Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Concert Experiences in 2012 With Video Highlights

Me & Paul flashing credentials at Moogfest 2012
My top five picks for 2012 are from just three events -- two at the excellent new Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, two at this year's Moogfest and one in a tiny club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The bands are both new and established, but the music somehow transcended space and time.  You just never know what you're in for when planning to attend a concert, as it's not about what the band will bring but the crowd and venue play into it as well.  Here is this year's list in no particular order, with links to the original write ups plus video highlights. Enjoy!

The Walkmen served as the headliner for the opening night of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, the inaugural meeting of like minded musical minds as curated by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National.  I had followed the band over the decade of their existence, since their plaintive "We've Been Had" was featured on a Saturn commercial.  The group confidently took to the stage in the grand opera house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, with their beloved vintage instruments radiating a woody amber glow.  They began with the lush harmonies and acoustic accompaniment of "We Can't Be Beat," the lead off track of their new album, Heaven.  Hamilton Leithauser admitted how he's been trying to get the band to sing with him like that for years! Leithauser continued as the gracious host, with passionate vocals floated over the signature of layered guitars and pervasive percussion.  This indie rock quintet has spread out across the country from their early days in New York City with the additional responsibilities of fatherhood, but the band’s sound is as tight as ever.   An adult appreciation of each other and their fans serves them well, as even the music matures with each listen. 

Caveman took to the same stage for the closing night of the festival, with a leap in venue size that only added to the grandeur of the music.  This new band had made a splash during 2011's CMJ Music Marathon with their debut album, CoCo Beware, so I was eager to see them for myself.  I had experienced multiple plays of their songs and loved their indie sound.  Turns out they performed with such an attractive self-assurance, I ran down to the orchestra pit just to be nearer to their radiance.  
There are plans for a new album and tour in 2013 (dates here), can't wait!

Divine Fits is another new band with a debut album this year, A Thing Called The Divine Fits, but it was put together by members of two fave bands (veteran road warriors Britt Daniels of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs).  So their opening slot on the closing night of Moogfest was a must see and they did not disappoint in any way.  It was a solid set of classic indie rock -- if there is such a thing!  Here is Paul's highlights from the entire evening and yes, that's me screaming in the beginning...

Orbital was the headliner for the same night and lots of people at the festival were proudly there because of them. (The organizers for the past three years have split with Moog Music who are saying there will be another Moogfest -- but now there's also a Mountain Oasis Electric Music Summit planned. Stay tuned?!?!)  Even if you weren't a die hard fan of their electronica, it was hard to resist their showmanship when climbing on stage as captured in the video above, or their English charm during the panel that afternoon and even during our run in with the two brothers, Phil and Paul Hartnoll, at the Asheville Regional Airport

Unknown Mortal Orchestra had quite a year in 2012.  After Ruban Nielson's bandcamp hit "Ffunny Ffriends" provided enough buzz for a self-titled debut album in 2011, the group toured on their own and then snagged an opening slot for indie kings Grizzly Bear. This video captures the first song of the night, and you can hear people crowding into the small venue. But behind them is Nielsen's blistering guitar and the trio really kicking it up a few notches right away (strobe lights even!) I love how bass player Jake Portrait looked around wide eyed, in awe of the attention. The applause that followed only increased after every song, so by the end of the night they made the room their own.