Editor’s note: I love lists. Make them all the time. I will even keep on file other people’s lists if there’s something about them that resonates. One of my favorites is a handwritten list of book titles Ernest Hemingway wrote for Arnold Samuelson, who once hitchhiked from Minnesota to Key West, to ask the writer how he too might become a writer. Hemingway gave him a list of sixteen classic books to read, including novels by Leo Tolstoy and E.E. Cummings.
I still haven’t read War and Peace or The Enormous Room, Mr. Hemingway, but I intend to.
The list below is special, not the least because it signifies a debut, the first voice other than my own to appear here on the Mischief Time Blog. Welcome, raconteur, bon vivant and all around good sport, Dai Bando!
Number two, the piece is in the tradition of those end-of-the-year lists that music fans like myself used to devour in such publications as the New York Times, Village Voice, Newsweek and Rolling Stone.
Lastly, as an artifact, it references an experience which, sadly, is not available to us in the current setting of late 2020 and the COVID-19 Pandemic: listening to live music in concert halls, nightclubs, arts centers, bars, cafes and festivals. May all of it return by the end of 2021—Wayne Cresser
Dai Bando’s TOP 10 LIVE MUSIC EVENTS (2015)
1.Pokey LaFarge / The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
– A Pokey LaFarge show is like watching Cab Calloway and Jimmie Rogers together onstage, only they’re both Pokey. Add a little Ernest Tubb, and maybe a little Ernest T. Bass, as well. Early in his set of western swing, Storyville jazz, and country blues, Pokey jumped off the stage at The Sinclair and offered me and my pal a communal swig from his bottle of whiskey. Later, he silenced an unfortunate group of local yokels who were shouting “USA, USA!” using only a smirk and a raised eyebrow from under the brim of his fedora. Song of the night? “Cairo, Illinois,” which is the best country song I’ve heard in some time.
2. Brandi Carlisle / Newport Folk Festival, Newport, RI
– I unfairly considered Brandi a one-trick pony with her raspy voice-cracking hit “The Story,” but she is so much more than that. Her heartfelt performance was my favorite thing about an otherwise disappointing (uninspired performances from Courtney Barnett, Laura Marling) Newport Folk Festival Sunday. She closed with the Avett Brother’s “I’m Coming Home,” a song I’ve loved for years, but which felt like I was hearing it for the first time. Here’s a link to that Newport performance:
3. Highasakite / Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI
– It is always thrilling to see a new favorite band in concert soon after their first album release. These classically-trained Norwegians have something special going on. Vocalist Ingrid Helene Håvik’s voice is quite beautiful, and her Scandinavian-2-English phrasing so cool, with occasional oddlypronounced English (as with Abba, Shocking Blue’s “Venus”)
Here’s a link to an NPR concert:
4. Dom La Nena / Boston, MA
– At Berklee’s Cafe 939, I sat against a wall about five feet from the stage where baby-faced cellist Dominique Pinto (stage name “Dom La Nena”) performed her Brazilian chamber/pop songs, and it was memorable. Funniest moment was when she asked the crowd of mostly Berklee music students, “What ees a popular Boston dance?” They shrugged. I suggested the bunny-hop that I’ve witnessed in front of any lady’s room at Fenway Park.
The New Yorker said of Dom La Nena, “every song sounds sacred.” Sacred yeah, but she’s only 25 and sometimes girls just want to have fun, like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptg6bq0zBi0
5. NRBQ / The Met Cafe, Pawtucket, RI
– Okay, this is somewhat controversial, as several of my Q-loving pals have as much difficulty with Terry’s current band as reading Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Understandable.
Two things, though: The young guy who sings lead does a terrific job taking care of Big Al ’s and Joey’s vocals on all the NRBQ standards. 2. Terry is still having a blast.
6. ROBYN HITCHCOCK / The Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA
– The Narrows is such a great venue for someone like Robyn Hitchcock. Our man was in great form, funny banter between the many originals and covers this guy can pull out of his magic bag. And I laughed like I always do. And I cried like I cried for you. Looked for you Amanda Stirling.
7. The Zombies, multiple venues
– Who would have believed that nearly 50 years after buying their classic “Odyssey and Oracle” LP in a Dinkytown, MN record shop, I would have the opportunity in 2015 to see this truly great Brit Invasion band not once but TWICE, a short drive from my home (Fall River. MA and Cranston, RI, even!).
And who would have believed lead singer Colin Blunstone would sound this amazingly good? As well as their hits, the Zombies did my favorites, “Care of a Cell” and “Friends of Mine.” Awesome.
8. Shelby Lynne / The Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, MA
– There were moments in Shelby Lynne’s latest trip to the Narrows, that I was afraid the tiny country singer would keel over. Shelby seemed exhausted from her tour and appeared fragile and maybe a wee bit woozy. Sipping from a glass not filled with Perrier throughout the show, she sang every song from her Grammy Award-winning, I Am Shelby Lynne – all with more soul than I hear on R&B charts. She told stories about growing up in the Delta, talking with Jesus, talking with whiskey, and about surviving her awful family horror story (read about that sometime.) Shelby Lynne is beautiful and scary, and I’ll always want to see her one more time.
9. Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra / Zeiterion Theater, New Bedford, MA
– I’ve been listening to these guys almost since they started 10 years ago, and they didn’t disappoint at the historic Zeiterion Theater. Missing was original band member Bret (Flight of the Conchords) McKenzie, but the other Kiwis gave a great show, including singing my favorite Maori War Song “Hoki Mai” and their hilarious reworking of the dreadful ’70s anthem “It’s a Heartache:”
10. Tanya Donnelly / Salvation Cafe, Newport, RI
-Tanya Donnelly and friends played songs from the singer’s former bands and from her newer solo recordings, on a freeeeeezing cold January night. Newport’s Salvation Cafe is a neat venue, and food and wine were lovely. Tanya’s singing on “This Hungry Life” was a highlight.
Wednesday Bluegrass at Nik-a-Nees, Providence, RI
Thank you, Jesse for stealing this show and bringing it to our favorite Providence watering hole (though I do miss the Mexican grub & groove upstairs at Lola’s Tequila Cantina). Save the last Jack D’Or for me, please Jesse. Sal Sauco does a great job bringing in local bluegrass/ol’ timey bands every Wednesday night when I occasionally meet my friends Michael, Wayne or Charles.
Mistakes and Near Misses:
I traded my Newport Folk Friday (Watkins Family, Calexico, Angel Olsen) for a Sunday ticket. What the hell was I thinking?
I chose seeing Iris DeMent at the Narrows over the David Rawlings Machine (same evening). I’ve seen Iris a few times and love her, but Rawlings with Gillian Welsh and Willie Watson would have been epic at The Met.
The legendary Mekons in Boston. Had to do something stupid like work on these dates. I also wished I had seen the wonderful Beth Orton.