So the final months of 2013 saw me finding inspiration in a plethora of younger acts, emerging into their prime with live experiences that even managed to excite, “someone who’s already sung with Belle & Sebastian, been onstage with Iggy Pop four times, and kissed Kim Deal.” If you haven’t read about that already, check it out in “Top 10 Philthy Live Performances of 2013: New School Edition.” However, for the majority of 2013, the things that actually managed to get me excited tended to be not artists on the verge of breaking through, or artists currently reinventing wheels of any sort, but artists who had already reinvented wheels… or skull-fucked conventions… in most cases several decades ago. For the majority of the year I was getting off on nostalgia. And a number of the artists were those most responsible for my tastes (sonic and sartorial) and are those artists, at moments when everything seems to ring of tedious mediocrity, that I turn to to remember that there are indeed beautiful possibilities. These ten performances reminded me of my youth and the existential profundity of coming into contact with something that is truly brilliant for the very first time (even if they’re not currently in the form that evoked such a profound sentiment).
10. KMFDM @ The Trocadero (3/19)
Three decades in and Industrial collective KMFDM seem to be largely dismissed by all but the “die-hards” (of which there are plenty). Maybe it’s because they only have one original member; maybe it’s because, despite their age, they still cling firmly to their teen angst; or maybe it’s because… Well, frankly, those are the only two reasons I can come up with to justify ignoring KMFDM. They manage to produce a critique of the Rock’N’Roll spectacle which is just as exciting as any actual Rock spectacle and are, even in middle age, able to rip popular culture a new asshole as eloquently as any drug-addled twentysomething, all while exhibiting a postmodern burlesque of self-deprecation. Their rallying cry is, after all, “KMFDM sucks!”
9. Killing Joke @ Union Transfer (4/21)
Despite the fact that they’re currently resembling everything from a middle-aged goth dad attempting to relive his teen years to… a middle-aged dad who fully embraces… middle-aged fatherhood, this year Killing Joke’s original lineup did their first full-scale US tour in more than three decades. And for those who endured adolescence in the late 90s, wishing there were bands writing songs like “Wardance” and “Requiem,” seeing the [albeit significantly aged] “real deal” was something that was a long-time dream.
8. Spacehog @ Kung Fu Necktie (5/10)
The last time Spacehog played Philthy they opened 90s Retro Night for the Phillies, with the Phanatic playing air guitar onstage, both glorifying and trivializing their role in music history. But Spacehog were more than the 90s. These Leeds-born, New-York-dwelling lads managed to popularize a brand of glam rock that appealed to both T. Rex fans and people who owned half a dozen flannel shirts. They were the furthest thing from a “throwback” act… but even further from a “fad.” And the only thing that this, their most intimate Philadelphia appearance ever (at the 100-capacity Kung Fu Necktie), left to be desired was a set that went on for more than 40 minutes… Honestly, they could’ve played all four of their album front-to-back and I think we would’ve begged for them to continue, with covers of “Suffragette City” and “Raw Power.”
7. Peter Hook & the Light @ The Trocadero (9/14)
Anyone (and there are a number of you) who has said that, in 2013, Peter Hook needs New Order more than New Order needs Peter Hook needs to have their eyes and ears examined. Both the current lineup of New Order and the band’s original bassist have taken to US stages this year, the former performing a greatest hits set and the latter performing the band’s first two LPs (Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies) in their entirety (in addition to a “surprise” opening set of Joy Division tunes). And the bassist’s (whose vocal take on the numbers is at least comparable to actual vocalist Bernard Sumner’s three decades on) two-and-a-half-hours of the bands’ best came out on top. If there was any complaint to be had, it was that even the danceable brilliance of the likes of “Age of Consent” and “Blue Monday,” which were the evening’s centerpieces, were not quite as satisfying as Hooky’s renditions of “Dead Souls” and “Interzone,” carried out during the evening’s audio appetizer.
6. Johnny Marr @ The Trocadero (4/30)
Everyone knows that Morrissey is everything to me. However, after his most recent area appearance, I have to admit that Johnny Marr is officially the “coolest” Smith. The Smiths axeman spent the year touring behind his first official solo release, The Messenger, an album that captures his both chops and desire to be a Richards-esque riffer and the ability to compliment the elegant, Wilde-inspired aesthetic of a crooner holding the title for the world’s most ambiguous identity. It’s essentially like Brit-Pop at its best (i.e. least formulaically poetic and postmodernly machismo). And Marr handled the evening with ineffable grace, not forcing his new material down the throats of people who may or may not be yet to hear it and peppering the performance with especially swaggery and surprisingly perfected takes on a small handful of his most famous (or, perhaps, infamous) tracks from his 80s and 90s outfits (The Smiths and Electronic, respectively)… In fact, the next time The Smiths reunite in a [probably wet] dream of mine, I’m going to hope that Steve let’s John take lead vocal duties on “London.”
