Writers: Chris Bailey, Tim Basham, Jennifer Bendery, Dave Brecheisen, Justin Cober-Lake, Robert Collins, Jennifer Kelly, Jordan Kessler, Megan Milks, Dan Nishimoto, and Adam Williams.
Pristine PR photos and slick production can make any band seem sweet. But live, only the true-blue shine through. And the ego-maniacs? They’re exposed in all their awkward glory. In 2005 our reviewers tore through page after page in their notebooks, catching every glorious note, every skeezy cat-call.
Of course, we also gave a lot of breaks. We omitted certain stories because they were unwieldy, or didn’t seem important at the time. We left out reviews of bands that were simply too awful to address. We bit our tongues, exercising restraint when it came to doling out excessive praise and extreme revulsion. After all, some things take time to set in, and it never pays to be hasty.
But now that we’ve had time to review our notes, those quick scrawls have taken on new meaning. It’s time for some bands to pay the piper while others are given their rightful due. Here then, are our best and worst live moments of 2005, a collection of extreme shows, inspired theatrics, and performances that, for better or worse, made our pens run dry.
We didn’t go to see them; we didn’t pay to see them; we didn’t have to review them; but, damnit, we had to sit through them. Behold the year’s worst openers.
1. Pony Up! 9 April 2005: Black Cat Washington, DC
Uh… are Pony Up!‘s vapid, overly-simplistic, cheeky-to-a-bore, “hi, we’re girls!” songs supposed to be ironic? Get off the stage: Carrie Brownstein has something to say to you. I think it involves a kick in the ass. (MM)
2. Keren Ann 20 November 2005: Tribeca Performing Arts Center New York
I can excuse the timid singing, insecure guitar strumming, even the weak wah peddling, but your tool of a sideman is one piece of equipment I cannot forgive. Is he your BF? If so, I hope he is either well-hung or well-paid, because he’s not doing you any favors. (DN)
3. Morningwood 30 September 2005: Pearl Street Northampton, MA
Opening for the godlike Gang of Four, this glam-trash quartet’s attention-starved front-woman Chantal Claret clearly belongs to the flaunt-it-if-you’ve-got-it school. But the question is, does she have it? After a particularly gruesome back-bending shimmy, Ms. Claret caught my eyes rolling and began to flirt with my husband. Karen O could get away with this, but Chantal… please. (JK)
4. The Cinematics
13 June 2005: London ICA London These guys are shameless Franz Ferdinand copyists, right down to the gray v-neck sweaters. “What do you think?” asked the press agent, expecting a glowing response. “Awful,” I replied, before I went on using phrases like “not a shred of originality” and “what’s the bloody point.” The agent was less than impressed. (RC)
5. Queensryche 11 June 2005: Mohegan Sun Uncasville, CT
Queensryche opened for heavyweight metal gods Judas Priest like the lightweight metal sods they are. Geoff Tate and his “Silent Lucidity” brethren sucked back in the ‘90s, so how could they suck any less now? Answer: They couldn’t. (AW)
Remember when Van Halen toured as the opening act for Led Zeppelin? How about when the White Stripes opened for Sleater-Kinney? Sometimes it pays to show up on time to a show.
1. The Constantines (opening for The Hold Steady) 28 November 2005: Logan Square Auditorium Chicago
The whole band had the flu, but that didn’t stop them. Of course it did mean they were pale, shaky, and sweaty, a perfect state of affairs for strained, kick-ass Canadian gutter-rock. (CB)
2. Mazarin 2 December 2005: Bowery Ballroom New York
Filling the room with thick streams of psychedelic sound, the band’s jams built to enormous heights. Emerging above waves of crackling guitars, keyboard, and percussion, their singer softly delivered a stream of stunningly sweet, poppy vocals. Hidden behind a ridiculous beard and a downward-facing cap, their lead man always wins the Best Suited for Playing Peek-a-Boo prize. (AP)
3. Giant Drag (opening for Stellastarr*) 5 October 2005: 9:30 Club Washington, DC
After opening the show with some witty stage banter about subcutaneous emphysema and dying young, the duo launched into a loud set reminiscent of L7 and the Breeders. With song titles like “YFLMD” (a shortened version of: “You Fuck like My Dad”) and “Kevin is Gay,” this band is one the best (if mildly disturbing) surprises of the year. (DB)
4. Black Helicopter (opening for Mission of Burma) 13 January 2005: Iron Horse Northampton MA
To set up a great night with Mission of Burma, fellow Bostonians Black Helicopter cranked out the hardest-rocking, sludgiest song ever to reference The Wall Street Journal. (JK)
5. Aqui (opening for An Albatross) 16 January 2005: Black Cat Washington, DC
With stage moves like Ian Curtis and a rocking low-budget stage set (of which a “BEGIN.YES” poster and a red flashing siren are just two elements) these guys lapped all others in the small but important arena of space-alien electro-jam. (MM)