Listkreig Bop: S Lewis’ year-in-review extravaganza

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For what it’s worth, 2010 has been a pretty busy one for me. Over the past 11+ months, I have been to exactly 52 shows (no, this number wasn’t planned), and seen somewhere in the neighborhood of 163 sets (that’s how many I counted, but open mic nights and collaborations complicated things a bit, plus I saw several musicians multiple times, but whatever). Below, I have collected a bunch of random thoughts I had when reflecting on this, what was likely the most live-musically active year of my life.

FIVE BEST SHOWS:

5) TheeSatisfaction at HTFC
HTFC is my second favorite venue, and this was easily the best show I have ever seen there.  Standing near the stage in a basement on Capitol Hill, my mind was blown out of the back of my head as Stas and Cat rapped back and forth merely five feet in front of me. These ladies have proven that they can rock a packed venue the size of Neumos with no trouble, and I had the privilege of seeing them in a small-ish room with only about 50 other people. Unreal.

4) Mountain Man with Shenandoah Davis at The Josephine
An impeccable line-up at my favorite venue – The Curious Mystery, Shenandoah Davis, and Mountain Man at The Josephine.  This show was remarkable for a number of reasons.  First, other than the bands playing that night, there were probably only fifteen people in attendance that night, with my group of friends and Abbey and Josh from Sound On The Sound constituting about half of that number.  This amazed me, given that the only 2010 show I was more excited about was the Shabazz Palaces show mentioned below.  Also, it was my first time seeing Shenandoah Davis, one of the best musicians I was fortunate to “discover” during 2010 (also mentioned below).  Finally, sitting cross-legged at the feet of Mountain Man and listening to one of the most intimate sets I have ever heard, was unforgettable.

3) Kevin Murphy at the El Diablo Coffee Shop
I love the Moondoggies, and I think that the lead singer, Kevin Murphy, is one of this city’s most talented songwriters.  Hearing his songs, backed by only an acoustic guitar and sometimes a banjo, was positively breathtaking.  Bonus: a number of the songs he played that night had only been written within days and even hours before the show.

2) Shabazz Palaces (also winner of the “Most Buzzed-About Show” award) at Neumos
For a while, I didn’t think that this show could be topped.  During the latter half of 2009, I loved the two Shabazz Palaces EPs above almost all else.  The excitement in the room before and during SP’s set was unparalleled by any other show I saw all year.  Yes, it’s true that the opener, The Stay-Hi Bros., presented only less-than-catchy lukewarm weed-rap.  It didn’t matter – this was the night that Shabazz Palaces proved that they are the current rulers of Seattle hip hop.

1) Cave Singers, Ravenna Woods, and Thousands at The Black Lodge
Not only was this my first visit to The Black Lodge, a BAD ASS venue, but I was standing at the front of a packed room, no more than four feet from Pete Quirk during the Cave Singers set.  It was also my first experience with Thousands, a band definitely worth watching in 2011.  Formally consisting of two guys on acoustic guitars, when they began playing with drummers halfway through their set, I was absolutely blown away – just as I was when I saw them with a string quartet at the Columbia City Theater later in the year.  Also – it is a scientific fact there is no such thing as too much Ravenna Woods.  Every set was perfect, as was the venue.  Easily my favorite show of the year.

BEST NEW (to me, at least) ARTISTS:

Shenandoah Davis
When I first heard her, though I was immediately impressed , I made the mistake of referring to her as “People Eating People lite.” In retrospect, I will freely admit that I couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. Divergent styles aside, and nothing against Noella, but there is a depth to Shenandoah’s songs that, in my mind, elevates her above any other singer-songwriter in operation today, Seattle or otherwise. Her next album comes out in 2011, and after you pick up her first, We, Camera, you should be sure to grab the new one as well. Like The Head And The Heart, there is no one I have introduced to Shenandoah Davis’ music that didn’t love it.

The Head And The Heart
By now, they are all over KEXP, they were featured in the song of the day giveaway at Starbucks, and there is almost no chance that you haven’t heard of them and don’t love them. Yes, they are the “next big thing” from Seattle, and no, I couldn’t be happier for them. I fell in love with them the first time I saw them, back in April, at the High Dive, and I have only become more taken with them with each of the nearly million spins I have given their CD. If, by some crazy reason, you haven’t heard of them yet – get on it. When everyone is talking about them next year, you don’t want to the one person left who can’t sing along to all of their songs at a show.

Twin Sister
Hailing from NY, they are about as far from local as you could get. However, they make a type of dark, rythmatic, 80’s-inspired (but not cheesy, I promise) rock pop that made the soundtrack for several months of my life this year. I was stunned when, at their first Seattle show this year, everyone with whom I spoke was there only to see the Morning Benders and had never heard of Twin Sister. If there is any justice in the music world (I’m not holding my breath), this won’t be the case in 2011.

