Words About Music
Unfortunately, 2017 was a bit light for me in terms of live gigs. I switched cities and got caught between jobs many a time, which made it quite difficult for me to afford shows. Nonetheless, I did get to enough that I can happily list out my favorite live bands that I saw this year. Apologies to Morrissey, Milo, and Circa Survive, but you just barely missed the cut.
10. City of Caterpillar
October 12, 2017 — The Vera Project, Seattle, WA.
I’m not usually the type of guy who easily falls on the “reunion” bandwagon. I mean, sure, I’ve seen Neutral Milk Hotel, Slowdive, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, American Football, and plenty of other post-breakup/post-reunion bands far past their heyday. Sometimes, they deliver, other times, they disappoint. One highly anticipated concert that didn’t disappoint was the Seattle date of short-lived Richmond, VA post-hardcore quartet City of Caterpillar’s brief reunion tour. The group played an all-too-short set of songs from their critically acclaimed, self-titled 2002 album, among other tracks from various EPs and singles over the years. Amazingly enough, the band played with the same amount of passion and vigor that presumably went into those crucial, early recordings, and the reunited musicians’ love for these songs translated well into their show. It’s a shame that they probably won’t be back to give us more music or shows, but their brief reign over Seattle’s best all-ages venue was one for the ages, one I won’t soon forget, and an appropriately short reunion for a band whose initial run was like lightning in a bottle.
Favorite moments: “…And You’re Wondering How a Top Floor Could Replace Heaven,” “When Was the Last Time We Painted Over the Blood on the Walls?,” Thou’s opening set was dope as well
March 26, 2017 — Neumos, Seattle, WA.
I’ve been a big backer of California-based rock group Deafheaven since I first heard their “controversial” 2013 album, Sunbather. Proving that they’re not a one-album-wonder on 2015’s New Bermuda, I was stoked to finally get the chance to see Deafheaven perform. After two decent sets from Emma Ruth Rundle and This Will Destroy You, Deafheaven came to the stage giving mixed signals. Vocalist George Clarke asked front-row fans what they thought of the opening acts during the line check, giving off a friendly vibe shortly before ripping into his menacing screech. The band fucking killed it, ripping into songs from their excellent previous two songs, inspiring a strange amount of mosh pits as they exploded into their loud, black-metal-inspired music. It wasn’t life-changing like some of their post-rock forebears tend to be, but it was still quite a sight to behold as a longtime fan of the band.
Favorite moments: “Dream House” (of course), “The Pecan Tree” (of course), the unexpected Mogwai cover
March 29, 2017 — Neumos, Seattle, WA.
Three days after being destroyed by Deafheaven, I went back to Neumos to catch a set from Nails, who released one of my favorite albums of 2016 with the misanthropic You Will Never Be One of Us. Nails had been a band I’d been wanting to see for a long time, and I was worried I wouldn’t get the chance considering rumors last year that the band had broken up. Thankfully, those rumors weren’t true, and the powerviolence troupe blistered its way through Seattle, bringing relentless circle pits along with them. It was a menacing atmosphere, but it wasn’t pretentious or overly serious. It was a hell of a lot of fun, especially hearing the band go through many songs in their surprisingly diverse catalog. Nails didn’t disappoint in their performance whatsoever, and they definitely made the case for their supremacy over the current landscape of metal.
Favorite moments: “They Come Crawling Back,” “You Will Never Be One of Us,” “Scum Will Rise”
7. Injury Reserve
April 19, 2017 — Ethnic Cultural Theatre @ University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
Full disclosure: I co-curated this particular show. But, it’s my list with my biases, and plus I enjoyed the fuck out of Injury Reserve’s set. While the venue wasn’t quite suited for the brand of hype rap music this trio makes, these guys made the best of it, embracing their first trip to Seattle by playing many of their beloved songs to their cult fanbase. Ritchie raged at the crowd, demanding volume that the venue simply couldn’t provide (technically speaking). Meanwhile, Groggs found himself sharing some hard alcohol with some of the crowd’s younger set. The set was, much like the group itself, an uncompromising fusion of old, new, and everything in between, and I am beyond glad that we were able to bring them to campus before the proper Injury Reserve explosion finally happens.
Favorite moments: “Oh Shit!!!,” “All This Money,” “Washed Up”
6. Kero Kero Bonito
April 18, 2017 — Ethnic Cultural Theatre @ University of Washington, Seattle, WA.
The night before Injury Reserve’s memorable set, I was blown away by a headlining set that I never thought would come to fruition, until it did. English dance-pop trio Kero Kero Bonito did a run of dates in the United States last year that included my college’s campus, and their jovial, hilarious set was every bit as fun and infectious as I hoped it would be. Complete with props, skits, and sing-a-longs, KKB’s set was definitely a fan-pleaser. They were hot off the release of their excellent studio album Bonito Generation, which was one of my favorite pop records last year, and coasting off that energy, they brought their undeniable charisma to the small stage. They did the best with what they had, and I had a hell of a lot of fun in the process. Long live KKB!
