I don’t do end of year lists. Except I do. Here’s a list of great gigs we’ve been to this year contrived into an awards theme.
Most Relentless Performance – Mec Yek (Bruges Cultural Centre, September)
Autoloze Sontag – a day in which cities in West Flanders (Bruges, Gent and Brussells, at least) close to cars – saw a host of free shows, activities and performance art happening in the streets of Bruges. Highlights included tango dancing in one of the squares and a remarkable little acoustic performance by boy/girl duo in a marquee outside a coffee shop.
It wasn’t until near the end of the day that we picked up a programme for the event and tried to make some sense out of what was going on. Appearing at the cultural centre was a band called Les Mecs du Nord, who were helpfully pictured sporting violins, accordions and ukuleles; we also gathered they’d played at Bruges’s annual accordion festival, Airbag (I KNOW), so we figured they’d be right up our street.
Unfortunately, Les Mecs du Nord didn’t make it. I don’t know why. My Dutch didn’t stretch too far to understand what the man sat next to us was saying, but we established that Mec Yek would be filling in for them, and they were utterly spellbinding. For an hour and a half, we couldn’t sit still – I’ve hardly ever seen a performance that was so energetic, so driving and so bloody incessant! Remarkable.
Funkiest Shit Award – Dizraeli and the Small Gods supported by Gurdan Thomas (Birmigham MAC, April)
A word first for our awesome friends Gurdan Thomas who opened this gig. We don’t get to see them half as much as we’d like now, since they’re stationed in Germany. So when we heard they’d be back briefly to play an opening set, we really didn’t care about the headline act. Eccentric, mindboggingly good fun and tight as hell, GT get better every time we see them! I’ve managed to find a video from their set that night; the song is ‘Demons’ and it’s particular favourite. Enjoy!
We didn’t really know what to expect from Dizraeli and the Small Gods but they were frickin incredible, accomplished musicians and commanding magnetism fusing folk and hip-hop. Honestly, it was a JOY.
Most Unbelievable Actually Real Line-up Gig – Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jnr and Deerhoof (Alexandra Palace, London, July)
Seriously. This happened! And I’ve already talked about it here. Found this video from the show:
Ear Bleeding Award – The Walkmen supported by The Head and The Heart (Glee Club, Birmingham, January)
There are very few gigs where I’m just as excited by the support act as I am by the main (although there are three in this ‘unlist’). But having discovered The Head and The Heart late in 2010 and being accompanied by their debut album on snowy walks that Christmas, I thought I’d hit a jackpot when I discovered they were to support the Walkmen. They filled the stage bodily and the room with gorgeous harmonies and fine instrumentation. I honestly thought the Walkmen would have to go some to follow that performance.
But if I’d only had a passing interest in the Walkmen before, their performance made me a massive fan and Lisbon, their most recent album and You and Me, their best, have been at the top of my year’s playlist. It’s weird, really – they didn’t banter, they didn’t strut; they just played. And they utterly blew me away! Here’s a video of one of my favourite of theirs, ‘Canadian Girl’, that has some miraculous brass!
And Finally… Award – Mountain Goats (Manchester Academy 3, May)
‘And Finally…’ for two reasons; 1) we FINALLY got to see one of our favourite bands; 2) GIG OF THE YEAR!
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been. The support act was pretty forgettable and John Darnielle was poorly. He confessed to being unable to play many ‘stompers’ that Goats fans might have come to expect at gigs now, but the softer stuff he played (the set was quite Get Lonely heavy) lent the gig a fantastic intimacy. Everyone sang along, everyone felt the love and JD had the biggest grin on his face! There are some fab videos from this gig; here’s one of ’em:
Gigs that should have been…
2012 should be great!
Happy New Year, y’all. Feel free to add your own.