Every year, millions of people attend festivals, and various other smaller events featuring all types of entertainers. I am most certainly one of those people. There’s simply no rush like seeing a band you love killing it live. Today we’re going to kick off the Year End editions of the blog with the Top Ten sets I witnessed in 2015. I hope you enjoy
10. the Strokes, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
So finally after all these years I witness the Strokes live. After two failed attempts to see them I was able to rock out to the “Too Cool to Care” vibe on the first night of Shaky Knees. The band sounded tight, and Casablanca's’ rambles made for interesting mid song banter. Definitely a good show even if you aren’t a huge fan.
9. Beach House, New Orleans, Civic Theatre
This show was as mesmerizing as it was a slow burn. Seeing them once before gives you more or less an idea of what to expect, but it seems that with each album they get bigger and the production does too, which for a band that isn’t known for being super dancy on stage, is a definite plus. They went from a full piece to a two piece,back to a full piece, but it all flowed gorgeously just like the albums do.
8. Mastodon, New Orleans, Civic Theatre
Metal on Halloween should be the law, and this year was no exception. One of my favorite metal bands of the last ten plus years, Mastodon on Halloween Night in NOLA was made even better by an epic showing from the Atlanta kings. For over two hours they pummeled the crowd with their intricate mix of metallic prog rock, all while costumed and enjoying the reactions of the crowd. A must see show wherever they play, it was made all the better by seeing this with my sister and some awesome friends.
7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, New Orleans, Joy Theatre
If the first time was any indication, the September Godspeed You! Black Emperor show was nearly as exquisite and thought provoking shows as the previous. For nearly two hours they pummeled the crowd with classic imagery and powerfully loud music. It was a true testament to thinking man's entertainment. Seriously see this band if they come around. Your mind will appreciate it.
6. Tame Impala, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
Another amazing first this year was the Sunday night headliner Shaky Knees spot by Kevin Parker's Tame Impala. Seriously one of the best psychedelic shows I’ve seen in recent memory. Every song flows from one to the next, and the visuals are mind blowingly spirited and exuberant, which of course makes it better. Hopefully they come back around soon and I can experience it again.
5. Run the Jewels, New Orleans, Republic
Easily the most high energy show I saw in a club, this show came the night after Beach House for a wildly mixed weekend musically. Both were great, but Run the Jewels comes to show off and killed it every second they spend on stage. El and Mike command like hardly no others in the rap game, even though people in the mainstream don’t mention them much. Fuck it, I’ll keep it for myself.
4. Pixies, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
Seeing the Pixies for me is always like checking on things in the weird world. They exist in this sort of space time continuum where they don’t make better albums much anymore, but the live show seems to get better. It’s really bizarre to me. The only thing I’m thinking is maybe they play the old songs more now since the reunion. The show was high energy and jolly while still beating, biting and aggressive. Paz really brings something to bass, and Frank Black seems more perturb , which adds for a sensational show.
3. Dan Deacon, New Orleans, Republic
I’ve now seen Deacon live more than all but like five bands I think. Every time he comes it’s an experience you need suddenly. Also I got to cover the show, meet the man and witness his biggest, most elaborate show. Sadly the crowd wasn’t as enthusiastic as I had hoped. but seeing with some good friends really makes any night great, especially if Dan Deacon from Wham City is playing.
2. Neutral Milk Hotel, Atlanta, Shaky Knees
On my second time seeing this magnificent band, the company was quite different. Instead of hardcore fans at the NOLA show, they played to a big open area during the multi day Shaky Knees. They mesmerized the crowd for an hour with their poignant and melancholy songs and helped make an up and coming festival a real gem in the middle of Atlanta. I doubt they’ll ever tour again, but it was magical to say I witnessed it twice.
1. Deftones, New Orleans, Champions Square
Having not seen them in over five years, there was plenty of reason to be excited, and if you’ve seen them before, you know they don’t disappoint live. The show, which saw the band play before Incubus(Which was a huge misstep in my opinion), knocked it out of the park in terms of raw emotion and crowd interaction, with the band spitting out nearly twenty tracks in their time on stage. The highlight of the show, and the entire year though was when “Passenger” arrived at the same time as the rain did. Seeing that song live dancing in the downpour wasn’t only the best moment of any of the concerts I’ve seen this year, but also one of the best moments of my entire life. Thanks for reading!!
Aside from AC-DC and Jet, how many well known bands from Australia can you name? Name me one more that’s called Silverchair and you really have hit the wall. I’m sure there are plenty of awesome acts, but for some reason Americans tend to mostly like things from this country. Same reason Blur is giant in the U.K. but not really a big deal here. Anyway, around the year 2010, a musician from Perth started to get a little bit noticed in various other parts of our massive world. His name is Kevin Parker, and while he has a full backing band that tours with him, he has always remained the most vital and key component of what is Tame Impala. Look at him as sort of a Trent Reznor esque entity. Writing and recording everything himself, he only requires other people once it’s time to hit the stage.
