Best (and Worst) in Show 2006

Edited By: Andrew Phillips and Megan Milks

Writers: Brian Bartels, Elizabeth Black, Eddie Ciminelli, Christopher Cwynar, William Ferleman, Ryan Henriquez, Peter Joseph, Jennifer Kelly, Jon Langmead, Michael Lomas, Matt Mazur, Kevin Pearson, Shain Shapiro, and Adam Williams

Covering concerts is a lot like old-school anthropology: a good reviewer knows how to roll up his sleeves and forge head-first into the forest. Sometimes you’re bitten by the local bug; sometimes you’re bowled down by a wild bore. But, no matter what happens, the key is to keep the notes coming.

This year, the PopMatters concerts crew filed field reports that made Margaret Mead look like Geraldo Rivera. OCD incarnate, we made it our mission to analyze every aching vocal, every errant note, until there was nothing left to pick apart.

Of course, with all that lofty philosophizing and introspective analysis, we sometimes forgot to tell you the obvious — like who totally sucked and who didn’t. Time, then, to make amends: pulled straight from the pages of our notebooks, these are 2006’s Best (and Worst) in show:

Part 1: Best and Worst Openers

WORST OPENERS

We try to stay positive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t acts that flat out boil our brains. In fact, some folks inspire such rancor that we question whether or not to even review them. Our editor’s advice? Wait until the end of the year and then we’ll really roast ’em.

1. Moon and Moon feat. Devendra Banhart

3 November 2006: New York, NY

We said this at CMJ, but some things bear repeating: freak folk is hovering tenuously on the edge of overindulgence. The last thing the scene needs (and the world for that matter) is Devendra Banhart intoning trite spoken-word poetry over flute fills and campfire drums (did I mention there was a bellydancer clapping finger bells!?!). Playing third to last in an otherwise okay CMJ showcase, Banhart — dressed in a shirt out of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and bedecked in a series of faux-sacred talismans — led his new side project with the incantations of an angry wizard, but my guess is magic cards are more this band’s style. +1 for going all out. -100 for killing the scene you helped create. (AP)

2. Aloha

13 December 2006: New York, NY

A set of utterly indistinguishable indie scenesters, Aloha’s only real asset is its ability to ape the success of other acts. Now considered scene vets (simply because they’ve been kicking around in the third opening slot for so long), their touring resume is far more interesting than their music. The band’s ensemble-indie tinkling (which includes muddy, displaced moog and the occasional xylophone wank) is so aggressively mediocre that it evokes outright anger. The good news? Even pity has its limits, and they can only ride coattails for so much longer. (AP)

3. Willy Mason

7/8 May 2006: Copenhagen, Denmark

Imagine if Bob Dylan spawned a demon child and had it raised by members of Fleetwood Mac and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s an eerily accurate portrait of wannabe-folkie Willy Mason’s ridiculously amateur act. Mason dragged his 14-year-old brother (manning the drum kit) and a random peasant-skirted hippie chick (helping cover up Mason’s inability to carry a tune) out for this inept jaunt through Europe with Radiohead (!). With the excessive tambourine shaking and smarmy violin flourishes, it felt more like a Midwestern State Fair than Copenhagen. They should have sold Elephant Ears; at least that would have distracted us. (MM)

4. Pony up!

8 May 2006: New York, NY

When I took a glance at last year’s list of Worst Openers, I was surprised to see Pony up! mentioned alongside 2005’s other knuckleheads. But, for all their flash and frenzy, the Canadian quartet don’t connect with their audience; they’re too busy trying to connect with the more fragile parts of themselves. As an audience member, I felt awkward, insecure, and incapable of expressing my discomfort. Wait a sec — maybe they did connect with the audience after all. (BB)

5. The Stills

15 June 2006: Philadelphia, PA

The Stills suck. Simple as. Their tired take on trad-rock tropes makes Jet’s insipid gutter ramblings sound like the work of a group of rock gods. No one’s asking you to push things forward; just try not to make yourselves look so staid. Even worse, the band played so long that by the time headliners Yo La Tengo came on, I was too tired to stick around. I’m Still pissed. Bad joke? At least it’s better than the band. (AP/KP)

