There was nothing like soul-infused Tuesday night when Jacob Banks hit the stage at Barboza.
Watching flashes his fans a stunning white smile, while shyly saying “Hi, I’m from
London,” we felt nothing but warmth for the soulful artist as he sang a cover
of Corinne Bailey Rae’s infamous “Put
Your Records On.”
Originally from Birmingham, England, the British
singer-songwriter first became active in 2012, when he was the first unsigned
act to ever appear on BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. Influenced by a multitude of soul,
R&B, and hip-hop, Banks first recorded his debut EP The Monologue, released in 2013, with his top hit “Worthy,” a popular
play on various stations. A tall, brooding man with a bright smile, Banks cites Jake Gosling, Bondax, and Knox Brown as some influences and reminds us of a combination of Benjamin
Clementine, Seal, and Jack Garratt.
Soft smooth vocals always seemingly complemented by melodic piano, Jacob Banks
is crossing genres often acoustic singer-songwriter ballads, like tracks “Homecoming”
and “Hostage” on his EP The Monologue.
Yet, the man has range, both vocally and emotionally, demonstrated in “Something
Beautiful,” also seen on his EP The
Monologue. On his newest EP The
Paradox, Banks delves more into
soul and R&B, experimenting with melodies in his vocal range, seen in “Home,”
and “All Mine.”
Playing fan favorites from his newer EP, Banks succeeded at demonstrating
a mix of softer vocals and instrumentals in Unknown,” while demonstrating a
hard, grittier audible aesthetic in “Sink or Swim.” Highlighting the soul aspects
of his set list, the British artist catalyzed a complete feeling of union and
communal love, as the audience swayed in unison to “Home,” a song similar in
feeling to any calmer Stevie Wonder
a nice complement to the upbeat and diverse sounding track “Monster.”
Finally ending his set with new single “Unholy War,” the
audience vibe completely shifted as we all came together and empathized together
with the emotion in Banks’ vocals as he glided on the stage and crooned chorus “Let
love lead you home, oh no/ Let redemption keep you warm.” And just as Banks climaxes
as he reaches as the height at the bridge taper off, the audience in parallel also
We stop, we sway, we close our eyes, and we dance as the
rest of the chorus plays out.
Jacob Banks has reached a new level of soul, and it’s dipping
into funk—and we’re sort of hoping he continue only to reach new heights with
his artistic creativity.
Every year, I make sure to spend a decent chunk of my hard-earned income on supporting the amazing bands I love so much. It’s not like you make much money from streaming royalties unless you’re, like, The Weeknd or something, so most independent and lesser-known bands make their money from ticket sales and merch sales. It’s for this reason, and many others, that I make it a goal to see as many bands as I can, especially in low-cost, intimate local venues.
Listed here are my ten favorite live acts of the year, which I found to be an extremely difficult thing to measure. One must consider both the effort and performance of the artist as well as the overall subjective experience. It’s this mish-mash of objectivity and subjectivity that has helped me perfect this list, and understand that this is not meant to say that one act is better or makes better music than the other. All these artists are fantastic and deserve their spot on this list for their efforts and the success of those efforts in my personal experience.
10. Show Me The Body (The Vera Project, September 2016)
New York noise rock group Show Me The Body has been carelessly melding post-hardcore, hip-hop, and experimental rock music to craft the ultimate NY experience. Think of the gritty, grimy nature of groups like Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Anthrax, and Ratking distilled into one, transcendentally aggressive experience. This is SMTB in a nutshell.
I learned a lot about the trio when I saw them perform in the gallery space in The Vera Project, an all-ages venue located in the Seattle Center. Namely, I learned that lead vocalist Julian Cashwan Pratt plays the banjo, not an effects-laden guitar as I initially assumed when I first dug into their 2016 debut album, Body War.
I also learned that SMTB are some intimidating, hardcore motherfuckers. Despite being only a couple years older than me, the group’s aura was one of experience, cynicism, and rage. Despite being a NY native, Pratt showed solidarity with Seattle’s disenfranchised by revealing a crudely made “Fuck South Lake Union” shirt. Genius.
They only played for like 30 minutes, and things took an uncertain turn when some drug-addled misfits started a legit fight in the mosh pit. As tensions mounted in the crowd, Pratt tackled and effectively forced out the offenders, making it really clear that not one bit of that shit will be tolerated at a SMTB concert. It was awesome, and made me enjoy the show that much more, especially with the threat of being tackled by a cokehead effectively removed.
