Guest Best Of Top Ten Live Shows of 2016 #1: Mitski, Rock & Roll Hotel, 6/25

While I didn't make it out to many shows in 2016, 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.

Before I dive into my number one show of 2016, I'd like to mention several that made the decision so agonizing.

1/15 The Max Levine Ensemble: When the crowd started moshing, David expressed gratitude at the enthusiasm but asked them to do so in an up and down direction instead of left and right. Enormous respect for choosing to make his show a safe space rather than bask in the rock star aesthetic.

3/13 Le Butcherettes: Terry Genderbender and company rock like no other. Arguably the best musicianship I have ever seen.

4/27 Near Northeast: My favorite music blog hosted this lovely show where I fell in love with these local darlings. Kelly sang her way into my heart while playing the violin and tambourine at the same time!

5/20 Potty Mouth, Dyke Drama: Ally Einbinder and Sadie Switchblade. Enough said.

5/24 Witching Waves: Emma reminds me of my favorite drummer. She plays with a palpable passion.

6/18 The Meltaways, Snail Mail: Snail Mail made #5 so obvious inclusion here but the highlight was
Beck putting superglue over a wound so they could keep playing!

7/15 Heinous Orca: Would anyone expect a band from Tennessee to play Totoro?

10/13 Margot MacDonald, The Seshen: I always had a weakness for one woman bands and Margot has a beautiful voice. The Seshen is simply lovely.

For 2017, I am hoping to see Best Coast, KING, Candy Hearts, In This Moment, Chazzy B, Lung, Didi, Lizzo and Uffie. Anyone I should see? Without further delay, my best show of 2016.

Seeing Mitski changed me.

It started in incremental ways. For as long as I can remember, percussion has always been my favorite so I was delighted to find that the drum kit sat to Mitski’s left instead of behind the band like so many others. I doubt Mitski shares my sentiment on the matter and the gesture is actually a statement. Each member of her band should be given the same appreciation. Callan and Casey certainly deserve it.

That said, Mitski held my attention. She doesn’t so much play the bass but communicate with and through it. She isn’t exactly the only musician capable of this feat except she doesn’t move much. Instead, she’s tenderly poised. In her presence, I felt a peaceful ache. I felt the brilliant introspection of her music coming alive. I felt myself falling in love with the bass like a body from the balcony. And ever since, I found myself studying bass players at shows.

And hundreds of study subjects later, none of them led to an unexpected discovery about my musical taste. Apparently at some point, without my noticing, I started demanding a fuller volume and fuzzier sound in the music I listen to. Watching and listening to Mitski strum the bass was able to evoke the introspective emotions necessary for me to articulate my liking certain bands. Such as local darlings Flowerbomb whom I saw in attendance.

“Fuck Stevey” may be the two most profound words ever uttered.

She was expressing disgust at a character in some TV show at the beginning of a song. I forget which song or what TV show because at the conclusion, before the guitar could fade out, Mitski started to profusely tell the audience “thank you” and “I love you”. She confessed that her earlier remark made her feel terrible throughout the entire song.

The sincerity she showed in her remorse astounded me on multiple levels. For one, no one would have dwelled on such an inconsequential comment. For another, it’s a fictional character, not an actual person. Finally, she reflected on her words essentially instantly while playing. That’s a superlative commitment to self-examination.

A long time ago, an English professor accused my essay of sexism. I dismissed the ridiculous claim. There was no way I could be sexist. I am a decent human being. It took me years to realize my exclusive usage of masculine pronoun is incredibly sexist. Years after that, I would shout out song names at my favorite band during shows. It’s been ages since I last demanded anything from any women on stage yet roughly two years ago when Trophy Wife was going on hiatus, I had emailed expressing my fear that they would eventually disband. At their last show before the hiatus, Katy stated that she and Diane will play for as long as they can. I was exuberant at the time. It wasn’t until over a year later that I realized the inappropriateness of my request. The worst part is that these events occurred years apart.

Each of us believe we are a good person. It’s really easy (read: lazy) not to question it. And in the event we realize a mistake or are called out, we often consider it an isolated incident. It takes enormous courage and humility to examine oneself. I am completely awed by Mitki’s behavior, especially given the urgency in which she reflected. It’s clear she has made a habit of it. How does she do it? More than anything else, it takes forgiveness and this last step may be the hardest. After we recognize and accept our mistake, it can lead to negative, even depressing, thoughts about our character, our intrinsic goodness. So we quickly bury it.

We must forgive ourselves and each other.

This act of self love will encourage us to examine our words and actions, no matter how trivial, more frequently until it becomes second nature as Mitski demonstrated so masterfully. Writing this has been gut-wrenching for me yet she gracefully tackled it on stage before a sold out crowd. Thank you Mitski, for showing me that goodness is a work in progress and for inspiring me to be better and finally lending me the courage and forgiveness to do so.

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 Moor Mother by The Paper]

[posted 1.6.17]


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