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Fri, Oct 10, 2003
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From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
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Normally I get through a fair amount of traveling every year. Yet the only concert I saw outside of New York State in 2001 was in December, in Seattle. As such, my memories of live music these past twelve months are seriously affected by their relation to my adopted home city and the tragic event(s) of the year. Live music is, after all, a community experience, and New York is nothing if not a community. Most surfers may have 'moved on' from the events of September, but allow that for some of us in the Big Apple, entertainment during the last four months of 2001 challenged the very meaning of the word.

Tony Fletcher, February 5 2002

(The following are in order of preference)

1) BASEMENT JAXX, Central Park July 14 and Roseland October 20.
Their American concert debut, a freebie at Central Park's Summer Stage back in those heady pre September summer days, was so perfect an event we didn't think they could top it. And as far as Posie (my other half) is concerned, they didn't; she ranks the outdoor gig her show of the year. For my part though, Basement Jaxx' subsequent indoor headline appearance at Roseland on October 20th was such a catharsis that it rates as my most memorable concert of the last twelve months. While shows by Sigur Ros, the Losers Lounge, and Orbital (see below) had all helped me cope in the weeks after September 11 in their own way, it was at Basement Jaxx that I was finally able to let it all out. Credit their exhilarating front women, a superb light and video show, Felix and Simon's relentless enthusiasm, the live mixes, and one of the best bass sounds I've ever heard (make that felt). Thanks, fellers. Proof that escapism serves its purpose.

2) AREA: ONE, Jones Beach, July 16
Stardom has a habit of turning people into dickheads. Fortunately, Moby went through that phase several years ago, and instead used his new found fame to launch his own Lollapalooza-like tour for the Millennium. By bringing together such diverse talents as Nelly Furtado, Outkast, Carl Cox and the Orb (plus New Order on the west coast), Moby demonstrated once again that good music is good music is good music, no other explanation necessary. It helped that I attended Area: One on its undersold second date at Jones Beach, rather than the overattended show the day before. It helped that it was such beautiful weather too. But I would have appreciated the music regardless - even Moby's star-tripping performances to DAT tape at night's conclusion were enormously enjoyable in context.

3) RADIOHEAD, Liberty State Park, August 17.
As you can already tell (and as I wrote in my 'Mourning' piece), 2001 was our year of outdoor summer shows, and, discounting the annual Africa Fest in Prospect Park two days later, this was the last of them. A memorable occasion for many reasons. It was a stunningly beautiful night with the stage positioned against the Hudson River allowing for one of the world's greatest backdrops - downtown Manhattan in all its glory. (Curiously, from where we stood, the World Trade Centers were blocked by the stage itself, but with the Empire State Building peeking from the left and the Statue of Liberty clearly visible on the right, it was perfect as was). The sound system was the clearest I have ever heard outdoors: we left during the encores and could hear every note with perfect clarity from a mile away. And last but certainly not least, Radiohead demonstrated why they maintain such a devoted following despite their lackluster recent experimental albums: here's a group that comes together on stage in the manner of all the truly great rock bands, combining pure emotion and remarkable energy with great humor and a wonderful video production to boot. Within a month the Park turned into a disaster relief center.later

4) The LOSERS LOUNGE Tribute to David Bowie, Westbeth Theater, Sept 28.
I hope the 90% of visitors to this site that don't live in New York will understand just how incredibly hard it was for those of us who do reside here to get back to music after September 11. As I wrote in my initial posting, I couldn't even listen to a piece of music - nothing - for five or six days. I only stepped foot back in nightclubs close to Christmas. Somewhere inbetween, I started returning, nervously, tentatively, to live music. First was Sigur Ros at the Beacon on Monday September 24, a suitably funereal experience that did nothing to lift my spirits, but that Friday the 28th I attended the Losers' Lounge tribute to David Bowie. The Losers Lounge began as something for under-employed downtown Manhattan musicians to do on a night off and has grown over almost a full decade into a New York institution, that falls somewhere between karaoke, cabaret and a rock-solid live show. Given that most of these performers live downtown, and that the Westbeth Theater was just a mile or so up the Hudson from Ground Zero, they had their own emotional issues to deal with. Collectively though, they raised the roof, and for those of us in the sold-out crowd, it didn't seem to matter whether we were trying to read hidden meaning into 'Young Americans,' giggling to the 'Laughing Gnome' complete with backing singers wearing mushroom costumes, or singing along to the obviously potent rendition of 'Heroes,' what mattered was that this was a New York night for and by real New Yorkers and by the end of it, thanks to Bowie's songs, Joe McGinty's house band and the many superb singers (including my close friends Joe Hurley and Phil Foxman), many of us were in tears. Again.