Favorite moments: “Flamingo,” “Trampoline,” Sarah Perry in general
5. Run the Jewels
February 2017 — Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA.
Acclaimed hip-hop duo Run the Jewels is a group I’d been wanting to see perform ever since they dropped their self-titled debut in the summer of 2013. Since then, RTJ has only improved its sound and its popularity, throwing together two more albums of inspired hip-hop greatness. While I did get the chance to see Killer Mike shortly before news of RTJ’s existence had fully become reality (and that was excellent), him and El-P have truly gone above and beyond in this new artistic step. Seeing them perform was every bit as fun and joyous as I’d expected, even if I was stuck watching them perform in one of my least favorite venues in Seattle. Hot off the release of their amazing Run the Jewels 3 album, Mike and El had no choice but to absolutely dominate on their return trip to Seattle, and I’m extremely happy I was able to be there.
Favorite moments: “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck,” “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Run the Jewels”
July 15, 2017 — The Crocodile, Seattle, WA.
Algiers is a band that has consistently resonated with me since I discovered them shortly after they released their self-titled debut in 2015. Since then, the trio-turned-quartet has perfected their sound, incorporated even more influences, and staged together a bomb-ass live show. Algiers was almost certainly the loudest band I saw this year, with guitarist Lee Tesche commanding fierce, harsh noise out of his guitar and other implements. The band permeated with energy as they rocked through songs off their latest (and greatest) record, The Underside of Power. Vocalist Franklin James Fisher absolutely killed it, delivering with even more intensity and energy than I could have expected given his studio performances. It was electrifying, and proved to me that Algiers is making some of the most important music of our time.
Favorite moments: “The Underside of Power,” “Walk Like a Panther,” “Cry of the Martyrs”
3. Jeff Rosenstock
July 22, 2017 — The Crocodile, Seattle, WA.
At this point, I have seen Jeff Rosenstock perform three times. If I’m not mistaken, he also managed to make it pretty highly on my Favorite Live Performances of 2016 list, when I caught him on a headlining bill at the Funhouse. Since then, he released his magnum opus WORRY., which was in my Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2016 as well. After waiting and waiting (and waiting) for a Seattle gig to pop up, it finally did (for low cost of course) and I jumped on that shit like it was a trampoline. Just as I expected, Death Rosenstock (the name of Jeff’s touring lineup) absolutely killed it, ripping through their set like it was some sadomasochistic ritual. They hate it, but they love it so much. They even closed out their encore with a spirited cover of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Smells Like Nirvana,” cementing them as one of the most self-aware punk institutions out there right now. As a massive fan, of course, this had to be in my Top 3 Favorite Live Performances of 2017, and I can’t wait for Round 4.
Favorite moments: Playing part of the mid-WORRY. medley, “You In Weird Cities,” “Pash Rash”
2. Death Grips
November 1, 2017 — Showbox SoDo, Seattle, WA.
If I’m seeing Death Grips then you just know they’ll be one of my favorite live shows of the year. After surprising all of us earlier on in the year with the Steroids EP, the absolute madmen joined legendary industrial metal band Ministry on a co-headlining jaunt across the United States. While my tiredness kept me from sticking around for Ministry (I had a long drive that night and an early day the next morning), I got more than enough from the Sacramento punk-rap trio. Much like their previous gig in Seattle back in 2015, the band delivered an onslaught of back-to-back, non-stop tracks, including some tracks they were playing for the first time ever on that tour. The flow was unstoppable, both lyrically from Stefan Burnett and physically from the mass of bodies hurling themselves against each other. It was my third time seeing the group, and while not quite as liberatory as that June 2015 show, it was still a hell of a lot of fun to rejoice in the music of my favorite band with hundreds of other fans.
Favorite moments: “Say Hey Kid,” the laser gloves, the confused Ministry fans
July 2, 2017 — Marymoor Park Amphitheatre, Redmond, WA.
My other favorite band, besides Death Grips, is Ween. Ween is known for putting out multiple albums of amazing material and then making that amazing material even more amazing when dished out in a live setting. Each Ween setlist is unique and usually over 25 tracks long, so you never know exactly what you’re going to get, which is part of the fun of seeing them. You’ll hear old classics, fan favorites, some covers, and some tracks that never quite made it onto an album, and you’ll be fucking excited regardless. This was the band’s first show in Washington since reuniting last year, after a short hiatus from each other. Ween came back better than ever though, with Gene and Dean Ween’s musical partnership more reinforced than ever before. Both were beyond fine form that night, as were the other three Weens: Claude Coleman, Dave Dreiwitz, and Glenn McLelland. There wasn’t a dull moment during the 2+ hour set, and if there’s any night this year I would go back to if I could, it’d be this one.
Favorite moments: “Let’s Dance,” “Roses Are Free” encore, “Poopship Destroyer → Pandy Fackler → Poopship Destroyer”