March 7
The Slip/Bobby Bare Jr./Gringo Starr; Smith’s Olde Bar; Atlanta, GA March 8
Cinematics – The Earl; Atlanta May 8
The Slip – 40 Watt Club June 18
Umphrey’s McGee/Disco Biscuits/Purple Schoolbus – Lincoln Theater and the Lincoln Theater Street Stage; Raleigh June 29
Zappa Plays Zappa; Bank of America Pavillion; Boston, MA August 4
Nickel Creek/Bela Fleck – Fox Theater October 18
Ratdog – Lebanon Opera House October 28
Ben Harper – Fox Theater; Atlanta, GA November 2
Ani DeFranco – Variety Playhouse; Atlanta, GA November 13
Bonerama – The Funk Box; Baltimore, MD December 2
Derek Trucks Band/Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival with Scrapomatic and North Mississippi Allstars – Fox Theater; Atlanta, GA December 31, 2007>January 1. 2008
1) Radiohead – In Rainbows
2) Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
3) Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
4) Dr. Dog – We All Belong
5) Akron/Family – Love Is Simple
6) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – 100 Days 100 Nights
1) Led Zeppelin – Mothership
2) Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’
3) Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Favorite Live show:
1) Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon & Reed Mathis 03.11.07 :: Tritone :: Philadelphia, PA
2) Ghostland Observatory :: 4.17.07 :: North Star Bar : Philadelphia, PA
3) World/Inferno Friendship Society :: Philly 9/8/2007 World Cafe Live:: Philadelphia, PA
4) Dr.Dog and the Spinto Band :: 04.13.07 :: Popped Festival:: Philadelphia, PA
5) The Disco Biscuits :: 12.31.07 :: Tweeter Center :: Camden, NJ
Here I am going with overall spins pure and simple (okay, weighted slightly based on relative release dates)
Two from 2006:
The Hold Steady Boys & Girls In America- Okay, okay this came out late last year but I burned through this one in 2007, so I include it here
moe. The Conch- This actually did come out in 2007 but I had an advance for a long while in 2006- it remains one of the few discs I make point of playing from start to finish (despite its length)
Akron/Family – Love Is Simple
Avett Brothers- Emotionalism
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss- Raising Sand
Wilco- Sky Blue Sky
Keller Williams- Dream
Favorite Reissue/archival disc:
Miles Davis – The Complete On The Corner Sessions
Grateful Dead- Three From The Vault
Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation
Favorite Live show:
The Word- Webster Theater 12/26/07
Herbie Hancock- Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA 8/25/07
Gov’t Mule and Many, Many Friends- Bonnaroo, 6/16/07
The Hold Steady- Bonnaroo, 6/16/07
Arcade Fire- Orpheum 5/10/07
Bonus: Aly & AJ/Drake Bell/Corbin Bleu on 8/3/07- It was 90+ degrees at the Hartford Meadows but everyone truly delivered (and played their own instruments/actually sang). Plus, I’ll point out, the category is "favorite live show" and on this night of music I was accompanied by my 8 year old daughter- ‘nuff said.
1. LCD Soundsystem – Sounds of Silver – When I first heard SoS in late 2006, I described it to a friend as, "Good, but not as good as their first album." Twelve months later, I’ve come to realize how wrong I was. From the first notes of "Get Innocuous!" to shimmering beauty of "Someone Great" (my pick for best song of 2007) straight through James Murphy’s crooner outro "New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down" this album is pretty close to perfect.
2. M.I.A. – Kala – Maya Arulpragasam’s visa problems prevented her from making her second album with Timbaland as planned… and thank god! The end result features 6 producers, thoughtful political lyrics and catchy hooks, over some of the most eclectic beats ever brought to hip-hop. And "Paper Planes" is my runner up for song of the year… those gunshots!
3. Justice – __ – I’ve joked around since the summer how DJs apparently passed a law in 2007 that all sets must contain Daft Punk and Justice. As tired as it may be, this album still rocks. Dance floor bangers, a catchy pop single, and the most badass intro track I’ve heard in a long time, is a force to be reckoned with. Check out Justice’s recently rejected Fabric Mix (http://www.urb.com/podcasts/) for a good background in where the samples came from.
4. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam – Electronic in creation, indie rock in essence, and flirting with pop music, Strawberry Jam is the most cohesive output from the experimental geniuses in Animal Collective. Stand out tracks for me are "Fireworks", "Chores", and "Winter Wonder Land." This album has more than enough to keep you interested and intrigued from end to end.
