My Best Musical Experiences Of 2016
As it is the case every year, I saw many concerts in 2016, big and small, and if I had to choose the best musical events/concerts of 2016, I would pick these 15 ones, in chronological order:
Yves Saint Laurent After-Party At The Palladium, Wednesday February 10th 2016:
It was a mad, crazy night, Yves Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane had chosen the Palladium to present the pre-fall 2016 women’s collection and I miraculously got invited to the after party. The lineup had been kept secret till the day of the show, and after a long wait of one hour and half, after more lines and more metal detectors, I was finally in and I saw bands till the wee hours. Father John Misty gave an amazing and theatrical performance on the large stage, he was moving floors and ceilings as he has developed quite a tumultuous choreography, moving his long arms and legs in every directions, kneeling or lying down, embracing an invisible drama. Beck was fucking good too, his set was pure delight, especially because it was an oldies-heavy set, played with an amazing sets of pedals and distortion galore, a real eargasm for Beck lovers. Looking eternally young with his large hat and black bomber, he moonwalked like a pro through his set, with ‘E-Pro’ and ‘Devil’s Haircut’ in his mind. Joan Jett was the surprise guest and she was a blast, especially among girls who were ferociously pushing and rushing to the front. After this series of surprises, it was the turn of the Burger Records bands, and I don’t think I would have imagined this in my wildest dreams, Yves Saint Laurent people, the cream of the cream of haute couture, in the same room than the psychedelic garage-punk-rock Burger bands? Two worlds colliding and making an awesome night, but one thing was sure, most of the people around me, punks or models, were drunk at this point.
Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band At The LA Memorial Sports Arena, Tuesday March 15th 2016:
Everything you were told about Springsteen is true, the charisma, the formidable energy, the show stretching to some unbelievable length, the communion with the audience, yes everything is true, but Bruce is everything but a cliché. It will certainly not be a revelation for you all Springsteen scholars, but even after playing these songs so many times, they still resonate like the truth in the arena. The arena took a church-y vibe, while fists often rose in the air in sign of approval, it was never aggressive, and it was a powerful thing to feel this energy, right in the middle of this sea of people looking like one unique entity. The whole show was carried at arms’ length by the Boss’ quicksilver performance, and you could almost feel the effort and the sweat at each one of his shouted ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ with generous amounts of muscle strength and swollen veins in the neck. For almost 4 hours, Springsteen looked like the mythical hero of our epoch, a life-transforming performer who has been adored all his life… Glam or denim, it’s all artifice, was saying Bowie in an interview. However, Springsteen makes us believe all this is as true as the sweat pearling on his forehead and the intensity in his voice, and nothing else matters.
LCD Soundsystem At The Fox Theater, Monday April 11th 2016:
The members of LCD Soundsystem were welcome on stage like heroes returning from war, or from the dead? The ecstatic trance-dance never stopped and the guy on my right could not stop poking me to express his delight. ‘I love that song!’ he kept saying, but he loved all the songs and especially the funky ‘Daft Punk Is Playing at my House’ that followed. Another of my pit companion was wearing a Daft Punk shirt and that was just too much for him, while James Murphy was freaking out and screaming as if he was loosing it. There was so much joy and dance around me, every sound exulted such an ecstatic happiness that I I was ready to believe that life is a dance, may be a dark dance, but nevertheless very worth it.
Savages At The El Rey Theater, Monday April 18th 2016:
Savages reached a new level of fierceness, shock, merciless and should I say, pure art? I knew about the fearlessness of frontwoman Jehnny Beth but her ruthless and incendiary performance was a spectacle to witness. I came to the conclusion that Savages only exist for their live shows, or at least their world comes fully alive during one of their brutal live shows. And may be their games resides in this constant contradiction between ‘love is the answer’ and ‘love is a disease’, between ‘I adore life’ and ‘always been a sad sad person’, between ‘love is the answer’ and ‘hit me’. Although their imagery reflects the bleakness and emptiness of our lives, Savages redirected post punk towards a reaffirmation of love and life, choosing life over death, expressing the mess is that is life, where darkness and brightness walk on the same tiny edge.
Post Pop Depression At The Greek Theater, Thursday April 28th 2016:
Iggy was in pure-punk shape, wild and cheerful, and if he was surrounded by members of Queens of the Stone Age/the Dead Weather/Artic Monkeys, it was first a Iggy Pop show. He was the rockstar of the night, and top-notch musicians Matt Sweeney, Troy Van Leeuwen, Dean Fertita, Matt Helders and of course Joshua Homme, were just his back up band for the night, as none of them tried to overshadow the punk legend’s antics. He took many crowd baths, ran and jumped non-stop, boxed the air and crowd surfed a few times, offering his naked torso to the lucky front row kids who could not get enough of him. At each moment he was reassuring everyone he was still the last punk rocker standing, still bleeding for us and fully alive.
