Watch This: Vol. 50

by Steven Spoerl

Today Watch This enjoys it’s 50th installment. There have been 245 videos or small playlists featuring great performances up to this point. In celebration of this, today’s entry into the series will take a route that the feature’s only explored twice before and revolve around videos that were self-shot. It’s been three months since parting ways with the handheld camera that was responsible for all of the earliest footage in the Heartbreaking Bravery archives. Over that time, a lot of songs have been filmed by a lot of great bands. All of the videos in today’s installment have never been featured anywhere else. Additionally, with this being a more personal endeavor, the restrictions on first-person narrative will be temporarily lifted. Now, with all of that said: sit back, turn the volume up, and Watch This.

1. Mitski (Live at Beat Kitchen)

I’ve made no qualms about my love for Mitski and her upcoming record Bury Me At Makeout Creek but seeing her live set added a new depth to that appreciation. Backed by half of LVL UP, Mitski’s songs were transformed into a force that was as beautiful as it was ragged. Having spent part of the day with Mitski prior to her set, she revealed a gentle nature that helped inform her music to a greater extent- rendering the moments where she strips her emotions raw all the more cathartic. In this set the songs featured are “Townie“, “First Love / Late Spring”, and “Drunk Walk Home”.

2. Space Raft – Venus In Transit (Live at Crunchy Frog)

One of the best small band bills that Wisconsin’s seen this year was made up exclusively of in-state acts when Space Raft headlined Green Bay’s Crunchy Frog in mid-August. After incredible sets from the likes of The Midwestern Charm, Beach Patrol, and Midnight Reruns, Space Raft offered up a set that firmly cemented their reputation as one of Wisconsin’s most dynamic (live) bands. Here, they take a flawless run through “Venus In Transit“, a highlight from their rightfully acclaimed self-titled debut.

3. Geronimo! – Spitting in the Ocean (Live at The Powerstrip)

Last night, Heartbreaking Bravery presented a basement show in Stevens Point that featured three bands which I’d previously written about within the confines of the site. Geronimo! played last and delivered a blistering set that made their imminent departure all the more bittersweet. Having spent the better part of this year casually fawning to anyone who’ll listen about the band’s extraordinary Cheap Trick, being able to provide a visible platform for both the band and that record was nothing short of an honor. In this clip, the band tears through a particularly vicious version of one of 2014’s best songs, “Spitting in the Ocean“.

4. Pile – Special Snowflakes (Live at The Burlington Bar)

Another highlight from 2014, Pile’s “Special Snowflakes“, became an emphatic moment of reckoning when the band laid it to waste at The Burlington Bar towards the start of this month. Only one of a very small handful of live songs this year to give me violent chills, it also became the turning point that turned Pile’s set from a strong showcase into an unforgettable event. With the lighting appropriately dim, all it took was “Special Snowflakes” to temporarily transform The Burlington Bar into the river Styx.

5. LVL UP (Live at Beat Kitchen)

At this point, LVL UP, Double Double Whammy (a label half of LVL UP founded and still runs), and Exploding in Sound may very well be responsible for earning the most words from this site over the past few months. Both labels had a hand in releasing Hoodwink’d, which easily stands out as one of the year’s best records. It was a record I formed a fierce connection with in a terrifyingly immediate manner. Taking all of that into account, my expectations for their live set at Chicago’s Beat Kitchen were high- likely unreasonably high. Any doubts that I had over whether or not they’d live up to those expectations- not to mention that connection- were assuaged before their first song drew to a close. By the end of their set, they’d solidified their status as one of my absolute favorite bands- which is why they’re closing out this set of videos. Contained in these videos are performances of “Annie’s A Witch“, “I Feel Ok“, “Hex“, “Roman Candle“, “Alabama West“, “Black Mass“, and “ELIXR (19)“.

It’s also worth noting that LVL UP recently ran into some van issues that have temporarily derailed their tour- to help combat this and set things right, they’re offering Hoodwink’d as a pay-what-you-want deal on their bandcamp in an effort to help secure the necessary funding to get everything back up and running. Site favorites Big Ups are doing the same with their Flagland split and putting all of the donations towards the repairs as well (Big Ups and LVL UP will be joining up for a tour when everything’s fixed). Donate whatever’s possible to help a great band made up of great people- and get a lot of great music in return. After all that’s said and done, go ahead and come back to Watch This.