5. The Field – From Here We Go Sublime – This one was a late discovery for me, but its been in pretty heavy play since then. Ambient in the truest sense of the word, this is music made to compliment the world around it. Simple, repetitive microscopic loops flow throughout, changing ever so slightly and elevating your mood almost subconsciously. I like to listen to it on the way to work, and it never fails to put in a great mood by the time I get to my desk.
Favorite Live show:
1. Daft Punk – 10/27/2007 – Vegoose, Las Vegas, NV – I imagine that I’m not going to be the only one who puts a Daft Punk show on their top shows list and since when are the kings of house music even remotely jambandy? Well when your show involves a 18-foot tall glowing pyramid, two guys in robot costumes, and some of the most irresistibly danceable music ever written, its hard not to. I was lucky enough to see the Robots twice this year but chose the Vegoose show over the Brooklyn show because it was equally as mind blowing as the first time I saw them and the extra months of practice made their heavily programmed set rock that much harder.
2. Rage Against the Machine – 7/28/2007 – Rock the Bells, Randall’s Island, NY – I first saw RATM in 1999 at the Worcester Centrum and it still remains one of the most amazing concert experiences of my life. Well, 8 years later and a little bit calmer, Rage returned in a big way in 2007. For the first 20 minutes of their show, my feet barely touched the ground as I was enveloped in a ocean of people pushing every which way in an orgy of mayhem. Thankfully it calmed down enough for me to enjoy the remaining hour of pure anger, excitement and energy that is Rage live.
3. The Disco Biscuits – 12/14/2007 – Caribbean Holidaze, Runaway Bay, Jamaica – I went to a lot of Disco Biscuits shows in 2007. I saw them in some pretty amazing places, including on a cruise ship and in front of 14,000 ft. mountains in Colorado. None was more amazing than on the beach, in Jamaica, with some of my best friends, as the culmination of 2007. This show did it all for me, from the raging jam into "Little Betty Boop" to the "Where the Streets Have No Name" cover with Tom Hamilton and a touch Bisco flair, to an emotional "Home Again" I was dancing with my toes in the sand straight through.
4. Girl Talk – 8/18/2007 – Camp Bisco VI, Van Etten, NY – Girl Talk is a lot fun, pure and simple. After witnessing his nonstop dance party from the sidelines at Bonnaroo, I made it a goal of the summer to dance on stage next time I saw him. At Camp Bisco, I put the plan into effect. The man samples every pop hit of the last 20 years in an hour long roller coaster of mash up goodness. Sure, it might not be the most intellectually fulfilling music, but its a damn good time.
5. Arcade Fire/The National – 5/8/2007 – United Palace Theater, New York, NY – I can’t imagine a more perfect venue for Canadian indie rock kings Arcade Fire than this enormous theater-turned-church-turned-theater in Washington Heights. The ornate wall decorating, cavernous hall, and slightly creepy quotes on the walls from the Church’s reverend fit the evening like a glove. Openers The National played a solid set, Arcade Fire were emotional and captivating, and then Win Butler welcomed the whole crowd up on the stage. I was in awe as hundreds of people crossed the 4th wall for an epic encore of "Wake Up."
Re-issued, Remixed, etc.
1. Various Artists – Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration – I got bitten by a major soul bug in 2007. This two disc compilation catalogs the best of the grittier, funkier-than-Motown Memphis based Stax Records. A lot of these songs are classics you’ve known for years, some are hidden gems, but all are guaranteed to make you get down.
2. Ratatat – Ratatat Remixes Vol. 2 – Brooklyn electronic duo Ratatat make some damn catchy beats to begin with, then they up the ante by laying some badass hip-hop a capellas over them. This second edition of their remix work features verses by legends (Jay-Z and Biggie), current stars (Kanye, T.I. and Ludacris) and underground MCs (Despot and Beans) on one disc thats banging from end to end. Download it from the band for free here (http://www.ratatatmusic.com/ ).
3. Trentem – The Trentem Chronicles – Danish producer/DJ Andres Trentem had a big 2007. After the success of his debut album The Last Resort and having his BBC1 Essential Mix chosen as Essential Mix of the Year in 2006, he toured the world with a full band and released a compilation of singles and remixes, both his material and his work on others. Trentem’s ability to craft dark, swelling basslines and sexy beats shines on his versions of tracks by The Knife, Ropp, and Moby.
JOHN PATRICK GATTA
Robert Plant/Alision Krauss- Raising Sand
Bruce Springsteen- Magic
"The Pietasters" (The Pietasters)/Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings- 100 Days, 100 Nights
Wilco- Sky Blue Sky
Levon Helm- Dirt Farmer
Global Drum Project- Global Drum Project
Emerson Lake & Palmer- Welcome Back My Friends to the Show That Never Ends…
Sonic Youth- Daydream Nation
Led Zeppelin- The Song Remains the Same
Favorite Live show:
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Quicken Loans Arena, Nov. 4
!!!/Holy Fuck, The Grog Shop
The Codetalkers, Wilberts
Favorite Live show:
1) Grace Potter sitting in with moe. at All Good’s late night jam for "Cortez the Killer".
