Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year in Shows

No matter how much any of us gripe about year end lists, I suppose that there's no use in having a blog if you don't indulge the tradition. 

And, so, here we go again:


EMA at the U Street Music Hall:

Probably a fair show at best, made into a highlight simply because she played a Danzig song as her encore.  And I kinda felt like I might have been the only person in the crowd who recognized it.  

(And, no, she did not respond to my request for "Twist of Cain").

Lamb of God at the 930 Club:

I would have appreciated this show more if I'd known what Randy Blythe's future held.  

I mostly wonder, however,  how many people in the crowd remember Blythe's promise at the end of the show, that the "Motherfucking Washington Redskins WILL be in the motherfucking Superbowl next year!"

Doesn't seem so silly now, does it?


The Cult at the Fillmore Silver Spring:

The Cult have played much better shows. Several, in fact.  But I sure did have a good time getting drunk with my buddy Brian that night...right up until the time we got kicked out of the VIP reception.  

By the way, Against Me! might be a novelty act, but they were a quite formidable opening band. Kudos.

Washerwomen at the Black Cat:

There's nothing quite like seeing a very good, very young band play to a small crowd in a small room.  One on hand, your heart breaks for them.  On the other, you feel pretty privileged just to be there witnessing it. 

I wish I could find out if these two are still together....if you're out there, can you let me know??


The Drop Electric at the 930 Club:

Oh, the Drop Electric were great.  In fact, at points they gave me chills (by the way, that link will take you to my song of the year). 

But the 930 Club screwed this night up to an extent that I have never before experienced from their otherwise impeccable staff.  

First off, I'm unsure who paired them with patchouli-stank jam band, Papadosio, but that terrible decision was only worsened by shoehorning the concert in after an early show from Ed Sheeran. As a result, the scene in front of the club was pure chaos: teenybopper kids in one line to meet Ed Sheeran, potheads bumbling around in another line to get into the club, and me, feeling square, sober and stupid for not knowing which line I was supposed to be in, or that the damned show had already started.

Bob Mould at the 930 Club:

Home emergency. Missed the show. 

Heard it was great.  Of course.

Japandroids at the Rock and Roll Hotel:

Decided to go to Bethany Beach instead. Sorry to miss the show, but I don't regret the decision.

Show of the Year: Rodrigo y Gabriela at Radio City Music Hall

I've admired this duo for years. In fact, after tripping over their excellent interpretations of various classic metal songs on YouTube, it had long became a goal of mine to see them live.

(Ed: I started linking these videos 45 minutes ago and totally lost myself in the process.  My God, I love these two).

This was supposed to be a fun evening. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet, by the end of the night, I knew my life was about to change. And for real, this time.

As always, there's a long version of the story and the short version.  This is not the latter.


Called up to NYC for the umpteenth time in 2012 for client meetings, I made the decision to book a hotel room and have my wife join me for a Friday night in Manhattan.  Rather than repeating what seemed like an endless cycle of solo pre-dawn Amtrak departures and late night returns home, we'd spend some time together having fun the way we used to -- before I'd begun to associate the Meatpacking District not with overpriced restaurants and boutiques, but with meetings, insane deadlines and enormous amounts of pressure.

We had no real agenda.  It was simply to be a night out together in one of the world's very finest cities.

And things were falling nicely into place.  I got a discounted price for a room at the Standard Hotel.  I wrangled two tickets to a sold-out performance by Rodrigo y Gabriela at Radio City Music Hall.  I even got out of the office before 6:30.  I might have been completely exhausted and well past burnt out at work, but this evening was shaping up to be a very pleasant reprieve. 

We ducked into a diner for a quick meal before the show, which shouldn't have been noteworthy in any way at all.  Yet, no sooner than we had sat down than I'd received a phone call from my manager, demanding my presence in New York first thing Monday morning.  There was a crisis -- a crisis not of my making, nor of my team's -- and it was decided that I would be part of the clean-up crew.

No, there was no budget for a hotel.  No, I could not stay the extra night to save time and money on airfare.  And, no, this was not the first time such a demand had been made of me.  Nor the second, nor the third time.  This was an ongoing sort of situation - years in the making - that clearly was never going to stop repeating itself.

It was the final straw.  As I sat in front of a meal that had instantly become repulsive as my appetite drained from me, it was obvious: I had to leave this career.

Listen, I know that there are many, many people out there with worse jobs, higher stress and greater demands than I faced.  But I was done, and this was not an impulse.  This was a revelation. 

Needless to say, the experience threw a wet blanket on the show that evening.  I probably spent the first 30 minutes of the show on the verge of tears and nausea, knowing that I was ruining the evening for both myself and my wife, but really unable to focus on almost anything other than just how much I'd grown to hate my job.

And, yet, Rodrigo y Gabriela won me over.  Because in the face of my career implosion, there was absolutely nothing more painfully beautiful to witness than two people who are (1) doing what they love, and (2) great at what they do.   

I was inspired by their complete exuberance, but also left in a place of total self-pity, questioning why on Earth I'd devoted my time and energy these past several years to something I didn't love as completely as these two beautiful musicians loved their craft.

And it wasn't long after that point that I began to appreciate what I was witnessing.  Because, let's face it, Rodrigo y Gabriela are unique talents, and Radio City Music Hall is a phenomenal venue, and I was lucky to be there.

Moreover, I challange anyone not to fall in love with Gabriela just a little bit after seeing her perform live.  Whether she's clumsily bouncing around the stage in her half-jump, half-running-in-place dance; throwing the goat; or professing her love for thrash to the crowd in her adorable broken English, the woman expresses a total lack of self consciousness on stage, which becomes particularly sexy when you realize just how uncommon this is among performers (male and female alike).

Speaking of thrash, while the duo didn't perform any of their famed metal covers, Gabriela did take the mic to introduce two guest stars for the evening: drummer John Tempesta, of White Zombie and Testament fame (double bonus: he also played with the Cult when i saw them this year); and Testament guitar hero, Alex Skolnik, the latter of whom joined in what appeared to be a totally unrehearsed free form jam. It was one of those moments that you read about on blogs far more often than you get to witness in person, and it was pretty awesome.


I walked into that show utterly distraught.  But I can't say that I wasn't inspired by the time I walked out.  In fact, I knew exactly what I was going to do, and I felt willful for the first time in years.

Two months later, I walked out the door of my office for the very last time.  Six months later, I was back in a band.

It was a very good year.

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