With this strange year like no other, and with no ability to see live music since March, bands of late have gotten into the knack of performing “livestream” shows. It certainly would never replace a real live concert – that exhilarating feeling of watching a band you love perform on stage in front of you with the sound of their songs pulsating and reverberating across the dark walls of some locale, infiltrating your soul. But it’s better than nothing and it offers something different, a new experience, that can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Here are my top 5 livestream performances of 2020 – thanks to the musicians/promoters/record label persons who organized these events for fans and the musicians themselves, at a time when that visceral connection and that boost of rockin’ goodness is so needed and so missed.
#5 Mark Sultan/BBQ’s Instagram performance in the season of Halloween, was a good and solid time of passionate sped up 50s rock’n’roll punk in a dark dank harshly lit basement as he played an assortment of his songs and a cover or two, blond wigged and masked, in a magic mushroom sweater, strumming madly on his beat up black guitar and stompin’ on his little drum kit, with reckless abandon, roaring out and crooning deep and rough in that beguilingly way of his. This blissful and blister full show was followed by a charming humorous little chat and drink of German beer with the crowd and reading off IG messages. At one point he compares making money off of digital sales to these weird little cheap Halloween molasses candies you got as a kid in Quebec with witches on them that nobody wanted, which I do recall from my own childhood growing up in the same region.
#4 is a tie between Goner TV’s episode #8 of Bloodshot Bill and the Hick-Ups on Dec 4 and episode #9 Holiday Show 2020 on Dec 18 – First up, although I’m not new to Memphis’ infamous Goner Records I’m new to Goner TV and I was totally enthralled with this hour of entertainment, with the bizarre horror 80s synth muzak and videos from Goner bands like the Archaeas, an intro from Goner’s Zac in a COVID mask, and then a superb rockabilly basement bash performance from Bloodshot Bill and the Hick-Ups, followed by a little chit chat interlude between Zac and Bloodshot, then back to some more live songs, then back to the hob nob portion, then this cool Zac Talks 45s segment with him playing some great original old RnR, country, RnB, and punk 7” singles, as a means of introducing what’s available in used 45s at the Goner store or online shop, which was proceeded by a hilarious commercial with Quintron introducing the Quintronics Bath Buddy water level meter (not available in stores), then back to more chit chat with Bloodshot about 45s, a little fun with his jukebox, a giveaway, and talk about Goner’s patreon. Overall a very enjoyable variety-hour spent!
The Holiday show was also a festive 2 hours, hosted by Billups from Goner Records, and featured a smorgasbord of events, such as the talents of Greg Cartwright, Shannon and Cody from the Clams, Robby Grant, Timmy Vulgar, The Sheiks, Benni, Golden Geese, and segments of videos, punk rock cooking, art-making, and zine-making. This episode did have a few glitches in the beginning but once it got started there was no stopping! The performances by all the artists sparkled with fun and holiday cheer. The stuff in between was also a hoot and time well spent, much more so than another night of Netflix-ing it.
#3 goes to Lou Barlow’s many, almost weekly home-grown Instagram shows à la casa Barlow, featuring Lou singing and acoustic guitar playing of Sebadoh songs either playing a random assortment or going through the repertoire of a specific album, giving a little background sometimes to certain tunes, and with his wife Adelle filming and their conversing together and sometimes with their little daughter Izzy playing in the background or trying to participate and gain the attention of her parents in some way. These little vignettes into the Barlow household world were very remarkable in their quaint and homey feel and were so welcomed and soothing to hear and watch during these troubling times…and in a very significant way for these now stay-at-home artists these livestreamed events provide an ever crucial venue for them to connect with their fans. I’ll add in here the recent very heartwarming Lou Barlow and Family Alliday Special! which starts with a nice little convo between Adelle and Lou (the parents) then Lou playing Silver and Gold swooshing in their 3 feet of snow filled yard, and then a fun time medley of Christmas favorites – Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer, Silver Bells, Jingle Bells, and Silent Night – with Izzy dancing in front of their Christmas tree. Afterwards they give us their pandemic-style family visit with Lou’s parents and the giving/tossing of presents out of their minivan.
#2 is given to Dinosaur Jr.’s Livestream “Live and Alone” from Look Park, in Northampton, MA, which blasted my laptop speakers on November 28. In the great outdoors, surrounded by nature, tall green blissfully swaying trees in a late fall warm sunny haze, J, Lou [ed.’s note: See above] and Murph rocked out with full set up, with their trademark massive walls of amps, on a concrete stage platform. It was exciting and exhilarating and the energy could be felt deep. The backdrop of the forest behind was breathtaking and they played a heavy duty two hour set of favorites from their vast repertoire. I had my speakers blaring and was head thrashing to opener The Lung, then In a Jar, Little Fury Things, Out There, Feel the Pain, The Wagon, Start Choppin, Training Ground, a Deep Wound song sung by Lou, Budge, Raisans, Freak Scene, Kracked, Sludgefeast and Just Like Heaven. J sported a cap with The Creature on it, shades, and a Supreme My Bloody Valentine jacket, and switched his various gorgeous Fenders throughout the songs, ripping through beatific solos effortlessly and poetically, while sending fury into those pedals, and Lou bounced around energetically in a grey green cardigan, attacking his bass with gusto, while Murph pounded his lovely purple drumkit mercilessly in cargo shorts.
My ultimate #1 livestream performance of 2020 was Mike Krol’s Halloween DEADstream which rocked my living room on October 29, directed by Julian Shine, scripted by Nate Fernald, and hosted by NoonChorus. The show starts with the band walking the streets trick-or-treating in full Halloween garb, Mike wearing a devil costume, heading to the last house of the night. They go up to the house, enter, encounter a Mike Krol shrine and then are detained by this crazy guy and forced to perform live because this guy wants to learn all of Mike Krol’s songs so that he can become him. In a spiderweb creeped out basement the band runs through the set list that crazy guy has prepared for them. At the end of the show Mike asks if they can be let go and the guy says no, he still has to perform his spell which requires human sacrifices of the rest of the band who then convulse and are lying on the floor lifeless, and then he effectively becomes Mike Krol and walks out into the dark night. I thoroughly loved this, enjoyed how funny it was, the theatrical aspect, the acting, costumes, the band’s performance and the thought and effort put into creating this. Afterwards Mike gave a little heartfelt and honest talk in a jack-o-lantern sweater and thanked everyone who participated in making their Deadstream video, and all the venues and promoters in all the rock’n’roll communities far and wide who sold tickets for the event, to whom the event in turn supported.