My favorite Show of ’19 – It’s time to announce my second favorite ‘show of the year,’ in my continuing annual series on sick live acts you may or may not have had the chance to attend along with me.
Before I get down to brass tax here, I must be fully open about a damn near tie between my ultimate choice and the second place holder. I would happily hand over this year’s coveted position to Ezra Furman once more for his astounding performance at the Bowery Ballroom. However, I feel that goes against the aim of the site and enters the territory of fanboy land. It wasn’t just him and his band’s all in effort on stage. Some odd politics around the show doubled my respect for the artist.
The Warsaw is a very random venue in nowhere, Brooklyn. I live maybe thirty minutes from Brooklyn geographically, but have to take three trains to get there. So, there’s a bit of perspective for you. The venue is similar to an old VFW Hall and is still frequented as a hangout spot for the local Polish community. They host their larger events thanks to their relationship with Live Nation, while still booking the venue separately for things helpful for said community.
Why am I still fucking talking about this? Uno momento, patience is a virtue. The venue has previously hosted talks by “Holocaust Revisionist,” Edward Reid. First, what does that term even mean? What doubt is there that this genocide occurred? You can go visit the relics it’s like saying, “Hmm, I’m not sure the Pyramids are legit.”
Nuh-uh . .
That didn’t exactly fly with Ezra who is a devout Jew. He advised the Warsaw that if they wish to have him perform their again, they would need to go about releasing an apology for their negligent booking. And the venue refused!
Like a god damn boss…
Ezra promptly told the Warsaw to fuck off and moved the whole shindig to the Bowery (which, hell, I prefer anyway). This sticking to your guns mentality is what makes Ezra Furman such an honest, earnest and no bullshit type of musician that you have to find endearing on a sheer personal level, despite opinions about his music.
Wait for it ..
There’s a kicker here. . Even after the hoopla about Ezra’s cancellation, the Warsaw proceeded to book this shit bag ‘historian’ to come speak again. *Jaw drops.. Say… Whaaaa? I shit you not. Live Nation promptly stepped in and shut that whole batch of idiocy down, but holy crap guys, really?
Well, I ended up there anyway (Sorry Ezra)
So, with politics and that rather interesting story aside, 2019 was a doozie of a year for live music. This decision came swiftly but not easily. My favorite had some stiff competition, what with having seen Beck twice, Spoon a few times, David Byrne (twice as well), Tame Impala … (wait, twice again. The Garden show was cooler I think), The Flaming Lips, Conor Oberst a couple of times, and the whole soiree which is Atlanta’s Shaky Knees Festival.
This year’s favorite show goes to…
* D r U m * R o L l * P l E a S e * !!!! Australian band, Pond, with their earth shattering performance at the (blech) Warsaw, Saturday, September 21st, 2019.
My Favorite Show of ’19 was fucking earth-shatteringly loud
Just the way I like it!
First, I honestly can’t remember the last time I could hear the tunitis creeping in during the set. Towards the end, I couldn’t particularly separate high and low frequencies as well as I knew to be normal. And it was awesome! To me, that’s rock n’ roll. When Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine create their classic 18 minute ‘Wall of Sound’ live it becomes nearly intolerable. I saw many leave the crowd, fingers in ears and ear plugs. Shame on all of you! You missed what it was like to be inside a vacuum cleaner, just saying.
Maybe I have just killed my ears enough…
… Along the way but I typically don’t notice the tunitis. However, after this show there wasn’t any debate. I couldn’t hear shit.
One good thing I will note about the Warsaw is that you are damn near guaranteed to meet the act you are there to see.
And we did! 2/5th’s at least. Joe, the Guitarist, was just hanging out near the exit as I draw near. Just in time for some dick head to cut me off and start talking his ear off when all I wanted was a handshake. In lieu of my preference, I took two fingers and politely poked Joe in the chest, saying, “Fantastic set, Man.” To which he replied simply, “Cheers, Mate,” accompanied with a sincere wink. Okay, pretty freaking cool. I got to touch a real Aussie. I felt so proud of myself.
That is until we fully exited the venue
… to find Drummer, James, enjoying a cigarette. We were chatting among friends and I noticed James over a friends’ shoulder. All I remember is saying to John, “Shut.. John… Shut the fuck … It’s the Drummer… John, shut the fuck up … The Drummer’s behind you.” After he realized I wasn’t entirely being a dick, he was already halfway down the block.
