The other night, I was sitting on the porch of two musicians I know in New Orleans and we were discussing the very, very different music cultures that exist in New Orleans and Athens. One discussed difference is that NOLA has between 3 and 5 weekly/monthly magazines which go over local music. Athens has the Flagpole.
Try as I might, I've never been able to get into anything other than the Flagpole format. I still read it, online, every single week. I have since I left Athens in 2003. This week, they are going over the Top Live (Athens) Bands over the last 20 years. I won't say how many of the bands on that list I was actually in town to see personally, but I was disappointed that it wasn't more of them. Of the ones I agree with, Ishues and Drive By Truckers put on absolutely insane shows. And I went to a lot of shows where Ish was on the mic at some point of the evening.
At any rate, this being Thanksgiving an all, and one of the things I am most thankful for is Music being as important to my life as it is, I'll mirror the FP and give you a list of the best live shows I've seen in the last 20 years of my life.
III Rail (1993-1995) Island City. You've never heard of these guys, but they were a South Georgia heavy, heavy metal band that, had their been true justice in the world, would have been given the opportunity to open Ozzfest or a Family Values tour. Yeah, I was only in high school. Yeah, I didn't know too much about music back then and was convinced that I would never, ever cut my hair willingly. But back then, before their bass player later became my drummer and one of my best friends, they were light years ahead of where kids should be at their age. Looking back with all the experience I now have, they still and always will rate as one of the best live performances ever.
The Black Rose Band (2006-present) New Orleans. So shockingly good, I wrote a live review of the show as soon as I was physically able.
Skillet* (1996-199?) Athens, Georgia. Another band you may not have heard of, unless you are in my Athenian readership. This was taking bar-room rock formulas and making all the other barrock bands sound like teetotaling choirboys. Songs like "Woman Who Won't Say Please" and "Piss Drunk." Crowds would embrace the elusive term of "ruthless abandon." If you brought a thermometer in the room, it may have ended up with mercury on the floor on several occasions. At more than one Skillet show which I attended, the crowd took a notorious Normaltown establishment famous for hamburgers and an endless supply of the coldest beer in town, and drained every last can, bottle and keg of beer to the last humble swills.
The Del Rays (1996-1997) Athens, Georiga. During the ska rebirth in the late 90's, these guys had a show so tight and energetic that buildings would sway in time with the dancing of the crowds. I'd never been to a show before or after where everyone danced, but these guys did it every time I saw them, and the music they played required the movement of even the most arythmic clubgoers. I went to both of their 'final' shows, one at the 40 Watt Club where we refused to let them leave the stage until the rumour of impending authorities drove us away, and the one at their house out by the 10 loop to the South of town, where it seemed there were double digit kegs and half the University of Georgia swing dancing in a giant field backlit by cars on the elevated highway.
The St Augustine Marching 100 (2007) New Orleans They didn't even have a hundred, or so I was told, but it was a Saturday parade just before Mardi Gras, and for some reason, these high schoolers stopped right in front of my group of people and rattled the windows on St Charles Avenue for at least a square block. I'm sure they rattled many more before the weekend was over.
The Bearfoot Hookers (2005) Waycross, Georgia I've seen 'em in Athens, on Island City and in Brunswick, but nothing compares to a swampland throw down like the BFH playing on a 'stage' at Cypress Creek in Waycross. What appears to be half the population of Ware and Brantley Counties show up and dance like nobody's watching, and everyone knows the words to every single song.
The Chris McCarty Band (2004-2006) Island City, Georgia Yeah, they're from Gainesville. Yes, they played at Rafters. Yes, they're Florida fans. Huge Florida fans. But that's OK, because they put on one of the most intimate and high-energy performances you can ever see at the same time. I have never seen a frontman connect, on a personal level, with his audience the way Chris does, and you can tell by the way the audience reacts to him. Phenomenal.
That's the short list, anyway, there are many tops not mentioned here (eLeMeNOP, Herb and Skills, Groovestain, Feable Weiner, Morning Bell), but these are the ones who rolled off the top of my head the quickest. Add some of yourn if you are interested in continuing the list.