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Critic: Shawn Stone

Best of 2004

1. Sounding the Gasholder Building

Gasholder Building, May 22

The coolest unheated former industrial performance space in the area hosted this evening of avant-ambient sounds with Pauline Oliveros (accordion), Sarah Warren and Stephan Moore (steel cello) and Scott Smallwood (steel pan). The echoes . . . the echoes.

2. Juliana Hatfield

Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, Mass., July 11

Touring in support of her underappreciated album In Exile Deo, Hatfield (backed by the old Gravel Pit rhythm section) was as loud and snarky as she wanted to be. And, even fighting a cold, that was quite a lot of snark.

3. The Musical Box

Palace Theatre, Dec. 9

The Québéçois quintet re-created Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, creating a vision of prog-rock heaven here on earth.

4. Henry Rollins

The Egg, Feb. 8

A rollicking three-hour-long spoken word extravaganza. Rollins proved, again, that he’s the coolest dork in punk.

5. DJ Toast’s 15th Anniversary Celebration

Hudson Duster, March 20

C-Rayz Walz and Craig-G were the excellent out-of-town stars celebrating the longtime RPI DJ’s show, but Sev Statik and some fine Pitch Control artists represented for the 518.

6. Gay Tastee, Brent Gorton

The Larkin Lounge, Jan. 3

Accompanied by the boys from Lincoln Money Shot, Gay Tastee conjured up our collective demons. Accompanied by Troy Pohl and Gaven Richard, Brent Gorton exorcised his own.

7. Melanie

New York State Museum, June 25

The original hippie chick proved she still packs plenty of flower power.

8. Olivia Newton-John

Palace Theatre, Nov. 12

Pure pop nostalgia from the original Shania Twain. The fact that I knew so many of her songs took the piss out of any residual rockist (popist?) snobbery from when I thought her uncool.

9. Dolly Parton

Pepsi Arena, Nov. 17

She’s still got ’em. Her voice and her talent, that is.

10. Wayne Hancock

The Ale House, Jan. 25

Pleasing rockabilly and honky tonk from a modern master, in a very, very crowded room.

Critic: Kirsten Ferguson

Best of 2004

1. Hank III

Saratoga Winners, June 4

Hank III is a ghost of his legendary grandfather Hank Williams, resembling the country music icon so much in looks and voice that it’s eerie. His name alone may have drawn the folding-chair legions of older folks, but I can’t imagine what they thought about the tattooed, foul-mouthed grandson as he unleashed a whirlwind of drug-and-drink-loving “hellbilly” country. I could have lived without the set by Hank III’s metal band Assjack at the very end of the night, but the outlaw-country portion of his show was one of the most jaw-dropping performances I’ve ever seen.

2. Pernice Brothers

Valentine’s, April 12

Joe Pernice writes some of the prettiest, lushest pop songs around, without a trace of the twee preciousness that infects many an indie-pop band. The Pernice Brothers were in fine form on this night, and nearly every one of their songs sounded like a hit.

3. Guided By Voices

Pearl Street, Northampton, Mass., April 23

On the verge of breaking up, GBV drowned their sorrows in tequila and Miller Lite. By the end of the flawed but brilliant set, broken glass littered the stage and guitarist Nate Farley could barely stand. Unmoved, Pearl Street staff put an end to the band’s emotional farewell by cutting their electricity midsong.

4. C-Rayz Walz

Hudson Duster, March 20

At a festive anniversary party for DJ Toast of WRPI, skilled underground rapper C-Rayz Walz performed quick-witted tracks from his superb album Ravipops, while bopping across the stage in a limber-limbed manner that lightened the occasional grittiness of his lyrics.

5. Midnight Evils

Valentine’s, Feb. 28

Minnesota garage-punk band the Midnight Evils, on revered independent label Estrus Records, made a last-minute and little-known stop at Valentine’s, wherein they blew the roof off the place with thrash-metal intensity and howling vocals, equal parts punk rock and dirty-white-trash boogie.

6. The Briefs

Saratoga Winners, Oct. 23

“Poor and Weird” may be one of the best sing-along punk tunes ever. Live, the Briefs’ crazed energy, cheeky new-wave style and snotty refrains did not disappoint any fans of their immensely catchy albums.