Overall, this band is an absolute riot when performing live. It seems like they opt to go for the “house show” appeal, setting their instruments up on the floor, level with the crowd. Seeing this band live is a personal experience, especially if you’re right up front where you can be grabbed and have your faced screamed into by Pratt. Additionally, the band’s bassist and drummer make for an extremely tight rhythm section, especially as the bass parts get more and more complicated.
Band’s performance: 9/10
Personal experience: 7/10
Avg score: 8/10
9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Neumos, January 2016)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor has been on my must-see list since their brilliant first comeback record back in 2012, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! I unfortunately missed them at Primavera Sound Festival in 2014 (I saw Kendrick Lamar instead, which I don’t regret). Thankfully, they put out another post-reunion album, 2015’s somewhat underwhelming Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, which was basically a recording of the group’s 40-minute song “Behemoth,” which they’d been playing live for years.
And, as you can guess, this track made up about 50% of the band’s set at Neumos, when 2016 was but a young cub. The eight-piece Canadian post-rock collective set up a semicircle of chairs and instruments onstage, projector and anarchist literature in tow, and set that fucking stage on fire (not literally).
Performing for over 90 minutes, GY!BE proved why they’re still one of the most vital live acts in music today. The sold out crowd of middle-aged folk and young hipsters alike would probably agree with me. I got to hear a revitalized edition of the aforementioned Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress in addition to the passionate, tight playing of some of the band’s classic material.
While not the life-changing experience I had hoped it would be, I was still beyond floored with the group’s performance. To hear them play such long songs and know exactly how they’re going to sequence was even more rewarding to me than actually being there and hearing the music performed live. Regardless, GY!BE brought a level of intimacy that is typically absent in post-rock, and I’m extremely happy I was able to cross them off my list.
Canadian pop sensation Carly Rae Jepsen recently appeared on both my Top 23 EPs of 2016 and Top 50 Albums of 2015 list, so naturally my newfound appreciation for her impeccable music would result in money spent on the real thing. As soon as I found out she’d be at one of my favorite venues, The Showbox, I unhesitantly bought a ticket. And it was so fucking worth it.
Playing virtually every song from her 2015 sleeper hit E•MO•TION, as well as her inescapable bop, “Call Me Maybe,” Carly and her band didn’t miss a beat. The musicianship was extremely tight, CRJ really made it seem like the band gave the show a sense of completion.
And, of course, CRJ played the frontwoman role extremely well, whether she was serenading the audience with a performance of her Dev Hynes collaboration, “All That,” or giving us goosebumps with the iconic saxophone lead of “Run Away With Me.” She even, *gasp*, made eye contact with me for a couple seconds during a song. I think I now know what Justin Bieber fans feel when he hits the stage.
I’m not ashamed of how great this concert was, nor am I ashamed of how many words I know to literally every song on E•MO•TION. With her newly released E•MO•TION SIDE B EP, I can only hope she’ll be making her way back to Seattle next year so I can get another chance to see the undisputed Pop Queen of 2016 in the flesh.
Band’s performance: 8.75/10
Personal experience: 9/10
Avg score: 8.9/10
7. The Dillinger Escape Plan (El Corazon, October 2016)
(Source: Metal Injection)
Experimental metalcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan, whom I’ve loved for many years, just released their brilliant and final album, Dissociation, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit. Additionally, the group has been embarking on a tour to mark the end of the band, making it quite clear that these would be the last chances to catch TDEP at one of their notoriously raucous live events. I obliged.
While El Corazon isn’t my favorite venue in the city, it consistently comes through with amazing metal concerts. And so far, this is definitely my favorite show I’ve seen at the venue. When TDEP finally came on after, like, three opening acts, they lit up that venue the way I didn’t think an artist could.
Vocalist Greg Puciato made all the horrifying sounds he makes on the album, and guitarist Ben Weinman hung from rafters and stood on top of the audience while unleashing impossibly complicated riffs. It’s amazing to me that the band can balance an energetic, frantic performance with an impeccably played song in fuck-if-I-know time signature.
In addition, the concert was made into a truly special event when they invited original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis (who performed on their amazing debut album, Calculating Infinity) to join them for a couple songs. Needless to say, this filled me up with glee.
And, of course, the mosh pits were violent, filthy, sweaty, and hot. So much so that, for the first time in awhile, I actually had to take a break during the band’s set to catch my breath, tie my shoes, and hydrate. It was so awesome.
Band’s performance: 10/10
Personal experience: 8.5/10
Avg score: 9.25/10
6. Jeff Rosenstock (Funhouse, May 2016)
(Source: Brooklyn Vegan)
At this point in the year, I had no idea that Jeff Rosenstock was five short months away from blowing my mind yet again with another amazing solo album. All I knew is that he was 14 months out from first blowing my mind with We Cool?, a pop-punk album that reclaimed Rosenstock’s position as the G.O.A.T.