5. Peter Murphy @ The Trocadero (5/9)
“I generally pride myself on valuing ‘authenticity.’ However, considering that as Bauhaus’ 35th anniversary has come around this year and ‘Ziggy’ (Peter Murphy) and ‘The Spiders’ (Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J) don’t seem to be seeing eye-to-eye, I was willing to settle for Murphy, the godfather of goth, celebrating the brilliant and critically-underrated post-punk band’s legacy on ‘The Mr. Moonlight Tour’ as a solo act… Well, not only did his stop last week (May 9th) at the Trocadero prove to be one of the most inspiring performances I’ve seen all year, but it proved to be the most inspiring performance I’ve ever seen from Mr. Moonlight/Murphy (including reunion dates with Bauhaus). Murphy’s set was imbued with the ‘passion’ of the world’s maddest ‘lovers’ and sounded as brilliantly raw and morbidly scary as it has existed live in the past three decades.”
4. Girls Against Boys @ Johnny Brenda’s (9/12)
I’m not sure that the DC post-hardcore legends’ run of 2013 US dates was more profoundly exciting because the outfit hadn’t toured in over a decade or that it celebrated the 20th anniversary of their sophomore effort, Venus Luxure No.1 Baby, one of the best and most-underrated releases of my lifetime. But, either way, the evening was as fuzzily and sloppily enthralling as anyone could’ve hoped. It featured a plethora of the band’s greatest moments. There was accompaniment from the Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, but it was the anarchic renditions of the 1993 release, like “In Like Flynn,” “Bulletproof Cupid,” and “Rockets Are Red” that went on to inspire great, but slightly-less-great-than-GVSB, likes of Placebo and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, that provided Philthy with its most satisfying punk moments of 2013.
3. Belle & Sebastian @ the Mann Center (7/10)
I’m not going to lie, this was a shoe-in for the best concert of the year. It was the first time I saw the greatest band of my generation in seven years. And the extensive Scottish twee outfit were firing on all sugar-coated, yet existentially intellectual cylinders, whether it was quirkly upbeat and brilliantly laughable popular commentaries on contemporary hipster sexuality, like “Dirty Dream Number Two” and “My Wandering Days Are Over,” or on ten-ton-truck ballads like “Lord Antony” and “Judy And the Dream of Horses.” However, the bring-a-basket-and-blanket-and-off-with-your-shoes, day-at-the-park setting of the Mann Center’s Skyline Stage inspired an audience to kick-back and not have a care in the world… not even the band that they had spent $50 to see. It was a bit like watching The Stooges perform from the all-too-comfortably-cushioned chairs of a network television studio. (Stuart, you were phenomenal. Philly, you provided me with a rare disappointment.)
2. The Dandy Warhols @ The Trocadero (6/1)
Considering that every time I hear “Bohemian Like You” or “Solid” in some advertisement or mainstream film, I still think, “Wow, how cool are they for actually having half-decent taste?” it’s hard to imagine that 2013 is the 13th anniversary of Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia… which the ultimate PDXers celebrated track-by-track on their recent tour. In addition to the 13 tracks on the 13-year-old 13 Tales the band ended the night with a 30-minute set of some of their biggest hits. And although it might not be “hip” to admit, there are few things more satisfying than 90-minutes of live renditions of neo-psychedelic rock anthems that you’ve known every single word to for about half of your life.
1. Luscious Jackson @ Union Transfer (11/23)
Luscious Jackson were my favorite band of my pre-and-early-teen years. The ladies of Luscious Jackson took alt-hip-hop, disco, Lollapalooza-rock, and even folk, and turned it into something that was probably the most admirably and legitimately funky thing ever produced by white girls. Last month they played their first show in 13 years, in my current home of 10-and-a-half years, after they spent the past decade+ dedicated to motherhood, adulthood, and comfortably paying bills. The hopefully-someday-legendary set wasn’t exactly the most progressive evening, with most of us in attendance reliving our teens, twenties, or thirties… remembering when we learned to dance to falling-in and falling-out of love and feeling empowered by a group that broke the pop barrier, but offered far more to ambitious outsiders than most bands awarded with such a characterization could ever manage. I may not have felt like I was seeing the Dolls at Max’s Kansas City, but it was the most fun I’ve had all year. At some point I may have accidentally thought that I was 14 and this may have happened…
*And thank you, dearly, to all of the lovely YouTube posters who haven’t complained about me using their cell-phone videos in this post (Seriously, hit me up on Twitter at @IzzyCihak, if you’d like me to take anything down.)
**And a huge thanks to The Swollen Fox for the photo (I’ll take it down, if you’d rather it not appear here for any reason.)