Sunstock Solar Festival At The Autry, Saturday June 18th 2016:
The first edition of this new festival started like a riot. For more than 8 hours, the great lawn had welcome all the green and no-waste businesses that exist in Los Angeles, it was a dream come true for the earth lover and environment warrior that I am, and people came to occupy the lawn to party with good pop-rock-punk. For just $20, it was the deal of the summer, just 3 days before the official solstice. I saw a large variety of bands and things got a bit out of control with punk band Wavves, people jumped over the barricades, invaded the photo pit like an human tsunami and photographers had only one escape: the stage! When I was running for my life, I saw a barricade hold by people at arm’s length, it was intense and wild, and a real punk show if you have ever attended one, but the honeyed harmonies of Cults calmed down the crowd till the late hours. It was an impressive and promising start, with the art installations, the landscape looked like a mini-Coachella in the heart of Griffith Park. Let’s just hope they will repeat it next year,… with studier barricades?
Perfume Genius at the Broad Perfume Genius At The Broad, Saturday June 25th 2016:
Once again, Perfume Genius revealed what a bold performer he is, and the emotion and intensity he drained from his songs seemed to be as beautiful as it was painful. Hadreas has a presence on stage which can go from shy and almost uncomfortable to a real fearlessness while all the range is translating through his complex facial expressions, delicate smiles, mouth contortions and painful frowns, grimacing his lyrics out. The impressive howl during ‘Fool’, was acclaimed by the crowd like a cathartic release of an impressive level of emotions running from anger to pain, and he closed his show with his stormiest song ever, the gutsy ‘Queen’, empowering all the queens of the night with ‘No family is safe when I sashay’.
Alice Bag at the Echo Alice Bag’s Album Release Show At The Echo, Saturday July 2nd 2016
Iconic punk rocker, feminist, author, educator and musician Alice Bag had an album release party at the Echo, and the punk explosion that happened during her show forced me to climb on stage at the risk to get crush by an enraged and empowered crowd. She had a message for young women with ‘Modern Day Virgin Sacrifice’, a punk song she said she wrote for her daughters to condemn the negative messages from the media and the modern stereotypes about beauty. The response from the young women around me was overwhelming, I moved even further from the edge of the stage, anticipating another wave of empowered girls, and after one more Bags’ song, more screams, she decided to dedicate her last song to Donald Trump, the appropriately titled ‘Poisoned Seed’. When you thought it wasn’t possible to top the energy level, there was more fury, madness, indignation, frenzy and ferocity in store to be unleashed. Alice Bag has a lot to say in these troubled and confused times and she is using the same outlet than she was using decades earlier, but this time she manages to combine violence with grace and the best pink dress I had ever seen on a punk rocker.
Bad Brains Subliminal Bad Brains’ ‘Banned In Babylon’ At Subliminal Projects, Saturday July 23rd 2016
Subliminal Projects and Obey Clothing were presenting ‘Banned In Babylon: The Art and Culture of Bad Brains’, featuring works by multiple artists, including Bad Brains’ Darryl Jenifer. For the launch of the exhibition, we were treated with a live performance in the small courtyard behind Shepard Fairey’s studio, where Trash Talk performed before hardcore supergroup featuring Darryl Jenifer of Bad Brains, Chuck Treece of McRad, Peter Stahl of Scream and Moby, who were soon joined by Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl! The powerful band whipped the crowd with Bad Brains’ greatest hits, it was wild and it was a miracle nobody got hurt with all these bodies floating in every direction. It was certainly one of the most epic shows I have seen this year.
Save The Smell Fest At Mojo Studios, Saturday August 6th 2016:
Save the Smell Fest was a long marathon of bands, as 39 bands had been scheduled on three stages in one long afternoon-evening, at a secret location in east Los Angeles. I ended up seeing about 24 of them, and the whole fest had a very DIY vibe, just the way they wanted, a movement to keep the spirit of one of the most prominent cultural landmarks of the DIY scene alive for the future generations to come. It was wild and decadent, fun and sloppy, punk and poetic, and with a smart no-alcohol policy and no real security in view, the whole thing had very few glitches and a real feel of freedom. With a real DIY ethic, it was a celebration of LA underground music, united to save the small club downtown LA, since the building that houses the venue is set for demolition soon.
