A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Live Performances

Monday, May 19, 2008

To continue Sheri and I's ongoing weekly venture in making lists of our favorite things, and then linking to each other for comparisons sake, this week we have favorite live performances. Per usual, we have specific rules: must be single live performance (not live band or live show, just live performance), must be actually seen live (no BS including DVD watching...bad form), and if the best performance happens to be by a band you don't like in particular. Well...that's tough. It's not favorite band, it's favorite performance.

With that said, below are links that take you to Sheri's blog and previous lists, and then after that it's on with the show!

Sheri's blog
Favorite foods
Favorite albums
Favorite movies

1. Andrew WK at Club Soda in Spokane, WA (some time in late 2002...)

This was the very first show I attended after getting to college, and it was the first road trip I took to attend a show as well. At this point Andrew WK is a bit of an afterthought, as after the Wolf I lost pretty much all interest. But at the time, when he was all about two things (partying and rocking for clarification) my friends and I absolutely loved the guyb. We had to go!.

Why was this show so great? It was all about fun and having a great time at a show, as WK was pretty much the emcee of one of the best parties I'd ever been to. The security at the show had absolutely no control, and it was just the way WK wanted it to be as he went from not caring if people were on stage at the beginning of the set to encouraging people to join him at the end.

Examples of awesome things that happened: my buddy Colver and I sat on stage for 3/4ths of the set right in front of WK and sang the chorus to "She is Beautiful," I hugged WK (in a life affirming "we are bros for life!" sort of way), and during the final song the stage was loaded with no less than 20 people, including a kid sitting on top of WK's shoulders as he belted out the chorus, and the whole thing culminated with WK running at the audience and the kid diving off him into their loving arms.

Incredible. The most fun I have, and likely ever will have, ever had at any concert. Pure, unadultered joy for an hour plus.

2. Radiohead at the White River Amphitheater in Auburn, Washington (August 31st, 2003)

I think any time you see a band like Radiohead, they get an extra oomph to their performance that you get from few other bands. You just find yourself watching and looking around at everyone else, and you catch yourself thinking about how incredible this experience is. I attended this with my friend Marc, his twin brother Jeff, and our friend Morgan, and their set unified the audience in a way few artists I've ever seen before or after have done.

The picture above isn't from my show, but it's very similar in design as there were monitors all over the stage for us to watch the band in close up. By far the most entertaining was Thom Yorke, as he had tons of fun with the cameras while playing the piano and singing. It was a spectacle and a half, but nothing could top the showstopper that was the second encore.

To the roar of the crowd, they came out and belted out two personal favorites ("No Surprises" and "Everything in it's Right Place") and a third song that was just Thom by himself. As great as the other two were, finisher "Right Place" was the best song I've ever seen performed live. The best part was Jonny Greenwood staying out for an extra 5 minutes after everyone else had left, just jamming on the guitar and using his pedals to create a wall of sound like only he can.

One of the most expensive concerts I've ever been to, but it was worth every penny.

3. Gatsby's American Dream at Neckbeard's in Tempe, Arizona (March 13th, 2005)

This is one of my favorite bands all-time, and it was the first of two times I had seen them. Why was it so special, besides the fact that it was a favorite band playing favorite songs? First off, there is the added plus of meeting Nic Newsham (lead singer) and him giving me a shirt, a DVD, and stickers after the set for free (because I'm such a big fan).

Second off, and most importantly, when talking to him before the set I asked if they were going to play my favorite track, "Apparition." He said he wasn't sure, but he'd see what he could do. During their set (which was stellar, full of tons of energy and near album quality sound) Nic walks around, talks to the rest of the band, turns to the audience and looks directly at me and says "this one is for this guy, this is Apparition."

Hell yes. If this isn't proof that I am susceptible to bribes, I don't know what it is. However, it was the best performance by a favorite band, and one of the best I've ever seen. Hard not to rank it this high, bribery or not.

4. Art Brut at the KEXP Stage at Bumbershoot in Seattle, Washington (September 2nd, 2007)

I go into great detail about this bad boy here, but I'll give you a brief synopsis as to why this is one of the best performances I've ever seen: Eddie Argos (lead singer), 20 songs in 50 minutes, mid-song medleys of pop hits like "99 Problems" and "Hollaback Girl," coordinated movements, and hilarious interactions with the audience.

I didn't like this band before seeing them live. Afterwards, they had earned themselves a fan for life. Plus Eddie Argos bought me a PBR later that night, which is another really good way to bribe me (pay attention bands). See this band if they come anywhere near you, even if you haven't heard them or don't like them. You won't regret it.

5. (tie) Girl Talk at the Roseland Theater, the Thermals at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon (September 8th, 2007)

This is kind of cheating, but I saw these shows consecutively (one at 11 pm, the other at 12 am) last year at Musicfest NW in Portland, and if that wasn't the most fun night of shows I'd had since Andrew WK, I don't know what was. Here is an extensive breakdown, but I'll go into a bit of detail as to why they were so great.

