12 For ’12: Favorite Shows of the Year [Exclusive]

So 2012 was a pretty music heavy, show filled year for me, as well as my wife.  As a tag team, we managed to check out more shows in 2012 than either of us had ever seen, combined.  Most of them occurred because we had the fortune to attend Pickathon, an outdoor music festival just outside of Portland, Oregon that I recommend to everyone!  Performers and listeners alike, you have to see this, it’s incredible.  Check out their website. And do it quick, because this thing is blowing up in a big way.

Most of the shows we did see were either at Pickathon or somewhere in the city we once called our residence, Spokane Washington.  And only one of these shows did I not see with my wife Melissa, because it was hear in shaky old Songtan, South Korea where I currently reside.  We also actually saw our favorite band, Blitzen Trapper, three times.  All the times were fantastic, but I didn’t want to be greedy and give them 3 of the 12 spots.  So I went with two of them.  Screw you, it’s my blog.  The only let down of the year came from Neko Case, who headlined Pickathon, but really didn’t impress me a whole lot.  Also some rapper named Chiddy Bang opened for Fun., and really didn’t impress me much as well, but what the hell, I’m sure somebody out there enjoyed them, so more power to them.

Other honorable mentions would have to go to The Woods Brothers, Laura Gibson, and Bowerbirds at Pickathon.  Emily Wells and Velella Velella at Elkfest in Spokane (which was a fun time, but sadly, a pretty weak line up compared to 2011’s event where Strength headlined).  The Verve Pipe rocked it as they always have for twenty years at Spokane’s Pig Out In The Park.  And Duck Duck Suckerpunch were some fun folks to see when the opened for Tacocat at Mootsy’s in Spokane.

With that being said, let’s take a look at what I believed to be my favorite performances from 2012.  Let’s begin!


12. The Horse Thieves & Jacob Butcher @ Scout (Spokane, Washington)

Photo by Mark Cluney

Photo by Mark Cluney

We had no real intention of catching some great yet subtle live music when my wife and I hit the town on a Tuesday night in the quaint city of Spokane.  But, we sure the hell did.  Just as they always do in Spokane, a bar closed down, and it re-opened a few months later. Scout had only been around a few weeks when we stumbled in to see what seemed like the only good thing to see on a Tuesday night.  Marshall McClean and Jacob Butcher performed their brilliant country based folk songs, with some guest spots from other Horse Thieves, who made up half the audience, that were sitting around clapping their friends on with joy.  It may have been a small show, but all eyes were definitely on the small corner where the man in the tight pants strumming tracks like “Throw The Dice” and “Dakota Wind” with such amazing grace and talent.

11. Two Man Gentlemen Band @ Pickathon Main Stage (Happy Valley, Oregon)

Two Man Gentleman Band

For a guy with “Gentleman” tattooed on his arm, this was a must see show.  And for a fan of old school ragtime and the upright bass in general, this was mind blowing.  I also adore pork chops.  So when I heard this duo break out with “My Girl Smells Like Pork Chops”, I almost lost my mind.  This is a band that is beyond their time, but a perfect representation of the old days mixed converged with the new.  I am certain that many people around were unaware of these two before arriving at Pickathon.  But, I am even more certain that several people fell in love with them after their appearances.

10. Atmosphere @ The Knitting Factory (Spokane, Washington)


I didn’t know what to expect in going to see Atmosphere.  I had been a fan of them for so many years, just like everyone else at the show.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear their old school shit, or something from the new.  But, I was not disappointed in any kind of way.  Their second to last album, When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold, is still my favorite album of all time.  And they did not fail to play several tracks from that.  If I remember correctly, the played more from that album that their 2011 release.  It was pretty amazing to see Slug and Ant live in person, personally.  I’ve always, and always will, considered Slug to be the Bob Dylan of hip hop music, so it was great to see one of my heroes perform live.  And the night couldn’t have been as great without the help of my new found friends David and Sara Smyer (Hey guys!!).  It was a great show shared with great friends.  What more can you ask for?

9. Y La Bamba @ Pickathon Galaxy Barn (Happy Valley, Oregon)

Y La Bamba

Y La Bamba.  Yes, sweet Y La Bamba.  I have been listening to this amazing band pretty much since their inception.  In fact, their bassist Ben Meyercord could very well be considered the man who introduced me to the music blogging world.  He was close friends and collated with one of my favorite (now extinct) bands known as Westfold.  He also wrote for a little blog known as Fensepost.  I made the connection, and the rest is history (that is if you even know who the hell I am, which is absolutely reasonable if you don’t).  That being said, I saw a man who led me to become who I am play along with lead singer Luz in the sweaty but exciting Galaxy Barn.  Even as Luz rambles off unknown lyrics in Spanish (America’s second language, really), you know that these are some beautiful songs you are listening to.  After several years of appreciating these fine folks, it was absolutely amazing to see the energy right in front of my weary eyes.  My most memorable moment of this show actually came the following day and featured my dear wife.  The day after the Galaxy Barn show, we say Y La Bamba playing the secondary main stage at Pickathon, and my wonderful wife stated, “Oh, this was the song I heard yesterday, I LOVE this song!”.  That song was “Fasting in San Francisco”, which is still one of my favorite tracks of all damn time.  I had never mentioned this, not even during the first appearance.  This is how I knew I found something beautiful.  This track always reminded me of a modern age “Girl From Ipanema”, but I never knew it could be that far loved.  Although every track these tasteful gathering of angels perform to the unworthy, this is what really stuck out in my mind.

