Watch This: Vol. 42
by Steven Spoerl
Well, another week has come and gone, leaving a great set of live sets in its wake. From a pair of performance pairs courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel Live, another extraordinary edition to the Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s excellent Serious Business series, a newly-surfaced trio of beautifully-lensed performance clips from Pitchfork, and a typically incendiary blast to the gut from one of Canada’s finest emerging artists, it was a great week for the long-form. There were, of course, a few other excellent videos that surfaced over the course of the past seven days- ranging from an excellent KEXP session from The Fresh & Onlys to performances that had personal stakes at hand (more on this tomorrow). There was a lot more to take in than usual but the five sets below earned their spots by virtue of approaching the transcendental. So, kick back, don’t dare turn the volume down, focus up, and Watch This.
1. Greys (Radio K)
Greys tore it up every time they took the stage during the whirlwind week that was NXNE. They’ve earned a fair amount of words from this site by not just making great music but by putting on great performances- and, in both cases, revealing a visible passion for what they’re doing- an increasing rarity. Here, they stop by the University of Minnesota’s student-run radio station, Radio K, to deliver a non-stop barrage of a performance. Turn the volume up and hold on to yr lid.
2. Sharon Van Etten (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
Are We There has proven to be one of the year’s most engaging quieter records and has firmly established Van Etten at the forefront of her contemporaries. It’s a welcome development that feels as if it’s been justifiably earned. Van Etten was a force to be reckoned with right out of the gate, delivering performances like this attention-ensuring take of “Give Out” for BaebleMusic or lending even more emotional gravity to one of the most emotionally charged records of all time. So, after keeping an eye on Van Etten’s progress for the past six years or so, it’s thrilling to see her commanding as much attention and acclaim as she over the past few years. With more performances like these two stunning takes on “Tarifa” and “Break Me”, that critical and commercial ascension’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
3. Slowdive (Pitchfork)
Slowdive was one of the more quietly celebrated shoegaze bands before their recent revival, allowing others to catch up on what many had known all along; this is a band worth holding onto. When Pitchfork announced that the band would be playing on US soil for the first time in over 20 years, there was reason for nonsensical levels of excitement. Not only did Slowdive meet those ridiculous levels of expectations, they temporarily turned the festival grounds into something completely undefinable. There wasn’t a set that weekend that inspired more looks of sheer awe. Fortunately, Pitchfork has their cameras rolling and lovingly documented a moment that’s not likely to be forgotten by anyone lucky enough to take part in it anytime soon.
4. Bob Mould (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
That Bob Mould is still cranking out masterful records probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering his enviable track record of all-time classics (Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Copper Blue, etc.). What does come as a welcome surprise is the commercial success he continues to maintain throughout what’s proving to be one of the more inspired solo resurgences since Dinosaur Jr.’s. Jimmy Kimmel recently invited Mould onto his show and received a masterclass in how to deliver great performances in return. With the serviceable Taylor Hawkins standing in for the inimitable Jon Wurster, Mould more than proves it only takes one revered elder statesman to carry the hell out of a live show.
5. Pile (BreakThruRadio)
The Exploding in Sound takeover of BreakThruRadio’s Serious Business has yielded some of the series’ best entries. Pile continuing this trend shouldn’t be that shocking- the band’s currently boasting one of the most impressively consistent discographies in music. Special Snowflakes was one of the year’s best releases in any format, Dripping and Magic Isn’t Real both deserve to be considered classics, and somehow the band’s live show manages to blow the studio versions of those songs out of the water. “Tin Foil Hat” is the featured song here while both “Special Snowflakes” and “Fear of Drunk With” are intercut with some humorous banter about their long-standing issues with one specific city. Packaged together, this becomes absolutely essential viewing material.