At The Barbecue: Constructive Summer – The HT Staff’s Favorite Shows of the Season

Diana Costello – The Smashing Pumpkins – July 26 – Terminal 5 – NYC

The energy of this new incarnation of the Smashing Pumpkins was incredible, fueling the crowd to pulse, sway and thrash to the music just like the old days. Founder and front-man Billy Corgan was having a blast on stage, leading spaced-out jams and absolutely killing the harder hits that have come to define the band. Even the newer songs — and there are plenty these days — have found their way into fans’ hearts. If you want to experience the full intensity of the Pumpkins, be sure to check them out at a general admission venue. Just be ready to throw a few elbows.

Wade Wilby – LCD Soundsystem – July 15 – Camp Bisco – Mariaville, NY

Camp Bisco has become infamous for inviting “A Level” Electronic music acts and this year was no exception. Nine out of ten bands at Camp could be seen with multiple laptops on stage. Par for the course. However, every band should have been front and center for LCD Soundsystem’s set on Friday night, as they established their extremely layered and powerful beats with a variety of solid state and analog keyboards and not ONE computer. I felt like I was watching a modern day Talking Heads completely flipping the script on pop culture amidst a line up of their peers.  James Murphy is the consummate rock star front man, often ad-libbing and spicing up the lyrics to both the hits and B-sides.  It was clear Murphy was NOT into the festival crowd gathered in Upstate New York, addressing the spunions in a very sarcastic tone : “Oh, you guys brought your own lasers”. This didn’t stop Murphy and his band of techno misfits from delivering a raucous and virgin tight set.

[Photo by Jeremy Gordon]

Highlights included a Phishy rendition of All My Friends that featured a cyclical arena rock guitar riff that is not featured on the album version. A 17 minute version of Us vs Them, and the always gripping New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down. Finally, Murphy took one last jab at the Bisco crowd during Losing My Edge by stating “I’m losing my edge because of 20 minute songs with no words”. HA. Right on, James.  Please go see LCD before James puts this lineup to rest and creates a new beast to wreak havoc on pop culture as we know it. Rumor has it after this fall tour LCD is calling it quits.

Chad Berndston – Garage A Trois – July 8 – Maxwell’s – Hoboken, NJ

Spent plenty of time outdoors this summer, but the best show I saw was in a dark cavern: that lovably scruffy rock temple known as Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. On tap there back on July 8 was a night of mischief and mayhem thanks to Garage A Trois and the Dead Kenny Gs. Both of them collections of like-minded players who prefer to surf the big waves far out at the edges of fusion and couldn’t give less of a shit if they’re too adventurous, too psychedelic, too intense or too experimental for you, but, especially in GAT’s case, aren’t opposed to melody, form and glorious musicianship, either.

Pure cacophony is no one’s rational idea of a good time; it’s a tribute to Skerik, Stanton, Marco and Mike (and Skerik, Mike and Brad) that they can go deep and sometimes come up with amazingly precise jazz-rock, or the filthiest funk, or a rattling punk assault, and make it all sound not nearly as freewheeling as, but no less exciting than, their reputations suggest it could be. For real: the two-hour GAT set — heavy with material from their 2009 album Power Patriot — was enough to convince that GAT is a better, richer, more locked-in band than any of its players’ other affiliations. Too bold a statement? Well, were you there?

Allison Taich – Danny Barnes – Northwest String Summit – North Plains, OR

Living in Chicago I am completely spoiled when it comes to live music, especially during the summer. There are always shows both big and small, street fests, festivals, parties, etc. But for summer of 2010 I have to say my favorite show was not in my faithful city, but in North Plains, OR. Danny Barnes’ set at the Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout was by far the most memorable show of the season. Barnes is an Americana rock visionary and an excellent lyricist to boot. His music rides from gritty truck stops with a handle of whiskey, to a porch swing with a cold beer on a warm summer night. Also it does not hurt that his musical chums includes the boys of Yonder Mountain String Band and fiddler Darol Anger.

