The BackstageRider Definitive TOP 11 “THINGS” OF 2012

I was waiting to see if the world ended, before I posted this – thought it could save me some time – but here we still sit. It’s Christmas morning, everyone’s already done a list of some sort and I was hoping the list-y dust would settle before I posted mine. Happy Yule to y’all!

The last half of this year for me sucked donkeys for a variety of intense, life-changing personal reasons. Admittedly, my output on BSR took a bit of a hit while I was struggling with real life. But in  2012 music was here, there and EVERYWHERE for me, always a balm for the cracked, dry skin of my soul. So herewith, a Top 11 of my favourite THINGS OF THIS YEAR:

11. Discovering Willis Earl Beal. Saw Willis twice this year – including at Sled Island on Day 2 – and he shook the cobwebs from my soul with his weird, lo-fi approach, posturing and truly astounding voice. One of the things I won’t forget (see the pic in my Sled Island link) is taking pics of him and looking at the audience’s faces – all rapt, and smiling. I look
forward to seeing more of him in 2013.

10. Hanging out with Yuck at the pub in London. I love Yuck. (Here’s Why I Love Yuck.) I loved ’em on the Weezer Cruise (more on that later), I loved ’em when I ran into Max at London’s Field Day festival in May and I loved ’em when Daniel and Max and their girlfriends and I drank wine at an east London pub in June. That night, Daniel drew me a belated birthday card – it was a picture of me, featuring mostly boobs. So he got that bit right. There will be new music this year from this rad, young foursome, and I cannot wait.

9. Pukkelpop. In August, I spent 2 weeks in Flanders, Belgium on the “Flanders is a Festival” blog trip hosted by Tourism Flanders, and had an amazing time. I had amazing beer, amazing food, amazing experiences and got to stand and take pics of the amazing panty-loosener, Tom Jones at Rimpelrock. But nothing could compare to the three days I spent melting in the sun and blissing out to non-stop music at Pukkelpop. If you haven’t already, I URGE you to check out my three-parter photo diary here and check out more of my pics and words in Consequence of Sound. And just one of the multiple highlights (Stone Roses too!) of that experience was…

8. …Having dinner with Grandaddy. In 2012, one of my favourite US indie bands, Grandaddy, returned from deep freeze to play a handful of reunion shows. Hearing the band perform tracks from Sophtware Slump and the other classic albums gave me actual, literal goosebumps during their Pukkelpop set, so imagine how I felt when I talked my way into Pukkelpop’s backstage fortress and ended up hanging with the band and having dinner with them. Jason Lytle’s now a good buddy of mine, and was mighty kind to me in the past year, giving me the scoop on ‘daddy’s return and sending me his incredible new solo album, Department of Disappearance months in advance of release.

7. Speaking of reunions and Pukkelpop…the mighty, mighty Afghan Whigs made a bold return too. I’ve got a long history with the band (well, we partied one night in the ’90s) and so I nearly cried hearing most of Gentlemen played out on Day 2 of Pukkelpop. Also made the trek from Vancouver to Seattle to see them again in November – a gig which turned out to be one of my favourite shows of the year.

6. Watching Diamond Rings get famous. I have so much love for this kid from Toronto, it kills me. And the love doesn’t end with me. The boys love him, the girls love him, network TV and radio now loves him and in 2012 his star blew up, just like I predicted in this exclusive photo diary in 2010. He also released an ace little pop album, Free Dimensional, and one of my fave moments of 2012 was dancin’ and hanging out with him at an afterparty in Vancouver. (And check out his video Top 11 here, too!)

5. Seeing Refused live, twice. I have no words for how incredible it was to see these Swedes back in action. Well, yeah, I do. And I covered it all off here at Pukkelpop and here, in a review of one of my top gigs of the year.

4. Discovering Alt-J ∆ Well, actually, my friend Giselle discovered Alt-J first, probably a year before anybody had heard of this four-piece from England, and she was on to a really great thing. With their textured art-rock, Joe’s wild voice and killer harmonies, Alt-J’s debut An Awesome Wave is MY ALBUM OF THE YEAR. And their relentless, exhausting touring paid off: they won the Mercury Prize, and I saw them twice at Pukkelpop and again in Seattle. I also interviewed them (well, incredible drummer Thom) long before pretty much everyone else. Read that rad feature, here.

3. A few good albums. Contrary to what other folks’ lists say, I thought there were a lot of GOOD but not truly GREAT albums out this year. Alt-J wins album of the year for me. Despite naysayers who may find them too fiddly, I was gobsmacked at how a bunch of friends from uni could get together and put out a debut so refined and complete and new to my ears. But there were other amazing albums too – Lower Dens put out Nootropics, which fucked with my head in a really incredible way. They also came to dinner: I cooked the band a turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving when they spent a weekend in town with Grizzly Bear (who put out the stellar album Shields as well). Also loved Django Django’s self-titled debut; I saw ’em at Field Day in London and again at Pukkelpop (where me and the band’s Tommy watched Björk together.) And just to gloat: I pegged them in this article I wrote for the Guardian in London, wayyy back in March and long before they got the Mercury nom.

2. Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh playing together in Portland for MusicFest Northwest. It was something that nobody – let alone my buddy Lou Barlow who plays in both bands – thought would/could ever happen. But Red Bull pulled it together for their Common Thread series – and Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh shared a stage, a museum (that I helped to curate and which included items from my collection!) and many laughs. I spent a weekend with the bands, photographing it all, and witnessed an absolutely ecstatic Lou Barlow drunkenly walk back from the gigs he played saying: “I’M THE COMMON THREAD! ME! I AM!”. I have yet to share all those pics (also of
my night with Dino in Seattle), but will do so soon. I also took perhaps one of my favouritest photos ever – the one and only pic of both bands standing together. (See the photo at the top of this article.)

1. WEEZER CRUISE! Possibly the best four days of my LIFE took place last January. To be on a boat with Weezer and so many of my friends in bands I love – Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, The Antlers, Yuck – and make so many new incredible friends, well, you can’t beat it for bonkersness. I did a stellar (I think, anyway) three-part photo diary about the whole insane, remarkable experience. Read Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 here. Or my article in the NME. Or my pic in the Guardian.

So rock and roll on 2013 – and may BackstageRider guide you into the groovy night. \m/

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