Watch This: Vol. 52

by Steven Spoerl

With another week behind us (and a few milestones), it’s time to look back at some of the best live videos that surfaced during that time. Unsurprisingly, there were a fair few videos vying for contention- and, in a rare case, there were too many worthy of feature spots to contain to just one installment of this series. To that end, these are the first five entries in what will be another two-part showcase for great live footage. A few bigger names make appearances in volume 52 but, as ever, their performances are characteristically exemplary and impossible to ignore. From a few revered songwriters to the emerging acts, there’s a lot to love. So, as always, sit back, dim the lights, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Two Inch Astronaut (BreakThruRadioTV)

Foulbrood, with all of its sharp left turns and subtle nuances, has a claim as one of 2014’s best records. With the title track and “Part of Your Scene” already hinting at just how much creative muscle’s being flexed on Foulbrood, one of the only real questions was how these songs would hold up in a live setting. With their Live Studio session for BreakThruRadio they put any doubts to rest; this is a band that’s ready to leave a lasting mark.

2. Restorations – Tiny Prayers (Little Elephant)

Restorations have been building up a steady buzz around their name over the past few months and a large part of that’s due to their powerhouse live performances. Little Elephant proves to be the perfect venue to showcase their towering, Midwest-inflected basement punk. With LP3 continuing to make the rounds and live turn-ins like the one featured here, a great future for Restorations is theirs for the taking.

3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Stagger Less (Austin City Limits)

By this point one thing should be entirely evident; there will never be enough words to do Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds proper justice. Cave’s a freakish force of nature, a preacher who’s actually made of brimstone and fire, and the band he’s assembled behind him are talented enough to match Cave’s genius (a term that’s not used lightly). PBS’ notoriously white bread Austin City Limits series recently made the commendable decision to feature Cave and his collaborative partners for their most recent episode. Understandably, they saved the (brilliantly edited) profanity-riddled Murder Ballads classic “Stagger Lee” as a web exclusive. As can be safely expected, the performance is a killer.

4. Jenny Lewis – Slippery Slopes (KCRW)

The Voyager is one of this year’s great road trip records, Jenny Lewis’ tour-ending show at Minneapolis’ famed First Avenue was an unforgettable display of charisma and raw talent, and Lewis remains one of this generations finest songwriters. Having already established a reputation as one of the more celebrated independent songwriters, Lewis could have easily relegated the rest of her career as a victory lap after various successes with both Rilo Kiley and as a solo act. Thankfully, for everyone, Lewis isn’t one to stay still- and will always be up to the task of providing a stunning performance, like this run through “Slippery Slopes” for KCRW.

5. Fucked Up (Exclaim!)

Fucked Up are one of the more fascinating anomalies in music, a hardcore band that pisses off purists and appeals to people that aren’t normally into harsher genres. A band that makes records tethered to ambitiously sprawling narrative arcs, usually seeped in religion and heavily influenced by epics. Literary, self-aware, and visceral, their records hit like an anvil and their live shows tend to facilitate a palpable sense of community. A few recent performances and interview snippets are featured here in the excellent Coastal Frequencies series, courtesy of Exclaim!. It’s an excellent profile of one of the most interesting bands of the past 15 years.