best performances I saw in 2009


Ott 19 2009, 7:41

Remaining planned concerts for the year are Amy Milan, Metric, Mum, Dinosaur Jr, dd/mm/yyyy and Thunderheist. Maybe they'll make a difference but I don't think so. Will edit accordingly.

20. Monotonix @ Tubby Dog, June 26
This was a different experience in comparison to most of what I saw. Monotonix were one of the more ridiculously hyped artists at Sled Island due to a crazy live show. The crazy live show often follows a similar formula but Monotonix really captivated me because the tiny venue was packed and we were stuck outside. They came outside and played on the side, the singer standing on a large mailbox. Just thought it was awesome they cared enough to come out and from looking at the guy you could see he truly did not give a shit about restraint or his own safety.

19. Crystal Castles @ Sasquatch, May 23
Crystal Castles are not a fantastic live act. The crowd was insane, the volume was excruciating and the venue was a tiny crammed tent in a record hot Washington evening. Crowdsurfing and moshing were just about equal to the dancing going on. I was caught off guard completely and just had a blast trying not to die while the synths sirened and the beats blasted. Plus I got to boost the hot kid in the pyjamas for a crowd surf which was a treat after spotting him and giggling so many times.

18. The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Central United Church, June 24
Opening for Final Fantasy, The RAA were a band I'd been hearing about but predicted a mellow folksy set. The skill of the musicians and the seamless blend of folk with pop guitar, rock drums and warm synthesizers was exciting and the endless waiting for the headliner became forgetting everything but the performers in front of me. I was most impressed by the drummer.

17. Metric (Acoustic) @ The Grand Theatre, April 22
After frantic and dedicated calls to a radio station I hated, I secured the tickets to the winners only show. Most of the songs on Fantasies work equally well in an acoustic format and several were vast improvements. I've seen Broken Social Scene 5 times but this was the only time I caught Emily Haines on vocals for Anthems. Ended up in the first row. Got a little snubbed by the band after the show when we waited an hour or so for their exit but it was a very intimate and unique offering from a band I've long loved.

16. Fleet Foxes @ Sasquatch, May 25
Only listened to a bit of Fleet Foxes beforehand but the mainstage was stacked on this particular day so I wanted to check them out. Very pretty, captivating and managed to be mellow without being boring. Just very enjoyable and relaxing after dancing to Santigold and being crushed for Gogol Bordello.

15. The SSRIs @ Tubby Dog, June 23
The Sled Island warm up day held little of interest for me but The SSRIs were a very pleasant surprise. A nice blend of 90s style emo and experimental indie rock is something I rarely see (or seek out). A surprise and nice jolt out of my comfort zone was incredibly refreshing.

14. DeVotchKa @ Sasquatch, May 24
Gypsy indie buzz whatever that isn't the brash Gogol Bordello or the lush Beirut hits the mark more than either sometimes. I'd seen them once before and had a reasonable time. This was just one of the most pleasant times of the festival to experience music. It had finally cooled down, there was some much needed wind and the sun was just threatening to set. DeVotchKa had the right balance of beauty and exhiliration for their 45 minute set and I barely noticed changing from dancing to reflecting.

13. Thunderheist @ The Warehouse, I forget
I got very drunk and danced to Thunderheist soon after turning the legal age. It was at the peak of my interest in them and I got to dance on stage. Just a lot of fun with a friend that tops most of the partying I did this year.

12. Ghostkeeper @ Royal Canadian Legion #1, May 16
The evening was stacked with bands I like: Chad VanGaalen, Women, Azeda Booth and Julie Doiron. Ghostkeeper were new to me and such a cool blend of spooky roots and funky rock and roll. Ghostkeeper tell the kind of ghost stories you can believe and play the guitar riffs and basslines that keep you bumping along dying to know what happens next. Featured a few Calgary musicians known for work in several bands that are all at the top of their game.

11. Julie Doiron @ Royal Canadian legion #1, May 16
The only one to top Ghost Keeper at the show was my familiar, heartbreaking Julie Doiron. Miss Doiron recently switched from her solo electric guitar set-up to a band format. She was a guest of Chad's at the show and came out with just electric in the style I had missed. She performed the (for me) definitive version of Spill Yer Lungs with some other tracks off her latest album as well as some new and old tracks with Chad's band. The new ones were written that day and super fun! The live take on Dark Horse was so much more alive and upbeat. Mostly I was impressed with the dynamic she can create with the contrast of her gentle strums and unexpectedly gritty rock manouevres which come cheap easy with a band but impressively on their own. As always she was funny and charming and probably the most energetic I've seen her.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Osheaga, August 2
It was tough to beat the never-thought-I'd-see-it sunset performance at Saquatch but 50% more time and a much better spot with great friends I hadn't seen in ages, the YYYs were better the second time. Karen wore a mask out for the first song and the setlist was much beefier. There was Y shaped confetti and time for them to play more than just singles. Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the only major thrill at Osheaga this year and a band I've liked a lot for a long time with a surprise best record this late in their career really delivered.

