Thursday, December 30, 2010

1 LIST MANIA: Top 10 Shows of 2010 by Russian Circles Bassist Brian Cook

Brian with Russian Circles in Belgium | Photo by Davy De Schrooder

Harkonen @ the Comet, Seattle

They hit the stage just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, so theoretically they played on January 1st. By the time 2009 came creaking to a close, I was so fucking tired of that decade. What the hell was it called anyway? The ‘00s? How do you say that out loud? The zeros? The aughts? Even that petty annoyance aside, it was a decade of lousy Republican rule, war, and neo-yuppie consumer culture. And it was a decade that never gave the thunder barons Harkonen their proper due. But after the larger latter portion of the decade was spent without their heavy-as-fuck stomp, they came back to whip a sold-out crowd into a frenzy. I’ve got high hopes for this decade.

Five Seconds to Leave @ the Matrix, Prague

Points off for having a band name that sounds uncomfortably close to Thirty Seconds to Mars. However, this crusty dirge outfit earns those points back tenfold for delivering one of the most surprising and mind-trippy moments in recent memory. Projecting the theater scene from Mulholland Drive onto the stage, the band crafted an original score to the a cappella Spanish rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”. Armed with their signature sound--like Neurosis playing in a giant reverb chamber--it completely transformed the mood of the original and made something new and fascinating in its place.

Boris @ the Metro, Chicago

For their most recent U.S. tour, Boris was capping off their set with the epic 20-minute untitled closer off their Smile album. Traversing from dark psych pop to heavy sludge to ethereal rock to SunnO)))-volume doom drone, it’s a masterwork that displays the scope of the Japanese band’s range in one epic sweep. A friend of mine dragged me into the sound booth for that final number at Chicago’s landmark Metro, and those huge looming riffs nearly made my knees buckle numerous times over the course of those twenty minutes. Total perfection.

Earthless @ the Underworld, London

A cursory listen to Earthless’s set comes across as a 40-minute-long guitar solo. A really awesome guitar solo, but a 40-minute-solo nonetheless. But knowing their records beforehand or, even better yet, catching multiple live sets from the band reveals the patterns and nuances in their playing. I got to see these guys roughly a dozen times over the course of a European tour, and they have some fleeting guitar lines that are more infectious than conventional rock choruses from other bands I’ve seen twice as many times.

Nomo @ Tractor Tavern, Seattle

Every now and then you need some NPR-approved Midwest post-industrial Afrobeat.

Nomeansno @ Neumos, Seattle

I bought my first Nomeansno tape 19 years ago. Yet in all those years I never had the chance to see ‘em (well, except for one time where I was broke and under the weather). And while most bands that I got into during my early adolescents have lost some of their luster, Nomeansno seems to become more relevant and intriguing as I grow older. Based on reports from other attendees, their set in October lacked some of the big hits they played during their previous Seattle appearance, but their deep album cuts are still strong enough that their show made me feel like an ecstatic 14-year-old again.

Wilco @ Paramount, Seattle

Jeff Tweedy is kind of a bad ass. Even still, at this point in their career, Wilco is really all about Nels Cline. That guy exudes fretboard awareness.

Tiny Vipers/Crystal Hell Pool/Dave Knudson/Demian Johnston @ Josephine, Seattle

What an awesome and diverse line-up. Demian Johnston used a guitar and a spread of effects pedals to make a harrowing wash of densely textured noise. Dave Knudson used a guitar and a spread of effects pedals to make a glitchy sample-heavy club banger. Crystal Hell Pool channeled Thomas Koner and made a gargantuan sound that felt like the space ship from Independence Day was landing on my face. And Tiny Vipers just used her acoustic guitar and modest voice to bring everyone to an awed hush.

Torche @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Have you heard “Tarpit Carnivore”? That song is the epitome of heavy. I thought the building was gonna collapse when they played it.

Keelhaul @ somewhere in the Western United States

I feel like an asshole because most of the bands on this list are bands we played with on tour. I can’t even pick out a specific show for these guys. Every song is just a heap of perplexing and amazing riffs cobbled together, and they were on point every night.

Words by Brian Cook

Note from the editor:

Brian Cook is like a god in these parts -- I'm talking the SRG crew, but of course his musical and writing talents are also widely known throughout the NW and world. Not only has he played bass in some of our all-time favorite bands such as Botch, These Arms Are Snakes, Roy and currently Russian Circles, but his is one of the most prolific music writers I have ever had a chance to read. His admirable work in The Stranger helps keep heavy music in front of local readers every week, and he always seems to have killer new bands and records to talk about. To my knowledge Brian has also written for Alarm Press, which is by far one of the most important underground music periodicals available.

A sincere thanks to Brian Cook for taking the time to contribute to our end of the year coverage, and thanks for keeping it real and continually spreading the good word with the utmost of integrity. We appreciate you.



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