Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Review Part One - The Top Three

This year I listened to more music, discovered more new music and went to more concerts than I think I ever had before in a single year. Here are the top three bands I'll always remember were with me through the highs and lows.

Airborne Toxic Event


Airborne's reign at the top of my playlist started in late 2011 when I discovered their music and got dumped in roughly the same month. "Changing" and "Numb" spoke loud and clear to me and when I heard "Happiness Is Overrated", I knew I'd found some place I could hide out and lick my wounds for awhile.

I drove all the way to Indianapolis to see them perform before I even had absorbed their whole catalog and I remember standing there near the bar at the Vogue, the band came out on the stage and opened with "All at Once". Mikel, standing at the mic, looked up into the distance and smiled. It felt like a private smile shared with all of us in the room and I was a goner.

I had the chance to see them again in July in Detroit. They put on a great show, of course, but some of the magic was gone. Stolen, I think, by a raucous drunken crowd that couldn't have known and wouldn't have cared just how meaningful the music and being at that show was to me. I can't lay any blame on Airborne, though. They rocked out hard and sounded great and once again covered "I Fought the Law" which is one of my favorites. I'd see them again anytime and I eagerly await their next album.

A Silent Film

When I arrived at the first day of Common Ground 2012, I was having a bad day. I didn't know who was playing or when so I was just wandering around being grouchy. By the time I made my way to the stage A Silent Film was on, they were mid-song. I didn't know who they were but I couldn't look away. I can't recall everything they played. I can, however, remember that it was magical. That set definitely turned my mood around and changed my outlook on the whole week. I felt like if I could happen upon a band like A Silent Film, what else was out there waiting to be discovered?

I got choked up listening to "Harbour Lights" because I felt like it perfectly suited the weird combination of guilt and euphoria I felt in my post-breakup life. I've basked in the energy of "Driven By Their Beating Hearts". I could go on and on.

I wrote about them a little more extensively back in August after I saw them for the third time but it's worth mentioning that as time has passed, I've only grown more fond of their music. It's the kind of music that surrounds you and hits you in all the right places. The lyrics are beautiful, the music is rich and dynamic -- that's a powerful combination. Add that to their awesome on-stage energy and I'm pretty sure they're unstoppable.

Frank Turner


On May 23, 2012, I heard my first Frank Turner song. I bought my first Frank Turner album, and I bought a ticket to my first Frank Turner concert.

I was making breakfast, listening to some artist radio station on Spotify when I heard "Reasons Not to Be an Idiot" for the first time. It caught my attention right away but I think it was about the time of the first chorus that I put down my knife and thought "holy shit, is he talking to me?" It is a strange and perfect moment when you hear a song that speaks to you directly where you're at in life in that moment.

It was a long wait until his concert in September but in those months I listened to Frank's music constantly, annoying everyone in my life with my insistence that they "listen, no, really listen to this song. It's brilliant! Brilliant!" Frank's music reflects a number of things that resonate with me. One, is the desire to not be tied down or stay in one place. This is something that I've always felt but have never acted upon so I find a kind of vicarious pleasure in his tales of the road. Another is the necessity of being an active particpant in life because we're not guaranteed any amount of time here. It's urgent and imperative that we appreciate what we have and take advantage of our time on the planet. That was a lesson I was learning on my own at the time and Frank's music really helped me solidify that within myself.

I met Frank a couple of times (in Detroit and again at Riot Fest in Chicago) and I wanted to tell him all of that, how his music really made my life a better place and inspired me every day but I'm pretty sure what I said was "Uh... duh..." and looked at him like a deer caught in headlights. But maybe somehow he understood anyway. I hope so, anyway, because I don't know if I can work up the guts to try again when he comes back my way.

What game-changers did you encounter this year?

honeyhoney, Trampled by Turtles

The bands:
Trampled by Turtles

The venue:
The Intersection, Grand Rapids MI

October 3, 2012

I knew one honeyhoney song before this concert. Somewhere along the way I'd heard Angel of Death and fell in love with it, always meaning to pursue more of their music but never getting around to it. 

I bought the ticket based on knowing that one song several weeks in advance and was debating whether or not to use it when concert day rolled around. I convinced myself it would be worth it and despite nearly falling asleep at the wheel on my way to the venue, I found that I was right: It was completely worth it.

I really didn't know what to expect. What I got was a hot chick rocking out with a banjo, a dude who looked so familiar I couldn't stop staring at him, a bassist and a drummer. I'm not being vague about the last two because they weren't awesome -- I'm sure they were -- I just couldn't really see them from where I stood. They have this wicked awesome twangy rock sound that continually surprised me.

When they finished, they headed back to the merch table and so did I. Frankly I was hoping that if I saw the guitarist (Ben) up close I'd be able to place where I recognized him from. No such luck; it haunts me to this day.

I got a copy of their latest CD, Billy Jack* and chatted for a minute then went on my way. I watched Trampled by Turtles for awhile and watched the crowd for a good part of that. It was, as it always is, awesome to see a crowd so into the music. TBT was awesome as well. High energy, they sounded great and really loved the crowd. Unfortunately, fatigue eventually got the better of me and I hit the road before their set was over.

All in all, I'm really glad I decided to suck it up and go to this show. I wish I'd known more Trampled by Turtles music so perhaps I could have gotten into their set a little more and stuck it out but it wasn't meant to be and it was a great show anyway.

*Billy Jack is phenomenal start to finish and I highly recommend you check it out.