7. The Figgs, the Rudds

Valentine’s, Dec. 4

On the second date of a two-night stand, the Figgs pulled out all the stops during a show that ranks up there among their local best, while John Powhida, in his stellar Beantown band, the Rudds, paid homage in song to the “depressing magic” of his former home city of Albany.

8. Beenie Man, T.O.K., Super Cat

Northern Lights, Aug. 7

Dancehall reggae is a participatory sport, and this virtually nonstop succession of Jamaican acts—sponsored by local reggae DJ Sir Walford—had the crowd jumping, waving their arms and singing along to the rapid toasting of dancehall superstars like Beenie Man and Super Cat.

9. Nebula

Saratoga Winners, Feb. 11

Under a fog-machine-induced haze, the heavy power trio riffed out their California desert version of 1970s space rock. The crowd was mainly there to see Clutch and Mastodon, but the nuanced psychedelics of Nebula were more my thing.

10. Air

Pearl Street, Northampton, Mass., April 14

The French duo, along with a drummer and a black-beret-wearing organist, transfixed Pearl Street with monochromatic stage lights, delicate vocals and moog-enhanced instrumentals from their cinematic Talkie Walkie album.

Critic: Bill Ketzer

Best of 2004

1. Slipknot, Slayer, Hatebreed, God Forbid (Aggressive Music Fest 2004)

Glen Falls Civic Center, July 17

Call it what you want. I called it The Four Bands You Meet in Hell.

2. Shadows Fall, Candiria, All That Remains

Saratoga Winners, Oct. 2

Pounding the world. Like battering ram.

3. Deep Purple, Joe Satriani, Thin Lizzy

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 18

Two classic acts. The bread for a guitar weenie.

4.Anthrax, Last Call, Brick by Brick

Northern Lights, Sept. 28

Still the tightest metal band in the world, hands down.

5. The Victor Wooten Band

The Egg, Jan. 11

Like an absurdly talented Jackson 5. On Ketamine.

6. King’s X

Northern Lights, May 7

Always a religious experience, like finding a 20-spot in the laundry.

7. Hank Williams III, Porter Hall

Saratoga Winners, June 4

The loudest hillbilly playing for the weirdest people.

Critic: John Brodeur

Best of 2004

1. Pixies

UMASS, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 30

So what if they’re in it for the money—they put bands half their age to shame, piledriving through about 30 of their classic songs in the time it takes most bands to set up their gear. A welcome return and a fond farewell.

2. Pernice Brothers, the Long Winters

Valentine’s, April 12

An evening of perfect pop. Bonus points: the Pernice Brothers brought along Ric Menck on drums; the Long Winters played impromptu Neil Diamond covers.


Hey now: the Decemberists at Pearl Street.

Photo: Joe Putrock

3. The Decemberists

Pearl Street, Northampton, Mass., Sept. 28

Smart, theatrical, and intoxicating. Keep an eye on this band in 2005.

4. Sondre Lerche

Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, Mass., Oct. 23

As warm and inviting as a winter blanket, and the best “on cold medicine” performance of the year.

5. Wilco

Skidmore College, Oct. 8

Jeff Tweedy looked like he was actually having fun by the last few tunes, and that has to be worth something.

Grin and bear it: Life of Agony rocks Northern Lights.

Photo: Chris Shields

6. Life of Agony

Northern Lights, Jan. 20

Practically the same set they played at the QE2 a decade prior; just as much of a kick in the ass.

7. The Figgs, Candy Butchers

Valentine’s, May 7

There were many Figgs shows ’round the area this year, but only this one induced mild amnesia, and carried a hefty towing bill.

8. Evan Dando

Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, Mass., Feb. 7

After trying to duplicate Gram Parsons’ chemical intake for the better part of a decade, the ex-Lemonhead settled on playing some of Parsons’ tunes—and a haul of his own—on this wonderfully wintry evening.

9. Two Cow Garage

Valentine’s, Nov. 4

Three hard-working boys from Ohio put on a hard-rocking show in front of three hard-drinking patrons. Glad I could be one of the three.