6. Buck 65

25 June 2006: New York, NY

You’d think he’d get a pass simply for hailing from moose-laden Halifax and trying to Beck-rap his way into the avant garde, but, on this fateful June Sunday, you couldn’t have paid me to sit through Buck 65’s free show. Rap is tough live, but his sampled beats were as wack as the Mounties, and his lyrics, when comprehensible, were only surface clever — never impacting the listener. Time to grab another Molsen, eh? (RH)

7. Skip The Rush

30 November 2006: Amsterdam, NL

I have no idea why so many pop bands are taken to wretchedly hackneyed cliché, but this Dutch foursome — which poorly mixed hair metal with pop punk — epitomized the unfortunate trend. For all their unnerving energy, they came off as a pill-popping Weezer hybrid mixed with Journey and buttressed by a bunch of screaming fourteen-year-old girls. A skipper indeed. (SS)

8. Isis

15 September 2006: Kansas City, MO

This “progressive” band (in every disparaging sense of the word) displayed a grandiose penchant for a trinity of incoherent guitar, bass, and vocals — save for the laughable, anticlimactic climax during which they unleashed a semi-articulate Slayer-like grunt/yell. I would call this screamcore, but that implies that it deserves a genre in the first place. (WF)

9. Nerina Pallot

19 August 2006: Staffordshire, UK

Not strictly an opener, but in front of a daytime festival crowd waiting to see someone better, Pallot tried to liven up her dreary middle-of-the-road set by calling for a bit of audience participation. Great idea, except her calls of “Ohh ohh ohh” were met with the same painful silence and stifled laughter that plagued the rest of her set. (ML)

10. Mark Kozelek

11 July 1006: Ottawa, ON

Kozelek came on to play ahead of Son Volt, and anticipation was high for his brief set. Unfortunately, his performance lacked pace and emotion; though he said he’d been thrown off by the afternoon set and that he could hardly hear himself above the noise from the other stages, this reviewer left convinced that his listless performance wasn’t worth hearing in any case. (CC)

BEST OPENERS

Remember when the White Stripes opened for Sleater-Kinney? How about when the Shins opened for Modest Mouse? It’s annoying when you mistake the “door time” for the “show time,” but, on the other hand, it can also pay to show up early.

1. Ra Ra Riot

7 October 2006: New York, NY

Meshing airy melodies with butt-shaking beats and pleasant fiddle fills, this out-of-nowhere Syracuse act’s anthems are pristine indie poppers whose spirits, once imbibed, are impossible to exorcise. Inexplicably opening for Harvey Danger, the band’s lovably David Byrne-like vocals were jam-packed with wonder and whimsy. Cello player Allie Lawn positively rocked her chair, bobbing her head and scrunching her face like an axe-wielding guitarist as the rest of the band powered through with unwittingly professional poise. Geeze, guys: get a record out already. (AP)

2. Thurston Moore

9 June 2006: Easthampton, MA

Arrived a bit late worried that I’d missed the raucous punk of Be Your Own Pet, but, never fear, there’s Sonic Youth’s gangly front-man hunched over his guitar on a stool, trying out a few songs from the still upcoming Rather Ripped for a crowd of 30 people. After acoustic-ish versions of “Incinerate” and “Rapture,” he invited a friend up and cranked 15 minutes of mind-bending feedback with his Bark Haze project. (JK)

3. French Kicks

6 August 2006: Hoboken, NJ

Phoenix were certainly no slouches, but, then, they couldn’t afford to be after openers French Kicks turned in a powerhouse set of jaw-droppingly beautiful shoe-gaze reverb that echoed off each and every wall. Talk about a time to hit the doors the second they open. All those who hopped on the PATH train early, rejoice! (RH)

4. Phonograph

20 October 2006: Latrobe, PA

Opening for Wilco, arguably the biggest band in indie-Americana, this band streamlined forty-five minutes of rollercoaster sound as a steady flow of new fans nestled in the middle of Nowhere, USA. When lead singer Matt Welsh yelled out, “Thanks for coming, we’re Phonograph, get ready for WILCO!” I was grateful for the reminder, because I’d forgotten they were even playing. (BB)

5. Walter Meego

20 October 2006: Reykjavik, Iceland

Very few bands can pull off the live electronic feel without making me laugh, but Walter Meego’s 40 minutes of salaciously intense, melodic peak-and-valley trance flirted so well with rock, funk, and disco that you simply couldn’t keep it out. This was danceable stuff, but also quirky, thoughtful, and genuine, and the band pulled off the sound live with only a guitar and a couple of keyboards. (SS)

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.