Girl Talk's set was just Gregg Gillis jumping down with the audience and throwing together the best dance party ever, impromptu right in the crowd. I happened to be right up front behind the security line, and I was up there dancing my feet off with everyone else. It was sweaty, it was memorable, and it was one of the best spur of the moment show experiences I've ever had.

The Thermals on the other hand was awesome for a different reason: it was just a band going up on stage and rocking very, very hard. Sheri and I went to this show together, and it was just 45 minutes straight of pure energy and fun, as we jumped along to the beat, danced in the crowd, and moshed with the cool people at the Crystal Ballroom. The Thermals brought a ton of energy to the audience, and we reciprocated. Sheri described it like so: "It felt like being in high school again." That sums it up well. Those two alone made Musicfest NW worth the trip.

6. Moneen at the Graceland (now El Corazon) in Seattle, Washington (February 14th, 2004)

The first of two openers for Finch who actually outperformed the headliner, this band was one I wasn't that into before seeing them but I became very into afterwards. I can say unequivocally that this band brings more energy than any band out there. They are bundles of fun and energy, and they just had fantastic rapport with the audience as well. They actually made the headliners feel like a letdown, and made me just want to see more Moneen.

I tried finding video example as to why they rocked so hard, but YouTube failed me. Either that, or this band is one of those "you had to be there" types. They thrive off energy and singing along, and seeing them live I know that. Check them out if they come by, as they are a blast to see.

7. The Movielife at B Complex in Portland, Oregon (February 26th, 2003)

Number two of two in "bands that opened for Finch but outperformed them." I had never liked the Movielife before seeing them live either (common theme, eh?), but their performance changed everything for me. From the beginning where they had someone from the crowd announce their arrival to the stage with the Pixies "Where is my mind?" playing, and then the lights turning on with the whole band starting the first song simultaneously, I knew this was an incredible live band.

Vinnie Caruana to this day is still one of the best lead singers I've ever seen, even though he isn't a "good singer," his presence and crowd interactions were top notch. He hit the notes he needed to and he made sure the show was fun. This is too bad of course, because shortly thereafter the Movielife broke up and I never had a chance to see them after I had discovered that I loved their music. I guess at least I get to keep that memory intact in my mind.

8. Neil Diamond at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska (Some time in 1999...)

Look at that guy up there. That man is mantastic. How could you not love him?

Truth be told, I was forced to go to this show by my parents, and I can't even tell you how thankful I am to this day that they did. Neil Diamond was up on a rotating stage by himself (unless you include his chest hair/necklace as separate entities, which I may) and he was the consumate performer. He was genius, in the way only such a classic artist could be. I didn't need to love his music, I just needed to see him perform.

The man is the biggest rock star I've ever seen.

9. Taking Back Sunday at B Complex in Portland, Oregon (April 12th, 2003)

I've seen Taking Back Sunday more than any band besides one, but to this day the first time I saw them is still the best time. It was the only time I saw them with their Tell All Your Friends lineup, with John Nolan and Shaun Cooper still being in the band. The presentation of the show was very top notch for a small venue show, as they had set up chinese lanterns along the stage and above the audience that gave a great feel to the show.

Not to overuse this word, but it's really my favorite trait of performers: this band is pure energy. Adam Lazzara (the lead singer) is all over the place during sets, especially spinning his mic all over the place and climbing on any and every object he can get his arms and legs on. This was before they had released either of their two later, lesser albums, so it was all b-sides and Tell All Your Friends, and they played the album in its entirety.

They finished with "Ghost Man on Third," which at first glance seems a bit strange, but when you see Adam hanging from the pipes that dangled from the ceiling singing "this is what living like this does" as John screams along, you realize that the show could end in no other way. It's still really too bad that those two left the band, because they are a good band that could have been great.

10. AFI at the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Washington (October 19th, 2003)

This set was slightly devalued later on when I saw them in December of the same year and they performed pretty much the exact same set, but it not by a lot. I was hugely into this band at the time, as they had just released their album Sing the Sorrow earlier that summer. That was the first album that got me into this band, as I was never a fan of their straight forward punk material.

No less, this show was one of the more intense ones I'd ever seen, as metal stalwarts Poison the Well opened and were pretty insane, which led in perfectly to AFI's controlled chaos. There were pyrotechnics, insane circle pits, Colver and I holding up Davey Havok in the audience as he screamed along to "God Called in Sick Today," and four very effeminate looking men rocking about as hard as any band can.

Sure, it was very planned and slickly coordinated, but at the time I didn't realize it. I just knew I loved every second of it.

The Next 10
11. The Offspring at the Egan Center in Anchorage, Alaska
12. The Shins at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington
13. Jet at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington
14. Bedouin Soundclash at the Gorge in Quincy, Washington
15. Death Cab for Cutie at the SUB Ballroom in Moscow, Idaho
16. Ben Folds at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho
17. Flogging Moly at the SUB Ballroom in Moscow, Idaho
18. The Killers at the Big Easy in Spokane, Washington
19. The Frames at the KEXP Stage at Bumbershoot in Seattle, Washington
20. Suburban Legends at Neckbeard's in Tempe, Arizona


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