Posted on February 15, 2014 at 8:18 pm | No Comments
While the exact born-on-date of the Almanac is a nebulous one – Is it when I first started sharing songs? Or using an actual blogging platform? Or writing mostly about music? – I decided long ago to settle on the most solid one of record: February 15th, 2000 – the day I registered this URL and began uploading content. Whatever this place was back then is a distant cry from whatever it is today, and even from what it was in 2003, when I began frequent music-centric updates. Lately, it’s the “frequent” part that’s changed the most.
But I’m still around, still sharing songs and news from bands I love, still plugging away. Sure, it’s become more quick-shots on Facebook and Twitter than longer posts here, but I’ve resisted the occasional temptation to shutter this place completely. “The blog is dead, long live the blog“, they say. This post-Chromewaves world is a lonely place, but I’m hanging on.
For kicks, here’s the ‘Nac by the numbers…
Number of years gone by: 14
Number of published posts: 1,117
Number of current draft posts in progress: 42
Number of stale, out-of-date draft posts I’ve deleted: &infin
Number of live sets I’ve shared: ~ 300
Number of live sets I’ve recorded but not had time to share: 312
Number of Tweets: 5,225
Number of Twitter followers: 3,149
Number of Twitter followers that are probably bots: 50%
Number of Facebook followers: 1,046
Number of the Almanac on the Hype Machine‘s blog tracker: 31
Number of those 31 original blogs the Hype Machine is still tracking: 7
Number of band/promo emails I get every day on average: over 60
Number of those emails that include the word “remix”: at least 50%
Number of daily promo emails that are relevant or of interest to me: maybe 5?
It’s those last three stats that have been slowly draining the life outta me. More than a decade of doing this means the Almanac has ended up on every music-related mailing in existence – it’s a constant deluge that has worn me down and drawn me ever closer to closing up shop. They come faster than I can send unsubscribe requests, and more importantly, I can’t possibly listen to all the songs that come my way. I’ve had to master a
jaded zen-like state when going through my inbox, and keep my fingers crossed that I don’t miss something truly great.
But I’m not here to whine, I’m here to celebrate. Or at least acknowledge this slightly notable passage of time. So I’ve thrown together 14 covers from live sets I haven’t had time to share over the past few years, along with a photo from each show, and a few words. Dig in, there are some special songs below…
From an acoustic set for Record Store Day, April 21st, 2012 at Newbury Comics in Norwood, MA. He was joined by his wife Emily Roberts on backing vocals and (her uncle?) Sippy Roberts on slide guitar.
Stinson’s reunited Replacements have announced a few more festival appearances this year, but I’ve still got my hopes up for an eventual Boston show. ICYMI, grab my recording of their first reunion appearance at last year’s Riot Fest Toronto.
It’s been awhile since Death Cab For Cutie hit the road, in fact I think this series of special shows backed by the Magik*Magik Orchestra in Spring 2012 was the last proper tour (they played the Wang in Boston with Low on 4/21/12). This cover was a nice surprise during the stripped down part of their set, and was well before Lou Reed passed and sparked a rash of VU covers.
The DCFC machine is gearing back up after helping Barsuk Records celebrate their 15th birthday a few months back, and they’ll return to town for the Boston Calling fest in May. I’m assuming we’ll get some new album news before too long.
During that Death Cab break, but before the Postal Service reunited in 2013, Ben Gibbard did some solo shows in support of his “Former Lives” LP, including a stop at the Somerville Theatre on Sunday, November 4th, 2012. Not sure if he pulled out a geographically-specific cover at every show, but this classic Lemonheads cut was a nice nod to Boston.
Another high point of the Barsuk celebration in Seattle last November was John Roderick and his Long Winters reuniting to perform the “When I Pretend To Fall” album in its entirety. It was glorious, and made me even more hungry for a proper new LW record, as if that was possible. Roderick’s been performing solo sporadically since their previous LP (in 2006!), and this Neutral Milk Hotel cover was played at the Paradise in Boston on Friday, June 1st, 2012.
