In 2007, I played more than 100 shows in the United States and Europe. At least one other band—if not two, three, or seven—shared the bill at each performance. Though each was hawking a CD or LP, I didn’t buy or listen to many of them. When you’ve seen more than 100 bands in a year, the performers’ ability to successfully encode their music on plastic or vinyl is less relevant than the remote chance that they transcend mediocrity onstage.
Here are five bands who did.
Gil Mantera’s Party Dream
Jan. 17, Rock and Roll Hotel
Electroclash may be 2003, but two guys from Ohio with beards, long hair, bulging underwear (stuffed with athletic socks, I hope), and a love of partial nudity are somehow 2013.
Feb. 27, ModernFormations, Pittsburgh
If this bizarro-funk trio’s merely good 2007 effort, Heavy International, can’t do justice to their heart-stopping live performances, neither can a lazy journalist who calls these members of the Trenchmouth diaspora a slick update of Funkadelic and points out that frontman/wizard Damon Locks is the second coming of Dr. Octagon.
March 16, Kings Barcade, Raleigh, N.C.
You will never have the chance to see the very guitar-driven, very loud N.C./D.C. trio Des Ark play their guts out on the floor at Kings with an inadequate PA: Raleigh’s downtown renaissance has dictated that this North Carolina scene fixture be turned into a parking lot.
Oct. 12, Controsenso, Prato, Italy
Samuel Katarro is an Italian singer-songwriter who plays avant blues (I think) and sounds like Bob Dylan (if Bob Dylan sang in pidgin English and had an aggressive Gang of Four-esque approach to the acoustic guitar). I saw Katarro perform in a discothèque in suburban Milan. After the show, I tried to speak to him, but I speak only enough Italian to order a sandwich and didn’t know the word for “revolutionary.”
Oct. 30, Hafenklang, Hamburg, Germany
It’s hard to improve on mischief night in the city that made the Beatles famous, entranced by the narcotic drones of a white-clad trio from the foggy hills of San Francisco.