5) The CREATION, Warsaw, Brooklyn, November 4.
A wonderful event for all the reasons I state in a separate write-up of this occasion.

6) RAINBOW QUARTZ night at Arlene's Grocery, October 12.
The CMJ Music Marathon was a write-off this year: postponed from its original date the weekend after September 11, it came back a month later, far too soon to make sense. The garage rock/mod/power pop label Rainbow Quartz still managed to gather several of its bands from across the world into one of the lower east side's dingiest venues for a night of pure mod'n'roll. I showed up to check out The Gripweeds from New Brunswick, whose drummer Kurt Reil plays with the panache of Keith Moon and somehow sings lead at the same time. I stayed through The Lackloves from Milwaukee, a little bit of the Gallygows from Spain, and though I missed The Fletcher Pratt from Detroit (I can hardly support a band with that name now, can I?) and sadly, RockFour who had flown in from Israel, I returned in time to see Austin's Cotton Mather (who have toured the UK with Oasis), and Baltimore's Myracle Brah. I couldn't say with hand on heart that any one band is destined for the big time, yet for their collectively simplistic, heart-felt take on the whole Rickenbackers and three-part harmonies thing, it was as much fun as a bar night could ever hope to be. After several beers I struggled to keep my eyes focused on the massive Stars and Stripes draped across the back wall, but I was no worse the wear than the musicians. When The Asteroid #4, who sound much like The Action on record, took to the stage to conclude the night, they struggled to tune up and then struggled even harder to stay on their feet. "This is what happens when you've been at a venue since 7pm and you don't go on until 1 in the morning," the singer announced with no hint of bitterness after his guitarist wondered off stage mid song. Sometimes rock'n'roll needs a message to be relevant; sometimes being rock'n'roll is relevance enough.

7) ALTERNATIVE TV, Something Else Records, Brooklyn, January 13 .
Was this a great show in the sense of truly great shows? No, probably not. But it was personally surreal. As I write at the start of my interview with Mark Perry, if you had told me back when I started Jamming! The fanzine that I would one day be watching a 43-year old Mark Perry front a reformed Alternative TV in the loft of a record store in Brooklyn in a neighborhood that was now my home,'s just as well I don't go to see fortune tellers, isn't it?

8) The STEREO MC's, Bowery Ballroom, some time in the summer.
Seven years in the making, the comeback album 'Deep Down and Dirty' sounded like it was recorded a few weeks after 1993's 'Connected'. Yet that sense of anachronism was what made the M.C.'s sole live New York show of the year such a celebration, like a return to some Madchester peak of 1990, back when they played with Happy Mondays at the (then) Sound Factory (subsequently Twilo and now shuttered). In fact, with his gaunt build and hollowed eyes, vocalist Rob Birch looks much like the Mondays' Bez anyway, but between the sheer force of the sound system, his own relentless energy and the three beautiful female vocalists, this was a celebration from start to finish.

9) DOVES, Bowery Ballroom, February 27.
Let's be honest. By dint of the very word, hype is rarely justified. And I've been disappointed so many times that I didn't want to get my hopes up for Doves. But something clicked at the Bowery, and, as I wrote shortly thereafter, it may well just have been the crowd. A wonderful night. The support band was getting some serious buzz of their own back then. They were called the Strokes.
10) The STROKES, MOLDY PEACHES, Hammerstein Ballroom, October 31st
Seven months on, and the Strokes had gone from opening at the Bowery Ballroom to headlining - and selling out - the 3,000 capacity Hammerstein Ballroom on Halloween. I remain unconvinced that the Strokes are as good as the British press (or the band themselves) believe they are. But I can not deny the thrill of watching a young New York City band having such a great time playing to a young New York City crowd having such a great time watching them. It helped that the Moldy Peaches were so damn entertaining as openers, though it was noticeable that in post 9-11 mood, neither the Strokes 'New York City Cops' nor the Moldy Peaches' 'New York City's Like A Graveyard' got an airing.

SPIRITUALIZED, Riverside Church, October 25.

How, you ask, can the band that made my favorite album of the year be my major live disappointment? Well, there's your answer: clearly I expected too much. Having seen Spiritualized live so often these last ten years and been blown away every time, I afforded myself a true fan's anticipation at the prospect of seeing them in a church. But the sound was atrocious (the drums sounded like they were coming from inside a tin can), the lighting was hardly any better, the lack of even a juice bar in a venue made hot by the music rendered me unpleasantly dehydrated and I couldn't help but conclude that Jason's new playing partners didn't have the sense of teamwork that his long-term comrades now exiled in the band Lupine Howl did. Others with less to compare against no doubt thought it was a great show. For my part, I'll learn not to over-anticipate in future.
The Best of 2001: Albums Songs Concerts Books
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