Some years are great for shows – like 2008. Some are great years for albums, like 2009. But this was a great year for both, from the start. In the order I remembered them:
Family Crest – My Living Room; 9/11
Duh. Can you believe this alterna-dad cream dream supreme? A stalwart and happy-go-lucky nonet of classically trained musicians show up at my house to play their lovely, life-affirming chamber pop on the anniversary of 9/11 and my teenage son sits in on clarinet? You just had to be there. But then we would have run out of pasta much sooner.
Deerhoof – Great American Music Hall; February 1
They’re just the best, in an age when it has become pointless to talk about the best. You know it’s a good show when legend Fred Frith shows up to sub for the first opener. Deerhoof primed and dimed their uniquely cereberal, detached shredding and just blew it out every pore. Great pix from Charlie Homo.
Tune-yards – Rickshaw Stop; August l5
When Merril Garbus takes the stage, it’s chills, thrills, more chills and a house full of sweaty, jumping converts. This was actually Vetiver’s show – Tunes added late. They were pretty tasty, but ultimately the latest to learn: don’t share a bill with Tune-Yards unless you like being used as a mop.
Kelley Stoltz/R. Stevie Moore – Make Out Room; August 29
I am reluctant about novelty or curiosity acts. But R. Stevie Moore is for real – a riveting genius whose compositions, arrangements and delivery are just controlled and recognizable enough to be consumable, but legitimately on their own wavelength. Exhilirating and moving. His band, Tropical Ooze, handled his material with precision and aggression. Kelley Stoltz is one of our laureates – he and his all-star band had a laid-back blast with his latest album. Set was too short, however.
Penny Arcade – Tim Cohen, Shalants, Tippy Canoe, Pancho San – Make Out Room; July 6.
Cohen and band were in fine voice, and all three support acts – the twangy garage Shalants, singer Tippy Canoe and mellow groove Pancho San – satisfied. Great night all around, and don’t you love how roomy it is in there?
Btw – these two Make Out Room gigs were the place to run into other local musicians this year.
Joan as Police Woman – Café du Nord; May 26
I know, she’s not local. She may not even be from Earth. But this was her second amazing show in a row at the du Nord, even better than last time around, and people just have to know. I don’t understand why this artist isn’t 10 times bigger than she is, but as long as she keeps bringing me to tears every two years in my favorite club, I’ll take it.
The SHE’s – Bottom of the Hill; December 3
I’ve seen and written about many “coming out” gigs for this band. But this was on another plane. These gals can rock a house. They were pumped as heck about their debut full-length and powering their supernatural harmonies to the heavens. The crowd was almost as ecstatic as Tune Yards’.
It was a great year for local records:
Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs. Evil
Sonny & the Sunsets – Hit After Hit
I Miss the Jams – Sonny Smith presents 100 records.
Tune-yards – Whokill
SHE’s – Then it Starts to Feel Like Summer
Close enough. . .
. . . UMO, by Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra, who played two extremely enjoyable shows in town this year.
2011 was a good year to revisit. . .
. . . the English art pop band Broadcast, whose influence shows up everywhere, including SF’s Social Studies. Broadcast’s singer, Trish Keenan, passed away at age 42 this year. She was one of two remaining members who put out the band’s 2006 final album Tender Buttons, any song from which would fit perfectly on your best of 2011 playlist.