Something about the music is transcendental and moving, like a drug fueled haze on a gorgeous sunny day in the field. When I listen to this band, I genuinely feel that the world is mine. Released in 2010, the band’s first proper record, “Innerspeaker,” emerged dragging itself from Mad Max country, and slowly but surely the band has risen in the world of alternative rock and given us albums that have pushed the limits of what can be considered popular, but also have played in the game of bringing psychedelic back to the forefront.
“Innerspeaker” has plenty of good tracks, but the first thing you notice about the band is more than likely Parker’s similarity in voice to a well known Beatle. I can tell that it’s there, sure, but for me it’s a simple coincidence and I leave it at that. The music is good enough to stand on it’s own. ‘Alter Ego” whirls like a toilet bowl full of various colored waters that then make a tie dyed t shirt, while album opener “It’s not meant to be” transports us to a beautiful, serene world where anything can happen, even if things aren’t always golden and perfect.
The album can be trippy and slowed down at times, but they also turn it up in a way that makes the Flaming Lips look like passerby’s of the scene. That sounds like a slight towards the Lips, but honestly, they never made consistently brilliant albums, and aside from maybe four or so, much of it is hit or miss. Tame Impala on the other hand, so far has three records that only get better. On tracks like “Lucidity” and “Solitude is Bliss” they rock it in lo-fi wonder and present the 60’s in a whole new way. “Lucidity” is a great mid album track, but nothing get’s better on “Innerspeaker” than “Solitude.” The song simply kills it, and you can’t help but find yourself smiling and bouncing while the euphoria takes over.
Album two, titled “Lonerism” came into the world two years after the debut, and quite frankly surpassed all expectations. From slow, pulsating album opener “Be Above it,” to more immediate and anthemic songs like “Apocalypse Dreams,” this record isn’t only the next logical step for a band on the rise, but it showcases how much Parker’s approach to songwriting had improved in a relatively short amount of time. With the new ears getting connected to the band and their pulse, they were able to make an album so good that most bands could never hope to do something so great.
For real, this album rocked my world from the moment i heard it, and up until I became obsessed with the newest album(We’ll get to that in a minute), this was one of my go to records for years. So many of the songs are life affirming and thoughtful, while still being able to rock incessantly, especially a song like “It’s Feels Like We’re Only Going Backwards.” To me it’s a song about realizing all the mistakes you make as an average person, and the inability you have to make those wrongs right. Much of the band’s lyrics can be explained through emotions and energy. Take a song like “Mind Mischief.” It’s eye opening and somewhat autobiographical, but when Parker is singing “She remembered my name,” you’re right there with him experiencing the joy of that moment, and how invincible you feel.
But of all the stellar tracks on the album, the most intense funky and jamming one is “Elephant.” None of the other tracks are even as close to as intense as that song is, and from beginning to end it thumps, slams into shit, and makes its force known, you know, like an “Elephant.” Parker’s melody and vocal stylings on the song are also magical, but the real winner is the rhythm section and how the drums and bass keep the churning going.
Soon after the release of “Lonerism,” the band was beginning to get noticed. Solid sets at Bonnaroo and Coachella paved the way for the band to triumph in all places, and of course, the brilliance of the record helped to land them on multiple Year end albums list. But of course, as an artist trying to make his mark with meaningful material, you are never satisfied, and consistently try to bridge the gap between what you see in your mind and trying to bring it to the outside world.
That need and want is represented on the band’s third record, “Currents.” Now, we still have a few months to go, but so far this has been the big record for me this year. The making of the album was difficult from accounts I’ve read, but it paid off big dividends. Recoding in a small room with only Parker present, “Currents” is what happens with a psychedelic rock star sets out and succeeds in making one of the better R&B records of the decade. Just listen to it, and tell me this isn’t a slow groove type of record. The first time I heard it is was like what would happen if Tame Impala and Frank Ocean made a baby.
From the first track and lead single “Let it Happen,” the record flows in and out, ebbing it’s way to musical salvation. “Let it Happen” also showcases how jam oriented the band can be, bringing us through a nearly eight minute track that for the majority is just electronic beats going in a gradual manner.
I simply can’t get enough of the album. Parker has described the album as not a breakup record, but the meaning and purpose of a breakup is written subconsciously all over “Currents.” I myself am still going through emotions following the dissolution of a very long relationship, and when Kevin sings “There’s no future left for you and me,” on “ Yes I’m Changing” you feel the pain in his heart, and if you’ve gone through something similar, those feelings are right there with you. Another gem comes to us by the all too brief “Disciples.” It’s under two minutes, and more or less acts as a quick interlude in execution, but it’s just plain marvelous. It’s one of the best tracks on the record, and desperately leaves you wanting more.
All in all though, “Currents” not only stands up to the other records, but it very likely defeats them in terms of balance, the thought that went into it, and also sheer talent. Parker is getting better at writing songs, and if each album keeps going the way they have been, who knows how much more awesome they could get. Thanks for reading, see you Monday!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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