The Spin had quite a year—memorable shows, buzz bands, comb-overs, drunk singers quoting Nietzsche, uncomfortable moments, one very special head butt and plenty of cheap beer. So as the rock clock ticks toward 2007, we thought we’d offer up a rundown of our favorite live-music moments from 2006. We’ll begin a little less than a year ago, on a crisp wintry night in Hillsboro Village...
Josh Rouse at the Belcourt, Jan. 20
It was cold out, but inside the stuffed-to-the-gills Belcourt, prodigal son Josh Rouse weaved a warm, captivating spell—the harmonica on “My Love Has Gone” was the most melancholy sound we heard all year.
Nada Surf at Exit/In, Feb. 12
We haven’t seen too many sold-out Rock Block shows this year, but Brooklyn trio Nada Surf— yes, the dudes who brought us “Popular”—wowed with their lush, frenetic playing and exquisitely crafted songs. A pleasant remnant from their nerd punk days was a level of humility that every band could learn from.
The Strokes at the Ryman, March 5
The award for best light show that may or may not have been purposely seizure-inducing (but was still awesome) goes to The Strokes—at one point the guy next to us quipped, “I think they need more strobe.” Full of swagger and substance, these New Yorkers reminded us that the best rock songs always kinda feel like sex—even if most kids in the young crowd hadn’t even graduated from handjobs.
The Format at The End, March 12
It was an early show with no booze, but this springtime performance might have been our most unexpected surprise this year. Frontman Nate Ruess spun bright, ironic indie-pop tales about broken hearts and hot-boxing cars. We’re pretty sure the 15-year-old nearby with the hickey (true story) got home in time to finish his homework.
Wilco at the Ryman, March 17
Wilco’s St. Patty’s Day show was a reminder of what a badass live band they are. But this show makes the list for one special moment—Jeff Tweedy’s solo performance of the Uncle Tupelo-era “Acuff Rose,” unmiced and preceded by the simple entreaty, “If I’m gonna do this, you’re gonna have to be real quiet.”
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins at the Belcourt, March 26
We’ve had crushes on lots of performers this year, but Jenny, will you be our Valentine? This gig showcased her exquisite, soulful voice and vast collection of precious dresses. It also makes the list for band Whispertown 2000, the worst openers we saw all year—one part American Idol audition, one part Christopher Guest mockumentary and six parts awful.
Ghostfinger, The Clutters & How I Became the Bomb at Exit/In, May 26
If this year in local rock were a school year, then this late-spring show was Prom and Homecoming rolled into one. Featuring three of the most buzzed-about bands around, this bill filled Exit/In to the brim.
The Vacation at The Basement, May 18
Oh, rock men with pseudo-intellectual affectations. Vacation singer Ben Tegel, the heroin-chic and stringy-haired philosopher, writhed shirtless and sweaty on the cramped stage, and then on tables, stopping only to—yep—pour hot candle wax down his scrawny chest. It fit their brand of L.A. swagger rock, but please—grabbing your crotch doesn’t exactly convey revolutionary political passion, as he unconvincingly told The Spin post-show.
Pink Mountaintops with Catfish Haven at the Basement, June 2
Ok, we love Catfish Haven, and Pink Mountaintops were great, but this night was all about the head butt. When the door guy at The Basement allegedly disrespected a young lady on the front porch, a certain one-man killing machine intervened and head butted the hell out of him. Jon Burr, you’re our hero.
Neil Hamburger opens for Danielson at The End, July 12
A few months after indie darlings Danielson scored an astronomical 9.1 from those crazy Pitchfork
kids, the skinny-jeaned, tousled-hair masses turned out in droves, only to be greeted by a guy with a comb-over hacking phlegm and cracking wise about Courtney Love and cranberry sauce. Comedian Neil Hamburger’s over-the-top, Catskills-meets-insane-asylum routine was priceless, and Danielson weren’t so bad either.
Ben Nichols and Cory Branan at the Basement, Aug. 9
This night ended with Lucero frontman Ben Nichols passed out facedown in the parking lot. ’Nuff said.
Sufjan Stevens at the Ryman, Sept. 11
For pure beauty, it would be hard to beat Sufjan and his indie-rock orchestra with their gorgeous screen-print butterfly wings. With an awkward grace that left all his acolytes slack-jawed, Stevens and his entourage lovingly re-created the folksy soundscapes of his studio work—it made us wish all indie-rock luminaries had access to those kinds of resources.
M. Ward/Wolfmother at the Belcourt and Exit/In respectively, Sept. 20
M. Ward was warm and tender—his out-of-time voice and carefully crafted songs demanded reverence. Afterward, we took our rosy-cheeked afterglow to see Aussie metal trio Wolfmother. Even though they’re highly derivative, they were still badass—hard and fast and rough, in a hot way. First we made love, then we got fucked—oh, the power of music!
Beck at City Hall, Oct. 13
Beck is a cool dude—there’s no denying that. His sold-out show at City Hall was irreverent (the band ate dinner on stage), fan-friendly (bring on the hits!) and at times, beautiful. (His short acoustic set might have been the evening’s highlight.) Too bad we missed his surprise post-show performance at Sambuca—how the hell do we get as hooked up as The Byrd?
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars at the Belcourt, Oct. 20
This show was the kind of high-spirited, freewheeling world-music performance Nashville almost never gets to see—and if you wonder why, look no further than the pitiful turnout of about 200 people for an act that most recently played Bonnaroo. Still, it was a night of jubilant jams, unlimited energy and uninhibited dancing, featuring some of the fastest, most nimble instrumental soloing seen in these parts since the passing of Chet Atkins. Icing on the cake: a show closer featuring Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith—whose fans got more face time with the rock legends in the Belcourt’s lobby than anyone who attended their actual show at Starwood.
Mickey Avalon at Play, Nov. 16
Lanky, tattooed, androgynous, white hustler-turned-rapper spitting rhymes about Jane Fonda and his dick—what’s not to like? Mickey Avalon’s show was just so much fun
. He stripped, writhed, slugged vodka and made out with the chicks in the front row—local bands could learn something.
The Raconteurs at City Hall, Nov. 19
Uh, Jack White finally played Nashville. (Splash!)
Ray LaMontagne at War Memorial, Dec. 4
Mr. LaMontagne wins the award for Most Reverence Inspired in an Audience. (Well, we think it was reverence, but it might have been a little bit of terror too, considering his outburst at the Ryman a few months prior—we missed that one.) His voice was rich and wonderful, and moments of “Jolene” brought us close to tears.
Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Belcourt, December 4
For jazz this year, it was hard to beat Smith and Co.’s show, particularly the speed-of-light rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Billie’s Bounce,” where the 60-something Smith tap-danced across the bass pedals like Gregory Hines in his prime. We half expected the wizardly organist and his Hammond B3 to start levitating.
The Privates at The End, December 16
There’s nothing more Nashville than the nights when you look around a crowded club and play Name That Band—and it didn’t hurt that we hadn’t heard The Privates’ catchy, idiosyncratic pop-punk performed live since an era when Justin was still that dude from ’N Sync. (At least it felt that way.)
Tell us about your favorite live music moments of 2006 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting nashvillecream.com.