Friday, December 31, 2010

0 LIST MANIA: Best Shows of 2010 by Local Music Scribe Robert Ham

The Ten Best Shows I Saw In 2010 (In Chronological Order)

Magma Festival @ various locations, Seattle -- This fundraising event for Hollow Earth Radio was one of the most well curated fests around, mixing up genres of all stripes and tearing down anyone's preconceptions of what music can express. There were far too many highlights to get into each one, but the show that I likely won't ever forget was the reunion of slop-rockers The Thrown-Ups. Put two members of Mudhoney and Ed Fotheringham in bubble wrap suits, black out their teeth, and add a few plastic bags full of shaving cream and let them fuck around for an hour. The results will be hilarious and strangely revelatory. Bonus points for holding the show in a pot smoke-filled basement.

Pierced Arrows/Lullabye Arkestra @ Capitol Theater, Olympia -- My heart was a little broken for not being able to see Ludicra (they were to headline the show but had to cancel as their guitarist's appendix burst that day), but it was quickly spot-welded back together thanks to this one-two punch of a lineup. The boy/girl bass/drums fury of Lullabye Arkestra provided the tensions, and the nonstop garage rock swing of the Arrows gave me the release.

Sonny Rollins @ Paramount Theater, Seattle -- When you get offered the chance to see a jazz icon of this caliber for free, the only questions you should ask are "Where?" and "When?" Granted, the heat in Rollins' music has been dulled somewhat in his autumn year. But on this night, he still pulled off some amazing feats on this evening, including a robust and skin-tingling song that gave Rollins free reign to solo for a full 15 minutes.

Jandek/Thurston Moore @ Hollywood Theater, Portland -- A first-ever meeting of these two avant icons. It played to expectations with Jandek's slow strumming space blues slammed up against Moore's high-pitched wailings and quick jabs of grunting noise. But as the two snaked around one other for an hour-plus of improvisational glory, the meditative effect left me floating in mental amber for hours afterward.

Converge/Coalesce/Black Breath/Touche Amore/Great Falls @ Neumo's, Seattle -- This was an overwhelming assault on the senses. Just as I recovered from the blows of one band, another would take the stage and start landing some meaty punches. No one band stood above another, though I would give Black Breath the gold medal on points alone. They clearly loved playing to a hometown crowd and responded to the love by lopping everyone's heads off (sonically speaking, of course).

The Bad Plus @ Meydenbauer Theatre, Bellevue WA -- For the most part, the band set aside their kitschy covers of hard rock and pop tunes, and instead highlighted their intricate and devilish originals. As on record, they never play things straight when they're playing their own material, jumping through the hoops of time signatures and moods like circus clowns. And when drummer David King broke out the E.T. walkie-talkies to add a bit of feedback squelching to one song, there was no way to avoid grinning stupidly at their proto-bop antics.

MusicFest NW @ various locations, Portland -- The boys on this site have already rhapsodized plenty about some of the same shows that I went to, so a few highlights that are mine and mine alone: Major Lazer turning the entire all-ages crowd of the Roseland into a seething mass of hormones; The Bellrays spitting agitprop truths over blazing garage rock; the lucid new wave dance party that was the Dirty Mittens at Berbati's (RIP).

White Hills @ Rontoms, Portland -- I often ask myself, "What could possibly be missing from a psych band whose work that pulls you to oxygen-depriving heights before tossing you back down again into a fiery pit, leaving you laughing and euphoric by the time the smoke clears?" After seeing their frenzied and spine-straighteningly loud live act, the answer is clear: silver face paint.

Sir Richard Bishop/Bill Orcutt @ Hawthorne Eagles Lodge, Portland -- Perhaps I should have stayed until the bitter end to see some potential duets between these two guitarists, but after watching Orcutt grunt his way through a series of chilling blues improves followed by the intricate spirals of Sir Richard's gorgeous fretwork, I was full to the brim. I'll be sure to go into their next show with more of an empty stomach.

Grinderman @ King Cat Theater, Seattle -- This id tickling side project for Cave and some of his Bad Seeds has obviously injected some devilish life into the 53-year-old icon. His usual command of the stage had an extra in-your-face strain as he taunted the audience, squeezed some playfulness into his already weird and wonderful lyrics, and turned him, his band, and the capacity crowd into a sweaty, blissful mess.

Words by Robert Ham

Robert "Bob" Ham is a local music writer who has had his work published in Alternative Press, Willamette Weekly, The Oregonian, and City Arts Magazine just to name a few. Bob currently resides back in his home town of Portland, Oregon.

A sincere thanks to Bob for contributing to our end of year coverage.


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