This show was something really special – a small room full of friends and fans gathered together for Chris Toppin’s (Fuzzy) birthday party at the Midway in Jamaica Plain on Nov. 9th, 2012. So many great moments on the stage that night, including this team up of Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses/Belly) and Buffalo Tom to serve up some Heartbreaking.
Tanya has been releasing a string of excellent digital EPs called the Swan Song Series, and she’ll be hitting the stage opening for her old band Throwing Muses for a few shows next month. Buffalo Tom is hibernating, but Bill Janovitz has been offering up some great new solo songs since the year started. Here’s hoping they keep coming.
This show was a ridiculous amount of fun. Just after Boston cops started cracking down hard on local house shows, Ted Leo played this one in a Brighton living room on Monday, November 26, 2012. It was crammed, and incident free (unless you count overly-drunk-local-band-guy or overly-intrusive-photographer), and an absolute blast. Ted pulled out a few covers, as he is wont to do, including a song by his then-tourmate/now-bandmate (in The Both) Aimee Mann. The kids didn’t know what hit ’em, but I ate it up. He whipped out a Misfits cut to rile us up (it did – singalong!), segueing straight into TL/Rx classic “Me & Mia”, when the show hit a crushing crescendo. Bent Shapes opened up. It ruled.
Well, this was an odd one. J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. in a shoe store on Boston’s Newbury Street. With (bad) free beer and chips. He probably got paid in purple Doc Martens. This strange scene was on 12/6/2012.
This was a bittersweet moment, but mostly sweet, during Sleepyhead’s set at the Sinclair in Cambridge on May 10th, 2013, just a few weeks after Game Theory’s Scott Miller passed away. Not sure how many in the crowd got the gesture, but I damn well did. This cover was actually the b-side of one of the great indie singles of all time, Sleepyhead’s 1992 (!) “Punk Rock City USA” 7-inch.
Sleepyhead’s long-in-the-making next LP will be out in April on Carrot Top Records. Can’t wait.
After seeing that Sleepyhead set, and most of Buffalo Tom’s, at the Sinclair, I raced across the river to try and catch some of Telekinesis at Brighton Music Hall in Allston. Made it in time to see a handful of songs, including this ace cover of one of my favorite INXS tracks. Wish I’d been able to see the whole show, but even a little Telekinesis goes a long way.
Oh, Quasi, how I love thee. Two people who project more joyful noise and energy from the stage than most quintets ever could. This Elvis Costello cover came near the end of their fantastic set at Great Scott in Allston on Thursday, October 17th of last year. Their latest LP is last year’s “Mole City”, and you should own it.
Not only did we get a Heart cover during Neko Case’s set at the Orpheum on November 1st, but we got two, back to back. First Kelly Hogan handled lead vocals on an amazing “Barracuda” (that riff!), then Neko stepped up to tackle this one. The crowd was rightly, happily surprised when the second song started up, but the band may have been smiling more than we were. And that’s saying a lot.
When I was out at that Barsuk anniversary bash in Seattle back in November, new duo Minor Alps (Matthew Caws of Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield) remarked that their set was the first time they’d ever played in front of people. It kicked off a cross-country trip that brought them to the Sinclair in Cambridge two weeks later (11/23/13) for the final show of their inaugural tour. Grateful I was able to see the first and last stops, especially glad that they learned and played one of my favorite Robyn Hitchcock tracks, the gorgeous “Airscape“.
As much as I love Chris Brokaw’s original songs, and as many times as I’ve seen him, I will never tire of hearing him run through Wussy’s wonderful “Crooked”. This particular rendition was by request, played at an uber-intimate house show in Watertown, MA last month (1/4/14). If you’re wondering why we were so quiet in our appreciation at the end, well, there was a baby asleep upstairs. There’s no better reason for repressed enthusiasm.
As always, thanks for following along, especially those of you who have been stopping by for years. Without getting too sentimental or self-deprecating, I’ll admit that it still surprises me that anyone still reads my ramblings, and every lingering eye and ear is appreciated. Cheers.