For me, this list is the most important thing I write all year. While I enjoy all the various writing avenues I take, the “Top Albums” list is really the end-all-be-all. I’m not blind to the list of other music websites, and as I peruse them, I always find myself scoffing or shaking my head in frustration. Sometimes it’s because of the thinly veiled politics behind picks; other times it’s the unwarranted hype given to an artist who still needs time to grow. I like to believe that I’m so outside the industry and that I can give you a list that is based solely on my passion for music that lurks outside the mainstream. Once again, I’ve compiled a list of some incredible albums that hail from a wide range of genres. Give the first 20 a read through and a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find something that strayed beyond your listening peripheral in 2014.
posterized n – 1. North American slang derived from an action in the game of basketball in which the offensive player “dunks” over a defending player in a play that is spectacular enough to warrant reproduction in a printed poster 2. to be humbled, shamed, and exposed as an inferior athlete 3. a blog series on BDWPS.com that revisits various concert posters collected over the past ten years by contributor Android50
On first glance, this poster for a SXSW show back in 2005 doesn’t seem worth discussing in my “Posterized” series. It’s really more of an advertisement for MTV2 than actually a poster promoting a concert. Most shows at SXSW are sponsored by someone (a record label, an online streaming outlet, a beverage company, a natural gas/fracking conglomerate) but rarely do the posters feature much about the sponsor other than a small watermark logo in one of the corners.
The second reason this poster doesn’t seem to deserve much attention is the fact I didn’t even go to any of the shows listed on the poster. They were all day parties, something I wasn’t even familiar with in those early days of SXSW.
No, this is far from the coolest concert poster I own, and no, I didn’t even attend these shows. But despite these two admissions, it’s still one of my favorites in the entire collection that adorns my walls because it reminds me of one of the best concerts I ever attended.
In this episode we listen to new tracks from Ex Hex, Death From Above 1979, Willie Nelson, Goat, Shellac, and Jennifer Castle. I also discuss the new HBO series “Sonic Highways,” the documentary “Beware of Mr. Baker,” and take a look back at Bob Dylan’s legendary road trip in 1964. You can listen to the episode HERE or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes (search: BDWPS).
A few weeks ago, due to a series of mistakes by both Delta Airlines and myself, I found myself sitting in first class, sipping on a complementary vodka Red Bull, listening to The Walkmen’s “Lisbon” and stretching my lanky legs to their limit without fear of kicking or bumping a nearby passenger. For the first time ever, I was enjoying a cross-country flight. As I motioned the waitress for my 4th complementary drink, I thought to myself, “I’ll never be able to sit in coach again.”
Of course, I will; for the rest of my life as a matter of fact due to my lack of funds. But just like other facets in my life, the finer things have tainted my opinion of the commonplace. Why eat a Pink Lady when you can have a Honey Crisp? Why drink a Bud Light when you can have a Dale’s Pale Ale? Why feast on a corn-fed flank steak when you can have a grain-fed t-bone? I refuse to sit in the upper deck at Spurs games after my unforgettable experiences in the lower deck, including the time I sat behind the team’s bench and witnessed David Robinson’s final game (oh, and did I mention they won their second championship that night?). Not only do I prefer the up close and personal experience over viewing the game from 100 feet away, but the people down below seem more passionate, and dare I say, more knowledgeable of the game.
I’m the same way when it comes to live musical performances, although it’s actually much cheaper to see a band up close in an intimate venue rather than the sterile arena setting. On average, people pay much more to sit in uncomfortable plastic seats located far, far away from performers than they’d ever have to dish out at a local venue.
I hold this same sentiment toward outdoor music festivals. Last weekend the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival took place, and like every other year, people who know me as a lover of live music always ask me if I’m going. Back in 2004 I attended the festival, and I haven’t been back since. The experience wasn’t all bad; I did get so see artists like Cat Power, Broken Social Scene, and The Pixies, but I just can’t find enjoyment in the disconnect felt between the artist and the audience. The bands perform miles away on a double barricaded, bouncer infested monstrosity of a stage. Frank Black and the rest of The Pixies actually resembled pixies from my vantage point.
I'm pretty sure Kim Deal sat out and let Tinkerbell play the set.
The mixture of people milling around ACL didn’t make the experience much better – a mish-mash of hippies, yuppies, and families with babies in tow (it’s never too early to introduce your child to pot smoke and loud music!). I have friends who find ACL to be a yearly highlight, but it’s just not my thing. I’d rather see bands up close in venues with character, surrounded by like-minded patrons who are there for the music and not just an excuse to break out their tie-dye shirt. If a Sam’s Club style bulk performance weekend is the reason you enjoy festivals like ACL, the South By Southwest Music Festival offers more bands (over 2000 in fact) and the majority of the performances take place in the cozy bars that line 6th Street.
You can go to this:
Or go to this:
In the smaller venue, the “arena detachment syndrome” disappears, and memories are made: Man Man giving the audiences instruments during the set, Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington nuzzling both me and my friend’s beards mid-set, The Very Best inviting the entire crowd onto the stage, Death From Above 1979’s Sebastian Grainger jumping off his drum set and bull rushing the crowd with microphone in hand. This is what live performance is all about. While arena shows have their pre-planned skits, laser lights, movie screens, and choreography, the primal unpredictability of rock and roll still breathes in the smoky bars across this country.
If Lady GaGa really wants to be unpredictable she can take a cue from Tim Harrington and accost her "lil monsters" on stage.
The last real “arena” show I attended was Pearl Jam way back in 2003 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (just a hint: if you are seeing a show at a venue that is named after a corporate entity, the show will invariably stink). Sleater Kinney opened for Pearl Jam, and they sounded great from row 83. And that’s about all I can say: they sounded good. I wasn’t overtaken by the music, nor did I feel a connection with the ladies giving it their all on the enormous, barren stage. There was such a wide fissure between the band and I that mid-way through the set I got up to grab some nachos and take a pee. It’s not like I was missing much – I could always listen to their CD when I got home.
Fast forward two years: my friend PtheStudP and I were standing five feet away from the ladies of Sleater Kinney, doused in sweat and battling with the sea of lesbians that pogo-ed around us. Sleater Kinney were tearing it up, sending the audience into a frenzy, all yearning in unison for more and more of Carrie Brownstein’s devisive guitar angst and Corin Tucker’s haunting howl that reverberated throughout the legendary SoKol Underground in Omaha, Nebraska.
After six songs, my friend informed me that he had to go to the restroom, an issue I had been dealing with myself. Unlike my easy submission to nachos at the Pearl Jam show, I wouldn’t give in this time. We would tough it out. Two songs later, on the verge of peeing my pants, a decision had to be made. And here in lies the difference between an arena show and a small venue: at the Pearl Jam show I urinated in a urinal as the show went on; at the SoKol Underground my friend and I both pissed into beer bottles that soon after found themselves on the cement floor. I can guarantee you’ll never see that level of commitment at an arena show.