1. Mötley Crüe Fans

4 November 2006: Las Vegas, NV

It doesn’t get more “rawk” than taking your wedding vows in the front row, minutes before your favorite band hits the stage in Vegas. But that’s exactly what fan group the Mötley Tour Whores did. With 20 Crüe shows in three months to their credit, it was the perfect way to kick out the jams and come away with a true RAWK memory. (AW)

2. Babyshambles

27 August 2006: London, UK

Arriving in the nick of time, on day release from his court-enforced rehab, 2006’s number-one outlaw, Pete Doherty, wandered onstage as the big screen behind him flashed images of newspaper headlines and police lights. Of course, it was a bit staged and very silly — but boy was it exciting. Let’s just hope he made it home before lights out. (ML)

3. Girl Talk

1 November 2006: New York, NY

Stripped unwillingly to his skivvies, pasty laptoper Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) hammers his head up and down as he re-remixes his much-ballyhooed mash-ups. Surrounded on all sides of the stage by sweaty bodies (they stormed it earlier), he remains in sync with the music, gyrating zombie-style as the dancing around him gets down and dirty. Just as the craziness reaches fever pitch, some unthinking dancer edges the computer off the table, sending it crashing to the floor. Reacting quickly, Gillis levels an inaudible howl. Appropriate, ’cause this guy’s a beast. (AP)

4. Ghostface Killah

27 April 2006: Philadelphia, PA

A better screw-you won’t be found this year: Fresh from his prison stint, Beanie Sigel ambled on stage mid-set to chastise those who disowned him while he was in the clink with an impromptu a cappella rap that made one thing clear: you don’t want to be on the wrong side of this guy. A kick in the nuts would have been more subtle, but only slightly more RAWK. (KP)

5. Sonic Youth

11 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

Guitar demigod Thurston Moore heads toward front stage near the end of a tight 45-minute set. The audience, at the bottom of an empty pool and basking under the light of an early moon, stands quietly, drinking more than its fair share of Brooklyn beer. Moore walks the guitar down the stage by its cord like an owner walks a dog, and the axe’s strings bang against the metal stage like waves crashing into rocks. (BB)

6. Man Man

13 September 2006: Northampton, MA

Man Man’s white-face painted, drum-crazed Tom Waits-alikes put on a rockin’ show for the kids, especially those crazy ones in the front row who are slammin’ and yelling and making their own fun. Give Honus credit for bravery, if not brains, as he jumps out headfirst over the wildest section of the crowd, and they prevent him from breaking his neck — though just barely. You know, Mooney Suzuki put a big muscle-y roadie guy out in front when they did this. (JK)

7. Liars

3 June 2006: Berlin, Germany

After a rollicking set of experimental percussion-driven madness of their own, Angus and his boys came back for a propulsive encore that included not only a sexy, straightforward cover of Nirvana’s “Territorial Pissings,” but also an unheard-of third encore that consisted only of ear-splitting noise, much to the shrieking delight of the sweaty Berlin crowd. (MM)

8. Dirty On Purpose

12 December 2006: New York, NY

I’ve always thumbed my nose at wussy ear-plug wearers. But at this Dirty On Purpose show, I actually found myself flailing back and forth like the ball in a Taiwanese ping-pong match, trying to avoid the full frontal assault from the twin amps on either side of the stage. Ouch. For once, I needed a Hearo, and not the kind Bonnie Tyler was holding out for! (RH)

9. The New Pornographers

15 March 2006: Austin, TX

With his non-stop smoking, drinking, singing, stick flipping, and flawlessly executed fills, New Pornographer’s drummer Kurt Dahle didn’t provide any one particular “rawk” moment during his band’s South by Southwest set; he delivered 45 consecutive minutes positively packed with them. (JL)

10. Alejandro Escovedo

14 July 2006: Ottawa, BC

Escovedo introduced his song “Castanets” by noting that he had only recently decided to re-introduce the number (he dropped it a while back when he learned that it is a favorite of President Bush). The Bluesfest crowd was glad to see the tune brought back out in protest, as Escovedo’s animosity towards Dubya drove a blistering performance that proved the highlight of his stellar set. (CC)

THE ANTI-ROCK

Like a torrential pour, that which does not rock rains upon that which does, leaving smoke where once there was fire. Away foul trickle! Away!

