Last night I experienced one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite some time. Sufjan Stevens brought his “Sufjohn Christmas Sing Along Spectacular Wheel of Doom and Mayhem for Winter’s Eternal Bliss” (or something of that nature) to Babeville here in sunny Buffalo, New York.
While I expected some of what transpired (audience caroling, broody winter Sufjams, lots of thick framed glasses), I never expected the show to be the spectacle it turned out to be. It was like the best christmas play you’ve ever been to, meets a dance party DJ’d by Sufjan Stevens, meets a Girl Talk concert, meets midnight mass. Strobes, confetti, weird balloon animals, enormous red christmas tree bulbs (in balloon form) bouncing from audience member to audience member, costumes, and ponies!.
It was impossible to not have a great time at that show. The setlist was a solid mix of common christmas carols, Stevens’ own tracks (of which he’s compiled something like 80 holiday related tunes over the years), and a few ‘regular’ songs for good measure. I won’t bother with highlights or try to explain the set list, which you can find at setlist.fm if you’re so inclined. I would rather focus on how exhilarating the experience, and implore you to make certain that when given the opportunity to experience a Sufjan show (this was my 2nd) that you seize it.
Let’s get in the holiday spirit together and share some other concert highlights from 2012. Here are mine, but please please please share yours as well.
Liars @ Lees Palace, Tonronto ON, July 15-ish? – My first time seeing Liars. A underappreciated band, probably caused by their skewed direction from album to album. One thing is certain though with this group is that you’re going to hear them play something weird. While I wouldn’t particularly categorize their live act as ‘weird’, it was mesmerizing for sure. The guys know how to transform their more subdued studio work into a fucking punk heavy rock fest. Catching them live was a long time coming, and certainly worth the wait.
Built To Spill @ Buffalo Inner Harbor, Buffalo, NY June 20-ish: This show was incredibly memorable for me. In 2012 I discovered this band’s full discography, moving beyond their quintessential masterpiece, ‘There’s Nothing Wrong With Love’ and into their more experimental albums. By the time this show came to town I was neck deep in their work and any setlist would have been greatly appreciated. But then they went and did this. Such a great show. And to top it all off it was completely FREE!!
Iron and Wine @ Buff State, Buffalo, NY May 5th – What was billed as an Iron and Wine show instead ended up being a Sam Beam, one man comedy and musical act. While there was a slight disappointed feeling over not getting the full band vibe I thought his candor and stage presence made for a more unique and special experience.
Sigur Ros @ Toronto Beach, Toronto ON August 1st.: I would grade myself as a mid range Sigur Ros fan. I’ve listened to the discography. I cherish Ágætis byrjun as much as anyone, and Takk is a common go to of mine. And yet, I would not put myself in the realm of fans who actually can pronounce their debut album’s title properly, or most of their songs for that matter. So mid-range it is. Although lukewarm on their release from this year, the sluggishly effervescent Valtari, seeing this group perform live had always eluded me. What may have been lost on my attention deficient peanut brain and low grade headphones was found front and center at this show. A breathtaking performance in the clear night sky along side Toronto’s skyline made for a remarkable evening. I cannot wait until the next chance to catch this group cast their sonic magic over me.
Dirty Projectors @ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON July 1st: The complex nature of the Dirty Projector’s music inherently lends itself to a great live show. Watching talented musicians weave the timings, tunings, and vocal harmonies that make up the band’s repertoire is a gratifying experience for all art appreciators. So despite the show’s date preceding the band’s new album release, which was sure to make up for a significant portion of evening’s songs, this show was still a no-brainer. The group didn’t let us down either. Despite not knowing many of the new tracks that were unveiled the show was a thrilling spectacle of musicianship Every member from the keyboards to the bassist shared in each song’s triumph. This of course was not too hard considering the mastery of songwriting that is found on Swing Lo Magellan but I have always had trouble connecting with a the musician/performance if i’m not familiar with their work. It is but a rare occasion when a concert consisting primarily of new or unrecognized songs can still conjure full fist pumping enthusiasm. A small note should also be made to point out that this show also consisted of a highly entertaining performance by Purity Ring. While their studio stuff doesn’t really strike me as all that interesting, their live performance is light show spectacle that more than makes up for what I would categorize as run of the mill electro pop.
While I was able to catch a number of other acts this year these few were the ones that stand out in my mind. Acts that generated a sense of obligation. Obligation to make sure to continue to feed my soul the type of experiences that these artists provided. The types of shows that are the catalysts for continuing to get out there and go see music acts. Despite their financial and/or logistical burden. That push me to continue this trend in 2013 …
What about you? What shows did you catch this year that fed your soul? Want to get together and record a podcast about it?
(editor’s note: how the fuck did I forget to mention the god damn enormous wheel of christmas?)