Tuesday, December 21, 2010

my favorite live shows of 2010: kansas city edition

last year in 2009, mid year i was trending well on the number of bands i saw and shows i went to so i set a goal to see 250 bands and happily accomplished it. yes, i track everything and i'm very ocd when it comes to this kind of stuff. i went into 2010 and didn't set any goals, i just wanted to see what happened. the year started off with a bang that ended up really shaping the entire year.

it was january 8, 2010 at czar bar on a night when it couldn't have been 5 degrees outside. but inside the venue it was hot as hell. i had no idea what to expect when i went to the first "Mark Lowrey vs. Hip Hop" show. no one knew what to expect, not even the guys on stage.

that show opened my eyes up to a lot of things... more hip hop, it showed me a new side of jazz and it started a few pretty good friendships. it was a crazy night and i'm really happy i didn't let some weatherman scare me into my home that night. i owe a huge thanks to the crew on stage that night.

that's how it started, with a bang. it's ridden a really big wave all year. this year i was able to see over 515 bands and catch about 275 shows. yeah, sometimes i forgot where my apartment is, fortunately it's near the record bar.

the list below recaps in a twitter friendly format my favorite 20 shows of the year in kansas city. i've paired my text with a poster from the band i saw that night. a few of the posters are for the local shows, otherwise i picked the coolest poster available.

here goes...

20 10/04/10 Wye Oak/Mountain Goats Bottleneck
a heavy 1-2 punch of a band I've wanted to see for a long time, then a band that simply caught me with my guard down.

19 9/11/2010 Hearts of Darkness Crossroads Music Fest: Crosstown Station
it was the anchor to the best crossroads music fest yet, the line stretched down the block and was 1 in, 1 out for 2 hours.

18 02/02/10 P.O.S./Dessa/Steddy P Jackpot
i finally got to "find the beauty in the bass line" and hear some of the smartest hip hop going from doomtree.

17 03/21/10 The Appleseed Cast Record Bar
we left SXSW early enough that morning for me to make it back for this show, 12 hours later I walked in during the first song of the set on their Low Level Tour.

16 05/11/10 Rodrigo y Gabriel Uptown
two people and their guitars with no words, but plenty of encores.

15 10/18/10 Frank Turner Crosstown
no idea what I was walking into here, but I think I found the illegitimate son of Billy Bragg.

(clearly not a poster, but a great photo from Slimm of Abby, she's a force!)
14 01/18/10 Tiny Horse Record Bar
it was the first time I'd heard Abby's voice in a long time, that voice could fill the biggest of rooms.

13 04/04/10 VV Brown Record Bar

one song in and you knew she'd be a star, now I see her on MTV as I'm changing the channels.

12 07/26/10 The Dodos/New Pornographers Liberty Hall
one band had trombones hooked up to a loop, the other had Neko Case.

11 11/06/10 Cherokee Rock Rifle Apocalypse Meow III: Riot Room
already part of one of my favorite days of the year, Apocalypse Meow, CRR swept me away right before what I was drinking did.

10 10/08/10 Gardening, Not Architecture Riot Room
this delicate singer songwriter nestled into a night of loud and with pretty lights.

9 12/6/2010 Lucero Bottleneck
this show was so good i had to come home and edit this list, they played for 2 plus hours with 6 songs in the encore, ben's soul spilled out a little bit.

8 01/08/10 Mark Lowrey vs Hip Hop (round 1) Czar Bar
this show opened me up to so many things in the local scene, it hardly seems fair that I deserved it.

(unfortunately, most TOOL posters suck, so none shown.)
7 06/24/10 Tool Sprint
Maynard, lights, Maynard, video screens, Maynard, lasers, Maynard, wicked seats.

6 01/17/10 American Catastrophe Davey's
Shaun said they were putting away some of their older songs after the set that night, happy I was there for the send off.

5 11/02/10 Russian Circles Riot Room
the drummer reached inside all of us that night and shook out our souls, so intense.

4 09/21/10 Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Midland
that night all of KC's music community gathered amongst a smattering of others to see the new James Brown, in heels.

3 04/21/10 Roman Numerals/Phoenix Uptown
for RN getting a stage they deserved due to a volcano in Iceland and watching Steve break a string 3 minutes in... and the light show of the Phoenix.

2 10/17/10 Sufjan Stevens Uptown
I will never forget the 25 minute journey, the voice and that production.

