The Mentones at Club Tropical, March 3
These guys are my homeys, and they are the shit — angular modjazz surgically
implanted into James Cotton’s brain as he drives a 1959 Olds Rocket 88 into
an apocalyptic SoCal landscape. Drummer Joe Berardi crushed giant tin cans like
a Ph.D.; Bill Barrett sucked a tornado into his chromatic harp and blew it back
out again; Tony Atherton pulled a razor out of his sax and cut our throats.
All the while, mastermind Steuart Liebig laid down that backbone bass and snapped
the big whip like the overseer on a Mississippi chain gang. Now, that was blues
and the abstract truth for real.

—G.E. Stinson, guitarist, electromachinist


Tom McNalley Trio at Club Tropical, August 25

Satisfying on so many levels. There’s an essentiality to this trio’s completely
improvised music that makes me thank God I have ears. Guitarist McNalley, as
leader, sets the pace in exploring the outer reaches of new creative sound with
his uncle, Joe McNalley, on bass and Alex Cline on drums. This is brave, important
art that shines with intelligence, taste and, yes, damn it, soul.

—Dottie Grossman, poet

Willie Nelson at the Greek Theater, April 30
On his 70th birthday, Willie took a blues solo on his old Trigger that was one
of the deepest statements I’ve heard in a long time. In these 12 measures, he
told his whole life story with such beauty, simplicity, power, humor and depth,
I still think about it.

—Itai Disraeli, bassist, Maetar


Arthur Blythe and Bob Stewart at Club 1160, January 5

The emotion, the swing, the joy and pain of being here on this bitter and beautiful
earth. The power to be, as Archie Shepp said, “the lily in spite of the swamp.”
All came to life in the magical music that these musicians played on alto sax
and tuba.

—Itai Disraeli


Alice Cooper at the Greek Theater, September 16

For an Alice Cooper novice, this show was a delightful surprise: The king of
spectacle revealed himself as, most of all, a swell rock & roll tunesmith, with
one beautifully crafted pop hit after the next (and some of them composed well
past his prime, such as the brilliant “Lost in America.”). His younger, rockabilly-versed
band played like a band, too — not just hired guns. For genuine rock & roll
fun, Cooper & Co. made openers Cheap Trick look like math geeks. A subsequent
listen to Cooper’s ’05 release, Dirty Diamonds, revealed a faithful cover
of the Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina,” which confirmed that he is infinitely
cooler and more versatile than his ’70s shock-rock rep.

—Kate Sullivan

Turbonegro at the Henry Fonda, October 15

Norwegian party animals Turbonegro sacked the Henry Fonda, and it was astonishing.
If you wanted spectacle, you got spectacle: Two air cannons shot a stream of
zillion-dollar bills high above the stage during “Sell Your Body (to the Night),”
which singer Hank von Helvete dedicated to all the prostitutes in the entertainment
industry. If you wanted amazing feats, lead guitarist Euroboy whittled a dizzying
glam-rock solo while being held aloft by the hands (and heads) of kids in the
pit. Social relevance? Morbid shaman Hank From Hell thoughtfully pointed out
that Austrian fascist carpetbaggers have led both California and Nazi Germany.
And the music? Only the most pulverizingly catchy maelstrom of hard rock this
side of AC/DC, early Alice Cooper and the Ramones. More than just a sailor-suit-wearing,
neo-homosexual, supremely ironic death-punk joke band, these apocalypse dudes
gave good danger.

—Falling James

Gogol Bordello at the Troubador, October 22
Manhattan-by-way-of-Kiev Gypsy-punk collective Gogol Bordello performed a nine-ring
circus of dazzling distractions: The band swirled like dervishes, and belly
dancers undulated to the frenzied music, while lead singer/Rollie Fingers look-alike
Eugene Hütz tossed microphone stands into the crowd and climbed high atop a
PA column to sing his rebellious underdog anthems. Percussionist Pamela Racine
laid her big drum flat on its side atop the upraised palms of fans down front,
then sprang like a cat, landing on the drum to triumphantly survey the room
like a surfer on a wave. As for the madcap music, it was nonstop.

—Falling James


The Kills at the El Rey, September 23

Candy Jack and Melancholy Meg can tease their way through a blistering evening
of fuzz and winks, but like any brainless beauty, do you really want to call
them back in the morning?
The Kills’ V.V. and Hotel on the other hand allow you close enough to taste
the sweat of a two-hour climax, leaving you wondering, my god what kind
of love is this? They are together, right? This kind of chemistry can’t be born
purely of the love of rock & roll — this is some kind of selfish foreplay, right?
I think not. No relationship could follow the grandiose swells of emotion contained
in this performance, no matter how many plates you have to smash or comfy surfaces
you find to fuck on. At one point their mic stands were intertwined in a gesture
of solidarity so sweet and personal it was like nothing I had ever seen on any
concert stage.
Hotel shuffled and jerked the room like an Elvis made of wires and steel, with
chord strikes as jagged and dangerous as a car accident. V.V. cascaded herself
through so many precise vocal inflections that it made Karen O. and Stevie Nicks
seem as predictable and sexless as Animal from The Muppet Show.
The Kills deal a deck of cards that neither hipster nor jaded Gen X dinosaur
could keep a straight face over. They’re nothing short of a love affair wrapped
in a record sleeve with a cheap rider. And you know what — that’s all they need.
That and a crowd hungry for one pure moment, just once every 10 years.

—Ryan Ward