While I didn't make it out to many shows this year, mysterious special guest star The Paper sure did. I'm proud to highlight the ten shows of 2016 that made his list of favorite shows.
Is there a better way to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night than with punk music?
I had remarked to my favorite band Trophy Wife in September that they are the only white band that writes music about race. Months later, when I found myself at a Bad Friends show at the recommendation of Katy, the drummer from Trophy Wife, I was absolutely floored. There Are Four Lights opened their set by addressing Black Lives Matter. Lela instructed the audience to “keep their mouth shut” and put aside their white fragility before launching into song. It’s the first time outside of Trophy Wife that I have seen any band so explicitly vocal on the subject and they did so with such a thundering conviction that I can still recall those words like an echo. Molly of Bad Friends snapped her fingers rapidly as polite punk applause which was also a first for me. Later, when Lela screamed the names of each injustice, her face contorted in an effort to fight back tears while screaming indignation, I am reminded that punk is at its most endearing when it incites praxis.
They also sang songs about capitalism, mansplaining, catcalling and…butts. Did I mention the drummer couldn’t be there so they played against a recording of the drum part? I definitely have to see them again.
To have to play after the aforementioned set is a tall order but Bad Friends proved taller. In the same way that I prefer symphonic metal, they presented a convincing argument for symphonic punk. The raw coarse screams of Molly made the loud and heavy sounds of guitar/bass/drum crash like an orchestra, if an orchestra can shatter glass and shake the earth. Soundscape is the term frequently used by music critics when it's more fitting here to have a physics jargon that can convey Kym's transfer of energy from the pedal to the bass drum head. Nevertheless, there is a melodic undertone that embraces the audience. The concerto, if you will, between the vocals and band demonstrates that sometimes two seemingly opposite aesthetics can not only coexist but produce a previously unthinkable beauty. Let Bad Friends serve as inspiration for all of us to keep our hearts open because that may be the punkest thing anyone can do.
This has been a great year of live music. After 120 shows and over 430 bands, I reflect upon my top ten even though top 50 would have been much easier.
[words and photo of There Are Four Lights by The Paper]