And we were off . .
We followed suit because, really, why the hell not? We’re an un-intimidating enough crew, no one had their phones out looking to take selfies and he was just kind of there, by himself. He was extraordinarily polite and grateful for our kind words. To him it was just another show and a conversation I’m sure he’s had 500 times. However, in speaking with him, you’d never know it. Happy to strike up conversation, James inquired as to where we were from, asked my pal Alli whether she was on a bender based on the time they left in order to arrive on-time for the show from Upstate NY, and chatted about past and future gigs. He was super cool and very humble. A+, James! You rock! I hope you got some sleep on the bus to Philly.
To completely go off topic a minute
I had an interesting read on my way home about the legendary snapshot of Clash Bassist, Paul Simonon, destroying his instrument which went on to become the cover to the album we all know and adore, London Calling. The article explained that on that same day forty years prior the event occurred at an NYC venue. I found this to be quite the noteworthy tidbit to mention. That image stays emblazoned in every rockers mind, not only due to its importance within rock history but the impact this simplistic flash of a moment has had over the last FORTY years within all mediums of pop culture.
Anyway, back to our wonderful Aussie pals, Pond
One of the top reasons this was my favorite show of ’19 has to do with Lead Singer/Guitarist/Flautist, Nick Allbrook, who is a master of crowd control, ridiculous inhuman gesticulations and shoving his crotch in his audience faces. In fact, I was close enough to watch the relatively short Gent hop atop the stage barrier as if he were a frightened kitten. It was one fluid motion, made with no doubt in his mind that he would slip or fall.
Crotch meet face…
Then, BAM! His dick might as well been slapped against my buddy John’s face. His pants could not have been tighter, so while I’m somewhat over exaggerating the occurrence, I’m genuinely not at the same time. There was nothing to do as a straight male in this scenario but to bust out laughing, which is exactly what I did. I can’t speak for John but I do believe he was very pleased with the experience.
More on Nick Allbrook
Nick is a modern iteration of a glammed out David Bowie, someone with the swagger of Jagger, while still maintaining complete uniqueness in his delivery. These comparisons should not take away from his raw, innate ability to be a front man. He’s there to put on a show, he knows it and he’ll be damned if anyone leaves the venue disappointed.
My Favorite Show of ’19 – Jay Watson
For those in the know, Jay Watson is the god damn genius behind the sonic direction of Pond, a hidden weapon in the touring band that is Tame Impala and his own spaced-out venture, GUM. In his ehem spare time, he’s even a Spotify playlist curator. For the life of me I don’t know when the guy sleeps, if ever.
Jay is simply amazing to watch. It comes all too naturally for him. You end up as much jealous as you end up appreciative for this man’s talent. He’s that damn good. You’d expect him to play more synth, what with his Moog Grandmother staring you in the face, sparsely used. I made sure to pay extra attention to Jay this time and not focus solely on Nick slowly losing his mind in front of a crowd of people. Not that I’m complaining. Jay can pluck them along with the best of them. It was just somewhat surprising that a band soooo synth driven doesn’t have him creating said bleeps and bloops. But that’s where . .
Jamie Terry steps in..
He’s a madman on synthesizer, a seemingly chill dude straight out of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, with infectious head-bobbing and flowing, gorgeous locks. He’s a sight to see, truly.
Tall as all hell, he looms over his tiny station that you cannot say in the least sounds tiny. In fact, his introduction to the first track off Pond’s incredible 2017 album, The Weather. The track, 30,000 Megatons, plants it’s feet in the ground immediately and tells you these mother fuckers mean business. It’s Jamie’s synth part which provides this initial sonic bitch-slap, that also shakes the floor and your face with all the bass notes it supplies.
Quaking in my Cons
It was what they opened with and this was my third time seeing them. I’m not sure if it was the venues audio engineer doing a decent job for once, but this was the loudest and most impactful performance I’ve seen of them. Now that’s saying a lot, since their set at the Shaky Knees festival in ’17 was my first time catching them and made me a fan instantly. Well, despite being somewhat familiar with Beards, Wives, Denim.