His headlining set at Funhouse was raucous and passionate, much like the small crowd of people gathered to partake in the merriment. This was a much more spirited performance than what I caught when Rosenstock opened up on the 2015 AJJ/The Smith Street Band tour, due in no small part to the fact that Jeff could be the star of the show. Him and his amazingly talented band blazed through all the remarkable tracks on We Cool?, as well as a couple newer and older songs.
There isn’t much else to say, honestly. Apart from a humorous half-cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away,” Rosenstock didn’t stray much from the songs he’s more than used to performing live at this point. When it’s music this good and you’re as passionate a punk rock vocalist as Jeff Rosenstock, it’s hard to play a bad show. Now I just need to catch him live a third time when he brings the more complex, political music of aforementioned new album WORRY. to the stage.
Band’s performance: 9.5/10
Personal experience: 9/10
Avg score: 9.25/10
5. Matmos (The Vera Project, December 2016)
Experimental electronic duo Matmos are way more than two of the creative minds behind Björk’s early 2000s output. They’re also two of the most creative minds to ever put out music under the “electronic” label, with their trademark unique brand of sampling bringing them a cult following.
For their first LP in 3 years, Ultimate Care II, Matmos sampled a washing machine, specifically the washing machine owned by the romantic couple that constitutes Matmos. They processed, sampled, sequenced, rubbed, drummed upon, and made 40 minutes of incredible music entirely from the machine, the namesake of the album. After becoming a critical success, Matmos figured why not bring the trusty Ultimate Care II (by Whirlpool®) on the road and recreate those sound experiments in front of a studio audience.
It sounds audacious, even dangerous, yet they pulled it off in spades. They brought the same catchy, gorgeous intensity they did on the album to the live set, even putting a volunteer’s shirt in the Ultimate Care II, which they promised would merely redistribute the dirt and result in a wet, dirty piece of laundry.
Set to an inspiring and humorous washing machine-centric visual accompaniment, Matmos got a couple people in Seattle’s experimental/noise crowd to actually dance to 40 minutes of laundry music. I’m convinced that that was a once-in-a-lifetime performance in this city, and I’m extremely happy I got to be a part of it.
Band’s performance: 10/10
Personal experience: 8.75/10
Avg score: 9.4/10
4. PUP (The Vera Project, June 2016)
(Photo credit: Jessica Flynn)
I got into Canadian pop-punk group PUP a few months after they dropped their 2014 self-titled debut, an album that hooked me immediately with its off-kilter guitar work, self-deprecating lyrics, and ultra-catchy hooks. If there’s anyone in rock music embodying the spirit of Jeff Rosenstock besides the man himself, it’s PUP, and seeing them live for the first time proved that more than anything could.
There was not a dull moment during the band’s set, and seeing them perform at The Vera Project was one of the most life-affirming crowd experiences of the year for me. I don’t think I’ve seen Vera go harder for a band, before or since, and that’s because PUP writes anthems. Even their most depressing songs go fucking hard, and they ran through all the hits and deep cuts from their debut and their even-better new album, The Dream Is Over.
Go support this band in any way you can, because their music is a hell of a lot of fun and they’re a hell of a lot of fun to see live. As if that wasn’t good enough on its own, they had to steal my heart by encoring with objectively the most fun Weezer song, “El Scorcho.” I don’t think PUP knew that Pinkerton is one of my favorite albums, they just wanted to have some fun with a song that always keeps the party going.
Band’s performance: 9.5/10
Personal experience: 9.5/10
Avg score: 9.5/10
3. Swans (Showbox, September 2016)
(Photo credit: Jens Wassmuth)
Since the beginning of the group’s career, Swans have held notoriously loud live concerts. In its most recent iteration, the band has taken the volume of its ‘80s concerts and fused it with the meditative transcendence of its mid-90s post-rock era, both on record and on the stage. In celebration what could very well be Swans’ final album, which was marred by some unfortunate press on behalf of vocalist and bandleader Michael Gira, the group embarked on a victory lap of a tour.
This was my second time seeing the band perform, and it was just as hypnotic, visceral, and loud this time around as it was back in spring 2013. They kicked things off with a 40-minute unreleased song, which seems to be called “The Knot,” before breaking into a handful of epic, winding songs from their two most recent albums, The Glowing Man and To Be Kind.