1. Kevin Federline

20 August 2006: Universal City, CA

It’s obvious, but damned if it doesn’t beg reiteration: Kevin Federline is the poster boy for all that is wrong in the universe. He’s the quintessential professional celebrity husband, and poseur extraordinaire, your inarticulate, arrogant ass with no marketable skills aside from advanced parasitism. So, what does this former back-up dancer with less street cred than Punky Brewster do? R-A-P. (AW)

2. The Sounds

23 October 2006: London, UK

Checklist for creating a cliché rock show: 1. Find a modestly attractive female singer dressed in revealing clothing who screams rather than sings. 2. Use power chords and distortion. 3. Wear black clothes and make sure your hair is organized to be disorganized. 4. Turn the PA up to 11. 5. Troll around stage in a hyperbolic fit so that it looks like the strobes are engendering a seizure. 6. Make it all look and sound like one big joke. Oh, what fun. (SS)

3. The Zombies

23 September 2006: Philadelphia, PA

Playing as part of a garage-rock revue, the ’60s starlets looked like they’d just dropped in from a cruise ship’s cabaret lounge. The show reached critical mass when they played “God Gave Rock and Roll to You” in the most un-rock fashion imaginable. Talk about out of season; I hate to say it, but the flesh really did rot on this one. (AP/KP)

4. Joanna Newsom

24 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

She may be a critic’s darling and the reigning queen of the freak-folk forest, but elves and harps!? Pixie dust!? Fairy tales!? Unless you’re Led Zeppelin, these things do not a RAWKER make. Sorry Joanna, but if the question is whether to play a huge stage or stay at home, you’re probably better off back in your hobbit hole. (AP/RH)

5. Snow Patrol

14 July 2006: Suffolk, UK

After some enthralling, oddball musical delights, the Latitude festival just needed a fitting, funky end to its first day. It got the middling rock of Snow Patrol. Men held their mobiles in the air and couples put their hands in each others back pockets as I slowly lost the will to live. (ML)

Part 3: Hecklers and Other Interruptions

CALL AND RESPONSE

Mama told ya never to talk back, but guess what: mama ain’t here. It’s time to get your heckle on. Just make sure you watch out for Vince and Mike — they ain’t yo momma, but it turns out they might be yo daddy.

1. Mötley Crüe

22 November 2006: Tampa, FL

After an idiotic drunk spit on Vince Neil mid-song, the Crüe frontman launched his guitar at the offending cretin, then jumped off the stage and onto the very surprised “fan.” Mayhem ensued, security removed the culprit, and Neil retook the stage, finishing the song as well as the set. (AW)

2. The Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players

8 August 2006: Philadelphia, PA

An impromptu mid-set Q+A session saw an audience member ask Trachtenburg patriarch Jason about a hidden daughter who is not talented enough to play in the family-based band. A momentary silence followed… the rumor was false; the band had started it. Bet they wish they hadn’t… (KP)

3. Nick Cave

6 February 2006: Manchester, UK

Sporting a newly grown handlebar moustache and taking to the stage in customary bible black, Nick Cave is greeted by one brave, eagle-eyed heckler who, noting his resemblance to a skinny Lemmy, shouts, “play ‘Ace Of Spades’!!” Nicks looks up, and with a stare like death replies, “You’re a funny cunt… Actually, you’re just a cunt.” Gulp. (ML)

4. Wilco

20 October 2006: Latrobe, PA

Frontman Jeff Tweedy had a flurry of soundbites worth including in this piece, but the one response that didn’t make a bit of sense was when he answered heckles about his infamous attack on an adoring fan earlier in the week by saying, “By the way, I’m not going to punch you in the face. You can kiss me. Really.” No thanks. (BB)

