2009 was another great year for live music , slightly edging out last year for me with a grand total of 97 shows, in 26 different venues for 251 sets of music by 215 different bands, with 26 bands logging in 2 or more. Continuing to be one of the best live music venues anywhere, Johnny Brenda’s topped the list with 25 visits. The other places where you could have found me hanging out this past year being World Cafe Live(15),The M Room(11),Kung Fu Necktie(7) and The Khyber, The Fire and The Spectrum at 4 trips each. Enough with the numbers for now, here’s the best shows I saw this past year.
Want to throw in a very special thank you Joe @ Village Green Productions for letting me put Bag Of Songs Presents nights together and especially to all of the bands that played them this past year : Pow Wow!, DeJesus, The Skyler King, Bridges And Powerlines, Curious Buddies, Bojibian, The Shots, Sugar Canyon, Canadian Invasion, Golden Bloom, Sudden Ensemble, In Grenada, Lima Research Society, Meyerman, Halloween, Alaska, Missing Palmer West, Scott McClatchy, Dinosaur Feathers, Joe Michelini of River City Extension, Creatures Of The Golden Dawn, North Lawrence Midnight Singers, High Hearts, Matt Kresge, Acres Of Diamonds, Tall Tall Trees, Eat Your Birthday Cake, Cailin Callahan
05.12.09 Leonard Cohen @ Academy Of Music
10.22.09 Leonard Cohen @ Tower Theater
Leonard Cohen came to Philadelphia twice this past year, after having not been here since 1993. While both shows were outstanding, the May show at the Academy Of Music was hands down the best show I saw this past year and also secures a place on the list of all time greatest shows I have ever witnessed. His stage presence and connection to the audience is amazing and at 74 years old he is still performing three hour plus shows. A friend at the same show called it “a gift from god”, it really was that good.
02.13.09 In Grenada @ Johnny Brendas
In Grenada plays a percussive, guitar driven brand of indie rock, that’s often compared to Arcade Fire or The National, this show complete with double drummers was as amazing as either of those bands. A Philly band you’ll want to keep to keep an eye on.
02.14.09 Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright @ The Kimmel Center
Rufus Wainwright never fails to put on a highly entertaining show and really knows how to interact with the audience. Solo inside the confines of the beautiful Kimmel Center was a perfect show for Valentines Day. Martha’s opening set was impressive as well.
03.13.09 The Feelies @ Johnny Brendas [Listen]
The Feelies hadn’t played in Philadelphia in just over 18 years but this show proved they hadn’t lost the magic in the interim. Easily as good or better than the shows I saw them play twenty years ago and still sounding relevant, a testament to the legacy of their influence.
06.08.09 Pink Mountaintops @ Johnny Brendas
Black Mountain made my best shows list two years in a row, I wasn’t lucky enough to see them again this past but leader Stephen McBean’s other project Pink Mountaintops is equally as brilliant trading in the heavy stoner rock of Black Mountain for more of a garage rock psychedelia.
07.19.09 Dinosaur Feathers, Joe Michelini of River City Extension @ M Room
09.07.09 River City Extension @ The Fire
Two of the bands that will be making serious waves in 2010 playing absoultely stellar sets on a Sunday night. If you witnessed this one you know how great it was. If you didn’t you’re you going to wish you had. Thanks to Emma at The World In A Paper Cup for turning me on to Brooklyn’s Dinosaur Feathers whose debut disc Fanstasy Memorial is going to make some serious waves when it drops in early 2010. New Jersey’s River City Extension’s live show is nothing short of amazing and this solo set by leader Joe Michelini was absolutely spellbinding. They also have a new disc coming in 2010 to be on the watch for.
River City Extension’s full band show is non stop energy and fun. Get out and see them as soon as you can.
09.09.09 Sleepy Sun @ Johnny Brendas
This San Francisco Band had the considerable luck to have long time Bag Of Songs favorite Rachel Williams(birds.fled.from.me) join the fold. Their live show is stunning blend of trippy psychedelia.
