In other magazines, the end-of-year-listicle cycle has come to a close. You’ve read ’em all, you’ve gotten tired of lists. You’ve moved on. WHICH IS PRECISELY WHEN I POUNCE.
Now it’s time for MY list. And you care about this because you care about me. And I’m not Pitchfork. I’m a human. Who hasn’t steered you wrong, yet, have I?
Here’s a round-up of the best things that happened in my BackstageRider-y world in 2013.
11. DEFEND YOURSELF: Seems like I had to do a bit of this this past year, myself. My pals Sebadoh released their looooooooong-awaited new album Defend Yourself. It was an album I was very close to when I was working with them, and when it was released on the wonderful indie label Joyful Noise (buy it now) the media went to town on Lou Barlow’s lyrical content – claiming the album as a whole and all of Lou’s songs are about the breakup of his marriage. Both are untrue – not all of his songs directly relate to his breakup and bandmate Jason Loewenstein wrote and sings an equal amount of tracks. Lou got pissed on Facebook and claimed rightly that the media were missing the point. But I didn’t. When it came out, I wrote: “It’s reductionist to call it a ‘break-up album’ (as everyone will) but it is, only in parts…But to hang a hat on that description distracts from Jason’s great songs on here, and drummer Bob D’Amico’s warm instrumental ‘Once.’ It’s a typical Sebadoh album, made by three people, and it’s about a lot of things.” So there.
10. #MTLMOMENTS: In July, Sasha Geffen, an editor with Consequence of Sound, and I were sent to Montreal for nearly three weeks by the über-hip Tourisme Montréal to explore the city’s incredible nightlife and music scene. Night after night after night after poutine and pint of beer and bagels, we headed out to see the scene…as well as KISS, with whom we drank in the hotel bar. I’d just snapped and interviewed KISS in Vancouver (where I had my tongue assessed by Gene Simmons), so it was funny to see them two weeks later in Montreal, sitting behind us, eating burgers. We also ran into my pals Alt-J in the hotel lobby, who ended up sleeping across the hall from me. Other highlights? Spending the day with legendary turntablist and Deltron 3030 member Kid Koala and getting a tour of his studio, having coffee with Raf and Alex of Braids & Blue Hawaii, seeing the Montreal premiere of Tom Berninger’s “The National documentary” (it isn’t, really) Mistaken for Strangers and meeting Tom. Plus the poutine and bagels. Did I mention those? Read my highlights here and Sasha Geffen’s excellent series of articles on our trip (with my photos.)
9. OSHEAGA: The excellent #MTLMoments trip culminated in one three-day music festival orgasm known as Osheaga. Seeing the Cure for the – what? – 10th or 11th time and shooting them from the pit for the 3rd time, was mind-blowing for this card-carrying, black-wearing, never-grown-up goth.
We also checked out New Order, Breeders and Beck, hung out with Palma Violets and Guards and thrashed around to the always-incredible Bob Mould. Oh yeah, I also danced on stage with Tricky during a shambolic cover of “Ace of Spaces”, as you do. You can watch my shaky on-stage video here. We wrapped up the exhausting few days bopping and grinning to my favourite festival band (and possibly favourite live band in general) Hot Chip. Read about Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 here, and see Consequence of Sound’s round up with my photos here.
8. PRIMAVERA SOUND: Speaking of exhausting festivals…. in May a friend and I trekked off to Barcelona, Spain to take on the mighty and incredible PRIMAVERA SOUND festival, a punishing three days of incredible programming set on concrete slabs by the water. It was depressing how many bands’ sets conflicted, and how the whole thing would start at 6pm and end after 5am, but on Day 1 I still managed to take in something like 23 bands. And the line up? INCENDIARY.
Highlights included hanging out backstage and on stage for Dinosaur Jr with Damian from Fucked Up, and Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom, chatting excitedly to the lovelies in Grizzly Bear, seeing Savages, running into METZ and hanging with them for the Hot Snakes’ set, watching Swans, getting doused by champagne by the Wu-Tang Clan, shooting Blur (with whom I have a long and funny history with) as they OWNED the main stage on Day 2, meeting and interviewing Animal Collective, being the only person on the field in the morning for Kurt Vile and Django Django‘s soundchecks, snapping the Jesus and Mary Chain, going deaf in the front row during a disappointing MBV set (yes! A highlight!) dancing with nearly bloody feet to Hot Chip at 5am, and finally….watching Nick Cave rule all. Actually, who am I kidding – that ENTIRE festival was fucking amazing. See my full photo diaries from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3, plus additional photos in my Consequence of Sound gallery here.
7. BEING FOWLER’D: Anyone who knows me, knows I have collected work of the incredible UK artist Pete Fowler (creator of Super Furry Animal album covers, posters for Flaming Lips, Charlatans, videos for the Horrors and installations for Hot Chip) for years and years. This year, however, was special. One of Pete’s artworks was… ME. Take a look at the whole story (and a peek at my Fowler back tattoo, too).