5. Akron/Family

14 January 2006: New York, NY

Everyone in the crowd was singing along. Well, almost everyone: one tall gentleman with steel-gray hair refused to utter a word as Akron/Family charged hard through a set of raucous psychedelic folkers. In a break between tunes, the man started to yell nastily, and the band called him out, demanding that he sing along or at least smile. His response? He gave them a big middle finger. Things were about to turn ugly, when the band realized that the onlooker was in fact legendary Swans frontman Michael Gira, the owner of their label. (PJ/AP)

INTERRUPTED OR OTHERWISE INDISPOSED

Kids say the darndest things, but musicians do the drunkest. Whether distracted, intoxicated, or just plain confused, these 2006 rockers made the grade by forgetting that, like, there’s actually an audience out there.

1. Guns N’ Roses

6 November 2006: Portland, ME

A leopard doesn’t change its spots, and Axl Rose is still an unpredictable prima donna. Prior to the gig, fire marshals informed the band that local laws prohibited the consumption of alcohol on stage. Rose threw his usual hissy fit and bailed, leaving thousands of fans holding the bag — yet again. When it comes to Axl’s traveling road show, caveat emptor. (AW)

2. The Strokes

19 May 2006: New York, NY

Playing as part of the bill for the annual Joey Ramone Birthday Bash, the Strokes embarrassed themselves as only a bloated and drunken former band-of-the-moment could. Inebriated and completely inept, the band’s near-insulting tribute proved that irrelevance doesn’t mean you can’t make a mockery of yourself. Stick a fork in ’em; their 15 minutes have been over for hours. (AW)

3. The Lemonheads

13 December 2006: Philadelphia, PA

Evan Dando welcomes us with a slurred “Hello Susquehanna,” falls to the floor, plays a song from said position, abandons the song, and lets fans in the front row play his guitar. He even pulls a crowd member up to sing “Mrs. Robinson” before declaring: “Motherfucker, I hate that song.” (KP)

4. Meat Loaf

4 November: New York, NY

Playing a “One Night Only” gig under the bright lights of Broadway, a visibly haggard Meat Loaf forgets actor rule number one: if you don’t know your line, fake it. Backed by a full orchestra, the rock-opera wunderkind stumbles through the first verse of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” then wheels around and waves off the twenty or so musicians behind him. Cutting off an orchestra is no easy feat, but when the players finally stop, the singer is left standing mid-stage, lost in deep thought. Finally turning to the crowd, he laughs, “You ever stop something because you thought you were wrong and then realize you were actually right?” (AP)

5. Geoff Berner

1 September 2006: Wakefield, QC

Berner punctuates his set at the Sheep with readings from his “instructional chapbook,” How to be an Accordion Player, stories of debauchery in the UK, and spontaneous exclamations at his fiddle players’ apparently astonishing chops. What’s more, it seemed like he could go on like this for hours if he wanted to. Someone get this man a drink! (AP/CC)

Part 4: Best Moves

NICE MOVES

From the shimmy shake to the backwards bicycle kick, great musicians own a room using way more than words. Here’s to this year’s best moves — we’ll be practicing them in the mirror.

1. Manu Chao

7 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

During Chao’s encore, two fans stormed the stage and began closing in on the singer. Security followed, but Chao quickly called them off. Ever the pacifist and people’s prophet, he embraced the fans and received instant cheers from the audience. But it was Chao’s messianic control over fan and guard alike that was most striking — he’d diffused a potentially volatile situation with a few cool hand waves and some sideways glances — all without missing a note. Shiver-inducing. (RH)

2. Diamanda Galas

14 February 2006: New York, NY

Dressed in trademark black, Galas begins to hammer a round of stark, unevenly placed tones like she’s running blues scales through John Cage’s piano. And then, as the tune’s protagonist expresses a particularly bitter sentiment, she throws her voice into deep-throated blues-man barks only to skip three octaves in a sudden operatic shriek (Yoko Ono could only dream of pipes like this!). Screaming isn’t really the word for what she does: she transports banshee cries from some dark realm of the soul. I’d flash devil horns, but I’m too stupefied to speak. (AP)