09.23.09 Missing Palmer West @ Bruce Springsteen Birthday Tribute at World Cafe Live
In a night that was filled with top notch performances by Philadelphia musicians playing the music of Bruce Springsteen, including the Born To Run album in it’s entirety, Missing Palmer West’s breathtaking stellar performance of the epic Jungleland was the crown jewel of the evening for me.
10.14.09 Bruce Springsteen @ The Spectrum
After seeing Bruce play a phoned in sloppy mess of a show back in April, where he even botched the lyrics to Promised Land while reading from the teleprompter, I almost didn’t bother to go again on the fall dates. The lure of seeing Darkness On The Edge Of Town played all the way through was too great to resist however. It was totally worth it. While the portions of the show before and after were good, the album in it’s entirety was outstanding,with Bruce turning off his work the crowd schtick for 45 minutes or so and just playing the music with the intensity it deserves. It was like being time warped back to 1978 when he still felt like he had something to prove.
10.17.09 Acres Of Diamonds,Tall Tall Trees,Eat Your Birthday Cake,Cailin Callahan @ JDMcGillicuddys
Sometimes when you put a show together it all just falls into place like magic, this was one of those times. This was the Bag Of Songs Third Anniversary Party and I can’t thank the bands enough for delivering a night of incredible music and fun all around.
10.23.09 Andrew Bird @ World Cafe Live Upstairs XPN Free At Noon
To see Andrew Bird recreate the sounds on his album in a live setting all by himself using loops and samples and multiple instruments was a truly memorable experience, and left me with a much higher regard for him as a super talented musician.
10.31.09 Pearl Jam @ The Spectrum
For the final show at the Philadelphia Spectrum Pearl Jam delivered a forty one song,three and a half hour juggernaut of that included plenty of hits,many rarities and even a special Halloween encore with the band dressed as vintage DEVO in yellow jumpsuits and red flowerpot hats
performing the song Whip It. A fitting send off to a great music venue.
11.06.09 The Swimmers @ Kung Fu Necktie CD Release Party
The Swimmers holed up for the last year or so and reinvented their sound and themselves as a band while working on their latest record People Are Soft. Their set at the CD Release Party for the disc showcased their new sound, playing one of the best and tightest sets I think I have seen them play, including a smoking cover of New Order’s Age Of Consent.
07.25.09 The Hold Steady @ XPoNential Music Festival @ Wiggins Park
In a weekend filled with some great performances form the likes of Yeasayer,Steve Wynn,Illinois,Low Anthem,They Might Be Giants,Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby and John Wesley Harding,The Hold Steady delivered a brilliant but slightly shortened set as a late evening rainstorm blazed through. The site of Craig Finn arms outstretched, singing in the pouring rain is forever etched in my mind.
I usually don’t list my worst shows of the year but this one was so exceptionally bad I thought it warranted a special mention:
10.23.09 Todd Rundgren @ The Spectrum
In what was billed as Philly sendoff for the final days of the Spectrum, Todd Rundgren shared a bill with The Hooters and Hall And Oates. After an amazing sounding and extremely tight set by The Hooters, Todd Rundgren took the stage and played an obnoxiously loud,self indulgent set of mostly obscurities that sounded like Spinal Tap gone wrong. More like a F— off than a send off tribute, maybe he intended it as a joke, I don’t know, but it cleared out most of the arena while he played,leaving everyone wondering just what the hell he was doing.
