My top ten live performances of the year :
1. Nick Hennies : Rancho Panzner, Columbus, 8/1/10
If it has not been witnessed personally, the effect a single woodblock being struck ad infinitum can have on one’s jaw, inner ear and skull base is hard to convey. The small room’s supreme resonance gave Hennies the extra bit of assistance he needed, ensuring the ringing would last a few days and the memories long after.
2. Gerritt Wittmer & Paul Knowles : Now That’s Class, Cleveland, 3/21/10
Two Mormon-looking fellows hit the road with Sissy Spacek and dropped one of the heaviest psycho-acoustic performances in a long while. Their Cincinnati performance (which I missed) caused a friend, and true harsh noise afficianado, to collapse and even the Cleveland drunkards and their sneers couldn’t topple Gerritt and Paul’s mesmerizing black tie frequency circus.
3. Joe Colley : Terminal, Oakland, 8/24/10
Despite a long admiration and several years of friendship, I’d never seen Colley live. He refused to play my last trip through the Bay, giving some self-deprecating excuse or another. I pretty much expected him to cancel this one at the last minute as well, but he showed up and delivered ten times over. He performed two pieces, one CD player and one for microcassette, each with a heavy dose of suspicious electromagnetic interference and hints of spectral processing. Either alone would have left me speechless, combined they were downright paralyzing.
4. Keith Rowe : Fairchild Chapel, Oberlin College, 3/12/10
There are times for hanging out in the back and acting cool and there are times for admitting that even if you look like the dorkiest fanboy in the room, you are better than the music school nerds and have every right to be up in the first row pew. Only downside of this show was the inability to talk to Rowe afterwards due to the rush of students and straightforward guitarists who’d just had their brains scrambled and were clamoring to talk shop.
5. Jon Mueller : Robinwood Concert House, Toledo, 9/7/10
Two solo percussion performances in my top five? What? Mueller absolutely destroyed when I saw his Physical Changes tour in Cincinnati last year and I was eager to see how he followed it up. As with Hennies above, this performance benefited greatly from a small room which the snare and tape gnarl blanketed and devoured from the outside in, fighting for every cubic inch of space before burrowing into the earholes of the 25 or so in attendence.
6. Noveller : It Looks Like It’s Open, Columbus, 8/19/10
I caught Noveller two evenings in a row in August. I have to say the second edged out the first by way of being slightly more intimate and also having a vent directly above Ms. Lipstate. With her hair blowing in every which direction, she had a real Slash-in-November-Rain rockstar vibe as she strummed and looped her way through her glorious set.
7. Pavement : LC Pavilion, Columbus, 9/16/10
I saw Pavement in Cleveland in1997 and would say without hesitation that is my favorite concert ever. This year’s stop in Ohio was remarkably similar and I was surprised they put nearly as much energy into their performance as they did back then. I figured I’d let my teenager brain put an aura around that show that was never really there, but I was wrong. They brought it then and are picking up exactly where they left off. If I cared half as much about Stephen & co. as I do about resonating woodblocks, this one would be much higher up the list.
8. Joanna Newsom : Southern Theater, Columbus, 3/29/10
Have One on Me is still growing on me, mainly because end up listening to it in such disjointed chunks, picking up on side D a week after the fact, squeezing the final side in between two drone long players, etc. So I felt rather fortunate to spend a few hours with Ms. Newsom and her band of merry makers in the lovely Southern Theater here in town as they made their way through downsized arrangements of tracks from the new album and scattered classics. Front row balcony seats were definitely a bonus.
9. Sightings : Skylab, Columbus, 4/21/10
Dear noise rock bands everywhere, Listen to Sightings and step your fucking game up. Pointlessly dicking around doesn’t cut it in 2010. Sincerely, Mike Shiflet
10. Ignaz Schick : Skylab, Columbus, 4/10/10
Ignaz came through town on his North American trek and performed as part of an evening of experimental turntable works. His set of bells, velcro, paper plates, styrofoam plates, and I believe even a few records was the standout that evening. I’d come from a friend’s wedding, played a set myself, and was in just the right zone – equal parts tired and eager - when Ignatz finally did his thing and floored everyone.
And ten others (alphabetically) :
Clang Quartet, David Daniell & Douglas McCombs, Emeralds, Failing Lights, Brad Griggs & Mark VanFleet, KBD, Leslie Keffer & Scott Martin, The National, Rangda, Adam Smith