A Swans live concert is either something you crave or something you don’t understand. To put things in perspective, Swans stretched out six or seven songs into a 160-minute set. I rather enjoy seeing Michael Gira direct his band of merry noisemakers in creating the loudest wall of sound possible, and that’s exactly the sort of chaos Swans wrought that fine late summer’s eve.
Band’s performance: 10/10
Personal experience: 9.25/10
Avg score: 9.6/10
2. clipping. (Neumos, August 2016)
2016 has been an incredible year for Daveed Diggs, the underground rapper who won some real-ass awards with his acclaimed dual performance in the universally successful “Hamilton” musical. After parting ways with the musical, he’s dropped two projects with his main squeeze, noise-rap trio clipping., who celebrated their big return with a one-off gig at Seattle’s beloved Neumos.
Tickets to the event were cheap, it was changed to an all-ages gig, and clipping. totally came through with a hell of a concert. Production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson dropped their creatively produced beats with considerable aplomb, blasting the audience with harsh noise as Diggs delivered his rapid-fire raps without missing a beat.
The group played a healthy dose of material from their debut mixtape Midcity, Sub Pop debut CLPPNG, and freshly released Wriggle EP. They even debuted tracks from their not-yet-released sophomore album, Splendor & Misery. It was virtually everything I could want from a clipping. concert, and I hope to catch them again in a couple months at The Crocodile.
The first concert I attended this year was the one for which I probably held the lowest expectations. Not that I expected a Ty Segall concert to be bad, per se, it’s just that I had never quite connected with his music the way a lot of people do. But, it was free, so why not? Plus, it turns out the show included a front-to-back performance of his surprisingly fantastic new album, Emotional Mugger, which is probably the most batshit of any album Segall has ever released.
Let’s just say Ty Segall exceeded my expectations exponentially. Within seconds of kicking off the first song of the evening, he pointed his finger right in my face, making uncomfortably prolonged eye contact with yours truly. It felt like I was being chosen, or maybe Ty Segall sensed somehow that I was not yet a bleeding heart believer in his music. If that was the case, he turned that shit around immediately.
With a band that included King Tuff, Mikal Cronin, and Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang), Segall played the “crazed, unpredictable frontman” role very well, spitting at the audience and himself, wearing a terrifying baby mask, and making similarly awkward eye contact with other people in the crowd. Even as fans knocked down his mic stand, almost as a childish taunt, he played along like a pro.
This is my favorite live act of the year not just for the shock of enjoying a Ty Segall concert (and album), but also for the originality and humor in all of it. While groups like Animal Collective and Of Montreal take the visual and conceptual game to sometimes garish levels, Ty Segall managed to take a stripped-back approach to that same sense of weirdo-humor with a more successful result.
It sucks that there will probably never be a tour like Ty Segall’s Emotional Mugger tour again, because nothing will beat the euphoric surprise of being challenged by the man himself to try and have a bad time at this concert, only to fail. I had an amazing time at this concert, and Ty Segall and his band of Emotional Muggers were 100% of the reason why that was the case.
Band’s performance: 10/10
Personal experience: 10/10
Avg score: 10/10
Honorable mentions: Danny Brown, Everything Everything, Melt-Banana, SOPHIE, Sleep, Modern Baseball, Joyce Manor, Aesop Rock, Vince Staples
Jakob Ross is Rainy Dawg’s 2016-2017 Music Director. Follow him on Twitter @JayEssArr for rambling thoughts on music, politics, and random bullshit!
Featuring some pretty hardcore salad-eating, Childbirth’s new video for their song, “Let’s Be Bad”, tells the story of a hardworking woman (comedienneAlicia McDaid) who decides to be crazy for once–i.e. eating cake and drinking a few glasses of wine. Lead singer Julia Shapiro fades in and out in a godlike fashion, whispering, “Let’s be bad,” into McDaid’s ear. The rest of the band is there, too, in their usual maternity gowns.
The Seattle punk trio released the video in late November and the song is off their album, Women’s Rights. Bree McKenna opens the song with a dark bass line accompanied by Stacy Peck’s dynamic drumming. Distorted guitars drone on as Shapiro mocks the gravity that many women put on their diets. I’m going to take Childbirth’s advice and eat some cake and drink wine, and I have a good feeling you will too. Take a look at their video if you’re not convinced.
And if you like it just as much as I do, here’s a heads up: Childbirth is coming to Nuemos on December 18!
been a Shlohmo fan for years now,
so I bought tickets to his show as soon as he announced a tour. That was way back around
the start of the year.