3. Acquiesce

20 March 2006: New York, NY

Townshend windmilled, Berry duck-walked, and Hendrix played with his teeth. Now, lead guitarist Dan “Lil Angus” Sweeney joins the fray by putting his SG on his head and spinning ’round like a corkscrew, while at the same time laying down the tastiest power chords New York has ever seen. For the record, Sweeney’s trademark move is known as “the ‘copter” but “upside-down pile driver” would be equally apt. (AW)

4. Jarvis Cocker

15 November 2006: London, UK

When Jarvis Cocker rolled through town, we got the full array of high kicks, twitchy catalog model poses, and very rude gestures made with his index finger… He even bent over and smacked his own arse whilst singing the line, “Kiss him where the sun don’t shine” — oh yes, it’s good to have him back. (ML)

5. Ninja High School

23 September 2006: Ottawa, ON

Toronto’s purveyors of “positive dance rap” took the tiny Deckuff stage carrying an iPod packed with retro beats, a battery of gnarly rhymes, and a repertoire of spasmatic, semi-choreographed dance moves. For 30 minutes, they proceeded to aerobically rock the club as they swung from the rafters, wrestled with each other, and hurled themselves into the audience. (CC)

AV CLUB

The loudmouths may own the stage, but it’s the AV dorks that really run it. From wham-bam light shows to gigantic inflatable bubbles, these drama dorks turned normal stages into vivacious Vegas revues.

1. Beck

17 June 2006: Manchester, TN

Beck was the only artist at Bonnaroo who made full use of the large, high-quality screens that framed each side of the stage. He and his band had marionettes of themselves made for the show, and the production team bounced back and forth between the live Beck and the wooden Beck — the two are incredibly in sync. Later, his backup band sat down to a dinner table as one of the dancers/beatboxers served a meal. A few songs later, Beck’s backup band was satiated and wanted back in, so they begin banging their utensils on the place settings at their disposal, creating a wild, percussive exit. (EC)

2. The Rolling Stones

1 October 2006: Wichita, KS

Leave it to the one band that should be cold as ice to prove that histrionics still matter. The role of Lucifer was excellently and majestically assumed by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger on this Wichita date. Complete with fire and brimstone (extravagant pyrotechnics), panderly, gaudy, red coat and hat, and an unmatched demoniac energy, the band turned “Sympathy for the Devil” into Shakespearean drama — only Lady Macbeth was missing. Jagger, prancing around and acting like an urban, vulpine devil, will never be bettered. (WF)

3. The Flaming Lips

6 November 2006: Manchester, UK

Their entire stage set-up might resemble a cross between a mad scientist’s laboratory and a five year old’s birthday party — but even alongside nun puppets, giant hands, and glitter guns, the inflatable space ball that Wayne Coyne squeezed inside before he rolled out over the audience’s heads, was utterly ridiculous — and ace beyond belief. (ML)

4. iLiKETRAiNS

27 April 2006: Leeds, UK

Yes, yes they do. In fact, they like trains so much that they all dress up like train directors, showcase old Super 8 images of trains on a projector during the show, and sing about blood on the tracks (in homage to English railroad history of course). Plus, they produce the best apocalyptic post-rock in the UK. Choo choo! (SS)

5. Tiny Dancers

10 January 2006: Sheffield, UK

In front of a crowd of Pete-worshipping, tight-trousered Babyshambles fans, country popsters Tiny Dancers wandered onto a stage adorned with balloons, broken TV’s, and fairy lights — and were promptly booed back off it. Thankfully not before they’d got to play some sparkling, psychedelic, stomping pop anthems. Brilliant. (ML)

Part 5: Best and Worst Dressed

WORST DRESSED

Just because musicians date models doesn’t mean they have any sense of style. Fashion faux pas doesn’t begin to describe the washed-up couture worn by these derelict dandies.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

11 August 2006: Brooklyn, NY

I realize Karen O’s fashion statements are anti-fashion, and, in my own imaginative way I like her freewheeling wardrobes. But why is she dressed like the sex-child of Marilyn Manson and Punky Brewster, and why is guitarist Nick Zinner always in black and depressing? And why is drummer Brian Chase dressed like he doesn’t want to be anywhere near these other two people? Oh wait; I know why. (BB)