They laid heavy on material from The Weather, which is just fine by me. Probably my favorite Pond album. You can imagine my delight when they maneuvered from the opening track directly into the toe-tapping Sweep me off my Feet. Paint me Silver and Zen Automaton were also special highlights.
Honestly, I was surprised there were not more songs performed from their more recent release, Tasmania. When they came full circle and neared the end of their time, Daisy was a welcome listen, with it’s boppy melody and different flavor from tracks via The Weather.
There was even an interesting decision to play Aloneaflameaflower from the record the band agreed they could not recall even laying down, Hobo Rocket. Nick stated on-stage this was their first performance of this track ever. In doing some research for this article I saw some conflicting data which said it was the first live performance since 2014. Either way, pretty cool to be part of this unique experience and cheers to the band for giving no shits to the concept of ‘playing the hits’ and gracing us with this song so sparsely used.
The inevitable and unavoidable question –
Tame Impala, or Pond?
For me, it’s apples and oranges. Despite a massive difference in sound, the association between the two acts will never end due to their prior ties to one another.
Both bands happen to have synths, catchy hooks, be from Australia and contain the musicianship of Jay Watson and Shiny Joe. The Australian aspect is, of course, the common denominator here. But, for anyone beyond casual fandom the fact that Nick was the Bassist for Tame Impala in ’16 and that Kevin Parker produced Pond’s most recent release, Tasmania, raises eyebrows.
Was there a falling out? Is it now just a working relationship and they hate each other? I know I don’t know the details but maybe one of you lovely folks do. Please feel free to correct me in the comments. I welcome it!
Either way, any Pond fan will say they prefer them over Tame Impala and vice versa. The debate will never end but for my money Pond’s the winner. Only by an inch but a significant one. If for no other reason, Pond is much more ‘out there.’
I like my music weird and while Kevin Parker isn’t exactly the picture of normality, Nick Allbrook makes him look like Ben Stein on Klonopin. I want the music raw, dirty and slightly off kilter. Pond personifies this insanity I lean towards and for that they win my (non) prestigious Favorite Show of the Year award for this, the year of our Lord, 2019!
Tame Impala at Madison Square Garden, August twenty-second, 2019 –
Absolutely stunning performance. I recall seeing Tame Impala on their first U.S. tour by complete chance. I had recently graduated college, so this must be 2011 or so. Somewhere in the vicinity of the release of Innerspeaker. I was working at Old Navy of all places. One song continued to circulate among all the crap which is their usual mix. It fit the Old Navy brand of ‘trying to be cool’. It crept it’s way into their mix, subsequently mine and hasn’t left much since.
The Bowery show I’m speaking of was one which they were headlining, but they weren’t even who we were necessarily there to see. Stardeth and White Dwarfs were opening and this was the height of our Flaming Lips’ fandom. In other words, no way in hell were we missing Dennis Coyne’s band when they hit our neck of the woods.
Fast forward and, as both Katie and I predicted so many moons ago, they exploded. We had just caught Kevin Parker and crew at the Atlanta Shaky Knees festival a few months prior. The promises of lasers enticed us both far too much to pass it up.
Several factors went into making this a stunning performance. First, one needs to mention their light show. Too often us musicians will negate this importance visual sense for no other reason than it is not aural. A stupid mistake in my book. Kevin Parker clearly does his damndest to make sure this aspect does not fall by the wayside. It’s not something worth trying to describe in text, it’s an experience.
Flawless performance –
They just don’t mess up. And even if they did, they most likely have enough delay and reverb enacted no one would notice. But I caught one, maybe two slips, which is god damn impressive. The synchronicity among band members makes for a near flawless performance.
It was also a very chill crowd, which never hurts. Everyone just wanted to dance. And not, like, dance like you’ve never danced before type stuff – More sludgy, mish-moshing back and forth, extremely white person type dancing. If you bumped into someone it wasn’t a fight. More the type of show where when you do bump into someone thy instantaneously throw up that one hand to say it’s all good.
I could keep going but am afraid I’ll end up re-nominating this show instead. Honestly, I a’int got time for that. So, best advice, don’t miss Tame Impala next time around. They’re only going to get bigger, playing more expensive gigs and you’ll regret not having seen them when it was a reasonable asking price to catch them.
