JB List | Chad's 10 Favorite Shows of 2013

Chad B.'s 10 Favorite Shows of 2013

This ain’t a scientific process, folks, just one music lover’s personal best out of a typically busy year in the clubs and on the road – in other words, highly subjective, subject to change, and not even including late December shows.

[Blackberry Smoke]

Yes, I saw Phish, the Allmans, Phil and plenty of other scene staples throughout the last 12 months. I enjoyed myself at each. Must have been a hell of a year if none of those old reliables cracked the top 10.

In chronological order:

Blackberry Smoke, Irving Plaza (NYC), Feb. 7
Blackberry Smoke wears Southern rock cliché a little too proudly sometimes, but focusing only on that means missing what a tuneful, invigorating and just plain rocking band it is. Charlie Starr and company owned the stage on this cold night in Manhattan, and proved they earned it.

Vintage Trouble, Highline Ballroom (NYC), March 4
They have their detractors, but to these ears, Vintage Trouble are the real deal: a true rock-and-soul band with a blues and swamp rock jones, drawing on Solomon Burke, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex and plenty of other obvious and not-so-obvious forebears. They’re theatrical, but not overly slick; raw power, not polish, is what ruled this performance. Can’t wait to see them open for Gov’t Mule again on Dec. 30.

[Photo By: Joe Russo]

Thalia Zedek Band/Willard Grant Conspiracy, T.T. the Bear’s Place (Cambridge, MA), March 11
Indie journeywoman Thalia Zedek is still at it, and her brand of rough-rocking acid-blues and noir-folk offers a nice balance of the terrifying and the tender. This night of her March residency at T.T.’s brought the expected peaks – an angry-sad fiddle complements Zedek’s raspy singing so well – but the real bonus was an opening set by the Willard Grant Conspiracy. Stateside shows by Robert Fisher and his spooky alt-country collective are quite rare these days and the only complaint was that it ended all too quickly.

Drive-By Truckers/Old 97s, Capitol Theater (Port Chester, NY), March 15
Having shed band members over the past two years, the Truckers played like they had something to prove, and prove it all night they did, with a powerhouse 9-song encore to cap things off. It was fearsomely good, country’ed-up rock ‘n’ roll that drew on each of their eras, and having the Old 97s there to warm things up didn’t hurt, either.

Jason Isbell, The Sinclair (Cambridge, MA), July 29
DBT may be killing it, but so is former Trucker Jason Isbell, who now has both a body of work and a band to rival his former employer. This was a night for hard-bitten, yet tender and soulful music with a fleshed out version of Isbell’s ensemble that included wife Amanda Shires on fiddle and Drivin n Cryin alumnus Sadler Vaden on guitar. Isbell no longer has to rely on Truckers-era songs and covers to flesh out a set – his recent originals are the star attraction.

The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The London Souls, Bank of America Pavilion (Boston), July 30
When this latest reboot of the Crowes arrived in New York in April, it came across as serviceable, but subpar by Crowes standards. Fast forward a few months and the usual Crowes ferocity was back, on top of a bill that included the ever-more-exciting Tedeschi Trucks Band and secret weapon the London Souls. Getting the whole revue on stage for “Let’s Go Get Stoned” and “Lovelight” was sure fun, but the story was the Crowes set itself, which was mostly killer, little filler, especially “Wiser Time.”

Bill Evans Soulgrass, Kuumbwa Jazz Center (Santa Cruz, CA), Sept. 9
The scene was a funky jazz/world nook in mellow Santa Cruz, and the occasion was Bill Evans getting up to no good with Steve Kimock, Tim Carbone and Jeff Pevar abetting the usual Soulgrass corps. Adventurous, jammy, cosmic and so very fun as this swollen ensemble went down the rabbit hole again and again. Likely the best show I saw in 2013.

[Photo By: Susan J. Weiand]

View photos from this show on JamBase right here. Scud Mountain Boys with Sean Rowe, Mercury Lounge (NYC), Sept. 19
The Scud Mountain Boys were alt-country long before that term was used so promiscuously. How wonderful it was to see Joe Pernice, Stephen Desaulniers, Bruce Tull and Tom Shea come back for another round of reunion shows and, as a listener, get lost in heartfelt vocals, bittersweet narratives, and the whir of the pedal steel. Sean Rowe’s opening set was nothing to sniff at, either.

Wooden Shjips, Mercury Lounge (NYC), Nov. 13
Wooden Shjips are the band I push on anyone and everyone with the slightest interest in psychedelic, full-aural- assault music: frayed-edge guitars, drone, visual projections and rhythms and sonics so fierce and driving they’re downright industrial at times. You don’t “see” Wooden Shjips so much as experience them, and it’s like stepping into a vortex, over and over.

Caspian, Bowery Ballroom (NYC), Nov. 24
Boston’s Caspian now ranks among the elite post-rock bands, “second wave” or otherwise, with absolute command of the soft-loud-louder builds that characterize the genre. If you like heavy, instrumental music, they’re just as epic and earthshaking as Mogwai or any other, and on the last night of a national tour with thrilling Scottish post-rockers 65daysofstatic, they torched New York.

Honorable Mentions: Earphunk (Denver, Jan. 16); Bill Evans Soulgrass with John Medeski (NYC, March 3); Wussy and Low Cut Connie (NYC, March 8); Dark Star Orchestra performing 11/6/70 (Port Chester, NY, May 9); Gov’t Mule with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers (Boston, May 31); Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones with Sarah Borges (Somerville, MA, June 6); The Wood Brothers (NYC, Sept. 30); Widespread Panic (NYC, Nov. 16); and all the times I schlepped to Berkeley to see Stu Allen & Mars Hotel at Ashkenaz, a truly habit-forming residency.

Written By: Chad Berndtson

[Published on: 12/18/13]

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