Matmos @ Columbus Theatre
The latest album by Matmos is called Ultimate Care II. It's the length of a wash cycle and was created using the sounds of a washing machine. The Baltimore duo (M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel) usually keep their machine in the basement and mostly use it to clean clothes. Lucky for us, they decided to bring it on tour with them this past Spring. A washing machine played on the stage of an old vaudeville theater is most likely a rare thing.
Neil Hamburger and Major Entertainer @ Columbus Theatre
On Easter Sunday night, I had my mind fucked by two beautiful funnymen. Mike Hickey (AKA Major Entertainer) had costume changes, a giant button, an old suitcase, and an overhead projector. There were at least five or ten jokes about Egypt in between a handful of songs about being pathetic. Basically, my jam. One song about watching horror movies is on permanent rotation in my brain.
All of that perfect nonsense was followed up by self-proclaimed, "America's Funnyman," Neil Hamburger. He made everyone want to puke and this was good because laughing is better. His John Stamos bit is still making me heave.
Before We Begin @ AS220 Black Box
A friend and I lovingly referred to this thing as the The Sweatpants Play. Its creators however, Rebecca Noon and Jed Brainerd, were very clear that it was not a play. It was more like a thing. I was drawn to it out of pure curiosity and the strangeness of the demands they put on the theater goers. Each person attending a showing of Before We Begin was required to bring a dollar coin and also wear a pair of sweatpants... And they definitely had to be actual sweatpants. Xander Marro produced some short 'how-to' films like this one, called What are Sweatpants?
It was unlike anything I had ever seen or been a part of and the format expertly tricked us into having a genuine connective experience with strangers. At the end of the thing, we all sang a song together to a forgotten mailbox.
Photo by Jed Brainerd and Rebecca Noon.
I was there to see Marissa Nadler but this band and their intense songs and their magnetic dynamic made for one of my favorite performances of the year. Afterwards I talked with the band members (they are indeed a romantic couple as well...). They lamented the fact that they each made so many mistakes during their set and they tried not to show their frustrations with one another.
There really is nothing like hearing actual tension performed live.
Droplet @ Aurora
Cynthia Lech is one of my favorite people. She is thoughtful with her approach to listening. When she announced that she had started her own musical project this year I was pretty excited. Her refined taste and the textured noise and the beautiful melodies and the syrupy visuals and the intensity of the playing made this first Droplet show one of my favorite things I saw this year.
Chris Corsano @ Machines with Magnets
If you've ever seen Chris Corsano play drums then you know what I'm talking about. Even though I had to be up super early the next day it was totally worth it. When he played, everyone shut up because we all wanted to see what was going to happen next. Basically a whole lot of natural loops and incredible, inventive use of materials. (example)
Tig Notaro @ Columbus Theatre
Tig Notaro! TIG NOTARO. Everything she has put out the past few years has been excellent and then she goes and manages to somehow completely surprise everyone by bringing out super special guests, The Indigo Girls! Not really, but she milked that announcement for the last 10-15 minutes of the show. And that was after opening the night with a short film about being depressed and hiring a clown to perform at your house just for you. See also: One Mississippi.
Torrey Pines and Rachel Blumberg @ AS220
Rachel Blumberg is a national treasure, but lucky for us in RI, she lives here! There are so many of her shows that I could put on this list, but this night was so right. It was one of the shows that made me want to put this list together. Rachel had plugged this post-election gig as a way of collectively being with one another to either console or breathe a sigh of relief. With it being the former, Rachel played with a kind of intensity and strength that we all needed. She also forced this beautiful cello player to join with her in her drumming and even though she had created a beautiful visual narrative with her films, the sound of the performance totally overtook it and I closed my eyes. Thank you, Rachel Blumberg - for all that you do.
After that, we all got to see this wondrous and weird film by Clyde Petersen called Torrey Pines. It was the strangest, wordless, cut-paper stop-motion I've ever seen. And it is worth it. The filmmaker also brought a whole band to live-score it. Another one of those one-time only kind of things.
The Submissives @ The Grad Club in Kingston
Over Thanksgiving I got to travel to Canada and play shows in Kingston, Ontario and Montreal. I was informed by my super host, Emily, that I would like this band. She told me they sounded like The Shaggs and I said that is not a thing and then I saw that this was a thing and I agreed. One of the lead singers in the group taught everyone else in the band how to play their instruments (kind of), they all wear white, and they sing songs about being submissive to men while staring at the audience with dead eyes. It felt weird that people even clapped in between songs. The whole thing would have been better if there were just one or two sporadic claps. I love them. They are my new favorite band. You can even hear this exact set recorded live on their bandcamp site. Check it out here.
Andrew W. K. "The Power of Partying" @ Columbus Theatre
An enormous amount of non-saccharine positive energy from a self-proclaimed party. He literally just talked off the cuff about life from a lectern that was wearing a sash. After he had said enough he took a bunch of really hard questions from people in the crowd. This dude is MISTER ROGERS WITH MUSCLES.
Thanks for reading! Now let's all go make some more stuff like this in 2017!