10. Kid Rock

Pepsi Arena, Sept. 5

Kid Rock kicked ass for the working class. Seriously. This show was 100-percent entertainment.

Critic: Erik Hage

Best of 2004

1. Los Straitjackets, Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater

Empire State Plaza, Aug. 11

The masked instrumentalists delivered a burning set of rock & roll rumble and tailspinning surf, hooking up with legendary rock & roll-blues animal Clearwater, with whom they had recently collaborated on a Grammy-nominated album.

2. The Paladins

The Ale House, July 18

Blasters aside, the Paladins have long delivered some of the best West Coast roots & roll. And they love coming to Troy. The Ale House rolled out a remarkable lineup of music this year.

3. Pernice Brothers, the Long Winters

Valentines, April 12

A Monday-night show featuring some of the most melodically striking left-of-the-dial rock of the year. Ric Menck (Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet) guested on drums for the Pernices.

4. The Tragically Hip

Northern Lights, Oct. 21

They’re heroes in Canada and an underground phenomenon stateside—but still, nearly 20 years in, they roll out a powerful show.

5. Eddie Angel’s Guitar Party

The Ale House, Nov. 13

The Los Straitjackets guitar hero, unmasked, cut loose for the hometown crowd with a bunch of old friends pitching, delivering a guitarfest of garage-punk, rockabilly and surf.

6. Elvis Tribute

Savannah’s, Jan. 9

The whole local rock & roll team got together with the Lustre Kings for this one. Johnny Rabb is still, decades in, the most commanding, exciting frontman in our region.

7. The Kamikaze Hearts

WAMC Performing Arts Studio, Sept. 25

This radio show was a great milestone for the longtime local greats—a strong, warm performance with guest spots by other local musicians.

8. Deke Dickerson

The Ale House, May 2

Dickerson is a charismatic, golden-throated, double-neck-guitar-playing wizard. The Californian delivered a fun, dizzying night of pre-Beatles rock & roll.

9. Graham Tichy’s Hillbilly Fun Park

Savannah’s, Oct. 9

This was an all-star local Americana lineup (including Kevin Maul, Dale Haskell, John Tichy and Mark Gamsjager) that burrowed into some deep, soulful, hardcore honky-tonk.

10. Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen

The Egg, June 13

Hillman, formerly of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, has a secure place in rock & roll history. Alongside longtime collaborator Pedersen, he particularly shone on striking versions of “Wheels” (Flying Burritos) and “Eight Miles High” (the Byrds).

Critic: David Greenberger

Best of 2004

1. NRBQ 35th Anniversary Reunion Concert

Calvin Theatre, Northampton, Mass., May 1

The second night of two, the sold-out show seemed like the world as I always imagined it could be. And seeing the original lineup of the band from the late ’60s had me amazed by the idiosyncratic power of Frankie Gadler.

2. Matisyahu

Savannah’s, Dec. 8

Hadn’t had my head this spun around by a live show since Sweetnighter-era Weather Report or King Crimson touring Starless and Bible Black. Explaining it any further can’t do it justice.

3. Los Lobos

Washington Park, Aug. 2

Most likely the finest outdoor show I’ve ever been to.

4. Nick Lowe & Geraint Watkins

Iron Horse, Northampton, Mass., Sept. 24

The very definition of a gentleman troubadour, playing a set of songs that are destined to be standards in this century and beyond.

5. Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men

Revolution Hall, July 14

Alvin’s Ashgrove album came to life with chest-thumping vigor and a poetic heart.

6. The Figgs

Valentine’s, May 8

Flying high on the wings of their double album Palais, the Figgs go expectations one better by embracing surprise at every turn.

7. Erin McKeown

Club Helsinki, Great Barrington, Mass., May 30

With just a drummer in tow for the past half-year, she’s found a new edge for herself, moving away from singer-songwriter settings into the language of purely musical circumstances.

8. Richard Thompson

The Egg, March 22

One man, one guitar, 35 years of great songs, and a secret weapon in form of his longtime soundman, Simon.


Valentine’s, Albany, Jan. 2

The couple dozen in attendance were treated to one of those remarkable nights when magic happens, from the very first note.



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