2. David Lee Roth

5 June 2006: The Tonight Show

Roth’s “Casual Friday” attire on national television wouldn’t have been bad for the average baby booming corporate clone, but for Diamond Dave it was cringe inducing. What made Roth’s frumpy jeans and button-down ensemble even worse was the grotesque permagrin he used to accessorize. Alas, some of us remember when he was the coolest guy around. (AW)

3. Morrissey

19 August 2006: Staffordshire, UK

Not so much a case of what the Mozfather wore, more what he let hang out. Even for someone as creepily vain as Morrissey, his frankly insane decision to rip three (yes, three!) different shirts off and jiggle about the stage — man boobs n’ all — defied all sense of logic and decency. Funnily enough, these were actually the best moments of his otherwise turgid set. (ML)

4. Radiohead

6 May 2006: Copenhagen, Denmark

No one is ever going to mistake these thirty something doughy Brits for fashion icons, but if things don’t change, we might confuse them with homeless backpackers or rogue daddies on a post-Old Navy shopping spree. Extra points for the band’s general avoidance of the gym and for Jonny Greenwood’s dangerously low-slung jeans and lack of underpants, which definitely showed the shocked Danish crowd Radiohead’s “dark side.” (MM)

5. Dirty On Purpose

13 December 2006: New York, NY

Joe Jurewicz, guitarist, and falsetto vocalist for Dirty On Purpose, wore a t-shirt emblazoned with a white Persian cat slyly playing a saxophone. The detail on the animal and instrument were painstakingly airbrushed, conjuring up images of Christopher Cross and getting lost between the moon and New York City. Eeeep… (RH)

BEST DRESSED

In rock fashion, it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it, and these folks know how to wear a Nun costume well.

1. Mountain Goats / Eames Era / The Shins

31 October 2006: Baton Rouge / New York / Las Vegas

In celebration of All Hallows Eve, the Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle donned full Batman get-up, Peter Hughes wore a ghoul mask, and natty maroon coat, and Franklin Bruno was dressed as Richard Simmons. Meanwhile, across the country, new-wave pop band Eames Era celebrated the holiday in full-length, furry chicken suits, and, in Las Vegas, the Shins winced the night away as nuns. Screw Christmas; every day should be Halloween. (AP/JL/JK)

2. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins

12 October 2006: New York, NY

After a brief opening set, Lewis and the twins left the stage to do… something. Lewis hadn’t seemed the high-maintenance, costume-changing type. After a few moments of her band playing and introducing themselves, the women, previously dressed in long black dresses, ran back on stage in sequined Tina Turner go-go get-ups and did a huge theatrical rendition of a new song, “Fernando,” that felt like cruise ship entertainment for the hipster set… in the best way possible, of course. (EB)

3. Os Mutantes

21 July 2006: New York, NY

Dressed to make Paul Revere and the Raiders proud, Brazilian tropacalia legend Sérgio Dias led the infamous Os Mutantes in their first-ever US show donning a pair of tan riding pants and a long blue petticoat. Only a legend can carry what looks like pantaloons, and Dias was very much that, bobbing his head as the coat’s tail shook in time. Forty years after his band’s hey-day, the man is still as stick-small as he ever was. How does he stay so skinny? Maybe he really does ride horses… (AP)

4. Modest Mouse

17 Nov 2006: New York, NY

Ever ones to skirt expectations (Modest Mouse think about costumes?!?!), the seven-piece Pacific Northwest outfit ambled onstage wearing matching black-and-white shirts reminiscent of ’50s era jailbirds — well, everyone except Johnny Marr, who was dressed like an ’80s Brit rock legend, playing with unworthy criminals. (BB)

5. Make A Rising

Various: Various

Not ones to just dress up for special occasions, Philadelphia’s own Make A Rising surpass themselves time and time again, accenting their high-pitched ADHD chamber pop with masks (usually animals), myriad types of head dress, and un-ironic (i.e., not the Polyphonic Spree-type) robes. (KP)

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