Anyone can lay down a rocking riff, but it takes a real fiend to unleash the fire burning below. Dust off your devil horns, because these muthas didn’t just rawk our socks; they set those little bastards on fire.
Part 2: Rawk and Anti-Rock
Most Rawk Moment Anyone can lay down a rocking riff, but it takes a real fiend to unleash the fire burning below. Dust off your devil horns, because these muthas didn’t just rawk our socks; they set those little bastards on fire.
8 October 2008: Guelph, Canada Rollie Pemberton’s sweaty-ass high energy show would be entertaining enough, what with he and DJ Co-Op constantly keeping the crowd amped. But when Co-Op threw on TV on the Radio’s “Dancing Choose” instrumental and Pemberton just fucking killed the first half of it before stopping briefly to say he was tempted just to cover Dear Science for the duration of the show before launching into another of his own killer tracks… that folks, that was a Moment. -Ian Mathers
11 October 2008: Providence, RI When you open up for a great live act like TV on the Radio, you better bring it. And even with a weak sound system, the Dirtbombs still put on a rockin' show. In particular, there was their set ending musical breakdown, which was as literal as they come. With two drummers pounding away and bassist Zachary Weedon rubbing his instrument against an amp, one of the percussive players stood up and took apart both kits while the other remained seated until all of his drums were always gone. Nothing better than a beat being played solely on a snare drum. -Andrew Martin
6 May 2008: New York, NY If No Age didn’t provide you with an earnestly exuberant and completely engrossing rock ‘n’ roll moment in 2008… never mind, I can’t even imagine such a scenario. The two-piece provided three-hours’ worth of adrenaline in one 50 minute set, utilizing every ounce of their skinny-indie unabashedly raw beings. Drummer Dean Spunt paced around his kit like a caged big cat between songs, only to unleash his drumming fury as guitarist Randy Randall vaulted from atop his Marshall stack, igniting the next torrent of post-punk sound. -Thomas Hauner
20 September 2008: Chicago, IL At fifteen minutes it was the shortest set of the year, but by far, it was the most raw and potent unleashing of live rawk in 2008. The crowd surged and swelled, mirroring the ballistic snarling garage punk rock chaos of the trio from Tel Aviv. In an act of pure live rawk ‘n’ roll, the band finished in a glorious fury as fans held up the drummer and his kit as he crashed and pounded away the final moments of summer. Monotonix left me reeling and still feeling the full-body ramifications of having the line between fan and band completely obliterated. -Chris Catania
28 October 2008: Washington, DC A Jay Reatard show is only a little longer than your favorite television sitcom, but it's a lot louder and it has exactly zero pauses, commercial or otherwise. The prolific Memphis-bred phenom bullied an enthusiastic Tuesday night crowd with spitting, ADD-inflected garage rock, and the DC audience lapped it up with earnest if ill-practiced fist-pumping and head-banging. Reatard’s albums show plenty of pop mastery, but his live show is all about speed, shredding, and rocking out with a kind of youthful abandon rarely seen since the Ramones. -Wilson McBee
The Anti-Rock From rocking out to nodding off, some bands merely douse the flames while others fail to even ignite them.
12 September 2008: Toronto, Canada Stars Like Fleas, the headliner, were incredible, truly one of the best live shows I have ever seen. And Timber Timbre, the first opener, was very, very good. Stuck in between them? A hippie collective that the audience went nuts enough over to make me wonder if I was on Crazy Pills, but between the finger cymbals, badly-played sitar (I know it’s a demanding instrument, it still sounded crappy), Friendly Giant-style flute, and various percussive geegaws they almost managed to spruce up ex-Flashing Light Gaven Dianda’s sub-sub-sub-sub-Espers Renaissance Faire bullshit enough to be borderline tolerable. But once the smell of incense wafted out to the pew I was sat in, that was it. If I never see them again it’ll be too soon. -Ian Mathers
24 October 2008: Chicago, IL Sometimes, even the most rock and roll exploits can turn on themselves, making what might have seemed like a gallant effort at rocking out actually more subdued than shocking. Rehashing epic rock songs from the ‘70s with a smidgen of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s garage racket thrown in for good measure, the Secret Machines might seem like a rawking proposition, but instead came off as overblown and pompous. To make matters worse, they covered the stage with smoke and darkness, making it completely pointless to “see” them live as they ruined any possible stage presence they might have had. -Kirstie Shanley
26 October 2008: Houston, TX I had never heard of gothy emo rockers 10 Years before attending Houston radio station The Buzz's "Better Than Nothing" concert (The traditional large amphitheater Buzzfest was rescheduled to a smaller venue post-Hurricane Ike). They quickly showed what they were all about, though -- mediocre songs and a real problem with stage presence. In lieu of actually rocking, the members of 10 Years simply stood up on the monitors at the front of the stage as often as possible and held up their instruments very high. The bassist in particular did this throughout their set, seemingly attempting to upstage the lead singer despite not playing anything even slightly interesting on his instrument. -Chris Conaton
24 October 2008: New York, NY While it seems every poignant live musical moment of 2008, thus far, went down at the Bowery Ballroom, the most lackluster did too. I get apathy and I understand the effectiveness of subtlety and balance in music and performance. But I also want to connect, laugh, cry, dance with reckless abandon, or at least have some emotional response generated by a performing band and their music. Longwave has been at it for years now and their playing bored themselves before it began to bore the crowd. The most emotive response they elicited from me was a yawn. Does checking my watch count? -Thomas Hauner
20 June 2008: New York, NY To preface, I count this My Morning Jacket show among the finest gigs I've seen. And yet, is there any buzz-kill that remotely compares with the sophomoric synth farts and grade-school beat signifying the start of "Highly Suspicious"? The tune is indisputably obnoxious -- like a Homestar Runner character fronting a Weird Al original -- and the band's decision to add it to their live set is frankly baffling, and more than a little misrepresentative. Indeed, when a song rocks harder sped up on YouTube than in concert… well, isn't that the very definition of the anti-rock? -Zach Schonfeld