2017 was a pretty intense year all around, but there was still time for lots of music. For me personally, it included covering bands that I had never dreamed I'd get to photograph, crossing many entries off from my bucket list of artists to see, and even traveling overseas for several festivals. Choosing the "best" shows from among the numerous ones that I attended and covered for ChunkyGlasses was a daunting task, not least because I'm pretty selective about which shows I'll even do, meaning that I rarely see a bad one. Still, there were several that definitely stood out as being the best of the best. Here are my picks for my top ten shows (and festivals) of this year.
These are the facts:
- Paul Simon is one of the greatest songwriters of our time.
- Paul Simon is also 75 years old, and, by his own decision is coming to the end of his run as a performer.
- Paul Simon is celebrating as much with “one last tour” around the world
So why does it feel like last Friday’s show was a revival instead of a goodbye?
After a subdued set from opener Sarah McLachlan, Simon and his band took the stage Friday night to a sold out amphitheater nestled in the woods of Columbia, MD. Merriweather Post Pavilion, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year has hosted some legendary shows in the past and so it goes that this night, may go down as one of Paul Simon’s finest hours.
If 1984 and 1985 were the years that the wave of awesome that was the 80’s crested, then 1986 might be mostly remembered as the year the tide of cool began its retreat back into the depths of the murky, musical abyss from whence it came. Mostly.
Oh sure, there were still high points. Some socially important one’s too. The 80’s were a time when segregation was still very much in effect on the radio dial and on MTV, and 1986 in particular was a year in which more artists than ever fought, and won, the battle to bring people together, regardless of their skin color, sex or nationality. The Beastie Boys released their classic debut Licensed To Ill, with its break out mega hit (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!), and in doing so were the first hip-hop act in history to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts. Likewise, RUN-D.M.C. didn’t just blur the boundaries between rap and rock when they recorded “Walk This Way” with 70’s stalwarts Aerosmith; they blew those distinctions up and paved the way for an entirely new genre of music. Paul Simon’s Graceland took afro-pop sounds and caressed them into a folky mold, producing not only one of the biggest hits of his career, but arguably one of the most important albums in history. And Janet Jackson’s Control, with its hit’s “Nasty,” “Control” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately” not only established the gloved ones younger sibling as an important artist in her own right, but her domination of the charts sent a shot across the industry’s male dominated bow saying that women were here NOW, and they were likely about to take over.
It's Memorial Day weekend and while that usually means lots of hot dogs and beer, it SHOULD mean lots of music. Good thing that's exactly what's going on in DC. So whether you are a fan of indie rock, lo-fi, punk or Paul Simon rock (he's big enough to get his own genre right?) the nation's Capital has got you covered over the next few days!
FRIDAY - 5/27/11
Paul Simon @ 9:30 Club
This show is LONG sold out and with good cause. Simon is one of the most revered songwriters in history. The fact that he's even playing a place this small surely made many a fan's heads implode so they probably won't be making it. And you wont' either unless you have a ticket or are Paul Simon. But if you fit either of those descriptions then let a out a good "HELL YES!" for yourself, especially if you fulfill the latter condition.
Scream @ The Black Cat
- from the Black Cat's website
Baileys Crossroads, Virginia lays just a few miles outside of DC, but in the 1980s it was apparently far enough to make it seem like a different world. The Virginia suburbs suddenly stepped up with the formation of Scream. There were punk shows being thrown in the basement of the Scream House, and the DC bands, always looking for a place to play, were making the trek out to what was known as BXR. Scream, like most of the bands in DC, obviously had been extremely influenced by the Bad Brains, but they seemed to be more advanced musicians and had more of a rock and roll sensibility than the others.
In 1982, they went into Inner Ear Studio to record Dischord's first full length album, Still Screaming. Scream released four albums on Dischord (as well as one on RAS Records, No More Censorship) and continued to play until the beginning of the 90s, doing a number of U.S. and European tours. They made a few line-up changes, including the addition of their friend Harley Davidson on second guitar, and when Kent Stax left the band, they asked a young drummer from Mission Impossible and Dain Bramage, Dave Grohl, to take over. After a number of years with "the Scream team", Dave went on to Nirvana and the Foo-Fighters.
Saturday - 5/28/11
Cloud Cult w/ The Wilderness of Manitoba @ The Black Cat (ChunkyGlasses Pick Of The Weekend)
Like your music big and loud and complex and orchestral and rocking all at once? Well so do we. And so does Cloud Cult. Hitting the road at last after lead singer Craig Minowa's heart surgery, the band is bringing their unique brand of awesome to the Black Cat on Saturday night. Tickets are still available so what the hell are you waiting for? Check out a little about the band as well as their latest video below.
Cloud Cult is currently on their second headlining tour of the US in support of their new album Light Chasers and will be introducing a new cellist – Daniel Zamzow – as well as new visuals which come in the form of a reintroduced back screen video. This time around they are using pre-filmed visuals synched with the music – a must see.
This all happens as Cloud Cult is coming out of a trying time during which lead singer and songwriter Craig Minowa experienced health issues and subsequently went through heart surgery. The band found resounding support from fans and now, the band returns to the stage, refreshed and rejuvenated. Bringing their grand shows to a new level, their unique brand of orchestral indie rock is once again titillating new fans and gratifying older fans!
And here's the band's video for "The Exploding People" from 2010's Light Chasers
Monday - 5/29/11
Times New Viking @ The Black Cat
Since this show is technically on a Monday, it doesn't get our weekend pick, but we're honestly stoked to see the band come Monday night. They are playing the Back Room at the Cat (which is either a blessing or an awesome depending on how you look at it.) so get out and see them in a place this small while you still can. Sure, their sound is completely lo-fi, but these are some great songs (if you haven't heard Dancer Equired yet, shame on you) and the band has the chops to move up to the big stage before you know it. Check out their video for "No Room To Live" Below
That's it until next weekend. See everyone at the rock show!
Growing up, I wasn’t exposed to a wide variety of music. My parents had a small record collection that leaned heavily towards holiday albums, classical music, and what could charitably be called “inoffensive folk.” While I never took to Bread and I appreciated Peter, Paul, and Mary more for what I innocently thought was a song about actual dragons, the album I couldn't stop playing wasBridge Over Troubled Water (I had a lot more success singing along - especially with Garfunkel’s parts - before puberty took its toll on my vocal cords). Add to that the fact that Graceland was one of the only cassettes that my mom kept in the car during the late 1980s and its fair to say that Paul Simon composed a fair portion of the soundtrack of my childhood.
So, it was with that developmental baggage in tow that I dropped the figurative needle on Paul Simon’s new album, So Beautiful or So What.
Finally! A decent week for music! While our official picks this week come from TV On The Radio (read the review here) and Alison Krauss (it's an Alison Krauss album...that's all the review you really need), there is quite a bit going on in the war for time in your earholes.
Looks like we've got a return fo k.d. lang, which could be interesting, as well as a new effort from the Meat Puppets. Wow. I'd love to say that the new Low album is any good, and if you're into them, I'm sorry, but just this weekend it won the award for "Most boring album of the year" at the ChunkyGlasses home base, sooooo.....