9. Liars @ Sled Island, June 26
After feeling a bit let down by Holy Fuck on the mainstage, Liars gave way more intensity than I expected and blew me away with songs I'd never heard before. I have their last two records but the song selection was unexpected and more manic than I could have imagined. Angus is a brilliant frontman who played mostly to lame, bored mid afternooners and seemed not to notice. Their (mostly) one guitar set-up was so unbelievably thick and rich. The tribal drumming is incredibly hypnotic in a live setting. Their set the next day (with a larger time slot as the headliner) would have taken the cake if it weren't for a headache and a drunken frat crowd, but I have no complaints. It was irritating that they didn't have more time but it was also nice to be left wanting more.

8. Broken Social Scene @ The Orpheum Theatre, February 6
BSS are my favourite band and it was my 5th time seeing them. Instead of gushing and giving the same compliments I do for their every show I'll do a list of notable points.
-Fairly well chosen setlist
-Lisa Lobsinger, K-OS
-Too short timeslot (a common misfortune I've experienced)
-Had a terrible seat until someone gave me a front row ticket out of nowhere
-Tegan and Sara suck
-Met Brendan and Kevin

7. The Wrens @ Sasquatch, May 24
Shock highlight of the festival. Old guys, intense, powerful, mistifying energy and anthemic songs with no cheese factor. Had given a passive listen beforehand and was not prepared. The Wrens are a band that thrive on the stage.

6. Animal Collective @ Sasquatch, May 23
I'm not shy to admit that My Girls is my favourite AC song. I hated this band until shortly before MPP came out. My Girls is one of their worst songs but the show I expected from the MPP material did not matter at all in comparison to what they did. I'm not a person who goes to see music for a thoughtful, cerebral experience. I like some form of directness but Animal Collective refused to let you in easy. Other favourites Brothersport and Summertime Clothes were exactly as good and in the vein I had hoped for. Jams on What Would I Want Sky and Fireworks were what clinched it. WWIWS had me enjoying zoning out, uncommon for me. Fireworks was more or less the opposite which had me paying attention to each twist and turn for about 15 minutes. I don't know what song they use in the extended jam but it was spectacular. Merriweather Post Pavilion was one of my favourite albums this year, which I still listen to as much as when it first leaked, and the live experience is totally seperate but equally thrilling. Though it was the middle of the day, the intense heat helped the delusional quality of the music.

5. Grizzly Bear @ Sasquatch, May 24
I saw Grizzly Bear twice the previous summer, with acoustics on their side in a church and acoustics raging against them opening for Radiohead. Veckatimest is their live strong suit and they have improved greatly as performers between Yellow House and said album. Full rich dreamy sound which was also a catchy pop delight. Spot on vocals, excellent set choices and just fantastic song writers in their prime. I love Grizzly Bear and expected lots from them but they exceeded my expectations

4. Chromeo @ Sasquatch, May 25
You may have noticed that Sasquatch was the highlight of my year. This is the final entry of artists who were on the bill. I was disappointed to see Chromeo were DJing after being blow away with their live act a year beforehand. Their DJ skills are somehow equal to their live skills. Amazing tweaks on bizarre source material including hockey themes with a plenty of their own material and some crowd pleasing blog house. Probably the most fun I've had dancing, ever.

3. HEALTH @ Broken City, June 26
Health were the best of Sled Island this year and perhaps ever. Intense doesn't even begin to cover it. My love for noise or heavy music is quite limited but HEALTH was my testosterone outlet. Incredibly brash guitar, relentless drums (drummers were breathing like they'd run a triathalon) and electronic noise sampling. Dancing, thrashing, talking to the band and getting an amazing t-shirt. IT WAS SO LOUD.

2. Dirty Projectors @ Macewan Hall, May 28
I went to see TV On The Radio for my third time. I almost passed until I saw Dirty Projectors were opening who I'd heard a lot about and was reading more about than ever. I had not listened to any of their music before. The complexity of their instrumentation and bizarre vocals was so wrongly accessible. I had never heard anyone sing like Amber Coffman on Stillness is the Move or seen anyone play guitar the way Dave Longstreth does. I have never been so appreciative of skill until I saw Dirty Projectors. These guys upstaged TVOTR by a million miles and played one of the best shows I've ever seen. The awe didn't let up the entire time and the difficulty of keeping up with the complexity of the rhythm and melody was nearly equal to the fun I had dancing awkwardly along.

1. Final Fantasy @ Knox United Church, September 28
8th time seeing Owen Pallett play was the best. This was the first time I'd seen him with an accompanying musician which exposed a fascinating element of his music but it was really the strength of his new material and finally seeing his This Modern Love cover that made me nearly jump from the pew with joy. His looping is mesmerizing and never gets old, ever. The intricate keyboard riffs and textures are such a welcome turn in his music. I truly believe Heartland, due in January, will be my favourite album of next year. I just don't know what to say.

Final Fantasy
Dirty Projectors
Grizzly Bear
Animal Collective
The Wrens
Broken Social Scene
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Julie Doiron
Fleet Foxes
The Rural Alberta Advantage
Crystal Castles


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