While I'll be holding off on the list of my favourite records from this year for a while, today I'll post the best shows I went to in 2011 (as memory serves, at any rate). In calendar order:
WAR HERO's second last show at The Chateau Noir, January 28
A slew of worthwhile bands played this night. It's never a disappointment to see SIX BREW BANTHA, OSK, or, most notably, AHNA. I took a breather during YOUNG OPPPRESSION's set (I think of all the shows I've been to that they were playing I have still only seen them once, over two years ago and I don't think they even exist anymore, so there goes that). But WAR HERO(!). The Chateau was beyond packed. I've never seen so many people crammed into such a small space. Countless "move the FUCK back"s out of Tommy's mouth throughout the set. Crowd surfing and ceiling punching was abound. For a band that I would never write home about, it resulted into one of the best times I've had at a show in recent years. They're all cool guys and it was just a matter of being around friends and having a good time that night. Nothing from the split 7" with HOMINID (as expected), but the 'classic' "Originality 101" was certainly the best choice for an ender.
SWANS at The Rickshaw, February 25
WOODEN WAND opened this and they were okay. I haven't really dug into their (his) discography aside from the split 7" with UNEARTHLY TRANCE where they each do a CHARLES MANSON cover (and WW's is pretty darn good). But the rest of what I've heard just does nothing for me. However, SWANS, clearly, almost obviously-to-the-point-I-don't-even-need-to-post-this, were so. good. A full hour and a half of being pummeled by a massive wall of sound and bearing witness to the great cynical witticisms of Michael Gira. Some issues with sound (to which Mr. Gira clearly displayed how aggravated he was by many a middle finger in the sound guy's direction), but nothing overly bad. It's not until you see a SWANS performance that you can fully understand what Gira means in this interview about the music being a 'transcendental experience'.
A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN...'s last show at the Chateau Noir, July 28
A band spawned out of semi-inside jokes, a love of werewolves, 80s b-movies, and Degrassi Juniour High might not sound like anything worth posting among all these other shows, but oh how wrong you'd be to think that. I think there was only one or two shows of this band that I missed (not a terrible feat to accomplish seeing as since their formation in 2005, all their outings can be counted on two hands with ease). Late November 2008, the lone show with yours truly on second guitar, ended up being the final WEREWOLF show until two 'reunion' shows this past July. The first, July 22, on their home turf of Chilliwack, was alright. There's really nothing of worth in this city's music scene anymore so it was expected. The Chateau show, however, was great. For reasons unknown, I didn't watch WEIRDING's (who I later found out are great) or GSTS's sets, but I did catch INHALER (a newish band with members of BAPTISTS et al) who weren't all that bad. WEREWOLF's set was just ridiculous. Even though I wasn't playing I still had a fucking blast. The handful of people that know every word to every song and just go off gives me that momentary lapse of 'serious guy hardcore' I need every now and then. I'm sure it was the fact that we (every time I talk about this show I say 'we', but I actually didn't reprise my role on guitar for these shows, so I really had nothing to do with any of it), played to a non-Chilliwack crowd. I only wish it had been done more often. You can now find the bassist on the Chilliwack City Council after a couple-year stint as President of Chamber of Commerce.
AHNA at the Moon Tower, September 3
This was one of the final shows of the ISKRA / NO EULOGY / SIX BREW BANTHA cross-Canada summer tour and while those bands were pretty good, AHNA is by default my favourite band at any show they play. Heavy as fuck and some of the best people on this planet.
Vancouver Noise Fest at 1067, September 24 and 25
The fest that produced this picture, and, as I mentioned in a previous post a couple months back, the highlights for me were MONGST, THE RITA, RUSALKA, THROBBING CONTINUUM OF FUCK, and WORKER. All with the exception of THE RITA played on the first day. Both nights were enjoyable, though. 1067 is a cool little venue and it was nice to finally put some faces to Vancouver noise names.
WOLBACHIA at The Chateau Noir, October 26
It was nice to finally see Brad and the gang on the West Coast. Hell, it was nice to finally see them play, period. I missed MORTIMER and PRISON VIOLENCE (by mere minutes), but I did manage to see favourites AHNA and OSK before WOLBACHIA ground everyone's faces off. Their weirdly original riffs are what I like most about the band. I sometimes can't even make sense of them. It's not that they're overly fast or anything like that, they just sound like nothing I ever hear anywhere else. I wasn't able to make it to the Squamish or Victoria shows but I heard they were as good or better than the night in Vancouver. I booked them a show in Abbotsford as their last BC date before the road back and while they still rocked, the show itself was so-so. Come back soon, guys n' gals.
HAGGATHA at The Rickshaw, November 25
I need to see this band more often. On record they're okay, but live they are a fucking powerhouse. They played second with a relatively short set this night but it was "all killer, no filler", or so the saying goes. BAPTISTS started off the night, but they're definitely not a band for the stage. They most likely would have been miles better if this was a house show. MASS GRAVE also doesn't work on a stage and again, if this was a house show even I probably would have enjoyed their set. BRAINOIL flew in from Oakland just to play this show and a Victoria date and they were great, though the rockin' 'n' rollin' sludge stuff isn't normally of interest to me. I guess the Victoria show was a house show (sub BAPTISTS and HAGGATHA for NO EULOGY ), which probably would have served them better, too. But seriously, HAGGATHA. Live. All you need to worry about.
And it is with that that we reach the end of my boring tales of nights spent this past year.