Radiohead At The Shrine Auditorium, Monday August 8th 2016:
As wrote Henry Rollins, ‘the best experiences of my life are almost all music-related’, and music can surely be a transformative experience, like a stay in the pit during a Radiohead concert. Needless to say, Thom Yorke and the dream team (the Greenwood brothers Colin and Jonny, drummers Phil Selway and Clive Deamer, and Ed O’Brien) were acclaimed like the second coming, all the audience was standing up, having reached ecstasy/nirvana levels all at once, cheering, clapping, shouting, singing along till the end of the show, with an equal and overboard enthusiasm. The UK band gave to the fans a roller coaster of emotions, from panic attacks to crying in each other’s arms. And if a concert that lasts more than two hours can still give you the feeling that any moment is ephemeral, and gets you in touch with own mortality, it can also bring you relief and happiness. Because this little Thom Yorke dance is like a weapon of self defense, because only music can save us from the present tense
Echo Park Rising, August 18-19-20-21th 2016:
Echo Park Rising is victim of its success, the annual festival lasted 4 days this past year and the overwhelming amount of bands playing at about 40 venues, made a coverage of the event look like a daunting and impossible task. There was a bit for everyone and almost for every musical taste, although the Echo and Echoplex got invaded by many familiar bands, for an epic Lolipop Records versus Burger Records and the youth’s great pleasure. So from the Echo upstairs to the Echoplex downstairs, from the outdoor stage to the Taix restaurant, from one of many other locations spread all over Echo Park to the next one, I got very very busy once again.
Grace Jones At The FYF Fest, Sunday, August 28th 2016:
It’s probably impossible to match the feeling in the writing, as with Grace Jones, everything looks and sounds grand, whereas she doesn’t even seem to make any effort to make you feel that way. She is probably the most powerful performer I’ve ever seen, and saying she was commanding the stage has to be an euphemism: she filled everything around her, and if the space was not big enough to contain her persona, she never showed anything close to arrogance. She opened her set with ‘Night Clubbing’ and was already above the stage, standing and dancing in what seems to be the perch of a mysterious deity. But I hope everyone realized at this moment that she was the original night clubber, this was her life and all the others were just pale imitations. As the show progressed, she wore more and more red paint, she looked like an abstract painting, a piece of art, and watching her was like watching a national treasure, a monument you have been aware of all your life, but could have never approached. She rewrote epic just like this, floored everyone, stole the show, stole the FYF fest and delivered the most memorable set of the festival in its 12 years of existence.
Neil Young And Promise Of The Real At The Fox Theater, Wednesday October 12th 2016:
When you see Neil Young arrive on stage, you get the impression you are colliding with a mountain of rock & roll history. Tall, wearing a plaid shirt above a black t-shirt that read ‘protect’, a black Fedora hat that casts a shadow on his tough face, he looks like everything you have imagined about Neil Young, he is invincible, stubborn and decided to rock you through the night like a rock warrior with the word epic carved in stone on each one of his massive songs. From heavy to rootsy, from multi-part harmonies to Neil alone with his guitar, he and his band covered a lot and Promise of the Real made every moment memorable, Neil Young probably can’t save the planet, but he has saved rock & roll for the next generation.
The Rolling Stones At T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016:
This sounded like a MGM production of the golden ages of cinema, and it was not a coincidence if the MGM grand hotel casino was across the street of the T-Mobile Arena. Grand, it was indeed and since it was my first time seeing the Stones live, everything sounded bigger, bolder at the image of the sin city, as the famous UK band brought a formidable energy for a passed-retirement crowd. I drove more than 18 hours in the same week to see them (they had to cancel their performance three days earlier because of Jagger’s laryngitis) … how insane is that? For some reasons I had never seen The Stones live and I felt it was about time to catch up with time and all the missed opportunities… Having no Stones-related previous experience, this show was not about nostalgia for me, I didn’t think about the past for a minute, it was all about the moment as I wanted the time to stretch indefinitely. It was all about the dream, the rock & roll dream that will never die, at least as long as Mick Jagger can do his Tina-Turner-James-Brown-signature moves.
Gutter Twins, Joshua Homme & Eagles Of Death Metal At The Teragram Ballroom, Tuesday December 13th 2016:
There are not enough words to describe how awesome this night was, it was a long evening featuring The Gutter Twins (Greg Dulli, Mark Lanegan, Duff McKagan), Queens of The Stone Age’s Joshua Homme, and finally Eagles of Death Metal,… almost a lineup for a mini music festival. The Gutter Twins gave a beautiful, velvety and sumptuous performance, keeping their distance from the audience, but it was the opposite during Joshua Homme’s intimate set. The whole thing was such a treat, like a true comedy show as he was incessantly joking with the crowd, while sipping from his vodka bottle. Then Eagles of Death Metal sent the spirit of rock & roll through Jesse Hughes’s entire body and soul, and the show turned into a manic experience, loud and hard like any live show should be, making you believe in the beauty of rock & roll.