2) Neil Young 12.2.07 Orpheum Theater, Boston.
3) Wilco 6.28.07 Bank of America Pavilion, Boston
4) The Police 8.1.07 Madison Square Garden, NYC
5) Separated at Birth 12.8.07 Brooklyn, NY
Favorite Live show:
1. Umphrey’s McGee – June 2007 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
2. Black Sheep Family Reunion – July 2007 – Undisclosed location in the coast range mountains – Oregon
3. Brett Dennen – October 2007 – Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom
4. Umphrey’s McGee – July 2007 – Ogden Theater/Trancegression – Denver, CO
5. Zappa Plays Zappa – November 2007 – Roseland Theater
1) The Nightwatchman: One Man Revolution
2) Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: This Is Somewhere
3) Okkervil River: The Stage Names
4) The National: Boxer
5) Backyard Tire Fire: Vagabonds & Hooligans
1) Traveling Wilburys: Volume 1
2) Ringo Starr: Photograph: The Digital Greatest Hits
3) "Don’t Stop Believing" – Journey
Favorite Live show:
1) Kid Rock; October 9 at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza, New York, NY (big, big star – tiny tiny place)
2) The Black Crowes/North Mississippi Allstars; August 9 at Central Park Summerstage, New York, NY
3) Grace Potter & The Nocturnals; March 15 at Cedar Street Courtyard, Austin, TX (a true encore)
4) Phil Lesh & Friends w/ Ryan Adams; November 5 at Nokia Theater, New York, NY
5) Tea Leaf Green; September 8, September 9 at The Blender Theater at Gramercy and September 11 at Mo Pitkin’s, New York, NY (too good to pick just one night; my last shows with Ben C.)
It wasn’t too long into spring that I found myself thinking that 2007 was one of the stronger years of concert going in recent memory (I was a big fan of 2002 as well), and luckily the duration of the year didn’t let up. Unfortunately, it also included two of the worst concert experiences of my life: Phil and Friends at SOB’s, without a real drummer or a real lead vocalist- I’ll never have the relationship with any music that I do with Phil’s, growing up on the Dead as I did, and that blood bath cut me to the core- and moe. at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, where all I could hear was the crowd and bass- not a guitar in earshot, which is too bad, because the soundboard is phenomenal- worst venue ever. Plus they park everyone in there, so we couldn’t even leave early- grrr.
On the bright side, some highlights of the year that I keep coming back to include that same Upstate quintet in Philly in February, with the surprise acoustic set to open the night; the Allman Brothers in Camden, NJ in August just after a monster thunderstorm- the best ABB show I’ve seen in many, many years. Also of note were The Budos Band and JJ Grey & MOFRO for free at the NYC BBQ festival in Madison Park, and then The Wood Brothers at the same spot in August; the Avalon All Stars at Mexicali Blues, a group of sidemen (Molo, Sless, Bobby Vega, Mookie, and Ray White) tearing the house down with psychedelic funk; Steve Kimock and Friends, for a stellar birthday bash for both the hero and the room at that same venue in the fall; and then that same guitarist sitting in with Ratdog for a stunning full show Terrapin sandwich in Albany in November. For that matter, Ratdog’s three night run at the Beacon in the spring was pretty damn spectacular. On the festival front, it’s gotta be All Good, especially Grace Potter in hot noonday sun, moe.’s headlining set on Saturday- laced with Rebubla- and STS9’s late night barrage on the fogged in mountain top, with Chris Kuroda doing lights- a glorious match made in heaven.
On top of all the jam-centric listening was a slew of jazz gigs, including a rare night of drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade’s Fellowship at the Village Vanguard, round about Mardi Gras time; The Trio Beyond, featuring Larry Golding, John Scofield and Jack DeJohnette, a group initially former as a tribute to the late genius of skins Tony Williams, playing the very best jazz in the very best way at the Blue Note; just two weeks later, a birthday celebration for Ron Carter at Carnegie Hall, which featured a reunion of the three living members of the great mid sixties Miles Davis Quintet, RC, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, along with Billy Cobham, for a half hour of Quintet classics; and finally, another rarity, a one-off performance by the Christian McBride Band at Columbia University, with special guest Amiri Baraka, the acclaimed poet and spoken word master- that was some seriously cerebral jazz, the headiest around. Yeah, it was a good year.