I whiled away the months
leading to the show by revisiting his impressive discography. I’ve long
considered his Laid Out EP to be a
In March, Shlohmo dropped his new album, Dark Red. The
album was a stunning departure from his previous releases. But it still had all
those classic Shlohmo elements, like menacing basslines and warped notes.
Definitely an album worth checking out.
music isn’t the dance-y kind. His music reminds me of dark basements and scary
nights and pain and zombie apocalypses. It’s pretty great. That’s why I was
surprised when I started dancing at the show. Everyone was dancing. It was
probably because Shlohmo’s basslines were even more immense on Neumos’s bumping sound system. Shout
out my ear drums for not exploding.
I love it when electronic
artists bring out a band. Shlohmo brought out a drummer and a guitarist and
also occasionally wielded a guitar himself.
The light show was crazy
intense. The lights and the music complemented each other beautifully, surging
and receding in harmony. At times, shrouded by the spotlights, Shlohmo seemed angelic.
He mostly played cuts off
his new album, but didn’t forget fan favorites like Places and Later. Later is my favorite Shlohmo song ever.
I cried sweet tears of joy when it came on. Well, maybe not. Nonetheless, I was
About an hour into the
set, Shlohmo and the band just ran off the stage without warning. “Is that it?”
Hell no. The lights flared
up and Shlohmo ran back up on stage. He grabbed the microphone and reassured us,
“That was a joke. This is real life now!” He played us one last amazing song.
Then, unfortunately, it was over.
My one beef with the show
was that the two openers, Purple and Nick Melons, had sets that lasted
about an hour each. That’s a bit long, as openers go. I was restless, standing
on sore feet waiting for Shlohmo to come out. But the openers were pretty tight
so it was cool I guess.
This last week I hopped on a bus and headed to Capitol Hill to see Giraffage play at Neumos. I had seen Giraffage once before when he played a free show at UC Berkeley, and even with a pathetic sound system he still rocked it.
I had never been to Neumos before, but I was happy with the layout. It was a small enough venue to provide an intimate concert experience while still being large enough for everyone to have room to dance.There was a fairly large balcony area for those who were 21 or older in addition to the large area of floorspace for all ages to dance.
We arrived hella early, I’m not sure why, but when we got there the very first opener was still on. He was a short kid who refused to put his hat fully on his head named DJ HoJo. He was not bad I suppose; we only saw about ten minutes of his set so its hard to assess his talent. He played mainly electronic, bass heavy PLUR music. For those who are unaware what PLUR is, it’s basically just a thing that raver kids say, although in reality it stands for Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. PLUR music can be defined by artists such as Porter Robinson and Zeds Dead.
When DJ HoJo got off the stage, Spazzkid came on, looking very hipster with his thick-rimmed glasses and perfectly sculpted manbun (please make this trend stop people). Spazzkid’s set consisted mainly of somewhat slow, dancey electro stuff. I wasn’t a huge fan of this set mainly because most of the songs he played were hard to dance to. There was usually no steady rhythm with which you could move to. Additionally, about halfway through his set he turned into some sort of radio host. He said distracting stuff into the microphone between each song. “New shit,” “Shout out to Porter Robinson,” “Shout out to Ta-Ku,” “New stuff right here.” I swear he must have sent a shout out to each least seven different artists. He did do some random singing that I found went well with the tracks he was playing and was fairly entertaining. However, all in all, I was not heartbroken to see him leave the stage.
Then Giraffage took the stage. He was humble as hell, speaking really quietly into the microphone: “hi guys….” pause for applause, “my name is Giraffage” another pause for applause, “I’m gonna play some music for you” and then he got into it. I, as well as many others in the crowd, was very happy to hear him play a lot of his older tracks, most of which were off of the “Comfort” album. Thankfully he did not follow in Spazzkid’s footsteps and blurt random crap into the microphone; he let the music do the talking. His set had enough groovy songs to get people dancing, only ever interrupted by build ups and drops. He played a couple of really old EDM tracks that were popular like seven years ago. I wasn’t super into this but I guess other people were. I have to admit that the bass was definitely not loud enough on the speakers, or perhaps the treble was too loud, but either way there were some sounds that were just too abrasive and some drops that just didn’t slap hard enough.
His set ended after about an hour, and then after leaving the stage momentarily, he was summoned by the crowd for an encore, which he utilized to play his Janet Jackson remix of “Someone to Call My Lover”. This is my favorite Giraffage track so naturally I was pretty stoked when he played it. After the song ended he received another well-deserved round of applause and the show was over. I enjoyed myself, and it seemed that other people did as well. I would see him again if given the chance.