8. Blitzen Trapper @ Pickathon Main Stage (Happy Valley, Oregon)


BlitzenTrapper8This was actually the second time seeing my favorite band perform.  I really dug this show, but you should probably scan down to the #1 spot.  I also saw them in Spokane opening for The Head and The Heart a few weeks later (keep scrolling).  But, this show was unique for one great reason….the crowd was huge!!  Eric Earley and company were the last act on the main stage before (the pretty unimpressive, but) legendary Neko Case took stage.  Therefore, a crowd had drawn even more so than usual.  Thousands of people were there staring at a band that had become more than a household name to me, but legends in their own right.  It was amazing to see them on a huge lighted stage with the sun going down, as well as a surprise introduction from a couple of members from Kitty, Davis, & Lewis.  This would be the last full show we would see at Pickathon, and a perfect way to go out indeed.

7. Tusi @ Blue Jazz (Songtan, South Korea)


There is something about this cat Tusi.  When I arrived in Songtan, I honestly did not believe I would run across a working musician of any kind.  Although he mostly makes his tips from playing obvious classic rock covers, he still manages to reinvent some great tunes, leaving several drunk foreigners none the wiser when he submits them to some beautiful revamping.  And, of course, he works them over greatly when he creates his own lyrics to classic songs and makes them about things that only those who have been here could ever understand.  I watched him three times in a matter of three weeks, but the night at Blue Jazz has topped it all off thus far.  A young Korean girl was celebrating her birthday with her medium sized family on this night.  And besides myself and my dear friend Whitey, they were basically the whole crowd.  And damn did the enjoy it!  It is already one of my finest memories of my time in Songtan.

6. Good Old War @ The Knitting Factory (Spokane, Washington)

Good Old War

I’m sure I am not the only one to do this, so I will understand if you are neither impressed, nor concerned.  But, this was one of those shows that my wife and I only went to in order to see the opening act.  Need To Breathe were the headliners, and honestly, I really didn’t care for them from the beginning.  But dammit if I don’t love me so Good Old War.  My wife discovered a few of their tracks on Pandora many months before, and their latest album had become a regular played record in my kitchen while preparing the night’s meal.  In that time I managed to catch them on Conan, interviewed their drummer Tim Arnold, and then we finally got to watch them perform live.  And what an amazing threesome.  The have so much energy to throw around at a crowd.  And as much as we didn’t want to disrespect the opening act and the thousand people who probably came to see the opening, when this light hearted threesome left the stage, so did we.  This would also be the last show I saw, and probably will ever see, in Spokane in my three and a half years in the area.  A perfect way to go out if you ask me.

5. The Head and The Heart @ The Knitting Factory (Spokane, Washington)

The Head and The Heart

Again, I admittedly only came to this show to see Blitzen Trapper (previously mentioned).  But, I did appreciate The Head and The Heart.  My former editor Fense always had a love for them, and were a regular mention on his site I contributed to, Fensepost.  But, they held nothing against their Sub Pop label mates in my eyes.  But, dammit if we didn’t stick around, and really love this show.  Part of it could have very well been the ingestion of an ample amount of rum with my wife and previously mentioned homegirl Sara Smyer, and a sort strange dice throwing dance that turned into invisible masturbation.  Either way, between the antics we managed to actually watch them from the balcony level, and really dig them.  In the months post (including to this very day) The Head and The Heart have become an amazing and very important band in my life.  I knew I was a fan boy when I completely lost it when I heard the song at the end of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, and completely lost a caring thought that Ted had just proposed to Robin.  Oh yeah, that’s right, I dig them that much!

4. Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children Macnuggits @ Backspace (Portland, Oregon)

Bobby Joe Ebola

I could write a damn book about the leading up to this show, the brilliant show itself, and even the wonderful night around the City of Roses that followed.  But, for subject matter’s sake (and because I have already written a full fledged live review for Fensepost), I will just recap the event a bit.  Corbett, Dan, and company killed it at Geekfest!  That pretty much sums it up!  The thrill of seeing a band I have loved about as long as I have truly been able to appreciate great music was amazing.  And the drunk fool who spilt beer all over my friend Jill Keller makes for a pretty memorable night as well.  One thing that made this show pretty special was the appreciation from the audience.  I was very excited to see so many folks in the audience singing along to several different tracks.  When you love a band for over this long, it is always great to watch others appreciate their beauty.

