I try not to think negatively about my age; you know, each of us gets older every day. The life I’ve led has been blessed and unique. However, in October, when I reflect on the 46th year of my life, I will think of two things.
The first and standout trait of my 46 is the toll my body paid. It started with a kidney stone that caused me to go to the emergency room. Then, I fell down my bedroom stairs twice in the middle of the night and dislocated my right pinky finger both times. During my first Pagoda Pacers run, I sprained my ankle. And last month, I developed a wonky right knee for an unknown reason. I love being physically active, and this year’s injuries have caused me to question my capabilities.
The second takeaway is that 46 was a return to live music. This year, I was lucky enough to see Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Brijean, LCD Soundsystem, Blue Hawaii, !!!, Poliça, The Black Keys, Spoon, Interpol, and some lesser-known opening acts.
Enough with my injuries
I’ve already dedicated more than enough time in this essay to my injuries. I will conclude this topic by saying that I accept my vulnerability and understand the need for new training methods. I will better myself, so I can live a long productive life.
Let’s get to the music
After years of listening to music and seeing shows, I know what I like: young musicians with high energy finding their way and professionals.
I don’t know if there is anything better than young musicians who can get a crowd moving. I’ve used this comparison before, but it’s like going to an NCAA basketball game. All they know is go, go, go. They are full of youthful testosterone and leave everything they have out on the floor. Sometimes it is fueled by substances, but that’s primarily because of the rock and roll stigma. The really good musicians know they do not need it. That energy is naturally inside them, and when they tap into it, look out. You might just dance your ass off.
Unfortunately, my life is not full of spontaneity. I no longer go to random venues to find out who is up and coming. All the concerts I go to, I seek out. They are bands that I have wanted to see.
The least known group that I saw this year was Blue Hawaii. They are a duo from Toronto that my wife and I found because of the song, “Not My Boss!” Check it out here. The show was at a great spot in Philly named Johnny Brenda’s. DJ Kirby got the place hopping while Ra danced around and connected with the audience. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. Their positive energy was a great way to start my summer concert season.
Unfortunately, they are now touring with Azealia Banks. While her name might help get them recognition, I hope her baggage doesn’t bring them down.
Brijean was another standout show. It was February, and Brijean Murphy and Doug Stuart were nearing the end of their winter tour. They made it through blizzards and bad roads to put on an intimate show at Underground Arts in Philly. Opening for Washed Out, the west coast duo performed like true professionals. Dougie smiled and made funky and happy music while Brijean sang and played percussion. Chill but uplifting, their music made me long to see them play at a California beach festival.
Pushing Their Boundaries
I don’t know if that is a fair title. Both of these bands have been around for a minute. Spoon started in 1993, and Poliça began in 2011. They are not bands trying to find their way. Each has a style, a following, and experience. Spoon’s music has appeared on television and in the 2006 film Stranger than Fiction. When Poliça played SXSW in Austin, Texas, in 2012, NPR wrote that the band was “a welcome jolt of beauty and power.” Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has said, “They’re the best band I’ve ever heard.” Both bands began in their own time and way, and each released an album that is part of my top three of the year.
Let me state that I am not an expert on music or these bands. However, I know when an artist(s) creates something special. It is accompanied by a feeling, a presence, an openness, as in, “For the first time in my life/I let myself be held/like a big old baby.” Even with tons of experience, Spoon immediately laid it on the line in Lucifer on the Sofa, showing vulnerability and confidence. Full of catchy, poppy moments, great rhythms, humor, and energy, it has been my favorite album since February when I wrote, “They are men who know they have the skills to raise the bar. Not as a competition. Not for album of the year. But to challenge other artists to bring their “A” game.”
That was in the early winter months of 2022 when I felt like many bands and musicians were ready for COVID to be over and showed it through their music. The Weeknd’s album Dawn FM was one of his best, and Methyl Ethyl released Are You Haunted?, my other top three album. At the end of February, I learned that !!! was releasing Let It Be Blue and would be touring in the summer. In April, Poliça announced their new album Madness and their tour, and I was more excited about music than I had been for a while.
It should not be part of the qualification for Favorite Album of the Year. Still, while in the car to see Spoon, I remember thinking, If they do not put on a great show, does Madness take the top spot? This is unfair to Methyl Ethyl because I will not see them live, but it’s all in good fun, right? Who cares what my favorite album is? Yet, even as the thought crossed my mind, I knew it was not a discussion. If Spoon did not bring the same energy as the album did . . . I didn’t even want to think that.
I saw Poliça in Philly at the Foundry. Another intimate show, the performances elevated their status among my favorite bands. They were simultaneously tight, professional, intense, and beautiful. The band brought a little of everything I love about music, including style, talent, and a sexy attitude. Because of the show, I feel like I better understand their music.
That’s why I was afraid to see Spoon. Poliça was so good . . .
I saw Spoon at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. They played while the sun was still up and brought that A-Game I wanted to see. In his review of the show, Bobby Olivier wrote, “Few emotions translate better onstage than hunger for and joy derived from a memorable performance and the early crowd was hooked as the sun set over the Jersey Shore town.” I couldn’t agree more. My worry was for nothing. Seeing Spoon live was exactly like I thought it would be.
As I wrote earlier, I am not an expert. This is written in good fun. Of the many activities, jobs, and hobbies I’ve tried, listening to music and writing about it is the perfect combination for me. They are two elements of life that heal me, help me grow, and make me feel whole. Now, life will be golden if I can just get my physical strength back to where I want it.
Nope. My Favorite Album of the Year is still up in the air.