Top Five of 2008: Moments in (mostly local) live music

Fan-Belt contributor Amy Elliott is the managing editor of Vital Source. She loves Wayne Newton, for serious! More evidence that earnestness is the mark of the truly hip. She shares her five favorite moments in music from this year.

In chronological order:

1. Wilco @ The Riviera, Chicago, February
It was night #2 of Wilco’s winter residency at the Riviera – five days, five shows, every song in the Wilco playbook. It was a total fluke that someone I barely knew had an extra ticket. On the night I attended I witnessed a surprise guest performance by Andrew Bird (the first song he played on, “Jesus Etc.”, is likely the Wilco song closest to my heart) as well as the only live performance, EVER, of the beautiful song “Dash 7” from A.M. It almost didn’t matter that the Riviera is gross, it was grossly overcrowded and at the end of the show I saw someone fall down and crack his head open on the ground because he was so drunk. That was gross.

2. Jens Lekman @ the Pabst Theater, March
When Jens took center stage, the lights dimmed, the disco ball fluttered and an unusual reverent hush settled over the audience. He played the Arthur Russell song “A Little Lost,” and it was just him and his quavering accented voice and a thumb piano. There was a palpable magic in the air — it was like no one was breathing.

3. The Trusty Knife @ the Cactus Club, July
I always knew I liked The Trusty Knife, having heard a few of their very likeable recordings here there and everywhere despite a debut album that wasn’t released until … uh, this month. But it took me FOREVER to drag my sorry self to one of their shows. July changed everything and it changed everything for the best. I have never seen a front man with quite as much untouchable charisma as Zach Pieper. I imagine that the way I feel when I see him perform is the way it felt to be possessed by the same strange energy that struck people who saw, I don’t know, the obvious comparison is Dylan when he was maybe 24.

I also really appreciate that everyone DANCES at Trusty Knife shows. The proportion of unselfconscious boogieing to swaying and nodding appreciatively at Trusty Knife shows is remarkably even.

4. Bon Iver @ the Pabst, August
This was one of the biggest crowds I have ever seen at the Pabst, and yet I remember the whole evening as quiet and awestruck. I was so worried about seeing this show because For Emma was such a personal album for me this year, and it was so twinned in my mind with me being by myself (and also not being really, really drunk, which unfortunately I was on this night, quite by accident). I thought, will it be awkward to see this guy, with a band, in front of more than a thousand people?

It wasn’t. It was beautiful, exultant, moving. And Jon Mueller made an appearance.

5. Chris DeMay w/special guests @ Kneel to Neil, Linneman’s, November
Legend has it that Chris DeMay called a few friends (namely: Quinn and Joe Kirschling of Quinn Scharber and The …, plus members of The Championship) a few days before the annual Neil Young tribute show and said, “hey, can we learn a couple songs?” And then they did, and the 15 minutes they were on stage were some of the most scorching minutes of live music I saw all year. I feel like I had a taste of how a Milwaukee supergroup would look and sound, and I really, really liked it. I don’t even know what songs they played.

A runner-up live music moment was playing in Quinn’s tambourine orchestra at the Cactus Club this month. I also had the great pleasure of meeting The Esquires, or two of them, at the after party for Song Sung Blue at Shank Hall in November. I had been sitting next to one of their singers all night without realizing it, talking about Barack Obama and the untimely death of Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs with his lovely wife, when he was invited to the stage with the keyboard player for an impromptu rendition of their soul classic “Get On Up.” It elated me so much that I texted my dad. Two days later he texted me back and said “I thought this was an email.”


One Response to “Top Five of 2008: Moments in (mostly local) live music”

  1. meghan...or is it? Says:

    Glad to see the appreciation for the Jens Lekman show. I feel that so many people really missed out by not going to that one.

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