Spoon, Cage the Elephant, and Beck at Forrest Hills Stadium, Queens, NY, August seventeenth, 2019 –
It was a glorious Summer day in August and I loathe the heat. So, for me to say that is quite the statement. Still though, sweating aside, it was beautiful out and a hell of a day for a Forrest Hills Stadium show.
Sunflower Bean opened and even, for as early as they went on, they BROUGHT IT. It was a hometown show for this Long Island based, psych/punk-rock band. There was that factor which definitely assisted their energetic performance. They were looking to expand the number of folks who knew who they were and in that respect they succeeded beyond my expectations.
For reasons still outside my understanding, Alt-Rock legends Spoon were stuck into the undercard slot. I felt slighted for them. They didn’t seem to give much a shit, though. This was maybe my third (?) Spoon show and every single time they take the stage there is a power and force they emanate that is simply unmatchable. They are extremely certain in themselves, can talk the talk and most definitely walk the walk. NEVER miss them when they hit your town. You’ll not leave disappointed .. Ever.
Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant is a band I can never make up my mind on. Part of me always adores the insanity of Matt Schultz. No denying he’s a singer who goes against the grain, so to speak. Also, there’s no defying the fact that the rest of the band are extremely imaginative musicians (I’m rather particular towards the guitarist who always wears sunglasses on stage but that’s just me).
My turmoil is that at a drop of a hat my subconscious will all of the sudden say, “nope, I don’t like these guys.” I truly don’t understand it. it’s not at all the way that my music preference typically leans. I usually either emphatically love something, or blatantly despise it. Not much middle ground in my book.
Fortunately for me my subconscious was in tune to what was happening on stage during their set. It was a really really rocking one with tons of fire. The most recent album had just been released and they were most certainly aiming to give the big Apple one hell of a show, which in my opinion they undoubtedly pulled off.
When thinking of this artist what more is there to say other than his stage name? He’s almost like Madonna, or Prince in that sense. People who have managed to make themselves so iconic that a mere 4 characters conjures all sorts of thoughts and sentiments towards their Canon of work as a whole?
Well, after sitting in relative obscurity for decades, Beck is not screwing around anymore. I think he got sick of being someone that you would say oh yeah yeah yeah I know them, when in all truthfulness you didn’t know shit. Having played his first sold out show at Madison square Garden just this past year (really, he’s never played MSG as a headliner? It’s sad, but it’s true) the writing was on the wall. he’s not going to play second fiddle to anyone anymore and he’s out there on his own doing his thing with vigor and passion unseen an artist who is pushing 30 years in the business.
His set was remarkable. he hit on all of the big ones that you’d want to hear, while also playing some really whacked out unknown tunes of his, making the experience all the more enjoyable actually. His visuals are superb and really at a certain heft to his performance. Also, coordinated dancing and guest appearances on stage never hurt nobody either.
The Flaming Lips at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts, August third, 2019 –
As the years go on, The Flaming Lips still know fully who they are and what fans want to see. Sure, there’s boatloads of unnameable tunes from their forays into the extreme weird category. However, they know what to play to get the crowd rowdy.
Willie Nelson’s youngest son actually goes by the moniker of particle kid and opened up the show. I did not necessarily know this walking into the show, nor would you necessarily realize that the two are even related. It was a very welcome surprise to listen to this talented young musician create enticing and psychedelic soundscapes. Finding out that he was Willie Nelson’s son was simply icing on the cake because particle kid definitely knows what he’s doing and where he wants his sound to go.
Back to the Headliners
They hit on so many of the classics I’d be extremely remiss to not mention them here. As we sat down my wife took a look at the confetti cannons brought along for the relatively small venue. I turned to her and said, “It’s the fucking Flaming Lips. They’re not going to slouch.” She has confetti in her purse from that performance to this day.
You’ve made it!
I’ve pretty much made my case at this point, so I very much appreciate the fact you have made it through this much of my long diatribe. Kudos to you Sir or Madam! And while we’re at it, please leave me some comments on what you would deem your favorite live performances from the past year. Hell, if you went to something substantial in NYC this past rotation of Earth to Sun there’s a decent likelihood we were both there. Either way, let’s get some chatter going down below! Also, please, please, please be sure to always ….. KEEP ON ROCKIN’ AND ROLLING!!!