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Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 
By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am
 

Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.

All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…

5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.

4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.

3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqF6k9afzeM[/youtube]

2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjwp3jV2PvM[/youtube]

1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.

What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.

Honourable mentions:

St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.

Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.

Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.

Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.

First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.
Continue reading Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

 

Liverpool Sound City 2012: TGTF’s stage featuring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence – 18th May 2012

 
By on Monday, 11th June 2012 at 2:00 pm
 

If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t really paying that close attention to the sessions I attended on the Friday of this year’s Liverpool Sound City. My mind, running a mile a minute, was worried about the stage we were running that night at the Academy of Arts. The day before, I’d really enjoyed the sessions and had a completely unplanned introduction to John Robb by a mutual friend that I somehow eked by without revealing that I was completely unnerved talking to one of the Northwest’s most enduring and well-known musician/journalists. However, during a particularly boring afternoon on Friday in which some major label folks showed the big companies don’t know how much is discovered, really, I was relieved to get a text from John saying he’d arrived. John ran our stage at Brighton Coalition at the Great Escape with his girlfriend last year, so he is more qualified than the rest of us to see that a TGTF stage runs smoothly. After a comedic meetup – John is way taller than me, so much that he completely walked passed me and I had to yell “John!” – we went to go have dinner in a pub and discussed our plan of attack for the evening before heading out to the Academy of Arts at 5.

It’s a good thing we got there early, as the production team had posted our banner in the wrong place, far, far away from our table. Enter giant John, who quickly moved it with the help of Tyler, the chap who was running all the logistics of the stage for us that night. It was a little nerve-wracking to make sure we had all the merchandise we were going to give away, but we got everything in time: 5 signed copies of Clock Opera’s new album ‘Ways to Forget’, a extra-large Temper Trap shirt (John convinced me that it was better to offer up a big one in case a bloke won it, or a girl could use it as a nightie) and a signed ‘Need Your Love’ vinyl single that even our friend Larry of The AU Review coveted. John pretty much manned the table himself (and swimmingly so), as I went to photograph the bands, take notes and do something I tried to psych myself up for, but was so nervous about: speaking on a mike to get people over to our table for the contests. I had envisioned standing on the stage as I’d seen people at Roskilde do for the smaller stages there, but for logistic and safety reasons, they said I had to do it from the mixing desk. Hearing my voice – and loud – was so scary! And probably I’m guessing all the locals were thinking, “what is an American doing, talking on the PA?” But the contests went well, and everyone who won went away very happy, so that’s all that’s important.

Let’s get to the bands. So first up was Dear Prudence from Brighton. Their debut single, ‘Valentine’, just came out in early May, so this was a good first ‘big’ show for them, one of their first outside of their hometown. I really like how they sound and they’re a synthy, electro rock band (right up my alley!) so they were the perfect support band for our stage. I’m going to keep an eye on them. You can watch the official video for ‘Valentine’ below; it’s got a great beat and it had me dancing.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCI-9dSSvbI[/youtube]

After an intermission, it was time for Clock Opera. I thought it very sweet that Guy Connelly recognised and say hello to me before they went backstage to situate their gear. A punter named Paul declared on Twitter, “WOW!! Think @clockopera may have just taken the best band award @SoundCity with that! ‪#Incredible‬ ‪#SoundCity12”. Good observation.

Clock Opera have the energy and the goods – in super infectious rhythmic tunes that should get every molecule of your body dancing. If you don’t believe me, watch the video below of ‘A Piece of String’, the song Dan Armstrong pointed out to me in this pre-festival interview as the one they all break out pieces of crockery to bang on. Overall, their set was brilliant.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxqmxhjhixQ[/youtube]

During the day it had been announced Niki and the Dove had cancelled their appearance due to illness, which I think led to our stage getting rammed even further, since the times of their set and the Temper Trap’s overlapped. This was fine by us, as the space kept getting more and more crowded by the minute. In another bit of hilarity, I was refused entry into the photographer’s pit because every photographer in the Northwest and their nan had already taken their places there. Thanks to Tyler’s talking-to that “it’s her stage!” I finally got in. Now, this was my seventh time seeing them, and there is no denying they’re a great live band. I’m still not sold on all the new songs yet, but it was crystal clear after just minutes into their start and after Dougy said, “hello Liverpool, you doing all right?”, it was going to be a night to remember.

From the new love anthem of ‘Need Your Love’ to the gaiety of ‘Down River’, there was something for everyone. To prove their mettle, before the encore the band played a punishing trifecta of rock: ‘Science of Fear’, ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Drum Song’, all with so much raw power and passion, and the crowd loved every minute of it. It should come as no surprise that ‘Sweet Disposition’ closed out the night, cranking up the energy way up inside the venue for a song that so many people hold dear. And then it was over. After handing out the prizes, Toby and Lorenzo briefly stopped in the venue and Lorenzo said to me with a smile, “Mary! It’s been a long time!” I had been a long time since we’d talked; we had a completely unharried chat outside the House of Blues in Boston before their show there. One of the greatest things as a blogger is to watch a band you saw promise in just keep rising in stature in the music scene. If my intuition is correct, I said it before and I’ll say it again: the Temper Trap are well on their way to conquering stadiums. I feel honoured we had them – and the wonderful Clock Opera and Dear Prudence as well – on our first-ever stage at Liverpool Sound City. We’ll be back next year, so here’s to many more! Thank you everyone for making our stage such a success.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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