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Best of 2012: Live music shows

The Back Pockets, Carletta Sue Kay, Makeup Monsters and others

SQUEAK AND SQUAWK 2012: Pond rocked The Space in downtown Tacoma.

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Ah, these anger-baiting year-end lists. Let's get this on the table right away: this is my list of the best live performances that I saw in 2012. All of these performances were in Tacoma, but not all of them were bands from Tacoma. A couple of them are from the Squeak and Squawk Music Festival - a festival that I run. We good? Good. Without further ado:

Best Live Performance

The rest of the items on this list will be presented in alphabetical order, but there was one performance this year that stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Back Pockets closed the first day of shows for Squeak and Squawk 2012 and, frankly, it was hard for the next four days of shows to top what the lucky 40 or so of us saw on that stage.

Combining elements of folk, New Wave, punk and art-rock, the Back Pockets put on a mesmerizing show of flamboyant theatrics and raw, primal catharsis. For their closer, the band passed out drumsticks to the audience so that we could pound along with them. When they were done, we begged for more, and they acquiesced with a sweaty, transcendent encore. Truly phenomenal.

Now, the rest, in alphabetical order:

Carletta Sue Kay

I had the pleasure of seeing Carletta Sue Kay (AKA Randy Walker) at South By Southwest in 2011, and I couldn't get him out of my mind, so it was a pleasure to catch him again at the Broadway Center's Fall Free For All. A large man, clothed in a gaudy dress and a crooked wig, the sounds the come out of his mouth are instantly stunning. He's a torch singer, a troubadour, a pop star, a balladeer. He's affecting and funny, making for a concert of every emotion. And oh, that voice.

Friends and Family

Earlier this year, the Museum of Glass held an event where bands were asked to attempt to break glass just through the power of their rocking. Never mind that none of them managed to, you know, do it - it was worth it for me just to catch the energy of Friends and Family. An eight-piece from Seattle, Friends and Family are masters of the ascending group sing-along. They're all rollicking enthusiastic momentum. (Oh, and seeing them dance backup for the Tea Cozies on Evening Magazine was a whole other trip.)

Makeup Monsters

I can pick any one of several Makeup Monsters shows this year. They really killed it, both with their live shows - which have only gotten better and better - and the release of two fine EPs. But for me, seeing them in February at the Space was a revelation. It was my first all ages show in a while, and the excitement in the crowd was utterly infectious. Once the crowd surfing started, all bets were off.


We were all excited for Oberhofer to play at Squeak and Squawk, but we weren't prepared for how great their touring mates, Pond, would be. Featuring members of Australia's leading psych-rock act, Tame Impala, Pond brought a glam-rock sensibility and style to their performance that was as unexpected as it was captivating.

Poor Moon

Another one of those lucky nights where you catch a band you'd never heard of, and they manage to blow you away. Poor Moon shares members with Pedro the Lion and Fleet Foxes, so their sound is predictably on the indie folk side of things. What made them memorable was how pristine they sounded. It was like listening to the record, and it sounded better than any live show I've ever experienced. That they covered a song from The Village Green Preservation Society didn't hurt.

Spencer Kelley and Friends

Since the dissolution of Basemint, Spencer Kelley has mostly been focusing on recording his solo albums, and not so much on live shows. But, in September, he came out of hiding to form a super group with people like Tarek Jordan (Night Beats), Ben Roth (Oberhofer), Shayne Weeks (Makeup Monsters), and singers Del Brown and Najamoniq Todd, at a packed Java Jive. Nights like that - full of friendship, collaboration, and covers of "Spirit in the Sky" - tend to make you wish that every night can be like that.

But the truth is, some bands disappear, either on the road or off to Brooklyn or just plain gone. We have to catch them when we can. Look at all it's possible to miss out on.

LINK: Live music tonight in the greater Tacoma and Olympia area

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Comments for "Best of 2012: Live music shows" (2)

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Puerto Rican Perry said on Dec. 29, 2012 at 5:55pm

My Brightest Diamond should be on this list.

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Rev. Adam McKinney said on Jan. 03, 2013 at 3:17am


Unfortunately, I had to miss her performance because I was running a show during the same festival (Fall Free For All). I was able to sneak in and see a moment of her performance, and she does have quite the voice. I was bummed that we were counter-programmed, but I'd love to see her in the future.


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