[Photo By: Allison Taich]

At the String Summit, Barnes’ set began with Ragdoll, a duet penned and performed with Jeff Austin of YMSB. The song had an emotional animated spirit, with a hint of attitude that completely put me at a standstill and roped in my senses. I had one of those defining moments during the two part banjo mandolin harmony, where everything around me just clicked. Darol Anger and the remaining boys of YMSB backed Barnes through selections off his latest album Pizza Box. To top off the joy that same performance unveiled Barnes’ latest musical innovation, an electric guitar/banjo hybrid. With the string of a hammerclaw he was able to transition from modest crooner to snarling badass. If you like your bluegrass to have an Austin rock backbone, look no further than the one and only Danny Barnes.

Jonathan Kosakow – Gogol Bordello & Primus – August 12  – Red Rocks Amphitheater – Morrison, CO

I’d heard the name Gogol Bordello for some time, and had listened to some of their music in passing, but never in depth. When I heard they were opening for Primus at Red Rocks I decided to wait for that night to see what they were really about. It was a Thursday. I had just gotten back from a week-long road trip through Colorado and New Mexico, climaxing with Phish’s stand in Telluride, and I was tired to say the least. In all honesty, though one of the only things in this world that rarely fails to make me happy is live music, but the last thing I wanted to do that night was go to a concert. I wanted to sleep. But business calls, I had made a commitment, and how could I skip this show anyway?

[Photo By: Brendan Flanagan]

When Gogol Bordello came on, saddles blazing in gypsy punk passion fire, crowd roaring and sun setting, it was hard to feel tired. I was energized. Everyone screamed, the band screamed, I screamed. The band danced and jumped around stage, I stared in bewilderment. And even though it was hard not to chuckle sometimes at lead singer Eugene Hutz’ accent, sometimes reminiscent of Ween’s Buenos Tardes Amigo, I was converted. Soon, GB’s 90-minute set ended, and a couple of spacemen were inflated on stage as backdrop for the original Primus lineup. Chants of “Primus Sucks!” from the crowd, songs old and new with unparalleled energy, a smashing drum-solo, and an awe-inspiring backdrop of pure natural Red Rocks wonder were all I needed. I went home, engulfed in musical fire, and slept for days.

Andy Kahn – MGMT – Riviera Theatre – June 8 – Chicago, IL

MGMT showed they’re far more than a duo who made it big on the success of a couple of dorm room dance hits, by proving to be a legitimately impressive and tight live band. While the kids still love their Kids and other hits like Electric Feel and Time to Pretend certainly got the biggest reactions from the crowd, it was the new tunes off of Congratulations that kept its attention.

The multi-part opus Siberian Breaks, the highlight of the latest album, also highlighted the set as the band meandered its way through the psychedelic suite. A near perfect 15 minutes of blissful melody anchored directly mid-set. Each section was played true to form and flowed effortlessly. By the time they closed with Brian Eno, complete with images of the anti-musician on the LCD screens that were visually captivating all night, I got the feeling this was a band you want to see whenever you can (thankfully I got to catch their equally impressive Lollapalooza set just a few weeks later).

DaveO – Broken Bells / The Morning Benders – June 4 – Royale – Boston, MA

Back in June I had the opportunity to see The Morning Benders open for Broken Bells at Royale in Boston. Unless 2010 finishes up with a serious bang, both of these bands will appear in my Top 10 list of best studio releases for the year. The sets were quite different; Broken Bells had a large band that was able to reproduce the arrangements of the album while The Morning Benders had a much more stripped-down approach that produced raw performances of the heavily produced tracks on Big Echo.

Both sets were great in their own way, most impressive was the vocal performance of James Mercer especially on songs like The Ghost Inside which requires a strong falsetto. With only one album’s worth of material, Broken Bells rounded out their set with a great cover of Crimson and Clover. The show also marked my first time seeing Danger Mouse perform live.

Ryan Dembinsky – Peter Gabriel – May 3 – Radio City Music Hall – NYC

When Peter Gabriel released his Scratch My Back covers album back in the spring, my first thought was this reeks of a stinky gimmick. In fact, I didn’t even like the album that much when it initially came out. The song choices seemed odd despite coming from a knockout list of artists, and the result was tough to endure in a single sitting.