1 04/22/10 Jonsi Liberty Hall
their music, Sigur Ros, is my religion and he may very well be my pope.

the one thing i want to pass along about this year, and it's something that everyone in the local music community already knows, EVERY night of the week in kansas city or any metropolitan area there is great music being made. all you have to do is read a little bit, look at a website, follow the right person on twitter or friend the right person on facebook and your eyes can be opened to all sorts of awesome. i know it sounds hallmarky, but it's true. next time you plop down $250 to see bon jovi's hair realize that would get you into 35 shows at local venues in kc and almost all of them can sing better than that guy and a few of them even have better hair that guy... and once again, we come full circle back to mark lowrey.

Monday, December 20, 2010

my top 20 favorite albums of 2010

(it was time to dust off this blog for "best of" season)

the mandatory plot line of a "best of" post/article/story is to say if it was a good/bad/important/lame year in music. i think it's too hard to cast those stones. i'm a "favorites" kind of guy, more than a "best of" guy. i realize if you're a rock/hip hop/country fan you may want to stab me after browsing my list. if you're an indie/shoe gazer/post rock fan you may want to text me and hang out.

don't get me wrong i listened to all the same hip hop albums that everyone else did: kanye (there are 2 great songs there), big boi, the roots and cee lo (congrats on your hit song with a bad word in it, rebel). and you know what, i'd rather listen to steddy p's album "style like mine" from 2009 before any of them. yep, #kcpride.

so here are the fruits of my labor. i plowed through 260 plus albums this year. it was a little less than last year, but that's because i was living in bars all year seeing live shows. i always like to point out, of my top 20, i didn't know 9 of the artists before the year began but they won a spot.

here you go...

20 Stars - The Five Ghosts

more great lilting tales from the Canadian songbird and Broken Social Scene contributor Amy Millan and other band mates.

19 Frightened Rabbit - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

whiskey soaked Scots put together another good batch of songs of longing and desperation, someday people will know their name.

18 Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy Of Love

loud chick rock shaken at you from Carol van Dyk, similar in vibe to local scene heros from the '90s, Frogpond but they're Dutch.

17 Lissie - Catching A Tiger

midwestern singer songwriter with a really good back line that won me over at SXSW, not your typical coffeehouse girl.

16 The Album Leaf - A Chorus of Storytellers

Jimmy LaValle's San Diego ambient synth rock returns to my favorite albums list, just like in 2004 it's a solid collection of soundscapes.

15 School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire

shoegazer electro pop from identical twins from NYC and another dude, not long after their fall Record Bar gig one of the twins left the band.

14 Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring

indie chamber folk kids from Portland return to my list after their 2008 album, great arrangements of voices and strings.

13 Cowboy Indian Bear - Each Other All The Time

local Lawrence indie pop boys on The Record Machine label teamed up to make a great album, with more good to come with the addition of Katlyn Conroy.

12 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

"best of" darlings team up for another great album full of memorable songs, if they wanted to they could be as big as U2.

(this video is a youtube version, to create your own, which is AWESOME, go here http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com


11 Tracy Thorn - Love & Its Opposite

better known as one half of Everything But The Girl, here standing on her own this Brit pours out painfully beautiful songs.

10 Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

midwest indie folk rocker puts down the lyric book and picks up a Casio, or five and goes experimental and it's surprisingly successful.

9 Glasser - Ring

newcomer Cameron Mesirow put together an album filled with airy-synth beats she calls "post-pop" that plays out almost like one really long track.

8 Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds

3 guys from Portland that won over Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, got on his label then opened for MM, they're better than MM.

7 Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Brooklyn based quintet pushing out really catchy sythny pop beats with pretty decent lyrics to boot, this has been in heavy rotation for 10 months.

6 Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

these Jersey boys need to go on a US tour and open for The Hold Steady, they share the same feist, grit and drum beats.

5 Sleigh Bells - Treats

it sounds like you ran into the studio, turned every knob and switch to 10 then laid down vocals, it's loud and from just 2 kids from Jersey.

4 The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

music in its simplest form, a man with a voice you wish Dylan still had with his guitar making music, he's a Swede but I bet he likes Nashville.

3 Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

she's the girl next door version of Beth Orton, more approachable, less elusive and not so broken hearted yet, she's only 20.

2 Gonsi - Go

remember that Icelandic volcano that disrupted the world in April, Eyjafjallajökull, Jonsi is the voice of that volcano.

1 The National - High Violet

there's something about Matt Berninger's voice and the darker arrangements coming from the two sets of siblings backing him, they're responsible for my #1 album of 2008 and the decade, love them with me.