This year I saw more gigs than ever before. 77 in total. All different types of music. Everything from classical to metal. Most gigs were thoroughly enjoyable, some amazing, and unfortunately one or two disappointing. So here’s my run down of the best and worst of 2012.
My 2012 Best and Worst
I saw so many really good gigs this year that it’s hard to decide on a winner. Jack White with the Kills was special. British Sea Power’s Krankenhous’s were fantastic fun. Pulp at the Royal Albert Hall were as always, excellent. The Joy Formidable’s intimate gig at Kings College was also rather good. To close the year, the Hives as always were seriously good fun.
Best gig: Pulp playing for the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall
The way Pulp approached this gig was first-rate. It was pitched perfectly for the occasion. Jarvis as always enthralled the crowd. They even played the little heard ‘My Lighthouse’ accompanied by his sister and school friend. The song was Pulp’s first single released when they were still teenagers. Somehow, it seemed so fitting.
Band of the year: Jack White
Not so much a band but a man with two bands. Jack White was easily the ‘band of the year’. I saw him four times this year. Touring with two separate bands, the all-female Peacocks and the all-male Buzzards. Playing with no setlist Jack chose songs as the set went along. Playing material from across his career, reinterpreting each song for the different sound of each band. Each gig felt amazing. Of the two bands, The Peacocks impressed me the most. But both bands are very good.
Biggest disappointment: Joint winners – Mazzy Star and Frankie and The Heartstrings
I missed Mazzy Star when they were first around. Only recently getting into them. In the ‘iPod’ era I’ve fallen into ‘shuffle’ mentality. Listening to new albums a few times and then each song stands on its own feet in the ‘shuffle pack’. Sometimes my love of bands increases with shuffling as it’s somehow easier to see each song for what it is. Mazzy fall into this category. But this is where the problem lies. Their sound is different from most of my music so stands out. But an hour listening to dreamy music unfortunately turned out to be a mind-numbingly boring experience. Songs just seemed to run into each other. It got to the point where the entire set just washed over me leaving me completely numb.
I loved Frankie and the Heartstrings debut album. It was good old fashioned rock and roll. Simple, stripped back. It seemed to be just good fun. I managed to get free tickets to see them at the 100 Club. A double header with another band I’d been trying to see, Veronica Falls. Unfortuantely, for whatever reason, poor sound, too much beer, or most likely a rusty band who’d not played live for sometime, their set lacked everything that made the album interesting. I was left thoroughly disappointed.
Best support act: British Sea Power supporting Daniel Johnston
Ok. British Sea Power, or Texas Sea Power as they were known on the night, provided support for Daniel and acted as his backing band at the Union Chapel. To be honest. It was a short set. But they’re my favourite touring band. So they win by default.
Best new support act: Hey Sholay
I saw several really good new bands this year. Stealing Sheep, Lumineers and Hey Sholay stood out. It’s close between Stealing Sheep and Hey Sholay as to who is the winner. But Hey Sholay just edge it as they were the first of four bands supporting the Jezabels at Koko and still managed to stand out.
‘Weirdest’ gig: Ok Go
Watching a band taking the stage at an IBM conference at 8am in a Disney Conference Centre. That’s not normal.
Best gig in the ‘face of adversity’:
Hey Sholay at Hoxton Square. The band unfortunately had their instruments stollen a few weeks before the gig but managed to borrow enough equipment to put on a show. They played well, but everything was just ever so slightly off as they struggled to recreate their distinctive sound using their borrowed equipment. But I think everyone appreciated the effort they made to ensure the gig went ahead.
Best new band: Dead heat – The Savages and Alabama Shakes
I left out of my list of best gigs of the year two stunning gigs from The Savages (at Electrowerkz) and Alabama Shakes (at the Bostom Music Room). It’s a dead heat as to which band were the best. Both are simply stunning live.
A notable mention goes to Japandroids who were very close to making it a three way dead heat.
The Lexington continues to be my favourite venue in London. It’s really convenient for my Kings Cross train. It has a great audio. Bands seem to enjoy playing there. What’s not to like about they place.
This venue surprised me. It was the first venue of the year. It’s a cabaret club in Soho. But it had a really cool retro ‘valvy’ quality to the sound. It doesn’t seem to be that great for stuff like beer and the doors seem to open late. But sound-wise, it definitely impressed.
Worst Venue: The Forum Hertfordshire
I hate to have to write this as I work for the University of Hertfordshire. But the Forum continues to be the worst venue. It’s not the venue itself. Sound-wise it can give most venues a run for its money. No, it’s simply because no one seems to attend any of the events I go to. For one gig, the support band were literally playing to me (a very uncomfortable experience but I couldn’t leave because that would have been even worse). There’s a few gigs coming up this year that hopefully will be better attended. Unfortunately, I suspect that they won’t.
Most embarrassing experience at a gig: Getting my ear plugs lodged in my ears
Bought some near ear plugs that were so small they managed to get wedged into my ears generating really awful high-pitched sounds. So I had to make an embarrassing trip to the medical room to get them removed missing much of the Robert Plant gig.
Best gig photo: The Hives at the Roundhouse
With improved cameras. I took loads of photos this year. Choosing the best has been difficult. But the one that for me was the ‘best’ (it’s not ideally framed) that just seems to work with puppeteer background was this one from the Hives gig at the Roundhouse.
Best / Worst published photo: Mazzy Star
I was published for the first time – I don’t mean my photos appearing on a commercial website. That happens regularly. No I mean a photo appearing in a music magazine (Uncut). Unfortunately, it was an awful shot. But there were no photographers so they had little choice but to use the audience photos on Flickr. But unfortunately the lack of lighting was beyond my poor little Olympus XZ1’s capability. But still, I’m published.
Best gig video: Pulp – ‘My Lighthouse’
I rarely take videos at gigs. I find I either miss too much of the gig because I’m concentrating on the video or I’m spending too much time watching the gig and not the screen that I end focusing on the lighting. There’s also the issue of sound. If you’re at the front. Usually the little microphones on pocket cameras distort. But despite this problem effecting the winning video. The best video of the year has to go to Pulp’s rare ‘My Lighthouse’. Not the best quality video, sound or camerawork. But it captures the very rare event and that’s the most important thing.
Music Application of the year: Songkick
Songkick’s gone from strength to strength. It’s now replaced Last.fm as my source of information about upcoming gigs. It manages to keep me informed of most of my favourite bands and constantly throws up gigs that I’d never have known about.
So what’s in store for 2013?
Although 2013 will see me make a return to SXSW. The cost of the trip will most likely mean that I’ll have to curtail the number of gigs I attend for the rest of the year. I’m sure SXSW will throw up some new bands for me to follow that will keep me busy this year. But I’ve already got a handful lined up. The always excellent Black Crowes return to the UK in March. British Sea Power will be releasing a new album and will no doubt tour the country and hopefully play somewhere interesting that’s worth a visit and hopefully the Savages who are quickly becoming one of my favourite bands, will start to make some traction and I’ll manage to catch them a few times this year. So I’m sure I’ll be kept busy