WE ASKED Portland musicians, bookers, club owners, music enthusiasts, and more about their favorite musical moments of 2012. They responded with lots of great stories about what made the past year in music so great. We've got some for you here; for many more, visit the Mercury's music blog, End Hits, all this week.
Ian Hunter at the Aladdin Theater on September 1. Ian is 73 years old and he put on a show that would put many twentysomething-year-old bands to shame. Ian rocked and played material from his 44-year career, including solo material and Mott the Hoople, with a band that has to be one of the best out there. This was his first time to Portland since 1989; talk to anyone that was at that show and they will all say it was the musical highlight of the year.
Swans at the Hawthorne Theatre for MusicfestNW. Brutal, visceral, and no bullshit. I was ecstatic the entire time and left so humbled by such mastery of restraint. One of the most hypnotic musical experiences of my life.
Pure Bathing Culture at Valentine's. My first time seeing them live. It was intimate, the sound was mysteriously superb, and the room soaked up their vibes like a sponge.
Every live performance I caught of Like a Villain. Holland Andrews is the musical equivalent of a majestic beast.
Father John Misty eating mushrooms backstage and then going onstage at SXSW to do an improvised version of "Apples and Bananas."
Drunk Dad at Baby Bar in Spokane. Drunk Dad were up first, but only two of [the band members] were at the show and they couldn't find the other two. The others had apparently fallen asleep in the van, and no one knew where the van was. Long after they were to have started—and after a lot pacing (and at least a little yelling)—the missing two showed up, having just woken up. Moments later they launched into one of the loudest, most crushingly sick sets I saw all year. Rock and roll.
Hosting legendary UK peace-punk forebears the Mob was definitely one of the more rewarding moments of the year for us at the Know. It seems too often that "reunion tours" offer a castrated or hodgepodged version of the original band that had once left such a strong impression. The Mob, however, absolutely bucked this trend. People were packed so tightly into the room that people were practically on top of one another to catch a glimpse of the performance on stage. Several times throughout the show the audience became an impromptu choir, as the volume with which they sang along to their favorite songs exceeded that of the sound system and band! It was a beautiful thing to watch.
One of my favorite musical moments of 2012 was seeing Joanna Newsom karaoke "The Last Unicorn" at Alberta Street Pub.
If you had told me the two best shows I'd see in 2012 would both be at the Rose Garden, I'd have told you to go screw. But here we are. Not very punk rock, I guess. Back in May, Roger Waters performed The Wall—one of the most nihilistic, hateful albums ever to have been cauterized by classic-rock radio overplay—to a rapturous crowd. It was technically the most impressive live spectacle I've ever seen, and, amazingly enough, one of the most thought provoking, too. Then there was Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in November; the man mainlined pure, giddy, unadulterated joy directly into the hearts of 15,000 Portlanders for a miraculous three hours and 20 minutes. The Boss commands legions of devoted, slobbering fans, and I'd never fully understood why—until that night.
Elvis Costello is my favorite musician of all time, and thanks to an amazing friend, I had front-row seats to his Spinning Wheel Tour at the Schnitz. When it came time for Costello to pick an audience member to spin the wheel, on his way back toward the stage he stopped, eye-to-eye not two feet from my face, and sang to me. Everyone I've told this to asks what song he was singing, to which I have no reply.
Randomly crossing paths with comatose J Mascis in three of Portland's quadrants during MusicfestNW.
The Shaky Hands' first reunion show at Backspace. It was a phenomenal set by one of my all-time favorite Portland bands, and easily my best music moment of the year.
June 12. Seeing the terrible accordion player outside of Powell's being attacked by a seagull.
Seeing Hungry Ghost's record release at Bunk Bar when I'd just had a baby. I was totally floored by the unflagging ferocity of Sara Lund and Lorca Wood—both mothers, both complete badasses.
I can't even remember what happened two months ago.
The most transcendent concert for me was the performance of original and live scores to René Laloux's animated feature films at Holocene. In particular, the music that WL wrote and performed to accompany the film Gandahar left me speechless. I gasped when I learned later how quickly WL had put it all together (it was something absurd like three days). That event drove home why I love Portland so much.
Caleb Klauder at the Spare Room, every time.
Sharon Van Etten at the Aladdin Theater. She's an incredible songwriter, charming, witty, and adorably self-deprecating on stage. Her live arrangements are really something special.
Tupac hologram. I was at Coachella [for] week one, and the return of Tupac was icing on the cake. Right before he materialized, the video screens showed a post-apocalyptic lightning storm and all that came out of my mouth was "The world is about to end." Tupac shouts, "Whatsup, Coachella!" and 80,000 people lose it. It was beyond crazy.
My favorite local music moment this year, by a mile, was Edna Vazquez at PDX Pop Now!
Pickathon—the whole thing—was my favorite musical moment of 2012. I have a love/hate relationship with music festivals, so I'd steered clear of Pickathon until this year. The lineup was so stacked with groups that I love that I just had to check it out. I was far from disappointed. My favorite moments were watching the Cactus Blossoms, Thee Oh Sees, Y la Bamba, Dr. Dog, and so many others play in the Galaxy Barn. It is no exaggeration when I say that I was one of the last people to leave Pendarvis Farm after the festival wrapped. Pickathon forever.
My favorite musical moment of the year was definitely Lizzy Ellison of Radiation City covering Etta James' "At Last" at the end of their PDX Pop Now! set this summer. A huge surprise and not an easy song, vocally, to cover!
The guy who kept yelling, "That's what I'm talkin' abooouuut!" after every single song at the David Byrne and St. Vincent show at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in October.
Perhaps I thought of this because it happened so recently, but Federale's show at Doug Fir a couple weeks ago was absolutely EPIC! Their new album is so wide in scope and has so many musical elements, but they managed to fully pull it off in the proper sequence, including a ton of special guests, like a men's choir and an accordion player.
Standing on the side of the stage while watching the Austin band White Denim absolutely melt the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon. For an entire hour, everybody around me was exchanging looks of utter disbelief at what we were witnessing.
Brit-pop act Pulp played a single non-festival reunion show in the western half of the United States this past spring. I attended partially out of obligation to my younger self; a guilty nostalgia jaunt to San Francisco that I could couple with copious Mission burritos (six in two days! Why am I proud of this?) and a sense of dutiful musical fandom completion. Yet it was better than all that. So, so much better. In one of the greatest performances I have ever witnessed, Pulp sounded as contemporary as ever, emerging unscathed from the nostalgia tar pit for wayward rock 'n' roll dinosaurs—this, despite their best song ("Disco 2000") having reached its expiration date over a decade ago. All we wanted was some cheap sentimentalism; instead, we received a brilliant reminder of why we still hold lingering flames for bands we've idolized since we were teenagers, why we cross state lines to hear music, and why a two-decade wait can make everything better.