When I think back on 2014, there’s no doubt the soundtrack rattling around my brain is going to be a loud, raucous, out-of-tune and -time take on The Replacements.
More about that in a bit.
Having taken myself out of the game for most of 2013, I was excited to hit 2014 with full force. Perfect timing, too, because it was a year full of epic live shows, and some killer new records.
My top albums of 2014 went down like this:
1. Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Best of Boiler Room Classics. Mike is a friend of a friend with a killer discography. (I did that on purpose.) Plus, he lives in Bloomington. But don’t let Mike’s Indiana roots or one degree of separation do anything to confuse this fact: Best of Boiler Room Classics (all-new original songs, despite its title) is the best, smartest, most melodic and pure power-pop album since The Bigger Lovers’ How I Learned to Stop Worrying came out 13 years ago. It’s game-changingly good, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. (Try it.) (Buy it.)
2. Marah presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania. I wrote a boatload about this album a few months ago, when we had #MarahWeek on OLG’s social media. It’s a scorcher, and ceaselessly creative. With every revolution of the reel to reel tape, America’s best working band continues to reinvent and rediscover themselves—and through their art, we do as well. “The romance is gone from the river town.” (Buy it.)
3. Beach Slang, Who Would Want Anything So Broken / Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street (EPs) Breaking news: guitars are gonna be just fine. (And gloriously loud.) (Buy ‘em.)
4. Old 97’s, Most Messed Up The 97’s startle with this one, the best album they’ve ever made not named Fight Songs. Perfectly near-perfect songs lay down hook after hook as glorious Telecaster licks spitfire out of every crack. Lyrically, a few songs try waaaaay to hard to sound like they’re not trying hard at all; otherwise, this firebreather may have topped my list. An unexpected delight. (Buy it.)
5. Warpaint, Warpaint
6. Eef Barzelay, Girls Come First
7. Tweedy, Sukierae
8. Spoon, They Want My Soul
9. Dean Wareham, Dean Wareham
10. Modern Baseball, You’re Gonna Miss It All
Extra big shouts to the new records by Tony Molina, The #1s, Steve Malkmus, Hard Workin’ Americans, Damon Albarn, The Both, Real Estate, New Pornographers, Hiss Golden Messenger, Justin Townes Earle, New Basement Tapes, Wussy, Weezer, The Baseball Project, The Rentals and, yes, Pink Floyd for throwing elbows in the race to be the first record played at OLG each morning. You’re all winners.
How damn good was The B-Side in 2014?? This damn good:
- Eef Barzelay
- Liz Longley
- An evening reading with Lindsay Hunter
- Mandolin Orange
- The Final Hurrahs
- Rayland Baxter
- David Bazan
- An evening reading with pye,brown’s (260): Unsatisfied
- Big Star Big dress rehearsal
- OFabz Loves Fort Wayne!
- Mike Adams at His Honest Weight w/ Advance Base
- Grand Slam Social, a Fort4Fitness afterparty
- Eef Barzelay (again!)
- Chris Darby
- Smooth Edge 2
2015, where you at? Well, we’ve already got Tim Easton lined up for January 10th, 2015 (tickets here), and expect to be able to make an announcement any day now for an incredible February show.
I hadn’t really played a show since 2007 and I can’t tell you how thankful I was to be able to join Chris Dodds, Andrea Atwood, Michael Summers, Casey Stansifer and Tim Gordon in Big Star Big—you wouldn’t believe how often I sit around and think about our two-show career—and Chris, Tim, Mark Winters and Eric Federspiel for Go Dog Go’s annual year-end reunion. LOVED playing loud again.
The two Big Star Big sets were part of two of my favorite nights ever in Fort Wayne. Big Star Big was our Slim Dunlap tribute band, and we joined the irascible and inspiring lineup of Aadia, The Jury, The Placemats and Sweet Talk (titans, every one of ’em) at The Brass Rail for LOVELINES: A Tribute to The Replacements, which raised funds to support Slim’s ongoing home health bills. If you had ever told me that OLG would get to put on a Replacements hoot night, at one of the best clubs in the country, and that it would fill beyond capacity, overflowing with people and heart, well…that’s why we think the guitar is lucky.
(PS I dare you to find better work in FW this year than the poster and videos promoting that show.)
Big Star Big’s second show was just two weeks later, opening for Marah at The Brass Rail. After taking the record overseas, Marah booked a handful of stateside shows to promote Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania—and reached out to us to add FW to an itinerary that otherwise only included NYC, DC, Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Nashville. No big deal, Fort Wayne. (Brass Rail, you own.) And speaking of no big deals, so there I was, opening for and playing guitar in front of absolute heroes…yeesh. (Heroes who then took the stage and blazed the bar and the minds of every single person lucky enough to witness what was hands-down the best set of music in the world this year. No questions asked.)
LOVELINES kicked off what was the best month of live music in my life. Here’s how it went down:
Aadia, Big Star Big, The Jury, The Placemats, Sweet Talk at LOVELINES: A Tribute to The Replacements, The Brass Rail, Aug 30th
The Snarks and a extra large pie of other awesome bands at FW Pizza Punx Fest, The Brass Rail, Sept 5th
Metavari, Dead Records, ROE at Pinestock, Sept 6th
The Replacements, Midway Stadium (MPLS/St. Paul), Sept 13th
Marah, The Brass Rail, Sept 16th
Danny and The Champions of the World, Marah, Jim Oblan, Pete Molinari at Americana Music Festival (Nashville), Sept 19–20th
Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Advance Base, The B-Side, Sept 25th
Nate Utesch live drums, OLG Grand Slam Social, Sept. 27th
It was a particular thrill to finally catch London’s Danny and The Champions of the World live; after ten years and seven album covers (including this year’s incredible Live Champs) together, it turned out we really were the best friends we dreamt we’d be.
Did I mention The Replacements? Sure, their reunion actually occurred in 2013 (and I was fortunate to catch their second show in 20+ years at last year’s Riot Fest), but 2014 was really their year. Rick Wyatt and I caught them at Forecastle Festival in Louisville—incredible—and then Matt Traughber and I drove 13 hours (OK, he drove 16) each way to see them play an about-to-be-torn-down minor league baseball stadium on the outskirts of their hometown, MPLS. An incendiary show—downright loko—and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But beyond those two shows, and beyond LOVELINES, there was one more thing that made this my Replacements year. The incredibly talented, boundary-pushing, funny, thoughtful and ambitious folks at pye,brown decided to dedicate the third full issue of their publication (260) to The Replacements and time its release to coincide with LOVELINES. The issue—Unsatisfied—is a must-own, bursting with ideas and passion just like every other issue of (260) (and generally, everything pye,brown does).
To commemorate Unsatisfied’s release, we did a reading at The B-Side, featuring each of the issue’s contributors: Chris Colcord, Elliot Berdan, Johnny Commorato Jr., Danee Pye, Alex Jonathan Brown and yours truly. (For the reading, Colcord’s piece was resoundingly read by Jack Cantey, and Berdan’s piece was read by Katie Casey.) After the reading, we all went down to BFA Commercial’s studio for a dress rehearsal of The Jury’s LOVELINES set.
An unforgettable evening, with the bestest people.
My contribution to (260) was a nine-part essay called Confessions of a Yakuza, in which I reveal with exacting (and hopefully entertaining) detail how every vaguely creative decision I’ve made in the last 20 years has been inspired or influenced by Paul Westerberg. Used to wear my heart on my sleeve; guess it still shows.
It’s the last day of the year. Let’s light 2015 on fire.