Everyone out and playing music deserves a mention so here’s the full list:
100 Monkeys,A Distant Second,Absolute Zeroes ,AC Newman,Acres Of Diamonds,Adam & Daves Bloodline,Adam Arcuragi,Aimee Mann ,Amy ,An American Chinese ,Andrew Bird,As Tall As Lions,Asteroid #4,Audible,Autolux,Bad Flirt,Bad Religion ,BC Camplight,Ben Arnold Band,Beretta76,Bishop Allen,Black Landlord,Bojibian,Bottle Rockets,Bridges And Powerlines,Brother JT,Brown Recluse Sings ,Bruce Springsteen,By Surprise ,Cailin Callahan ,Cale Parks ,Canadian Invasion,Chairlift,Cheers Elephant,Chris Huff,Chris Kasper,Coltrane Motion,Cordero,Creatures Of The Golden Dawn,Curious Buddies ,Custom D 3,Cynthia Mason,Dan May,Danielson,Darwin Deez ,Dead Meadow,Deadstring Brothers ,DeJesus ,Dex Robweber,Dinosaur Feathers,Donna the Buffalo,Doomed To Obscurity,Drummer,Early Day Miners ,East Hundred,Eat Your Birthday Cake,Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes ,Fanfarlo,Fang Fang,Faux Slang ,Felice Brothers,Folklore,Frankie V & Kitchen Sync,Free Energy,Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus Of Dreams,Golden Bloom ,Goldspot,Grammar Debate,Grant Hart,Ha Ha Tonka,Hall & Oates,Halloween Alaska,Heirloom,Hesta Prynn,High Hearts ,Hoots And Hellmouth,Hop Along Queen Ancelais ,Horses Mouth,Ice Palace,Illinois,In Grenada ,Instamatic,James Maddock,Jeff Kessler ,Jeff The
Brotherhood,Joe Michelini of River City Extension ,John Gorka,John Train featuring Mike Brenner,John Wesley Harding ,John Wesley Harding and the English UK,Jotto ,JP05,Justin Townes Earle,Katie Herzig,Kitten Disaster ,Lambchop,Leonard Cohen,Lima Research Society,Longwave ,Lopez,Low Anthem,Lucero,Lucky Day ,M Ward,Marianne Faithfull ,Martha Wainwright ,Matt Gauss,Matt Krefting ,Matt Kresge ,Matt Santry,Matt Spitko,Meyerman ,Mini Mansions ,Minus 5,Missing Palmer West,Monsters Of Folk,Mount St Helens Vietnam Band,Nervous Rex,New Model Army,New Motels,Nicole Atkins,North Lawrence Midnight Singers ,Nothingberry Plasma,Oasis,OK Go,One Eskimo,Papertrigger,Pearl Jam,Persona ,Pete Yorn,Phil Roy,Phill-E Street Band ,Pink Mountaintops,Post Post ,Pow Wow!,Qatsi ,Quest For Fire ,Ray Morin,River City Extension,Robbie Fulks,Robes,Robes ,Rosewood Thieves,Royal Bangs,Rufus WainWright,Ryan Adams ,Scott McClatchy,Scott McMicken of Dr Dog,Serena Ryder,Sharon Little,Shonen Knife ,Shrinking Islands,ShyDog,Sisters 3,Sleepy Sun ,Spinto Band,Static Jacks ,Steve Forbert and the Windfall Prophets,Steve Wynn,Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra,Sudden Ensemble ,Sunset ,Superdrag,Tall Tall Trees,Team B,Ted Leo,The Armchairs,The Bacon Brothers,The Baseball Project,The Big Jangle,The Black Fortys ,The Broken West ,The Bye Byes ,The Bynars,The Capitol Years,The Depreciation Guild,The Doughboys,The Feelies,The Friggs,The Great Unknown,The Hold Steady ,The Hooters ,The Lampshades ,The Lemon Treasures,The New Time,The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart,The Popo,The Rigbees,The Shots,The Skyler King,The Subjects,The Swimmers,The Tough Shits,Them Vultures,Theotis Joe,They Might Be Giants,Those Darlins,Throw Me The Statue,Todash,Todd Rundgren,Tom Hamilton’s American Babies,Tommy Keene,Tommy Womack,Trained Attack Dogs ,Univox ,Upsincefriday,Victor Victor Band,Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby,Yeasayer,Youth Group