3. Tacocat @ Mootsy’s (Spokane, Washington)


Oh, Tacocat.  You vixens!  This was a show that was admittedly going to be a great time whether I cared for the actual performance.  My wife was going to meet up with her beloved cousin, drummer Lelah Maupin, in what felt like a very long time.  I personally I had only seen Lelah since high school one other time….at a funeral.  So it was a much nicer reunion.  But even beyond that, what a fucking show.  The energy!  The magnetism, the electrifying fast paced absurdity of time passage was simply incredible.  Lelah is an incredible impressive drummer with a quickness that is almost unmatched by any one I can think of.  And dammit if Emily Nokes doesn’t have that sort of sweet Northern Belle sort of voice that intrigues you to no end.  The way these band of punk(?) Go-Go like outlaws truly moved the crowd is almost indescribable.  Overall, it was absolutely amazing to watch a group of people that I either knew pretty well, or vaguely remember passing through the halls of high school (Hi Eric!) perform so enthusiastically for a group of strangers.  I left that show feeling that had I not known a single person in the band nor in the audience, I would have been directly fucking impressed.  Therefore, the impression I did have was beyond belief.

2. Fun. @ The Knitting Factory (Spokane, Washington)


Without giving a damn as to so many of the Instagram loving fools out there might say, I absolutely adore Fun.  So much so, that I still enjoy “We Are Young”.  So much so, that I actually bought tickets to see this show many months before they came to Spokane in late August.  And it was a damn good thing I did, because this would be the first, and only, sold out show I would see at The Knitting Factory.  And, as you can tell from this list, the greatest.  Watching these pop music masterminds was absolutely mesmerizing.  I had begun to notice from listening to their first two albums that they knew exactly what it meant to make an absolutely perfect pop song.  But, it never struck me as much as when I watch them perform their songs to such a sold out crowd in a medium sized city.  Their second single, “Some Nights”, had only yet become an extremely popular song (shortly before it appeared on Glee), yet everyone in the damn audience grew extremely excited when the threw it out to them.  In all of my show going experiences, I have never witnessed so excitement in an audience.  It does not behoove me to state honestly that Nate Heuss is without a doubt the brand new charismatic version of Freddy Mercury that the pop music world as been longing for.  This is an amazing band that has made a couple of amazing records.  But even while listening to these records, it should become obvious that this is a band that creates a show in your mind, and should definitely be seen live.  I am thankful that my wife and I were able to see these geniuses in a medium sized venue, up close and personal, before we are only allotted the opportunity to see a modern day “Bohemian Rhapisody” live in person.  When it comes to stage presence and choreographed presentation, this is probably the greatest show I have ever witnessed.

1. Blitzen Trapper @ Pickathon The Woods Stage (Happy Valley, Oregon)


It was Day One at Pickathon when my wife and I saw our heroes grace a small stage made of lumber and electrical wires.  We are right up front, showing up half way through the preceding band, Bowerbirds (also impressive, if we weren’t distracted by the thoughts of seeing Eric & Co.), sitting in the dirt like a couple of mongrels waiting for the fresh gathering of substance.  And when they went on stage, we were not just there, but fucking THERE.  We both stood less than ten feet from the son that Bob Dylan wished he would have had, Eric Earley.  And as he swapped form harmonica, to electric, to acoustic, to keyboard, we were there to examine his every god damned move.  Every genius maneuver the entire band, we were there to notice.  And as strange as it seemed, they played almost every track we were begging to hear them perform.  When then induced hand clapping for “Big Black Bird”, it was incredible.  When they threw around the crowd pleasing tracks like “Black River Killer” or “Furr”, we laughed and danced around.  When they slowed it down with the country-esque tracks like “Girl In A Coat” and “Stranger In A Strange Land”, I embraced my beautiful wife as hard as I could while she cried (for reasons I care not to explain).  It was an emotional roller coaster to watch this band of incredible wordsmiths throw their hearts to the wind, only to entertain the simple minds who cared to watch.  A magical thing happened during this performance as well.  At the risk of sounding like a 70’s teenager at a Shaun Cassidy….it honestly felt that Eric had looked directly at my wife and I as we embraced during his slower acoustic tracks, and was singing directly to us, and feeling our love, pain, and longing.  I know this is a cliché for show going experiences, therefore I had always discarded it as hokey and ridiculous.  Therefore, when I actually let myself feel such corniness, I know I had felt something incredible.  That is why see Blitzen Trapper was not only my favorite performance of 2012, but probably of my life thus far.  Blitzen Trapper had changed my life already.  Their words are imprinted on my soul and in places I dare not mention.  But seeing this show with the woman I love, sharing this experience, had more of an impact on me than I could have ever imagined.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

4 Responses to 12 For ’12: Favorite Shows of the Year [Exclusive]

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