Well, Gabriel clearly chose his songs for the stage as they couldn’t have been more engaging in the live setting. Backed by a 54-piece orchestra and a stunning LED screen draped in haunting imagery customized for every tune, Gabriel’s shimmering vocals enraptured everyone in the room. His upper register repeatedly called upon the goosebumps and the backing orchestrations navigated the highs and lows like a catamount. The Scratch My Back highlights included David Bowie’s Heroes, the Magnetic Fields’ Book of Love, and Lou Reed’s The Power of the Heart (Lou also made a guest appearance in the second set), but unsurprisingly, the soaring laments of the hits, Red Rain, Don’t Give Up, and Solsbury Hill reminded everyone why they came; to catch a glimpse of a living legend.

Jeffrey Greenblatt – Jeff Tweedy – August 15 – Solid Sound Festival – North Adams, MA

This was one of those cases where the show that I was looking forward to the most this past summer lived up to, and exceeded my expectations. When Wilco announced that they’d be curating their first (and hopefully) annual Solid Sound Festival, at Mass MoCA in tiny town of North Adams, MA, I already knew what I’d be doing on the weekend of August 13 – 15. The fest promised a diverse bill of music, comedy and art highlighted by a headlining show by the Chicago indie-rockers, as well as a full slate of sets from the band’s various side-projects, that was to include a festival closing slot that was being billed as Jeff Tweedy & Friends.

Surrounded by a gang of acoustic guitars, Tweedy’s mid-afternoon Sunday set was everything that you’ve come to expect from the Wilco front man’s rare solo shows: fan favorites, deep catalog cuts and, of course, a healthy dose of witty stage banter that was arguably worth the price of admission alone. The hour and a half-plus set included the clever back to back pairing of Bob Dylan’s Beard followed by Simple Twist Of Fate, a number of tracks from the Mermaid Avenue albums and an unexpected acoustic take on the Spiders (Kidsmoke). The Friends portion of show featured guest appearances from most of the bands that played over the weekend, with a standout take on Neil Young’s Look Out For My Love featuring the members of Avi Buffalo.

We showed you ours, now you show us yours. What was your favorite show of the summer? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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3 Responses

  1. The bridge at 320 south in breckenridge, co…low attendance on a week night, danced non-stop with friends, good banter with the band outside during set break. Those guys are great, they even played my song request.

  2. Gogol Bordello & Primus WTF I saw both bands in burlington vt and either it was a bad show or Bordello just plain sucks. Im def not trolling here but Primus did a greatest hits show (which was a blast) and the other band just screamed and yelled till they gave you a headache. I will give them credit for being original but god I walked out of the show saying wow I just wasted 40 bucks. Primus played for 87 minutes and seemed lost. IDK maybe it was the only show you went to but I love how it is the cool thing not to include phish these days. Camden II off the fucking hook and you all know it MMJ and tom Petty, MGMT all great bands but we are talking live shows and I saw Tom Petty and again just a greatest hits show that sounds more and more like Bob Dylan everytime I here them. Thank god CSN opened

  3. Wilco April 2, 2010 Montclair, NJ. Wilco descended on the small, quaint town of Montclair and played a very deep and engaging set. The venue was perfect for the band and their sound. Wilco burned through a 38 song set, 3 hours total, with some classics and rarities. The set also included their stripped down, acoustic mini-set. The set itself heavily favored material off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost Is Born (7 songs each). The band even gave away free dinners!

    Set highlights: The band played the first More Like The Moon since 2003 and only the 5th time in the band’s history. Woody Guthrie’s Someday Some Morning Sometime for the 2nd time ever, the last track off Mermaid Avenue. They also busted out the rarity Laminated Cat (Not For The Season), the first track off side project album Loose Fur-2003 and a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot B-side, which turned out to be a staple on this tour. The band segued perfectly out of great alt-country singalong, Passenger Side, into Airline the Heaven that drove the crowd into a frenzy. The 3rd set featured a raucous version of Red-Eyed and Blue>I Got You (At The End of the Century), an amazing cover of Neil Young’s Broken Arrow, and a closer of Big Star’s Thank You Friends.

    Wilco is one of the most consistently great American rock bands. Gotta be on the list!

    Review from Brooklyn Vegan:

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