BEST FREE HIP HOP THAT YOU SHOULDN’T MISS:
For hip hop, 2010 was the year of the “mix tape,” an interesting phenomenon whereby rappers release music that is neither a mix nor a tape, but is often quality original music, available for free download. The following three “mix tapes” proved to be exceptional, and are highly recommended.

3) Big K.R.I.T. & Michael 5000 Watts – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Chopped & Screwed Remix (don’t bother downloading the original, it’s not even 10% as good as the remix).
2) Yelawolf – Trunk Muzik
1) Das Racist – Sit Down, Man

MOST UNDERRATED LOCAL RAPPERS:

Katie Kate
Yes, she is a white girl, but she can rap with the best of ’em. Serious musical chops, a knack for writing catchy songs, and a solid stage presence. Definitely worth checking out.

Canary Sing
Their song, “Freak Show,” was one of my favorite hip-hop songs to come out of Seattle this year, and certainly my favorite discovery from a lesser-known local group this year. I had the pleasure of seeing them live a few times, and I was always impressed by their smart lyrics and smitten, in particular, by Hollis’ slightly lispy delivery and commanding stage presence.

GROSSLY-OVERRATED LOCAL RAPPERS:

I expect that, for the few people who read this, this will be the most contentious part of this entry. Yes, I understand that basically the entire world (including Travis, the proprietor of this fine blog) disagrees with me about this. I have nothing against these musicians as people, and am truly happy for all of their successes. I don’t enjoy badmouthing musicians, but seriously – when I think about 2010, I will always wonder just what the hell people were thinking when it came to these three rappers. From pandering story rap to toothless, lame-ass raps about cars and parties, to rap-alongs that riff off of Mary Poppins (no, I’m not kidding), I don’t understand why, with all of the amazing hip hop in Seattle, anyone would listen to any of these guys. I just don’t get it.

Grynch
Macklemore
SOTA Crew

MY FIVE FAVORITE LIVE-MUSIC RELATED MOMENTS OF THE YEAR:

5) Surprising and kind of creeping out Douggie and Tendai of Shabazz Palaces. Shortly after Shabazz Palaces’ phenomenal show at Neumos this year, I ran into MC Silk (a.k.a. “Dougie”) and Tendai at another hip hop show at Chop Suey.  It didn’t help things that I had been out drinking with a friend before seeing them, but when I recognized them and went all fanboy, I could tell that my exuberance was slightly offputting/unnerving to them.  I was sort of embarrassed at the time, but every time I listened to the Shabazz Palaces EPs after this, I had to laugh at the memory of the time that I almost scared the hard-sounding Dougie.

4) DJ Bles One, MashHall, Twin Sister, and Shenandoah Davis all using a picture that I took as their profile picture either on twitter or facebook.  I took these moments as vindication of my tendency to stand at the front of shows and snap innumerable pictures with my cell phone.

3) Sharon Van Etten dedicating her song Give Out to me during her first performance in Seattle.  Her first mistake was announcing that she was accepting requests for songs.  Her second mistake was thinking that I might not have downloaded everything that I could find by her and listened to it all about a billion times.  Give Out, my favorite song of hers, has yet to be included on any of her officially-recorded material, though it makes an appearance on her Daytrotter session and a bootleg I found of a show she played in New York.  She seemed surprised when I requested it, and she then asked my name and dedicated it to me.  The ultimate fan boy moment.

2) Singing a few bars of Gone The Bells with Michael Nau after his show at the bar at the Sunset.  I talking to him after the show, and asked why he didn’t sing this song.  I mentioned that that the last few lines in it were my favorites of pretty much any song, ever, and when I halfheartedly started warbling them, he nicely joined in, thus making my entire existence.

1) Casey Dienel and Shawn Creeden of White Hinterland crashing at my place after their show at the High Dive.  After her set, I went up to get her to sign an album (not only did she do this, but she also included a recipe for soup on the back of the album and Shawn drew a gremlin holding a bottle of Mad Dog 20-20 on the front), and I was flattered that she remembered my name after meeting me a year before at her show at the Sunset Tavern.  We chatted for a while, and she asked if I knew of any good hotels in the area, and, being that the show was in Fremont, I had to admit that I didn’t, but I offered that they could crash at my place and they accepted.  They came over, and though it was a Sunday night and I had to work the next day, we stayed up until around four in the morning rye whiskey and talking.  Casey has been a mainstay on my iPod since first discovering her Daytrotter set in 2006.  To be able to sit around for hours, picking the brain of one of the voices that has been a large part of my life for years over rye whiskey, is something I will always remember.

S Lewis

About S Lewis

Mr. Lewis likes to spend his time in the great outdoors contemplating the greater meaning of things while letting his ears absorb all the great music Seattle has to offer that he can get his hands on.