[3 January 2005]
Another year lost, and what have we got to show for it? Well, a pile of ticket stubs, for starters.
In 2004 our writers made it to hundreds of concerts, meticulously recording every mic-twirl, every ear-splitting riff. We watched the Arcade Fire emerge from utter obscurity, Kayne West celebrate Jesus, Franz Ferdinand shake their money-makers, and the Pixies put aside a decade’s worth of differences for the mother of all payoffs. We listened as everyone with a microphone implored audiences to vote for Kerry—ah for those innocent days in 2004, when we believed that musicians could move mountains.
Now it’s time to cast into obscurity the sullen nights, the disappointments and the failures and thus deliver PopMatters’ 2004 Concerts Highlights. We made new friends this year and bade farewell to a few old ones all while getting reacquainted with some long estranged pals. Some of these shows were historically important; others will be.
Either way, it was worth the Monday morning hangovers and the nights spent “working.” We’re tired sure, but our ears are still ringing with 2004’s best.
* * *
This year’s best:
From college drop-outs to meandering folkies, 2004 was a big year for the little guy. Of course, these guys aren’t so little anymore.
FRANZ FERDINAND, 4 November 2004: Festival des Inrocks, Zénith - Paris
Kids rediscover the shimmy. Meanwhile, history teachers worldwide misunderstand student enthusiasm.
KANYE WEST, 16 April 2004: The Egyptian Room - Indianapolis, Indiana
The guy who reinstates imaginative rhymes, innovative beats, and artistic integrity as hip-hop necessities. Jesus and dropping out are also addressed.
THE ARCADE FIRE, 18 November 2004: The Magic Stick - Detroit
Napoleon Dynamite was step one. Richard Parry is step two. Fashion craze 2005: Red-headed fros and serious glasses.
JOANNA NEWSOM, 18 December 2004: The Bowery Ballroom - New York
Wild-eyed and bushy tailed, this impish harpy can do no wrong.
DEVENDRA BANHART, 24 November 2004: The Vanguard - Sydney
Ahh, Indie-Folk: a land where natural fibers and facial hair reign supreme.
TV on the Radio
TV ON THE RADIO, 26 March 2004: The Empty Bottle - Chicago
Simon Cowell is quite possibly the only frontman in indie rock who can really sing. We’re lucky to have him on our team.
SCISSOR SISTERS, 26 March 2004: The Empty Bottle - Chicago
Scruffy sex appeal and a Sacagawea vest. GRRRR baby. GRRRR.
BRIGHT EYES + JIM JAMES + M. WARD, 21 February 2004: Vic Theatre - Chicago
My little brother really likes this guy. So do I.
UNICORNS, 14 January 2004: Southpaw - Brooklyn, New York
This Canadian trio live in their own fantasy land, complete with ghosts, jellybones and, well, unicorns.
DEERHOOF + NEED NEW BODY + JUKEBOXER, 3 November 2004: Knitting Factory - New York
Sure, my faith in my fellow Americans might have died last night, but what better band than Deerhoof to appear at the wake?
* * *
Bonnaroo 2004 / The Grateful Dead
This year saw a barrage of politically minded festivals quietly squeezed between less overtly charged (though plenty political) annual events. Their overall impact might have been less than expected but the acoustic effects certainly resonate.
BONNAROO 2004, 11-13 June 2004: Manchester, Tennessee
Amidst purgatorial heat and ankle-deep mud, granola amblers like the Dead, Phish and Govt. Mule make nice with indie rock elite. The results are stunning.
VOTE FOR CHANGE TOUR: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN + JOHN FOGERTY + R.E.M. + CONER OBERST, 5 October 2004: Xcel Energy Center - St. Paul, Minnesota
Apparently musicians don’t like Republicans. Or is it the other way around?
LOLLAPALOOZA, Summer 2004: Nowhere but in the magination
Wolf Eyes and Morrissey. The greatest team that never was.
CMJ DAY ONE, 22 October 2003, New York
While the Shins are setting up, the Megastore played the band’s just-released album. Real subtle guys.
SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
“Hey guys, you wanna check out that Scissor Sisters showcase?” “Eh, who are they?”
Newport 2004 / Steve Earle
NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL, 7 - 8 August 2004 - Newport, Rhode Island
Folk the System. Jam the man. But seriously folks…
FÈS FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC 2004, 6-14 June 2004: Fès, Morocco
United Nations World Heritage Site plays host to annual World Festival. Bush does not attend.
YEAH! FEST, 10-12 September 2004: Eagles Hall - Olympia, Washington
Deerhoof, The Gossip, Xiu Xiu, Calvin Johnson, The Decemberists, and Mirah: all democrats. Who would have guessed?
RJD2 + PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES + JASON MOLINA, 31 January 2004: Student Activities Building—Charlottesville, VA
DIY: it’s not just for punks. It’s also for college kids that used to be punks.
LITTLE STEVEN’S INTERNATIONAL UNDERGROUND GARAGE FESTIVAL, 14 August 2004: Randall’s Island - New York
Yes, rock is back. Purple headscarves remain fringe fashion.
* * *
When the going gets tough (and we all know this year was a doozy) it’s you turn to someone you know. These are some old dogs that, in 2004, still packed some bite.
PRINCE, 18 July 2004: Continental Airlines Arena - East Rutherford, New Jersey
Prince told Ellen that he would be playing “all his hits.” So what? I found out about the tour by watching the Ellen Degeneres Show. It was worth it.
DAVID BYRNE, 6 September 2004: Denver Botanic Gardens - Denver, Colorado
Singing “Psycho Killer” à la Psycho, Byrne started to look eerily like Norman Bates. To be fair, they are both killers.
THE WHO, 30 May 2004: Madison Square Garden - New York
Who’s on? No, “The two.” Who? Yes, wait no; It’s “The two.”
JOHN FOGERTY, 12 November 2004: 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
Swamp fever and fried chicken. Also: an indictment of unjust, unnecessary warfare. Déjà vu anyone?
VELVET REVOLVER, 28 May 2004: Electric Factory - Philadelphia
Scott Weiland and the guys from Guns N’ Roses? Can a “Behind the Music” be far behind?
* * *
Reunions and Departures
Parting is such sweet sorrow until the reunion tour. In 2004 we saw old favorites fade away and old voices reemerge. Highlights anyone?
PIXIES, 18 November 2004: Aragon Ballroom - Chicago
Frank Black once said that the Pixies would only get back together if one of the members needed an organ transplant or money, also money .
GUIDED BY VOICES, 3, 4, 5 December 2004: Irving Plaza - New York
Drunken revelry, a brewery’s worth of beer, and a solemn so-long to my crazed, party crashing uncle.
SEBADOH + RAISING THE FAWN, 22 April 2004: The Underground - Hamilton, Ontario
Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein rehash lo-fi classics. Alcohol induced banter did not distract… well, not much.
CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN, 17 February 2004: Crystal Ballroom - Portland, Oregon
Accounted for: Balding white men, steeped in sweaty joy. Bowling skinheads: surprisingly underrepresented.
BEULAH, 11 June 2004: Abbey Pub - Chicago
Rarely does one get the chance to go into a concert knowing they will never see the band on stage again. Our writer got that chance twice
Andrew Phillips is an entertainment writer/editor living in Brooklyn, New York. He recently left his post as Managing Editor for the Daily Washington Law Reporter, a small legal periodical in the District of Columbia to pursue his fortune in the big(er) city.