It almost goes without saying that I should have gone to more shows this year. When all is said and done, I only made it to three concerts in the calendar year 2006. In between being at school and working multiple jobs, it was tough to find the time (or the money) to get to shows. I missed the Joseph Arthur and Mountain Goats shows, for example, which was really lame of me. Heck, I didn't even make it to the infamous Flaming Lips/Sonic Youth show at the State Fair, although I have multiple excuses for that: A.) I've never been a big fan of the former, and B.) I was holding down the fort at MPR, winding up filling in for the evening after Mark Wheat was marooned in the deluge at the fair. But enough about the shows I didn't see; how abou the shows I actually went to?
Belle & Sebastian/New Pornographers: The Orpheum, March 12
From the moment this one was announced, I knew I would be kicking myself if I somehow managed to miss it. I camped out on Ticketmaster to assure excellent tickets, the same strategy I had used for Wilco. The show was pretty amazing, as could be expected. The New Pornos opened with "Twin Cinema"; it was one of those moments where you can't believe you're actually watching one of your favorite bands perform. Their set was one of the happiest experiences I've had at any show; my only regrets are that it wasn't longer and that Neko wasn't there. Belle & Sebastian were almost an afterthought from there for me, opening nicely with "The Stars of Track and Field". I like the way they infused songs like "Your Cover's Blown" with such an energy, then suddenly switching to a completely bare sound on "Piazza, New York Catcher" without faltering. Sure, Minneapolis was struck by a blizzard that night, and we had a devil of a time making it back to Morris alive, but it was a great time.
KUMM March Music Madness: Halloween Alaska/Fitzgerald/Duplomacy, March 18
It's tough for me to assess this show in a fair and impartial way; after all, I was one of the major planners. I still think it turned out pretty well, even if Hal Al were a tad too low-key to be the headliners of the night. If anything, we should have sequenced it with a rock act starting out, then something more chill, and a high-energy band to end the night. This was tough, because Hal Al is about as chill a live act as you can get. Still, all the acts did a nice job, and overall, it was a great atmosphere and a fun evening. Most of all, I'm glad Hal Al ended the night with "State Trooper" -- they hadn't even played it two years earlier and I was glad it made an appearance at the end of this night.
Jens Lekman, Triple Rock Social Club, July 28
I never really wrote about this show at length, but what can I say? It was one of the best shows I've ever been to. Jens had poise & stage presence, with charming banter. His band was firing on all cylinders and put a real smile on my face. Jens and his band's performance of "The Opposite of Hallelujah" was simply phenomenal: I've never seen a band so effortlessly take control of a room and exude such energy as during that song. Another incredible moment took place during "Black Cab", the original version of which could perhaps be described as a funeral march, or a dirge. However, on this night, it took on a bouncy, almost celebratory tone, with the drums banging out a '60s garage rhythm like something from That Thing You Do! I know the song forwards and back (it is one of my most beloved songs) and I had hencefore never thought the song could ever be recontextualized in a way that could be characterized as "celebratory". Oh, how wrong I was. When I watched Jens during the performance, I saw him live the song, even mouthing along with the closing guitar part like so many of us do with our favorite guitar solos. It is as if he knows that "Black Cab" is the best thing he has or will ever write, a song that will live on forever, a song that he almost feels honored to get to perform on a personal level on a nightly basis. It was an amazing moment, just one of an amazing show.