6. SUBPOP 25th ANNIVERSARY IN SEATTLE: We hit the road for Georgetown, Seattle in September to celebrate venerable indie label SubPop’s 25th Anniversary and I spent the day in the sunshine hanging out with
and taking an epic amount of selfies with heroes like Mudhoney, Tad, J Mascis, Greg Dulli from the Afghan Whigs, and my pals METZ, with whom I watched Built to Spill from sidestage. Also ran into Megan Jasper and Bruce Pavitt from SubPop, while I drank beer out of a paper bag. Incredible day, though Sebadoh’s invite seemed to have gotten lost in the mail. See my full gallery here, it’s fun.
5. BEST ALBUMS: Where to start on best albums of the year? Fuck knows. Probably one of the top 5 at a push would be II by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Just LOVED it’s scratchy sunshiney layers. And I did really enjoy the following: Suuns – Images du Future; Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze; Savages – Silence Yourself; Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin; Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain; The National – Trouble Will Find Me; Foals – Holy Fire; Palma Violets – 180; Mike Doughty – Circles Super Bon Bon etc; Yuck – Glow and Behold; Iceage – You’re Nothing; with honorary mentions to the new platters put out by David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Ròs, Flaming Lips, Deerhunter and Boards of Canada. There’s a ton more, but we’ll leave it here.
4. BEST GIGS: It was a busy year for gigs but not an exceptionally crazy one. Besides the countless festival highlights (which took up a lot of my excitement bandwidth – particularly The Cure at Osheaga and Nick Cave and Blur at Primavera), my favourite gigs of the year are as follows. All are Vancouver unless specified otherwise:
1. Palma Violets still take best gig of the year even though I called it in April. Young, raucous, drunken, FUN Britrock with charisma. They were shitfaced and adorable and still polite and ready to party with the crowd afterwards. Note to all small touring bands: we want to hang out with you. The time for laptopping backstage is later.
2. Bob Mould in a tiny club in Toronto. UNFUCKINGBELIEVEABLE. People had flown in cross-country for this show and it spanned Hüsker Du to Sugar to solo. And Bob waited around until everyone had a chance to chat with him afterwards (see above.)
3. The Men from Brooklyn blended punkrock and alt-country and were an incredible surprise. I celebrated the night before 4/20 with them. Perfect.
4. The Specials – two nights, got to party with them, got to dance with Lynval Golding DURING THE SHOW AS THEY PLAYED “YOU’RE WONDERING NOW”, and relive some incredible parts of my history.
5. Iceage – Messy, ominous, glorious, snotty punk rock. Shambolic but also really fucking compelling.
6. Foals in Sydney. More on that in a bit. Wasn’t the best Foals gig I’ve seen but was great to shoot ’em Down Under.
7. Django Django in Toronto. Percussive, happy, wonderful. I just adore Django live and hope they finally make it out to Vancouver in 2014. Great chat with the lads before the show, too.
8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra in March in Vancouver. I have to specify March because I saw UMO three times in 2013. But this gig (the second I caught of their Foxygen/Wampire triple-bill tour) was stellar. Ruban was drunk and adorable, drummer Riley was insane, “No Need For a Leader” sounded big and thick AND they played my request of the cover of “My Shadow” by Jay Reatard.
9. Lee Ranaldo (with Steve Shelley). I haven’t yet done my review or photos from this INCREDIBLE solo show in December, but it included two members of Sonic Youth, with nice guy Lee schralping on guitar. Utterly rad to see these guys play together again. Watch this clip.
10. Mike Doughty does Soul Coughing. Never thought I’d hear those songs again and the reworked versions were almost…better?
3. THE YEAR OF NEIL GAIMAN AND AMANDA PALMER AND BSR: Not only did I (well, me and my photographers Wayne Höecherl and Syx Langemann) do another photoshoot and interview with rockin’ writer Neil Gaiman in November, and talk to him briefly about the music that changed his life, but I photographed and hung out with his missus Amanda Palmer in Sydney, Australia delivering hugs to her from Neil and taking some radicool photos there, to boot. To add a cherry to the sundae, their album An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer came out in November and featured three photos in the gatefold artwork from my awesome photoshoot with them in 2011. Another one off the bucket list!
2. SO MUCH FOALS: I love Foals. You know that, don’t you? I harped on about them at far too much length as my first post of 2013, saw them again in April, and ended up snapping them during a great gig at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, Australia in September, during which singer Yannis decided to fling himself off the balcony, and had his shoes taken off him and his shirt ripped to shreds. Went backstage for that one, caught up with the lads and had a great long talk with bassist and lovely guy Walter Gervers. We made plans for the next night: I joined them on their little riser for an intimate DJ set at a place called the Soda Factory. Yannis and I have had beers in the past but it was even more fun to see the chaps all the way over in Sydney. Amazing album, amazing year for Foals. Check out my incredible pics and review here.
1. THE YEAR AHEAD: What’s the best part of a year? It’s the year ahead. So what will the future bring? I’m off to SXSW in March for my first attempt at that over-grown musical clusterfuck but looking forward to it, and can’t wait to see UK’s Public Service Broadcasting there among many, many others. I’ll be in New York in September, who knows what I’ll get up to then, but it might include a gig or two. I’ve got tickets for Pixies, Skinny Puppy, Nick Cave, Neil Finn, and, uh, Justin Timberlake. But 2014 seems like a world away – oh wait, it happens on Tuesday…shit. Better fire up the rockhands! Happy New Year everyone! \m/